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How to Write a Descripitive Paragraph

by Amy Mahoney, studioD

Descriptive paragraphs include rich, vivid details that bring your writing to life. Whether you’re describing a person, place or object, you want to paint a mental picture for your reader. Writing a descriptive paragraph requires you to use observation, creativity and revision.

Observe Your Topic

Observation is key to composing a descriptive paragraph. Spend time studying your subject. Make notes about what you see, smell, hear, taste or feel. Try to get as specific as you can. For example, instead of writing “car,” write “black Honda Civic.” Note any features that seem unusual or unique. Jot down any memories or feelings you associate with your subject. The more detailed your notes are the easier it will be to draft a descriptive paragraph.

Use Specific Language

As you begin writing, try to use specific language rather than general terms. For example, instead of writing “furniture,” write “rocking chair” or “bunk bed.” Avoid abstract words that are difficult for a reader to picture, such as “nice,” “beautiful” or “love.” Specific words will help the reader see your object in a much more powerful way.

Include Sensory Details

One of the best ways to write a strong descriptive paragraph is to include sensory details. Involve all the senses in your paragraph -- not just sight, but also sounds, smells, tastes and touch. For example, if you were describing your family’s lakeside cabin, you could write about the sound of the lapping waves, the scent of pine trees, the reflection of the sun on the water or the feel of the worn porch steps beneath your bare feet. Avoid general descriptions and aim for specific, unique details. For example, instead of saying "the trees smelled fragrant," say "the fresh bite of pine reminded me of Christmas."

Revise your Paragraph

Revision is a key step in writing a descriptive paragraph. Review your writing, looking for ways to turn a general word or phrase into something more specific. Check to make sure you included all five senses in your description if possible. Test your description by reading your paragraph to a friend or relative without telling them what you’re describing. If they’re confused or can’t tell what your subject is, you may need to include more details or be more specific.


About the Author

Amy Mahoney has been a writer for more than 15 years. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines including “The Boston Globe,” “Reader’s Digest” and the “Miami Herald.” She holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.

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