Using Descriptive Detail


Gilbert Findlay, Department of English
The human mind cannot communicate in abstractions. If I write, 'communication is the most crucial element in contemporary society,' you, the reader think, 'gotta talk to my girlfriend.' But if I am more specific and write, 'Instant technological transfer of information from the World Wide Web to in-progress network reports of delicate diplomatic negotiations require that we reevaluate the way we respond to communications in contemporary society' then you, the reader, think, 'Oh! This writer is focusing on communication by the electronic media.' Bingo! Descriptive detail means clear communication.

Summary response writing is not exempt from the need to include descriptive detail. A descriptive summary/response essay will be effective if it includes both objective and subjective details. Objective details refer to concrete facts, while subjective details stress feelings about facts, places, people, and events. A balance between objective and subjective details will help the essay involve the emotions of the reader, while still relating the important facts.

Overall, a descriptive essay will focus upon one clear, dominant impression or idea. This dominant idea should be made clear in the thesis, and should guide the writer's selection of detail. Although the summary is not an appropriate place for a large amount of description, the main idea in the response can be effectively emphasized through the addition of clear creative and critical descriptive detail.

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