Description: Wikis


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Description is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with exposition, argumentation, and narration. Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms and each has its own purpose and conventions.

Description is also the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story.


Description as a rhetorical mode

The purpose of description is to re-create or visually present a person, place, event, or action so that the reader may picture that which is being described. Descriptive writing may be found in the other rhetorical modes.

Examples of description writing

Description as a fiction-writing mode

Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has distinct forms of expression, or modes, each with its own purposes and conventions. Agent and author Evan Marshall identifies five fiction-writing modes: action, summary, dialogue, feelings/thoughts, and background (Marshall 1988, pp. 143-165). Author and writing-instructor Jessica Page Morrell lists six delivery modes for fiction-writing: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition (Morrell 2006, p. 127). Author Peter Selgin refers to methods, including action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, and description (Selgin 2007, p. 38). Currently, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses. [1] Description is the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story. Together with dialogue, narration, exposition, and summarization, description is one of the most widely recognized of the fiction-writing modes. As stated in Writing from A to Z, edited by Kirk Polking, description is more than the amassing of details; it is bringing something to life by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce the desired effect. (Polking, p. 106) The most appropriate and effective techniques for presenting description are a matter of ongoing discussion among writers and writing coaches. [2]

Purple prose

Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.


The word description can be used interchangeably with the word theory in physics.[citation needed] When an observer is said to describe an event, experiment, or observation, this is a direct reference, which means a theory describes the event, experiment, or observation.[citation needed]


  • Rozakis, Laurie (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition. Alpha. ISBN 978-1-59257-115-4
  • Marshall, Evan (1998). The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 1582970629. 
  • Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 9781582973937. 
  • Polking, Kirk (1990). Writing A to Z. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books. ISBN 0898794358. 
  • Selgin, Peter (2007). By Cunning & Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for fiction writers. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 9781582974910. 

See also

External links


A description is the result of a process (to describe). It is a kind of representation of something. Like all other representations is a description always a function of both the object described and the subject doing the description. This is well understood in the humanities where representations are mostly understood in the cultural contexts. It is not, however, well understood in the positivist traditions.
A description differs from other kinds of representations such as interpretations and evaluations. A descriptions is often believed to be more objective, to be just an enumeration of the quantitative and qualitative parameters which define something. In the empiricist philosophy is this understood as the sum of the objects sensory qualities: that is, what something looks like, sounds like, feels like.

In some theories is it supposed that it is possible to provide a complete description, i.e. an enumeration of all the properties that defines a thing. In the former mentioned humanist traditions this assumption is questioned and the properties selected in a given description is selected on the basis of some subjective conditions or preunderstandings.

Descriptions may includes useful subtle differences which can be useful for distinguishing one thing from another and general characteristics commonly noticed which in popular culture define something. Rigorous description is created and used in scientific disciplines as technical terminology.

In scientific research, description is one of three purposes of research (other two being exploration and explanation). Description means the precise measurment and reporting of the characteristics of studied phenomenon.


In linguistics (the scientific study of language), prescription and description are often at odds with each other. Descriptivists reject the formation of arbitrary normative rules. Instead, they insist on describing languages as they are used in practice, rather than how they should be used according to some formal orthographical system.

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