6. Descriptive Paragraphs

Descriptive Paragraphs

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

Descriptive paragraphs are often used to describe what a place or an object person looks like, or what a person looks and acts like. Therefore, a good descriptive paragraph provides the reader with an accurate mental picture of the topic of the paragraph whether it is a person, a place or an object.

Read the following paragraphs and pay attention to the numerous descriptive words employed in it.

Jack Collins

Jack Collins is the most amazing person I have ever met. He came to my school and talked about his difficult life in prison.   He was in prison for 15 years. He made a lot of mistakes when he was young, but now he has changed his life. He saw a lot of violence in prison, so he uses his experience to help secondary school students. Jack is tall and strong. He also looks a little scary because he has some spider tattoos. The thing I remember most is his sensitive personality. He really wants to help young people. I’ve never met anyone like Jack before. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)

Dominant Impression

To write an effective description, it is not enough to give random pieces of information about the particular object, place, or person, you are describing. You descriptions should create the sense of a dominant or overall impression in your reader. You can achieve this by making each individual sentence you write a part of a picture you would like to show to your reader. For example, when you describe Lake Toba, the dominant impression you want to create could be its beauty or its tranquility. When you describe a person, you might want to present the impression of a diligent, hardworking person. It is a good idea to integrate the dominant impression into the topic sentence. This will help you focus as you write and will leave no doubt in the reader’s mind as to the direction of your thinking. This impression must be supported by all supporting sentences.

 My Mother’s Kitchen

My Mother’s Kitchen is not big but it is warm and comfortable. My mother cooks a lot and it smells spicy and sweet. Sometimes she taught my brother and me how to cook. We liked learning new things, working together and making delicious foods. Now I live far away, but I often think of my mother’s kitchen. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)

Sensory Images

In order to make vivid descriptions, good writers use sensory images, or details that relate to our five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sentences that make the reader sees an object, hears a sound, touches a surface, smells an odor, or tastes a flavor are very effective in descriptive writing. Such sentence help the reader to pay more attention to what the writer is saying, and thus help them to remember the details of what he has read. For example, if you came across the word book in a sentence, you might or might not pay attention to it. However, if the writer describes that it is an old, brown, and thick book which is made of ‘lontar’ leaves and creaking when it is opened, to a higher extent you will not forget it. You will keep the book in your mind because the writer uses sensory images.


Bali is probably the most famous island in Indonesia. Also known as the Land of gods, it blends spectacular sheer natural beauty of looming volcanoes, beautiful beaches, lush terraced rice fields that exude peace and serenity, and warm and friendly people. Visitors will be amazed by its dramatic dances, colorful ceremonies, amazing arts and crafts, luxurious beach resorts, and exciting night life.  This exotic island also offers world class surfing and diving, and exhilarating treks in the wild. Everywhere intricately carved temples provides inspirational spirituality. For decades this miraculous island has amazed millions of local and international visitors. Why don’t you come and experience it?

Spatial Order

In a descriptive writing, supporting details should be arranged according to spatial order so that the items are shown in much the same way as a camera might move across a scene. The items could be ordered from left to right, from outside to inside, from top to bottom, from nearby to farther away, or even around in a circle. In order to give the greatest impact to a certain image, it is put at the last place.

In the following paragraph, observe how the writer moves clearly from a description of the head of the clown (in sentences two, three, and four), to the body (sentences five, six, seven, and eight), to the unicycle underneath (sentence nine). Notice also how the concluding sentence helps to tie the paragraph together by emphasizing the personal value of this gift.

A Friendly Clown

On one corner of my dresser sits a smiling toy clown on a tiny unicycle–a gift I received last Christmas from a close friend. The clown’s short yellow hair, made of yarn, covers its ears but is parted above the eyes. The blue eyes are outlined in black with thin, dark lashes flowing from the brows. It has cherry-red cheeks, nose, and lips, and its broad grin disappears into the wide, white ruffle around its neck. The clown wears a fluffy, two-tone nylon costume. The left side of the outfit is light blue, and the right side is red. The two colors merge in a dark line that runs down the center of the small outfit. Surrounding its ankles and disguising its long black shoes are big pink bows. The white spokes on the wheels of the unicycle gather in the center and expand to the black tire so that the wheel somewhat resembles the inner half of a grapefruit. The clown and unicycle together stand about a foot high. As a cherished gift from my good friend Tran, this colorful figure greets me with a smile every time I enter my room.

(from: http://grammar.about.com/od/developingparagraphs/a/samdescpars.htm)


Apache was the name given to the Indian tribes who inhabited the southwestern part of the United States and parts of northern Mexico. They were excellent hunters and raiders who had little trouble to protect their band. In the past, each Apache band was led by its own chief, who was chosen by a tribal council. Most important decisions were made by the council, and all the Apache council members had to agree before an action could be taken. An Apache chief was more like a tribal chairman than a president. Most of his job was mediating between other Apaches. Probably the most famous Apache chief is Geronimo,  who led a series of rebellions.

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