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This is the next level of 4 articulation skills after mastering narrative.   

The primary objective of descriptive is to provide a vivid picture of the place, people or thing in the reader’s mind.

Unlike a narrative, which reveals meaning through a personal story, the purpose of a descriptive is to reveal the meaning of a subject through detailed, sensory observation. It employs the power of language and all the human senses to bring a subject to life for the reader. 

An effective and straightforward way of describing is by concentrating on how the students describe appeals to the different senses. 

In ICAN, we focus on teaching descriptive adjectives to the students to build up their descriptive skills. 






5 Senses



The POWER of Describing

Descriptive speaking and writing has a unique power and appeal, as it evokes sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes. Using description in your writing and speaking brings the world within your text to your reader and listener.

In ICAN, we practice students to give more details whenever they speak or write. This encourages them to become an eloquent communicator!

A. Visual Analysis

  • Are usually written for Art History, History or English courses.

  • Describe the image and discuss how the way it is put together (the composition).

  • Analyze the meaning of the image for the artist.

  • Consider the historical meaning of the image.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the image for today.

Visual Analysis Essay

Everyone Can Analyze Images

Even if you don't know the terms of how people analyze art, you will be familiar with many of the tricks that artists use to create a reaction in the reader, such as making the most critical images larger and light, and the less important ones in the background or fading darker. You can also easily recognize symbolic colors, such as red means emergency or blood or danger; green means safe and close to nature, and blue means cool and relaxed.

Start by Looking Closely

Most Visual Analysis Papers will require a bright and vivid description of the image along with an analysis of the visual composition of the picture to explain how the artist put the image together to create meaning. Just describe the image you see and use the chart below to help you use the right terms.

Trust Your Own Eyes

You may want to do your study of the image before you research the history of the picture so that you can write out your thoughts without being influenced by other people.

Use Chart and Questions for Help

Start your visual analysis description by getting an excellent copy of the image and looking at it carefully. Look at the chart below and answer the critical questions to help you see the different visual elements.

B. Describe A Picture

  • Look at your picture carefully and take a few moments to think before you start talking.

  • Talk for all the time you are given. If you have one minute to do the task, use every second.

  • Practice the useful language below so you can explain which part of the picture you are talking about.

  • Panic if you don’t know the words for all the things in the picture. You don’t need to know all the words for everything in the picture if you know what to say when you don't know an exact word.  

  • Get distracted and start talking about something else. Focus on the photo or picture.

  • Panic if your mind goes blank. Take a deep breath, look at the picture and start again.

If you are asked to describe a photo or a picture in the exam, here is some language you can use:


In the picture I can see ...
There’s / There are ...
There isn’t a ... / There aren’t any ...

Say what is happening with the present continuous

The man is
The people are
It’s raining.

Where in the picture?

At the top/bottom of the picture ...
In the middle of the picture ...
On the left/right of the picture ...
next to
in front of
on top of

If something isn’t clear

It looks like a ...
It might be a ...
He could be
Maybe it’s a ...

C. Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing has a unique power and appeal, as it evokes sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes. Using description in your writing brings the world within your text to your reader.

The first step in using effective description is to focus on a dominant impression. A dominant impression creates a mood or atmosphere in your paper. This mood can be conveyed through effective descriptive writing. For example, pay attention to the mood in the following paragraph.


Can you feel the mood of this paragraph? The author is trying to convey a feeling of safety, comfort, and happiness. Notice how the author does not tell the reader she feels safe and happy. She shows the reader through descriptive detail. Her dominant impression is one of comfort and happiness.

D. PTE Describe Image Technique

If you are given a random image/graph and have only 25 seconds to study it and are expected to talk about it for 30-40 seconds, then it’s not the easiest task to do. In fact, some of the questions can be really confusing and can leave you overwhelmed.

An important factor to do well in the ‘describe image’ is to speak entire sentences without pauses in between.

The secret is having a set of pre-defined sentence structures or templates. But not just any sentence structure. The structures need to be flexible enough to be used in a wide variety of situations. You do not necessarily need to use these structures all the time, but it can be a handy tool to fall back on when you are stuck or are not sure what to say.

Below is an example of a structure that you can use along with examples:




(Use labels and axis in graph here)
The given line chart/bar graph/pie chart/image shows/compares, “……”

 (fill with high/low/variable movement seen)
By studying the graph/image it can be clearly seen that, “……”

(Answer to our question, “What can I conclude from looking at this?”)
In conclusion, this a very informative/useful graph/image that tells us about, “……”. 

Sample 1:

The given bar graph shows, “the global distribution of military expenditure in the year 2012”.

By studying the graph it can be clearly seen that “the United States of America spent the most amount of money on military expenses in the given year.”

We can also see that China is second at 9.5% of the world’s expenditure on Military.

In conclusion, this a very informative graph that tells us, “how much major countries around the world are spending on their armed forces”.

