Six Simple Rules to Descriptive Sentences

Descriptive sentences are a great way to bring a story…

Descriptive sentences are a great way to bring a story to life. You need to follow a few simple, useful rules to make your writing jump off the page and evoke your readers’ emotion.

Excellent descriptive writing is less about the subject being described and more about your ability to paint that subject.

Excellent descriptions evoke images of candlelight dining rooms and chaotic battles. In a single sentence, descriptive sentences bring narrative settings to life.

Here are six techniques for writing vivid and captivating descriptive sentences.

person holding string lights on opened book
person holding string lights on opened book

1. Select Detailed Pictures

Typically, when we think about descriptive writing, we see adjectives—those words that help us zero in on the exact nature of a noun.

Meanwhile, our nouns can lack sufficient detail at times. When describing anything, try not to use too many abstract nouns like “the sun smelt like war” or “he felt a wave of anguish.”

The issue is the lack of specificity in the phrase “smelt like war”: The scent of war… what is it?

Finding a tangible image from a factual context is generally more successful than using abstract terms.

2. Keep in mind the nuances between various adjectives

Adjectives and (misunderstood) adverbs are lovely because they have so many close but distinct counterparts in the English language.

There are subtle differences between phrases like “glum,” “despondent,” “dour” and “moody” show how difficult it is to pin down emotions like sadness. Each of the preceding words, for instance, can be traced back to the following:

  • Gloomy comes from the Middle English word “gloumen,” which means “to grow dark.”
  • Disheartened comes from the Latin despondentem, which means “to give up, lose, lose heart, or surrender.”
  • Dour is a word that originated in the northern English dialects and means “severe” or “gloomy.”
  • The word “moody” originates from the Old English word “modig,” which means “brave, haughty, high-spirited, impetuous, arrogant.”

You can see from these examples that a “moody” character is prone to bouts of melancholy. While a “dour” persona is consistently stern and humorless.

It’s a good exercise to check up on potential adjective and adverb replacements in a thesaurus and their etymologies. It’s a great approach to increasing your vocabulary of vivid language.

3. Add Comparison to Deepen Descriptive Sentences

Fiction that is both vivid and well-described often makes use of similes and metaphors. A metaphor is an analogy that asserts the similarity between three or more items. That is to say, it doesn’t highlight the fact that two different things are being compared.

Metaphors include expressions like:

  • “The moon is a silver dish”
  • “The explosive document” (the document need not be explosive, its contents are simply shocking or dramatic).

A simile provides a more direct connection when comparing X to Y. Examples of simile includes:

  • “Salad tasted like a million berries.”
  • “The candle burned like a flame.”
  • “Our river raced like a rushing torrent.”

4. Try to use fewer adverbs ending in “-LY”

Sometimes adverbs (words that describe verbs) take on more work than they should. It’s more accurate to say “she tumbled down the hill” than “she fell awkwardly.”

The latter is weaker because it requires more parsing (figuring out what each word means) than the second.

In a nutshell, add a description to your statements through gestures and body language when it makes sense. Doing this makes the reader experience the perspective character’s timid actions firsthand.

5. Integrate a variety of illustrative details into a single phrase

Combining ‘-ly’ adverbs with other parts of a description is one technique to get away with using them. Create some descriptive writing by elaborating on an adverb with a simile.

For example:

“The man “ran lopsidedly” as if his shoelaces had been tied together while he rested under a tree.”

6. Context is crucial

Pass all descriptive phrases through the characters’ points of view. Context is crucial for crafting evocative statements. Consider the following if, for instance, your POV character is a kid:

The differences between what they might say and what an adult would say (a reduced vocabulary, more straightforward sentence construction).

Similar considerations apply in the field of personality psychology. How would a character feeling down in the dumps describe a beautiful scene, as opposed to one feeling free and happy in their environment?

The best way to learn how to write a setting from your characters’ points of view is to practice creating descriptive phrases. An architect may emphasize on a city block’s building types, heights, and angles, while a painter may highlight its colors.

To Wrap Up

Make sure your writing is clear and easy for the reader to interpret. Furthermore, remember that context is crucial for a sentence to make sense.

So, use details from the surrounding sentence to add more significance to your sentence. It’s better to go into great detail in one sentence than to use a vague statement.

Frequently asked questions

Six Simple Rules to Descriptive Sentences

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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