Descriptive writing: A crime scene

To recap descriptive writing:

1. Watch the following You tube video for a quick recollection

2. Effective description works because it helps a reader feel a part of the scene being described. If you look closely at how this kind of writing is created, you’ll find many references to one or more of the senses such as what can be seen or heard. This is called sensory description. This use of the senses allows the reader to enter the scene more effectively by involving them directly and by evoking a more emotional response. It works because it creates imagery in the mind.(This imagery is most often achieved through vivid and ORIGINAL figurative language)

TASK: Imagine that you are a detective who has been called to a crime SCENE (setting), using the form below DESCRIBE THE SCENE




Checkpoint three textbook: all exercises to be done on page 41-53 (follow the link)

Follow the link as below:

Click to access 8584e709-1597-4138-9a72-761c765ba6b1.pdf

This is the entire chapter entitled:  Descriptive Writing taken from the Checkpoint three textbook. Please ensure ALL the exercises in this section are completed on YOUR BLOG for marking.


Descriptive Writing: Focus on characters

Descriptive Writing: Focus on characters

I have noticed that many of you are struggling to write descriptively and are TELLING. Telling is not describing: telling is merely observing something and then recalling it. Descriptive writing entails the ability to make your reader FEEL. Not make the reader see. There is a HUGE difference. In your work programme in the section entitled Writing; Section B: Descriptive writing, there is a very clear explanation of descriptive writing;

From page 49: ‘’You can think of the process of descriptive writing like this: If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: “Wait a minute,” they think. “We’ll be the judge of that! Show us a beautiful tree and we’ll believe you…” Do not merely rely on adjectives that attempt to characterise a thing’s attributes. Lovely, exciting, interesting – these are all useful adjectives in casual speech or when we’re pointing to something that is lovely, but in writing with substance and fire and life, they don’t do much for us; in fact, they sound hollow. We cannot see the picture and if we cannot see the picture in our mind’s eye it means we have an empty image.

Descriptive pieces should always bring to life your five senses. The sensory images that are brought to life almost always create a distinct mood or atmosphere that allows the reader to feel what you intended to create by carefully enhancing the experience. It is important to remember that mood is brought about by carefully chosen language and isolated selected detail. Thus, descriptive pieces are not cumbersome; they should not be overloaded with a lot of detail, but rather carefully planned with selected detail and language’’

If you look at the picture below, it creates a very specific FEELING – what is the feeling?

Is it perhaps a feeling like; No connection? No connection is an abstract feeling that allows us  to feel something about not being connected. Then, we could ask; not being connected to what? People, Society, Nature – what? And in this manner we  can continue with bringing to life the feeling of the image; if there is no connection, does it mean people are disconnected, can it imply a generation is washed up, dried out and lacking any connection….the point is: can you make your readers ‘’see’’ what it is you feel.

I would entitle a piece based on the picture, ‘Shadow World’ and base ideas around this title that can be inferred from the preceding paragraph’s train thoughts. That may not necessarily be what you see and that is what makes us all original. If you are regurgitating facts only – this is NOT descriptive writing and largely lack originality. The picture is an example of for abstract descriptive writing or a setting, if you read carefully from the beginning, the focus is, however, on characters.

To recap: Whether writing a setting piece or an abstract descriptive or a character descriptive, essentially descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words. Descriptive writing is especially important for speculative fiction writers and poets. If you’ve created a fantasy world, then you’ll need to deftly describe it to readers. Lewis Carroll not only described Wonderland; he also described the fantastical creatures that inhabited it. In poetry, the challenge is to describe things in a way that is visceral.

Simple descriptions are surprisingly easy to execute. All you have to do is look at something (or imagine it) and write what you see. But well-crafted descriptions require writers to pay diligence to word choice, to describe only those elements that are most important  and to use engaging language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

In your checkpoint three textbook (page 44-45) you have the following example:

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare and a metallic laugh. A man made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up. A man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a balloon, and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty.  A man who was the Bully of humility. A year or two younger than his eminently practical friend, Mr Bounderby looked older; his seven or eight and forty might have had the seven or eight added to it again, without surprising anybody. He had not much hair. One might have fancied he had talked it off; and that what was left, all standing up in disorder, was in that condition from being constantly blown about by his windy boastfulness.

In the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodge, standing on the hearthrug, warming himself before the fi re, Mr Bounderby delivered some observations to Mrs Grad grind on the circumstance of its being his birthday. He stood before the fi re, partly because it was a cool spring afternoon, though the sun shone; partly because the shade of Stone Lodge was always haunted by the ghost of damp mortar; partly because he thus took up a commanding position, from which to subdue Mrs Gradgrind. ‘I hadn’t a shoe to my foot. As to a stocking, I didn’t know such a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a pigsty. That’s the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a ditch was new to me, for I was born in a ditch.’

