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How to Describe a Sunset


Describing a sunset in an essay, poem, book or short story requires descriptive adjectives and the use of literary devices, such as imagery, metaphors and symbolism. Sunsets represent warmth and beauty, often signifying an important season in a character's life, so descriptions tend to have a peaceful, melancholy tone. When writing about sunsets, focus on visual aspects of the sky and how the sunset makes the characters in your story or poem feel.

Use Literary Devices to Develop Imagery
There are many colors of a sunset.

Use literary devices, such a symbolism and imagery, to describe the natural beauty, warmth and transitional elements of a sunset. For example, Emily Dickinson examines the wonder of nature by describing the rising and setting sun in her poem, "I'll Tell You How the Sun Rose." She uses the metaphor of yellow-hued children climbing and playing until it gets too dark to play any longer to describe the changing sunset colors, from yellow to gray. Hazel Hall uses imagery in her poem "Twilight" to show how the sunset affects grass, flowers and plants by causing them to close up for the night. Her poem considers how the sunset transforms the natural world.

Choose Descriptive Adjectives and Adverbs

Focus on descriptive language, including compelling adjectives and picture-perfect adverbs to help readers visualize the sunset. Use precise language, explicit vocabulary and well-constructed analogies to detail the complexities associated with sunsets, according to the Core Curriculum State Standards Initiative for 11th- and 12th-grade students. Discuss color variations in the sky and how the setting sun casts shadows across the ground. Think of examples that remind you of sunsets, such as changing seasons, the process of aging or an ending to one life experience to start another.

Discuss the Repeated Cycle of Sunsets

Detail the enduring, recurring, daily characteristics of sunsets. Poets such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Robert Bridges, in their respective poems "Sundown" and "The Evening Darkens Over," discuss how sunsets always lead to night and darkness. Both poets associate sunsets with closure and an end to one's daily experiences. Describe the sunset by focusing on its brief, yet important, role in nature. Use adjectives such as perpetual, relentless, timeless, unremitting and unfailing, to describe sunsets.

Establish the Tone and Mood

Discuss ways a sunset creates a mood or establishes the tone for a poem or a story. For example, in the book "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton, two main characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds discuss the beauty of the sunset and its ability to bridge barriers to unite people. Describe how the sunset makes characters feel, such as relieved, satisfied or hopeful. Use emotion-filled adjectives, such as majestic, endless, inspirational, glowing, romantic, serene or captivating to describe the sunset.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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