ENGL102 logoENGL 101
English Composition I
Home Page >> Lecture Notes >> Description

The Basic Senses Used in Description Are


• Sight

• Sound

• Smell

• Taste

• Touch

But there is also a "sixth" element of description that needs to be used as well:

• Feelings/Emotion


Too much description is distracting to reader

Too little leaves the reader with only general ideas, not specifics

• Long lists of adjectives are usually a sign of weak description

• Sentences difficult to read because of descriptive passages are a bad sign

• Description should clarify, not confuse/hide


• We get most of our information visually

• Thus, we tend to focus on visual description

• Good writers move beyond simple visual description

• Focusing on visuals just shows that you know the same visual cliches that reader knows

• The other sensory details indicate that you really did experience the situation


Gun Shot Wound

• Smell of gunpowder, cordite, wet sidewalk

• hearing report of gun AFTER being hit

• feels like softball hitting you hard

• iron-like taste of blood, mossy taste of wet sidewalk

• loss of sensation at first, screaming pain after


Car Accident

• Disorientation, not logical

• Where are my glasses? I can’t see!!

• Sweet smell of anti-freeze

• Frightening pungent smell of gasoline

• salty taste of blood & sweat on lips

• arms and legs won’t respond

• dull ache and nausea from seatbelt straps


• Use description to ADD to the essay

• Don’t just give cliché and standard images

• Go beyond just the visual

Don’t overdo the details - focus on what helps us understand the purpose/meaning

Show, don’t tell