Create Descriptive, Expressive Writing

Red rose overlaid on book page of Shakespeare text

Have you ever watched a young child painting her picture? The brush strokes may be large, the colors blindingly bright, the strokes bold and immediate, but the intense, yet natural expression and level of focus on that child's face can be enlightening! As authors, speakers, presenters and website providers, we too get to have our own version of such fun.

We really can paint a kind of picture using words the trigger images in the mind's eye. How: look at how an artist paints an eye-catching picture. She makes use contrast, variety, bravery in color, individuality, and so on. Writers can achieve similar results using a balanced mix of tools including: words, sentences, phrases, layout and design.

In fact, whenever we read something that captures our attention — even for a short time — our minds naturally try to turn those word impressions into some kind of visual imagery. You too can work with this rhythm and write in such a way that your reader can more easily create mind pictures from your writing.

How? Consider the following tips:

  • Describe in rich detail. Use the human senses: think of sights, sound, smells, touch, and taste, and use whatever is relevant.
  • Imagine yourself as an artist "word-painting" the scene.
  • Relate to what is familiar to your reader using examples as much as possible.

In that same spirit, below are some examples of highly descriptive text. Consider how each can conjure up fertile, familiar imagery within the mind:

  • Melt-in-the-mouth pastries.
  • A swathing ribbon of pristine white sand.
  • The warm soft haze of a summer's day.
  • Her bright eyes glowed reflecting the warmth of a turf fire that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
  • A land bathed in sun-kissed beauty that delights and soothes the travel weary soul.
  • Skye — a beautiful island-jewel, peppered with idyllic, coastal Edens. Mile upon mile of rolling green hills dotted with picturesque white-stoned cottages that seem to burst forth naturally out of this ancient land.
  • A place of mystery, myth, magic and majesty; of lore and of legend; of romance, heroism, of stubborn pride, tragedy, and loss.
  • A people that time forgot.
  • As free as the soaring eagle in summer. How skilfully he dances amid the warm mountain thermals, to climb, to dive, to glide gracefully through the high peaks.

Strive To Constantly Develop The Art Of Good Judgment In Your Writing Choices

Sometimes, you can improve your writing when you deliberately strive to be less ornate. In other words, choose your simpler words and phrases carefully.

Though simple doesn't necessarily mean your writing is easier to write. Often, choosing simple words means more work and effort from you.

Don't be afraid to cut what you think overdoes the effect you're seeking.

However, also don't be too quick to swing that cutting sword: think about and strive to understand. The way to work through these dilemmas is to understand why you're doing what you're doing:

  • Why you're cutting words out.
  • Why you're adding words in.
  • Why you're adding or cutting particular words.

If what you're doing makes sense to you, good: others can appreciate your efforts too, though may not know or care why. That's okay.

Key point: much depends on the type of writing you're working with.

So while using a highly descriptive technique can help you craft wonderful, expressive sentences, I do recommend that you don't overdo the effect.

For example, William Shakespeare gave us superb, crisp phrases like:

  • "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Though instead, he could have written something like:

  • "Shall I compare thee to a fine, sunshine-rich, balmy summer's day?"

However, I think most people might agree that Shakespeare's version is much better. He developed wonderfully accurate skills of knowing:

  • How to choose the right word or phrase, and ...
  • When to stop writing.

Minimalism in writing can be as valuable as a minimalist lifestyle choice. Sometimes, clutter free has a certain appeal. However, ...

Key tip: Don't be afraid to enrich your piece if the topic can benefit from eloquent language. If highly descriptive text is for you, and the documents you enjoy writing, practice this kind of writing regularly to develop your skill. Rearrange words and sentences for best effect. Before release, always re-read your work later to re-evaluate with a fresh eye.

Have fun! It's just another part of the writer's journey.

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