Tips on descriptive writing


In order to successfully complete the required writing assignments for both GCSE and A’ Level English, you will need to understand how to use a variety of descriptive styles.

This lists below give examples of the most important elements in the writer’s toolkit.

1) Simile

A simile is a word or phrase that likens one object / person / animal to another object / person / animal.

e.g. Rain drummed against the window like a machine gun.

e.g. The freezer was as cold as the Arctic.

2) Metaphor

A metaphor is word or phrase that is applied to an object with which it wouldn’t normally be associated.

e.g. The sky was a patchwork quilt of deep greys and blues.

e.g. The tree was a skyscraper in the landscape.

3) Change of focus

The ability to change focus from the describing of one thing to another when writing a story, description, or a narrative, gives depth to a piece of work.

A focus change is best used between a group of paragraphs to provide the reader with a rounded picture of the scene or situation you are trying to describe.

4) Personification

Personification is when a writer gives human qualities to something non-human.

e.g. Shadows danced.

e.g. The door groaned.

e.g. Rain screamed in anger.

5) Pathetic fallacy

Pathetic fallacy refers to a scene which mimics human emotion.

e.g.  Emphasis can be added to a sad atmosphere by using phrases such as “the clouds cried” rather than simply stating “it rained”.

e.g. Emphasis can be added to a cold environment by using phrases such as “even the earth shivered” rather than simply stating “it was a cold day.”

6) Range in paragraph length

Having a variety of different paragraph lengths within a piece of writing can make it more interesting and engaging. The occasional short single sentence paragraph can give emphasis to a sudden change in atmosphere.

e.g. Suddenly, the storm stopped.