Further advice for descriptive writing

Here are some more useful tools to improve your description writing for GCSE and A’ Level English.

7) Alliteration

Alliteration refers to words that are next each to other in the same sentence which start with the same letter.

e.g. Gargoyles gazed.

e.g. Beautifully blazing bonfire.

Alliteration can add interest and emphasis to a descriptive scene. It is particularly effective when used in poetry.

8) Sense imagery

Describing how the items / people / scenery you are writing about look, sound, smell, taste, or feel like, can make your writing more interesting.

e.g. Wood smoke teased at his nostrils.

e.g. The buzz of background traffic hummed in his ears.

9) Oxymoron

Oxymorons are words within a sentence that deliberately contradict each other.

e.g. The orange was bitter sweet.

e.g. She was sure she was being cruel to be kind.

10) Range of punctuation

Try and add interest to your paragraphs by varying your punctuation.

The use of full stops alone can get a little dull.

Add commas ( , ), dashes ( – ), semi-colons ( ; ) and colons ( : ) to make your writing more interesting.

You can use a question mark ( ? ) for a rhetorical question (e.g. Why did the place have to be so bare?).

Avoid exclamation marks ( ! ) in description, but if one of your characters is yelling, then go for it.

11) Powerful adjectives, adverbs and verbs

Use interesting descriptive words.

e.g. instead of “empty” you could use “devoid.”

e.g. instead of “hot” you could use “scorching.”

(A thesaurus is a must for expanding your knowledge of adjectives.)

12) Extended metaphor

An extended metaphor continues a theme throughout a paragraph.

e.g. Cold.

The flowing river was like liquid mercury; glistening with a cold so intense it burned. Mounds of debris had formed along the riverbanks, sparkling in the deadly embrace of frost. Looming over the water like a sentinel, the stone walls of the town hung with jagged arrow-like icicles.


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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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