Descriptive language appeals to all five of our senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. When used correctly, descriptive words can entertain, persuade, inform, and educate the reader.
After all, the goal of fiction writing is to transport us to another land. Let’s take a look at a list of descriptive words: adjectives, adverbs, and gerunds. They’re some of the most powerful tools in the toolkit.
What’s the most popular descriptor in the English language? The adjective. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. It’s how we know the woman was gorgeous or the sunset was glittering. All adjectives are descriptive words, but not all descriptive words are adjectives.
The best way to expand our adjectival knowledge is to pick up a book and read. In the meantime, let’s prime the pump with this list of adjectives:
While adjectives provide further description for nouns, adverbs add on to verbs. Adverbs take things up a notch, though. They can also modify other adverbs, as well as adjectives. Adverbs can be used to describe concepts such time, place, circumstance, manner, or degree. Pretty impressive right?
Even though these modifiers are multi-faceted, it’s wise to use them with caution. Writing that’s doused in too many adverbs (or adjectives) is quickly earmarked as amateur.
That’s why it’s important to build an arsenal of adjectives and adverbs. With that kind of knowledge, you’ll be able to pick the right one at the right time.
As you scroll through our examples, you’ll notice that they all end in -ly, but remember that a few adverbs, like “almost” or “seldom,” do not share this ending. Ready to dive in?
Gerunds belong on the same branch of the family tree as adjectives and adverbs. But, they’re kind of the quirky aunt or the ostentatious uncle.
Gerunds are created out of verbs, but function as nouns. Sounds weird, right? Take a look at this sentence: “Do you mind my borrowing your hair straighteners?” It seems like borrowing should be the verb, right? In fact, borrowing is the gerund, acting as a noun, and mind is the verb.
In English, gerunds end in -ing. Gerunds can be descriptive words because are often used to describe the actions of an individual.
In the examples below, baking is first up. Here’s an example of baking functioning in a sentence as a gerund: “The party’s success was all due to my baking of the apple pies.” Enjoy this sampling:
Descriptive words help paint a picture in the reader's mind. They can:
When it comes to using descriptive words, variety is key. Instead of overusing the same words, challenge yourself to come up with creative ways to appeal to your readers’ senses. You can use this list of descriptive words for scents for help.
An effective use of descriptors will paint a vivid picture in your readers’ minds and make your writing impossible to put down.