Using Descriptive Detail

Persuasive Writing

Karen Wuest, GTA - Departement of English
There is a significant difference between choosing details simply to describe something and selecting details that not only describe, but also reveal. This is particularly true in fiction—selective details which reveal character, or which might enlighten the reader about the narrator. It is also true in general, where details often reveal some deeper issue throbbing beneath the surface.

That details can be used to describe is essential and true, but they should also go beyond that. Sheer description bogged down with details lacks energy, verve. The details must carry weight, reveal something beyond just the surface they have been describing.

In the Creative Writer's Handbook, Philip K. Jason and Allan B. Lefcowitz explain that "sensory experience is primary experience: we see, feel, taste, smell, and hear before we think, analyze, choose, and argue" (130). Therefore, before an argument can effectively persuade an audience, the writer must carefully select and utilize descriptive details. If a writer can effectively engage the reader's primary senses, then the audience can be more easily enticed to feel the validity of the argument. For example, an argument which provides a plea to end deforestation is far more moving when it includes an emotional and sensory depiction of the desolate environment, the ravaged wilderness, the displaced animals. Descriptive details can cause emotional triggers which are key when attempting to persuade an audience.

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