The descriptions of the Mr Bounderby tell us more about him.

Answer the following questions in order that you understand how they make the reader feel:

  1. How old is Mr Bounderby from Extract 4?
  2. What do you think the phrase ‘metallic laugh’ suggests about Mr Bounderby and his interests?
  3. Choose four words or phrases from the passage which suggest that Mr Bounderby is a thoroughly unpleasant man. Explain as fully as you can how the expressions you have chosen suggest his unpleasantness.
  4. Explain what is meant by ‘the Bully of humility’.
  5. Give one piece of evidence from the passage to show that Mr Bounderby is a bully.
  6. Choose two descriptions that suggest that the writer is making fun of Mr Bounderby. Explain the reasons for your choice.

Click to access 8584e709-1597-4138-9a72-761c765ba6b1.pdf

(Reference: 03 CamChck Eng1 Ch3;

Task: Describing Characters (please do this on your OWN blog and submit the URL to me via e-mail)

If you look at the picture below, it allows us to feel something about the character; the way he sitting, the colours, the way you think he feels, his thoughts, his stare and so forth. In 200 words create a DESCRIPTIVE piece in which you bring about a image of the character transformed in words.

(Reference to the artist: People Transformed Into Paintings by Alexa Meade

An overview of work thus far and tying the pieces together…(please note task on the post)

You have all been privy to the various posts that have appeared on the Pre-IGCSE blog since starting this virtual classroom. I am sure that you are considering how all the posts are interconnected as they may seem quite random to you. Everything in English is ALWAYS related; it is HOW and WHY you make the connections that allow for ease of understanding.

So what does punctuation have to do with words banks? And what do work banks have to do with Poetry and what do grammar rules have to do with any of this in general?

Let me tie up the pieces

In order to WRITE well, you need to be equipped with the TOOLS with which to accomplish the task. You will be very aware of the fact that, unless, you use punctuation correctly you could create nuances in meaning when writing that have far reaching consequences; If your punctuation is incorrect you meaning can be SKEWED and not as you intended

Who would have known that this is what you can do with punctuation?

Face drawn with punctuation marks

On a more serious note, the reason that we learn to use and apply all punctuation appropriately and with consideration is that it DOES make us better writers. Please get into the habit of practicing it daily!

In addition to the four posts on punctuation you were required to derive a DESCRIPTIVE sentence using a strong word bank for the picture of the tiger. The exercise (there will be many of these) has a three-part function: 1) the opportunity to practice punctuation 2) growing your vocabulary and 3) creating mood and atmosphere. Mood and atmosphere…huh? What is this? Mood and/or atmosphere is the terminology specifically associated with DESCRIPTIVE writing. In order to adhere to the techniques of a descriptive style, a prerequisite is the ability to use words to create a mood. So what does this mean? Basically mood is what we feel, thus if I post a picture such as the tiger, I want to FEEL (if I close my eyes without looking at the picture) the image that you create with words. Hence, if the picture is an image of ferocity I want to FEEL with the use of your words the FEAR captured by the ferocious image. We can feel in a number of ways: We can see it (sight), we can hear it (sound), we can smell it (smell), we can taste it (taste), we can touch it (touch). These are all SENSORY abilities and they allow the opportunity to FEEL. Therefore, most descriptive writing is sensory. It can be literal or metaphorical depending on the INTENTION, for example, one can smell fear, fear can smell like danger and so forth.

And let me add the words of others also!

The most proficient writers try their utmost NOT to make descriptive statements; these are merely explanations not descriptions. It is one thing to state something and another to create a mood or feeling by using words to paint a picture. Thus, your INTENTION is always to create, not to tell – you will be given the opportunity to tell when writing narratives.

Think about the impact of this picture below:

Powerful isn’t it? What mood has been created? How do we know this? Think about the words and the pictures together. What can we see? What do we feel? What does wiping away a tear feel like? How does this effect what we can possibly hear? The INTENTION is to create a MOOD that transmits an IMAGE that we will remember. It does NOT require a story. Only a mood.

Task for the picture: Describe the little boys face vividly in two DESCRIPTIVE sentences. Capture the mood. (Do not tell me what the picture is about, I know what it is about, I want to be able to close my eyes and see the picture you have created without there being a picture.)

And finally, how does all of this relate to your ability to indicate to me what a poem can mean?  Basically it is simple: If you can write with ease and proficiency and create your own mood and intention and meanings, it becomes far easier to ‘’see’’ the mood and intention and meanings in others writing, no matter who the writer is!

Figurative language examples…thank you Gerhard (van der B)

Figurative language and sound devices WP p72

Please find attached a good set of examples for the Figurative language task of the work/programme, page 72.

