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Rhetorical Mode: Description . A Road Map for Writing Descriptions. What Description Does. Word Picture Writer’s attempt t capture in words the essence of a scene, person, or thing Focus and concentration are important for effective description It isn’t just a lot of adjectives!.

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rhetorical mode description

Rhetorical Mode: Description

A Road Map for Writing Descriptions

what description does
What Description Does
  • Word Picture
  • Writer’s attempt t capture in words the essence of a scene, person, or thing
  • Focus and concentration are important for effective description
  • It isn’t just a lot of adjectives!
1 focus on a dominant impression
1. Focus on a Dominant Impression
  • What characteristic of the scene or person do you want to emphasize?
  • Make sure all details contribute to that dominant impression
  • Choose your details carefully!
for example
For example:

Rush-hour traffic--

Dominant impression: chaos

Details: choking fumes, roar of engines, aggressive drivers, tangled lines of cars

Your little sister—

Dominant impression:


Details: shy personality, sweet smile, soft voice

2 use images in your description
2. Use Images in your Description
  • Use fresh similes and metaphors
  • NOT tired cliches like white as a sheet or busy as a bee!
  • Less is more—choose details and adjectives carefully! Don’t overstuff it!
3 appeal to all the senses
3. Appeal to All the Senses
  • Most of description ends up being very visual
  • Don’t forget about sounds, smells, and textures
sample paragraph 1 the blond guitar by jeremy burden
Sample Paragraph 1: The Blond Guitar by Jeremy Burden
  • My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped blond guitar--the first instrument I taught myself how to play. It's nothing fancy, just a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and finger-printed. At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key. The strings are stretched down a long, slim neck, its frets tarnished, the wood worn by years of fingers pressing chords and picking notes. The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that was slightly damaged in shipping. The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago. No, it's not a beautiful instrument, but it still lets me make music, and for that I will always treasure it.
sample paragraph 2 gregory by barbara carter
Sample Paragraph 2:Gregory by Barbara Carter
  • Gregory is my beautiful gray Persian cat. He walks with pride and grace, performing a dance of disdain as he slowly lifts and lowers each paw with the delicacy of a ballet dancer. His pride, however, does not extend to his appearance, for he spends most of his time indoors watching television and growing fat. He enjoys TV commercials, especially those for Meow Mix and 9 Lives. His familiarity with cat food commercials has led him to reject generic brands of cat food in favor of only the most expensive brands. Gregory is as finicky about visitors as he is about what he eats, befriending some and repelling others. He may snuggle up against your ankle, begging to be petted, or he may imitate a skunk and stain your favorite trousers. Gregory does not do this to establish his territory, as many cat experts think, but to humiliate me because he is jealous of my friends. After my guests have fled, I look at the old fleabag snoozing and smiling to himself in front of the television set, and I have to forgive him for his obnoxious, but endearing, habits.
sample paragraph 3 inside district school 7 by joyce carol oates
Sample Paragraph 3: Inside District School #7 by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Inside, the school smelled smartly of varnish and wood smoke from the potbellied stove. On gloomy days, not unknown in upstate New York in this region south of Lake Ontario and east of Lake Erie, the windows emitted a vague, gauzy light, not much reinforced by ceiling lights. We squinted at the blackboard, that seemed far away since it was on a small platform, where Mrs. Dietz's desk was also positioned, at the front, left of the room. We sat in rows of seats, smallest at the front, largest at the rear, attached at their bases by metal runners, like a toboggan; the wood of these desks seemed beautiful to me, smooth and of the red-burnished hue of horse chestnuts. The floor was bare wooden planks. An American flag hung limply at the far left of the blackboard and above the blackboard, running across the front of the room, designed to draw our eyes to it avidly, worshipfully, were paper squares showing that beautifully shaped script known as Parker Penmanship.
sample paragraph 4 the longest race by kristian anderson
Sample Paragraph 4: The Longest Race by Kristian Anderson
  • As Chad Reed pulled into the pits, you could tell just by looking at him that this had been a grueling race. His dirt bike was plastered with so much brown, wet, sticky mud that you couldn’t even read the number plates. His boots, resting comfortably on the foot pegs, were a mess of muddy brown dirt, bright white plastic and black buckles. His riding pants were soaked and covered with mud on the front, while the back remained a brilliant white and blue. His chest protector seemed to have kept most of the mud off of his blue and white jersey, although his sleeves had turned the same swampy brown color as his bike. His goggles hung looped over the handlebars of his bike, dripping the ooze it had saved from Chad’s eyes. His helmet, still on his head, was a greasy smeary brown, save for the thin line of white and blue where his goggle strap had been. Although his body looked beaten, his eyes, peering through the helmet, seemed relaxed and happy. He had just won a very long and very tiring race.