Charles Macmillan

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Finding a Descriptive Balance

You can have a good concept, plot, or theme in your writing, but without good description the writing suffers. Learning to use description with a balance is difficult to learn. Writing without enough description results in a dull and dreary product, a product no one would want to read. Moreover, if you over-describe, you make the writing to complex to enjoy; as a result, it becomes difficult to progress the plot because you get lost in the description.
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Consider the following examples:

Too Little

At night, the thief stole the car at his first chance. It was hard, but he entered the car and got away.

Aren’t these terms too generic? Car, first, chance, night, hard, entered, “got away?”

At night (dusk, twilight, after the sun fell), the thief stole (hijack, “jacked,”) the car (vehicle, automobile, Meredes) at his first chance. It was difficult, but he entered the car and got away.

Too Much

The sunlight fell, filling the steel city with the utter and total darkness (utter and total are redundant - and darkness is redundant with the sunlight “falling”). The short, fat thief pried the large, black car-door open with a rusty crowbar he stole from the warehouse down the road (unless you’ll use the warehouse latter, this is insignificant). It took the car thief much longer than usual for him to complete breaking into the car (wordy and unnecessary), but he eventually managed to enter the stunning vehicle, start the car, and drive away at a rapid speed.

There is also a lot of unnecessary repetition in this segment. Moreover, one might consider that, if you were writing this as fiction, you might give the character a name.


As the sunlight fell, the car villain immediately moved in on his target. Fumbling with the crowbar, he managed to enter the sleek Mercedes. Hot-wiring the vehicle, Jack made of with his prize.

Though it still needs work, the last example using both better words and more literary variation. It also names the character and gets the concept across briefly, but with decent description. Moreover, while a brief excerpt of a hypothetical story, this small passage hints at some suspense, whereas the other two examples did not.

In Conclusion

Note, while the third example isn’t fantastic, it’s okay and straight to the point. It using enough description to keep it from being completely boring. It added description, removed redundancy, and supplemented some words with more relevant ones. A good writer must find a balance in which relevant description is applied, but in which unnecessary description is omitted.

A piece of writing with description primarily has description that is relative to the characters and plot.

Useful resources:

Poem Reviews Of “The Song Of Roland”
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Essays on Ethics in Accounting
Term Papers on Symbolic Interactionism