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What is Descriptive Language?


Without the use of descriptive language, the world of literature would be a mighty boring place. Descriptive language needn't be overly flowery or wordy, but it should be thoughtfully placed to give purpose and description to the image it is trying to create in the mind of the reader. Sometimes descriptive language is to add a poetic touch to the text, but more often than not it simply serves the purpose of cleverly describing a concept.

Function

You don't need to have an extensive vocabulary to effectively use descriptive language. However, reading the descriptive language of others will no doubt strengthen your vocabulary. Descriptive language adds purpose, aesthetic value and emotion to a text. Instead of just saying "I like you," descriptive language makes it possible to say things like "I burn for you like the sun as it sits fixedly in the bright sky." Note the metaphor, simile, adverb and adjective in that one sentence.

Identification

You can identify descriptive language by carefully examining the context it is used in. Any time the subject, verb or object is being modified in a descriptive fashion, it is considered descriptive language. There are also clues within the words themselves. Adverbs generally end with the letters "ly." While this is most often the case, there are some words that do not follow this format. For example, the words "after," "often" and "seldom" are all examples of adverbs that do not end in "ly."

Types

Some commonly seen forms of descriptive language are adverbs, adjectives, metaphors and similes. Adverbs are descriptive words that describe a verb. Instead of saying, for example, "The girl drank the juice," you could instead say "The girl hurriedly drank the juice." This adds importance and purpose to what the girl is doing, as well as helping the reader conjure a visual of what the action might entail. Adjectives are similar in that the describe a noun. Metaphors and similes are both methods of making comparisons. In the case of the simile, these comparisons are made using words like "like" or "as." For example, "He ran the track like a fox." A metaphor would say "He was a fox on the track."

Benefits

One of the benefits of using descriptive language is that it helps the writer to convey the meaning behind the text. By using descriptive language, the writer can describe exactly how a setting looks, how a character behaves or what action is taking place. The benefit for the reader is the ability to more clearly visualize what is being described.

Warning

There is the tendency of some writers to rely so heavily on descriptive language that the actual meaning of the statement gets lost. Often a writer will rely on cliches which offer no genuine purpose. It is advisable that writers avoid the use of excessive cliches as it adds a tired and trite use to the text.

About the Author

Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including USAToday.com. Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.

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