(Thank you Gerhard! Well done!)

This is the task for those that are still getting to it:

In order to fully understand poetry it is worth reviewing all your figurative language.

Do some internet research and find:

a)   Definitions

b)     Examples, for all the figurative language as listed below.

It is vitally important that you know these and can identify them with ease in any given text, whether it is a language text, a poem or a piece of prose.

  • Metaphor
  • Simile
  • Personification
  • Hyperbole
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Satire
  • Irony
  • Paradox
  • Antithesis
  • Oxymoron
  • Repetition
  • Parallelism
  • Pun
  • Ambiguity
  • Euphemism
  • Idiom

And the following sound devices:

  • Onomatopoeia
  • Alliteration

Here are some fun examples to assist further:

(Perceptual ambiguity – do you see the two images?)

Creating agreement between subjects and verbs: CONCORD

Please review the following grammar and writing help. It is important to create concord between subjects and verbs, which is a common grammar error.

Please post the answers to the test yourself exercise on YOUR blog and send me the URL – please do the TEST YOURSELF exercise – BEFORE you continue with the perusing the remainder of the explanations.

Why punctuation [really,really (not really?)] matters # 3 (Are you all getting the point yet?)

To make my point about how punctuation can change meaning, here are three fun examples:

1) I’ve seen this one go around Facebook under the guise of, “Punctuation saves lives!”

Let’s eat Grandpa.

(I doubt he’s very tasty)


Let’s eat, Grandpa.

(Yo, Grandpa, dinner’s ready! I’ll race ya to the table!)

2) I saw this one in college during my nerd training (read: English major studies).The professor, a woman, wrote the following sentence on the board:

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

I was rather incensed. Until she changed the punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

And then I laughed.

3) One of Lynne Truss’s books, Twenty-odd Ducks, includes a punctuation joke right on the cover with the title. With the hyphen, the title means, “roughly twenty ducks.” If you take the hyphen out, it means, “twenty weird ducks.” So the cover has twenty funky ducks: some that are striped, one ready to go snorkeling, and so on.

Even the subtitle has a play on punctuation: Why, Punctuation Matters

On each page spread, the book has the same sentence but with different punctuation (and therefore different meanings), plus illustrations to match.

You need to get your hands on a copy. Really. As proof, I present my kids’ favorite 2-page spread from the book. It’s gruesome, which may be why they love it.

The first page shows a king strolling near a group of girls bowing and throwing flowers at him as he says, “Ah, life is grand.” The caption reads as follows:

The king walked and talked. Half an hour later, his head was cut off.

The second page makes the whole thing read as one sentence, which changes the meaning drastically:

The king walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off.

Above the caption: three illustrations showing the king decapitated and his head talking (“Why can’t I feel my lips?”) as his body walks around.

Hysterical, if you ask me. At the end of the book, Truss manages (quite brilliantly) to write an entire letter to a school teacher on one page and then changes the meaning entirely using nothing but punctuation on the other.

Convinced that punctuation matters? I hope so. At the very least, remember point number one: punctuation saves lives.

Why punctuation (really does!) matter # 2… (Please post the answers to the exercise on the (my) blog)

Fun with Language

Punctuation Matters

These examples come from Eats, shoots and leaves which is itself an example of how punctuation can change the meaning of a written text. The title of the book is the punch line of a joke about a panda in a bar. Work out the difference in meaning between:

  • eats, shoots and leaves


  • eats shoots and leaves


  • eats shoots, and leaves

Adding the comma can not only change the meaning but clarifies which meaning is intended by the writer.

Similarly consider the following:

  • Woman, without her man, is nothing.


  • Woman, without her, man is nothing.

Punctuate the following letter in two ways such that there are two completely opposed meanings: one says that Jack is the love of Jill’s life; the other says that Jack is the last person that Jill would ever want to meet again.

dear jack I want a man who knows what love is you are kind generous thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior you have ruined me for other men I yearn for you I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart I can be forever happy will you let me be yours jill


  1. work out how many sentences there are in this text — this will lead you to think about what a sentence is.
  2. work out how you decided where to put the punctuation in the text — which in turn will have informed your decision on where to put the sentence breaks — which in turn will help you work out what is a sentence.
  3. on what grounds have you decided that each sentence is a sentence?
  4. work out how many words there are in this text.

Then see if you can write another sequence of words that can similarly be changed in meaning, simply by changing the punctuation.

Before you leave this page, consider the title ‘Punctuation Matters’, which is syntactically ambiguous. Identify the two syntactic structures, either of which (or both) could be understood by the reader and either (or both) of which could have been intended by the writer.


Truss, L. (2003) Eats, shoots & leaves, London: Profile Books.