Return to Modes of Writing
Descriptive | Narrative | Expository | Persuasive

Teaching Tips: (adapted from Oregon State Department of Education publication and McDougal Littell's The Language of Literature and Writer's Craft)

The Descriptive Mode


Descriptive writing describes an object, place, or person in a way that creates a vivid impression in the reader's mind, enabling the reader to visualize what is being described, and to feel that he/she is very much part of the writer's experience. Descriptive writing is characterized by the following:

  • Elaborate use of sensory details (often those that others might overlook) that enrich or define the central impression;
  • Details which go beyond the general, e.g., The house was big and nice;
  • Details which enable the reader to picture or relive what the writer is telling, e.g., The massive brick structure sprawled across a quarter acre of ground and rose more than sixty feet into the air.


Descriptive writing appears almost everywhere, from cookbooks to poems. A writer might use a description to introduce a character in a narrative or to create a strong closing to a persuasive essay. Whatever the form, its purpose is to describe.


No matter how the description is used, the following guidelines for good descriptive writing will help. Students should

  • include plenty of details;
  • use figurative language, if appropriate;
  • organize details;
  • show, not tell;
  • use precise language.
Vancouver School District - Spring 1999