A. General introduction:
The descriptive paragraph (observation). The
purpose of an observation paragraph (descriptive paragraph) is to share with a reader your description of a person, an animal, an object, or a place. When you choose a subject for a
descriptive paragraph, you must narrow your focus (topic), or you will not be able to complete your observation within the limits of one paragraph. Think of yourself as a photographer.
Use the zoom lens on your camera to focus on one person, one object, or one place. Following are some topics for description: Ø Description of a person:(your best friend, one of
your relatives, your teacher, the person you admire the most, your favourite singer, your favourite movie star, your favourite football player.) Ø Description of a place: (a photograph of a scene,
your house, your own room, your hometown, your high school, your university.) Ø Description of an object
The Topic Sentence: The topic sentence of a descriptive paragraph announces the aim of your description to the reader. An effective topic sentence
also communicates to the reader your overall impression of your subject ( the place, person or object you are going to describe). The topic sentence, then, should answer these questions:
Whom or what did you observe and describe? Be as specific as you can when you name the focus of your description. The use of a specific, rather than a general name, will help the
reader form an immediate impression. Why is this description memorable? Include in the topic sentence the dominant impression that this description made on you, the
The Supporting Details: To make your description interesting, you should follow these techniques:
Ø A-Try to balance between objective observation and subjective observation:
Try taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into two columns, one headed "objective" and one "subjective". On the objective side
note your factual observations: what you see, what you hear, what you touch-any physical description of the
object, person or place. Also not any changes in the subject that occur during your observation. On the subjective side note your feelings or opinions about what you are observing. What
are you thinking about as you make the description? Does this description remind you of any other similar observations? What is your attitude toward the subject of your description?
Example: A student made the following notes as she walked her weeks-old baby boy: Objective Subjective not really sleeping sleeping angel eyes open slowly wants to make sure he
is not missing anything eyes roll to back of head eyes closed tightly imagines himself falling lullaby music playing busy kitchen door slamming jerking body swinging hands dinner
Ø B-The order of the sentences and details in a descriptive paragraph is not chronological order, but is an order according to where the
objects being described are located. Such an order is called spatial organization. The supporting details of description of places or objects are generally arranged in this spatial order. For
instance, if you are describing a photograph, you can begin with the top of the photograph and then work your way to the centre of the picture and finally to the details in the bottom half.
Or you can begin by discussing the details to the left followed by the details in the centre and the details on the right. Descriptions of people include details that describe physical
characteristics and/or personality traits (personalities). A description of a person, for example, often starts with a physical description of hair colour, facial features, and other
prominent physical characteristics.
Ø C-Modification & Use of specific nouns: Your descriptive paragraph will be better if you use the technique called modification ;
that is adding some adjectives (or adjective equivalent ) to modify a noun. A shinning new car, for example, will be better than a new car, a clear summer day will
be much better than a summer day. Specific nouns always give the reader great impression; for example, Yesterday I observed a beautiful sunset at Yosemite National Park is
more effective than Yesterday I observed a beautiful sunset at the park. In the second sentence, the reader will not know which park you are referring to. Example: Its head lay on
the bank while its body rested in the water. Its head lay on the grassy bank while the remainder of its elongated, diamond-shaped body rested in the murky, turtle-infested water.
Ø D- In order to obtain coherence as well as to keep firmly to the spatial order of the topic’s development, you should consider using the
following spatial expressions (adverbs of place): On the second floor, on the right hand side, along the back of, straight ahead, under the ( windows), against ( the wall), on your left,
above the ( bookcase ), underneath ( the desk ), opposite the..., from these heights, to the right of, on the other side of, in the middle of, in front of, close to, and prepositions of
place such as on, at, in, next to, etc.
Ø E-To make your paragraph more vivid, it is very important for you to use the following form of inversion: Adverb of Place + Verbs +
Subject. Example: Under the desk is a basket. Against the wall on your left, pushed into a corner behind the head of the bed, is a large bookcase. In a descriptive paragraph writing about a
place, passive structures will certainly play an important part; the most popular form will be …… is (was) located, situated. Example: This famous structure is located on Fifth Avenue in
Manhattan . The store is located on the corner of Main and Broad.
Ø F -In a descriptive paragraph writing about a person, the following adjectives will help you a lot in making your portrait more vivid :
Facial expressions : scowl, frown, smirk, worried, pained, blank, vivacious, delicate, lively, peaceful, placid. Facial shapes : round, broad, narrow, heart-shaped, moon-shaped,
angular, oval. Eyes : beady, smiling, snapping, flashing, empty, staring, hard, sad,
bulging. Voice : booming, rasping, squeak, harsh, growling, deep, melodious. Mouth : full-lipped,
thin-lipped, set, senuous. Eyebrows : thick, arched, neatly plucked, uneven. Look up in your dictionary to make use of the following words in the word bank below Word Bank:
average height(weight), bald, bangs, chubby, curly, freckles, frizzy, hazel, mole, moustache, plump, shoulder-length, skinny, slender, wavy. ambitious, artistic, boring, brave,
competitive, creative, dependable, energetic, enthusiastic, friendly, funny, generous, hardworking, helpful, honest, jealous, kind, lazy, messy, neat, optimistic, organized, patient, quiet,
responsible, selfish, sensitive, serious, shy, social, studious, talkative, thrifty.
Ø G-Sentence Combining: A series of short, choppy
sentences can ruin the effect of a description. Please read the section of ‚Some techniques for combining sentences‛!
* Some techniques in combining sentences:
Guiding steps 1-“Subordinating” pattern Examples: a-I
washed the windows thoroughly. They still looked dirty. à Although I washed the windows thoroughly, they still looked dirty. b-( relative constructions) Clyde picked up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker was traveling around the world
àClyde picked up a hitchhiker who was
traveling around the world.
2-“Coordinating” pattern: use
a comma between independent clauses connected by AND, BUT, FOR, NOR, SO, YET, etc. Examples I watered my dropping African violets. They perked right up. à I watered my dropping African violets and they
perked right up.
3-ING word pattern Examples
a-I jogged everyday. I soon raised my energy level. à Jogging everyday, I soon raised my energy level. b-The doctor hoped for the best. He examined the x-rays. à The doctor, hoping for the best, examined the
4-ED word pattern Examples
a-I was tired of studying. I took a short break. à Tired of studying, I took a short break. b-I
opened my eyes. I was shocked by the red “F” on my paper. à I opened my eyes, shocked by the red “ F” on my paper. c-Mary was amused by the joke. She told it to a friend. àMary, amused by the joke, told it to a
5-Appositive pattern Examples
Rita is a good friend of mine. She works as a police officer. à Rita, a good friend of mine, works as a police officer.
6-LY-opener pattern Examples
I gave several yanks to the starting cord of the lawn. I was angry. àAngrily, I gave several yanks to the starting cord of the lawn.
7-TO-opener pattern Examples
I fertilize the grass every spring. I want to make it greener. à To make the grass greener, I fertilize it every spring.
8-Prepositional phrase-opener pattern Examples A fire started. It did this at 5 A.M. It did this inside the garage. à At 5 A.M., a fire started inside the garage.
9-“Series of items” pattern Examples In the dingy bar Sam shelled peanuts. He slipped a beer. He talked up a storm with friends. à In the dingy bar, Sam shelled peanuts, slipped a
beer, and talked up a storm with friends