Decorative elements for the compositions

Decorative elements for the compositions



1. Aspects of an image


A descriptive piece requires you to describe an image in your head but at the same time there is a lot going on in that one picture. You need to choose at least three aspects of the image to describe for a simple five-paragraph descriptive or even narrative essay. At the scene of a fire, you can describe the actual fire that is blazing, the colour, movements, actions and something it resembles. The house that is falling apart can be another focus, the age, size, design, purpose and history. You may describe the expression on people’s faces while looking at the fire, those who are deeply affected and others who are there to spectate. The environment is also a strong aspect as it is filled with smoke, on-lookers and sorrowful screams.



2. Language


A combination of literal and figurative language is crucial to descriptive writing. Literal language requires knowledge of many adjectives and adverbs, synonyms and antonyms. Figurative language is hidden meaning through the use figurative devices such as simile, irony, metaphor and onomatopoeia. These word tools make your description even more colourful. Instead of telling the readers about the image, you can show them. You can make a comparison to the image you want to describe using the simile “the water was warm like a blanket” or metaphor “the golden medallion in the sky”. You may show contrast with the irony “she brought us to the beach every weekend but would never bathe because of her fear of sharks”. The use of onomatopoeia in descriptive writing livens up your words as in “splashing of waves”, “thumping of the ball against feet”, and “high-pitched screams of joy in the water”.


For example:

When I saw the dove soar high above my home, I immediately knew that the worst was over (symbolism)

After the death of my father, I spent several weeks drowned in a sea of grief (Metaphor)

The ocean’s water is as clear as crystal (simile)

The night was calm. The only sound that could be heard was that of the howling winds (personification)

The Corona Virus Pandemic and lockdown era showed us tougher times. A normal 24 hours day seemed like a month, and months seemed to be years (hyperbole)



3. Sensory details


Describing an image revolves around appealing to the five senses. At the scene of a beach, you describe the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feels without naming the images for the reader. “The golden medallion in the sky” is the sun that you see. “The roaring beast violently beats against the innocent mountains” is the waves that you hear. “The fishy wind embraces our nostrils” describes the smell of the atmosphere. “The salty blanket slides on my tongue” describes the sea water that is not only compared to something that is comforting but appeals to the sense of taste. “The scorching grains beneath my feet” is the sand that you feel.



4. Emotions evoked


Descriptive writing requires you to evoke emotions in the reader by describing various moods that occur while painting a picture in your head. These moods must be described using many adjectives, synonyms and antonyms to make your description effective. At the scene of a fire, the mood of the persons most affected is traumatised, sorrowful, depressed and worried. The on-lookers are sympathetic, concerned, comforting and sensitive. The firefighters are commanding, determined, aggressive and exhausted. Other than adjectives, you can show actions that describe feelings. “The orange demon grabbed every memory” evokes a nostalgic emotion and “Tears flowed uncontrollably” describes sadness. By describing the feelings of others in an image, you evoke a similar emotion in your reader.

5. Structure



The structure of your essay is essential especially when you are given a word count and you are being timed. If you are preparing for an exam, there are 5 main factors to focus on which can be written in 5 paragraphs for your descriptive essay.

Paragraph 1 – Introduction: Hook for imagery of topic; context; thesis

Paragraph 2 – Body: Topic 1 e.g. Appearance; sensory details; actual details

Paragraph 3 – Body: Topic 2 e.g. Environment; sensory details; actual details

Paragraph 4 – Body: Topic 3 e.g. Emotions evoked; sensory details; actual details

Paragraph 5 – Conclusion: Rephrase of thesis on imagery; summary of body; closing



Synonyms and antonyms of the most common adjectives



Happy, pleased, glad, delighted, cheerful, thrilled, ecstatic, jubilant, enchanted, blissful, elated

Unhappy, sad, miserable, sorrowful, forlorn, despondent, discontented, distraught, concerned, devastated, upset

Good, superior, fine, excellent, improved, brilliant, outstanding, exceptional, admirable, tremendous, splendid

Bad, awful, terrible, horrific, unpleasant, distasteful, obnoxious, repulsive, atrocious, disgusting, horrendous

Calm, peaceful, tranquil, pleasant, placid, cool, coolheaded, harmonious, serene, soothing, agreeable

Angry, annoyed, irritated, fuming, mad, livid, irate, heated, furious, enraged, frustrated

Brave, confident, courageous, daring, fearless, heroic, reckless, spunky, adventurous, audacious, spirited