Sample 2:

The given image shows, “migration statistics to Australia for the year 2014 to 2015”.

By studying the image it can be clearly seen that “majority of people moving to Australia fall under the skilled visa stream.” We can also see that the program had space for 190,000 migrants which has increased over the previous years.

In conclusion, this a very informative graph that tells us about, “the number of people migrating to Australia and the purpose of the migration program”.

This approach can be used to tackle almost any describe image questions that you get in the exam, even if it is a very complex image. If it’s a complex image the key is not to get too lost in getting lost in what you are going to say. Just pick up anything that stands out and talk about that.

E. StoryTelling with 

F. Describing Words Tool 

Use this tool to get academically correct words for your writing!

It's very easy to use. First, you just enter the word/s that you'd like to have a deeper meaning.

It will then display adjectives for the words you have inputted. You can get the definitions of these adjectives by clicking on them. You might also like some words related to blue eyes (and find more here). 


Please note that these descriptions come from a database of thousands of books, including very old books, and so some of the adjectives may be terrible in some other way. 

G. Descriptive Text Examples

Good descriptive writing creates an impression in the reader's mind of an event, a place, a person, or a thing. The writing will be such that it will set a mood or describe something in such detail that if the reader saw it, they would recognize it.

Descriptive writing has to offer specifics the reader can envision. Rather than "Her eyes were the color of blue rocks" (Light blue? Dark blue? Marble? Slate?), try instead, "Her eyes sparkled like sapphires in the dark."

Descriptive writing has to unite the concrete image with phrasing that evokes the impression the writer wants the reader to have. Consider "her eyes shone like sapphires, warming my night" versus "the woman's eyes had a light like sapphires, bright and hard." Each phrase uses the same concrete image, then employs evocative language to create different impressions.

The descriptive writer has to constrain the concrete, evocative image to suit the reader's knowledge and attention span. "Her eyes were brighter than the sapphires in the armrests of the Tipu Sultan's golden throne, yet sharper than the tulwars of his cruelest executioners" will have the reader checking their phone halfway through. "Her eyes were sapphires, bright and hard" creates the same effect in a fraction of the reading time. As always in the craft of writing: when in doubt, write less.

H. Describe the Setting of a Story

Make description part of the narrative, part of the story. It will become almost invisible, because mentions of what things look and feel and sound like will register in the theater of the readers’ minds, but they will be concentrating on the action, the dialogue, the tension and drama and conflict that keep them turning the pages.

Pro tip: Readers have little patience for description. In fact, they often skip it to get to the action. 

Describing the setting of a story before starting the action:

London in the 1860s was a cold, damp, foggy city crisscrossed with cobblestone streets and pedestrians carefully dodging the droppings of steeds that pulled all manner of public conveyance. One such pedestrian was Lucy Knight, a beautiful, young, unattached woman in a hurry to get to Piccadilly Circus. An eligible bachelor had asked her to meet him there…

Describing the setting by layering it in to the story:

London’s West End, 1862

Lucy Knight mince-stepped around clumps of horse dung as she hurried toward Regent Street. Must not be late, she told herself. What would he think?

She carefully navigated the cobblestones as she crossed to hail a Hansom Cab—which she preferred for its low center of gravity and smooth turning. Lucy did not want to appear as if she’s been tossed about in a carriage, especially tonight. 

“Not wearin’ a ring, I see,” the driver said as she boarded. 

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nice lookin’ lady like yourself out alone after dark in the cold fog…”

“You needn’t worry about me, sir. I’m only going to the circus.”

“Piccadilly it is, Ma’am.”

Show, Don’t Tell

You’ll have to remind yourself of this daily for the rest of your life, but once you add it to your writing toolbelt, you’ll find it adds power to your prose and keeps your reader’s interest.

The key, as you can see from the examples above, is to layer in your description.

Maybe when Lucy meets her new gentleman friend, he grabs her and pulls her into an alley, saying, “Come here where no one will see us.”

There she might scrape her knuckles against a brick wall and wish both hands were free so she could tighten her coat against the wind.

I. Descriptive Words

Descriptive words are important elements of sentences. Using adjectives means that we can express the quality of any person or object. Without adjectives, we could not say how any object looks like. Not only pronouns and adjectives are the words that are used for the description of something or somebody.

More sources

How to write descriptively - Nalo Hopkinson

The point of fiction is to cast a spell, a momentary illusion that you are living in the world of the story. But as a writer, how do you suck your readers into your stories in this way? Nalo Hopkinson shares some tips for how to use language to make your fiction really come alive.

How to Become a Descriptive Writer : English & Writing Lessons

Description is one of the most powerful tools in any writer's arsenal. Become a descriptive writer with help from a professional reading and English tutor in this free video clip.

How to Write Stronger Descriptions and Imagery

Here are eight tips to elevate your descriptions and imagery, and make them interesting, vibrant, and punchy!

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