IGCSE English Lesson: How to Create Interesting Descriptions

As the description takes precedence over the narrative in descriptive writing, to construct an imaginative piece of descriptive writing some of the literary and linguistic techniques that you have learned about will be more essential than others. Do remember, however, that all techniques described below are also applicable to other forms of writing. 

Appeal to the Senses

Arguably, this is the most important technique that authors use when describing their subject. Whether it is a place, person, event, object, or action, describing how it relates to the senses will give the reader a rich and realistic image in their mind. To improve the imagery that you construct, you may wish to try and select things that you come across in daily life and try to describe what it looks, smells, tastes, sounds and feels like.

Colour and Contrast

As the key purpose of descriptive writing is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind of the chosen subject, describing the different colours involved or the contrasts of colours that might be created, will create a much more vivid image for the reader. A way to improve your understanding of colour and contrast is to consider what atmosphere and moods different colours create. Hill’s The Woman In Black is a good example of this because it uses darkness to create a haunting atmosphere and contrasts it with the comfort of light. Try to consider how other colours or shades make you feel and how this could be used to enhance your descriptions. 

Descriptive words

Adjectives and adverbs are another essential element of descriptive writing. They both tell the reader what is interesting or unique about the subject you are describing. The more accurate the adjective or adverb is the better. By this I mean, if you were describing a ‘red car’, it would be much more interesting and unique if you provided the exact shade of red. For example, a ‘maroon car’, ‘burgundy car’, or ‘cherry-red car’. Another example might be if you were describing a person throwing an object in anger, you may wish to use a more accurate adverb such as ‘he furiously threw the remote control’, ‘he frantically threw the remote control’ or ‘he dramatically threw the remote control’. To successfully use adjectives and adverbs they must be both unique and accurate. To enhance your vocabulary so that you can always provide the most interesting adverb or adjective, you should continue to read a variety of literature and highlight, look up, and note down any descriptive words that you do not understand. You might also want to keep a list of interesting descriptive words. 

Figurative Language and Linguistic Techniques

You should always try to use language creatively when you are constructing a piece of descriptive language. Using figurative language and linguistic techniques is a great way of doing this. 

You may want to use such techniques as: 

  • Metaphors
  • Similes
  • Symbolism
  • Personification
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Assonance & Consonance
  • Rhyme
  • Repetition
  • Hyperbole

As with descriptive words, it is always important to be accurate and creative when you are using figurative language and linguistic techniques. The best way to improve your use of both is to highlight interesting examples of them in your reading and consider what the author is trying to convey and what makes this example successful, as we have done in previous sections. 


Altering your sentence and paragraph structure is also another creative tool you can use to enhance your descriptive writing. Sentence structure can be changed by writing sentences of different length or by varying the way that sentences are punctuated. Paragraph structure can be varied by shortening or lengthening the number of sentences in the paragraph. 

Throughout this course we have seen how authors use short, long and fragmented sentences to convey a variety of different meanings and atmospheres. For example, a short sentence could be used to punctuate the words and make them stand out amongst the rest of the paragraph. Similarly, we have seen authors use very short, one sentence long paragraphs to emphasise the meaning of that sentence and make it stand out among the rest of their text. A long sentence, on the other hand, could be used to convey a long monotonous group of items or the length of time something has taken. Whereas, a fragmented sentence could be used to show that a string of events occurred very quickly and proficiently. 

These are only some of the ways authors use these types of sentences, there are many others. You should try to creatively use punctuation and different sentence lengths to enhance the meaning that you are trying to convey. Like other techniques, the quickest and most efficient way to improve your use of sentence structure in descriptive writing is to note down any interesting examples you come across in your own reading and try to consider what meaning the author is trying to convey and why this technique is effective. 

Videos 10 mins



End of Lesson Check

In this section, you have learned: 

  • That descriptive writing describes people, places, events, objects, or actions. 
  • That description takes precedence over the plot in descriptive writing. 
  • That descriptive writing can be improved by appealing to the reader’s senses, using colour and contrast, using a variety of interesting descriptive words, effectively using figurative language and linguistic techniques, and using different sentence and paragraph structures. 

Activity - Descriptive Writing 60 mins
  1. Read from Beyond the Sky and Earth by Jamie Zeppa and highlight any of the descriptive techniques the author uses. 
  2. Complete one of the activities listed below:
    • Describe your favourite room (word count – 400 words maximum).
    • Describe a person who has had a big influence on your life. (word count – 400 words maximum).
    • Describe a busy place. (word count – 400 words maximum).

Last modified: Wednesday, 11 May 2022, 12:57 PM