Scared, frightened, afraid, terrified, fearful, petrified, startled, nervous, alarmed, apprehensive, hesitant

Pretty, attractive, good-looking, nice, charming, enchanting, stunning, handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, appealing

Ugly, unattractive, plain, unsightly, unpleasant, hideous, repellant, displeasing, repugnant, revolting, disagreeable

Big, large, great, immense, huge, vast, enormous, massive, substantial, considerable, extensive

Small, tiny, minute, minor, trivial, meagre, limited, unimportant, inconsiderable, insignificant, little

Build, make, create, establish, evolve, form, produce, assemble, construct, erect, set up

Destroy, end, abolish, terminate, crush, damage, dismantle, eradicate, ruin, wreck, smash

Increase, rise, grow, escalate, develop, expand, gain, inflate, boost, advance, intensify

Decrease, cut, reduce, lessen, decline, lose, shrink, diminish, depreciate, deteriorate, degrade

Narrow, thin, fine, slim, slender, skinny, slight, constrict, limit, lean, attenuate

Wide, broad, roomy, ample, outspread, spacious, sweeping, loose, extensive, expansive, comprehensive

Hot, warm, burning, scorching, boiling, blistering, roasting, sweltering, baking, sizzling, flaming

Cold, chilly, cool, freezing, icy, frosty, frigid, biting, piercing, numbing, shivery

Strong, powerful, tough, durable, steady, stable, sturdy, stout, robust, brawny, muscular

Weak, fragile, flimsy, feeble, frail, brittle, unstable, unsteady, delicate, breakable

Friendly, amiable, amicable, sociable, hospitable, favourable, cordial, welcoming, outgoing, approachable, inviting

Unfriendly, hostile, disagreeable. aggressive, unreceptive, uninviting, inhospitable, unfavourable, belligerent

Near, close, adjacent, nearby, adjoining, about, beside, alongside, neighbouring, almost, immediate

Far, distant, remote, detached, miles, removed, inaccessible, everlasting, perpetual, endless

Long, extensive, extended, lengthy, stretched, constant, lingering, elongated, prolonged, protracted, continued, never-ending, rushed

Short, brief, quick, rapid, fleeting, hurried, momentary, rushed, temporary, hasty, transitory

Regular, fixed, orderly, consistent, steady, usual, systematic, structured, efficient, unchanging, everyday

Irregular, variable, uneven, unreliable, jerky, sporadic, periodic, infrequent, erratic, occasional, rare




Sensory elements for the compositions


The use of sensory details in descriptive and narrative writing is another essential tip that writers should consider when writing their essays. This means not only referring to what something looks like but also exploring its sense of smell, sound, taste, touch, etc. With more abstract subjects like emotions, writers can include sensory details metaphorically. Writings that incorporate vivid sensory details are more likely to engage and affect the reader’s perception of the given subject. Nevertheless, it is imperative to note that not all sensory details will apply to every subject.

For example:

Love is like a crescent moon. It is both sharp and curved and firm and gentle. Its white glow is soft enough to ignore if you choose it but bright enough to make even broken glass glisten and shimmer like a treasure all its own.


Here you have examples of sensory elements based on the different senses.



  • The man had flowing brown hair and overgrown stubble
  • His chocolate eyes turn caramel in the sun
  • When he walks, he has a slight limp in his left leg but tries to hide it




  • Freshly ground coffee
  • An orange split open, filling the air with a citrus spray
  • A foggy bathroom smelling of warm soap and lavender




  • The snap of a crisp apple, and the sweetness that comes after.
  • The bite of harsh salt
  • A tongue coated in rich grease from a thick steak




  • Picking gravel out of a raw cut on your arm
  • Feeling chalk scrape across the chalkboard, and the powder it leaves behind on your fingers
  • The cold dusting of fresh snow across your face as it flurries down




  • The jungle buzzed and chirruped with insects as the sunset
  • The cacophony of voices grew to a deafening roar in the overcrowded lobby
  • Rain pattered softly on the window as wind whistled through the cracks like a wailing spirit




Descriptive elements for the narrative and descriptive compositions


Descriptive adjectives





Descriptive adverbs





Past participles as descriptive elements






Descriptive verbs for compositions


Stronger verbs for «walking»

‘She walked over’ is perfectly adequate to describe a character approaching. However, here are some alternatives:

  1. To saunter: Use to describe a character who is laid back or relaxed. It means ‘to walk in a slow or relaxed manner.’ Example: She sauntered over to our cafeteria table, casually tossing her books onto one of the grimy seats.
  2. To stumble: A great alternative to walking, for uneven terrain, injury, or a clumsy character. Example: I stumbled on in the dark undergrowth, hoping to see the town’s lights winking ahead soon.
  3. To stride: Use for purposeful or confident walking. For example: She strode over the plain, sword aloft, deflecting incoming arrows as easily as summer gnats.
  4. To creep: Use for fearful or cautious movement. For example: He crept towards the display case, his eyes widening at the dazzling gold and rubies that sparkled and blinded.
  5. To hurry: You can also use words that describe general manner of movement, like this. For example: Late for class, she hurries, forgetting behind the paper she needs to hand in today.



