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acAdvanced Composition 
Four Rules for Good Descriptive Writing

February 3, 2005

 Good descriptive writing follows four rules. We'll look at the rules, then write a description from an interesting and unusual point of view.


Four Rules for Good Descriptive Writing

1. Observe carefully.

Look at the world around you. Doing this will give you the most benefit when writing a description.

2. Form a central impression.

What do you see, in general, when you observe. You may note that a person's room is very messy. This is your central impression.

3. Select specific, concrete details to support your impression.

In the messy room are three pairs of dirty socks strewn across the floor. On the desk, a brown banana skin is beginning to grow a dull green mold.

4. Organize your details.

For a messy room, you might start with eye level, then move to what you see on the floor.


Think of a place you either dislike or like very much. Describe it as if everything about this place was carefully planned (by a person; by a god etc.) in every detail.

For example, for a messy room I might write, "It is clear that the boy has placed each dirty sock on the floor with great care, so his mother will see them the moment she enters the room."


     Take your rough draft home with you today.

     Make at least five corrections to the draft and recopy the paragraph.

     Hand in your original and your revised copy to class next week.


A Perfect Place; A Perfect Plan

     One perfectly planned place is on a ridge near Mount Albert Edward on Vancouver Island. At the top are rocks perfect for leaning on while eating lunch. The wind blows just enough to cool a weary hiker after a long climb; more importantly, it keeps away the pesky mosquitoes and flies. The rocks, crusted with lichen, remind me that I'm not in Stanley Park. In one direction, I easily observe the long climb ahead and plan the best ascent. In another, I spy the gulf islands where my friends await. Enough bees buzz to create a pleasant sound, but the wind dominates, caressing my ears with its rushing hands. Even the air’s coolness seems designed to get me moving again, on down the slope to my next destination: a waterfall hidden playfully under a bridge of ice left over from last winter. When I visit that mountain ridge, I know God’s hand has been at work. (156 words; second draft, January 31, 2005)


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