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Writing: Word Choice

Delightful Description


Today's Snack: Make a Peanut Butter Shake. Into a blender, put one cup of milk, one banana, peeled and sliced, and one tablespoon of creamy peanut butter. Put the lid on tight! Blend on high power until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!





Your favorite item of clothing

Print out this Treat, have a piece of lined writing paper

and a pen or pencil handy



Zero in on detail, and you'll give the big picture to your reader. When readers can "see" a picture of what you are describing, they take delight in it. So it's well worth the effort to describe things well in your writing.


Writers know that a few choice words of good description are much better than lots and lots of words of not-so-good description. Go for quality, not quantity.


The rule is: don't overload your reader with words. Instead, make good word choices, and do more with less!


But how do you learn to choose the best descriptive words? Here are five basic categories that words of description fit into:



What you can see: gigantic, purple, mountains



What you can hear: screech, clank, horn



What you can feel: bumpy, velvet, fluff



What you can smell: barbecue, magnolia, sewer


Human feelings.

Emotions: joy, embarrassment, fright


You may concentrate on just one of these five basics in a piece of writing, or use all of them in combination.


Sometimes, you can replace just one mediocre word with just one great word, and improve your descriptive power 100%.


Other times, it may take a lot of words of good description to replace one so-so word, but even though that makes your sentence longer, it'll be worth it.


Let's say you're describing a wall. Which does a better job of telling you what it looks like: "a brick wall" or a "graffiti-speckled wall"? The latter description, right? That's a more visual description. It zeroes in and gives the reader a specific "picture" of what that wall looked like.


Or let's say you're describing a playground at recess. Which is better to describe that playground: "it was loud" or "children were having so much fun, they screamed for joy." If you zero in on the sounds, you can describe the scene much better.


For descriptive words that focus on touch, choose "jagged" over "rough," and "silky" over "soft." "Jagged" and "silky" are just more precise than "rough" and "soft."


It's the same thing with smells: instead of "it smelled bad," write "it smelled like dead fish." You need to remember that the reader isn't there to smell it for himself or herself, so you have to describe the smell exactly in order to get your point across.


For human feelings, skip over "I felt bad" or "I felt happy," and instead write, "I cried my eyes out," or "I grinned and hugged her." Show and tell how you felt with specific vocabulary words, don't just suggest in general, with weaker words.


See? Think a little more deeply to describe in more detail. Try to get action and emotion in your word choices. Your writing will be a lot more lively and clear.


Now, write three different phrases to describe the following. Your phrases might describe totally different scenes. Make each phrase lively, clear and distinctive:


A playground full of kids.








A car.








Someone cooking.








Go back over these and circle the one that is the most descriptive. What makes it interesting and engrossing?


Now look at your favorite item of clothing, such as a shirt, a necklace, a jacket or a pair of shoes. Describe this item in at least 100 words.


Use your five categories: visual, sound, touch, smell, human feelings.


You may relate the clothing item to something in your memory, some conversation that you had while wearing it, or some experience that you can relate it to. Or simply describe it in specific, complete detail.


The reader should know that item so well after you've described it, that the reader might as well be WEARING IT!!!


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010

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