Descriptive verbs for «running»

‘He ran for the departing train’ is another use of an adequate but not particularly descriptive verb. Here are alternatives for the verb ‘to run’:

  1. To bolt: This synonym for ‘run’ has connotations of fear (we typically speak of a frightened horse or other animal as ‘bolting’). For example: At the first firecracker’s bang, the dogs bolted, Tess careening into the sliding door with a loud whimper.
  2. To tear down/along: This carries a sense of violence or destructive movement (because we also use it to mean ‘to demolish’). For example: The thief tore down the side street, knocking a crate of fresh fruit from a startled merchant’s arms as he passed.
  3. To dash: This alternative word for run suggests nimble, smooth and precise movement. For example: When she realized she’d forgotten her handbag, she dashed back to the checkout counter.
  4. To hurtle: A great synonym suggesting impending impact (usually ‘hurtled towards’). For example: The athletes hurtled towards the tape across the finish line, each striving their hardest to break it first.
  5. To fly: Metaphorical uses of synonyms (a character might not literally be airborne) are also useful synonyms. For example: She flew along the track, certain she’d beat her record by whole seconds.



Verbs that describe stillness

  1. To slouch: A useful word to convey a character’s laziness, bad posture or a defeated, ‘weighed down’ quality. For example: She slouched in the back row, staring out the window not giving a single crap what the teacher was on about.
  2. To slump over: A great expression to suggest an awkward resting pose the character has no control over (for example because asleep, or even deceased). For example: In the middle of the meeting she slumped over without warning as loud, embarrassing snoring reverberated across the shocked boardroom.
  3. To plonk [down]: Words that sound like the actions they describe (called ‘onomatopoeia’) are also useful for adding variety and life to your writing. For example: He plonked himself down on the couch, swigging back beer with his eyes closed as if wishing the world away.
  4. To perch: This is another great word that can be used for humorous effect. It suggests a bird on a bough – there’s a sense of being ready to spring off again at any moment. For example: “I need to go perch,” she said, and Emma groaned, wishing her mother wouldn’t describe going to the toilet in such foul and vivid way in front of her friends.
  5. To settle: This is a good word to use to show a character intends to stay put where they are. For example: He settled into the comfiest chair in the room, despite her having reserved it with a scarf. Seeing her irritated expression he gave a taunting wink.



Describing verbs for «standing»

  1. To tower: A great word for imposing, awe-inspiring or terrifying height. For example: The palace towered over the peasants’ hovels. They muttered among themselves of cakes, coats of gold brocade and other luxuries they imagined gliding down gilded corridors.
  2. To pose: A good substitute for ‘standing’ when you want to suggest self-awareness or performance. For example: The actress posed at the meet and greet, plastering the same rehearsed smile across her face each time a flash went off.
  3. To rise: You can invest tall, immovable objects with a sense of movement – the movement a character’s eyes would make taking it all in. For example: The great mountain rose over the plains, casting deep shadows across the travellers’ long and dusty way.
  4. To protrude: A good synonym for ‘to stand’, suggesting ‘sticking out’. For example: Her head protruded above all the other guests and she felt ostrich-like, regretting the 6-inch heels.
  5. To jut: A word to suggest something that stands out in a way that breaks an otherwise even surface. For example: His hand jutted above the heads of the audience. He was burning to ask the speaker a sly – some would say trolling – question.



Synonyms for «to speak»

  1. To prattle: A great word when you want to convey that a character talks a lot but says very little of value or interest. For example: She prattled on, not even noticing as the other guests moved closer to the fireplace or inched out the door in search of two-way conversations.
  2. To preach: Words from professions (such as priesthood) used metaphorically are also great alternatives. Such as when a character is being holier-than-thou in dialogue. For example: The longer she preached, the heavier Emma’s eyelids became. Mid-way through a sermon on the dangers of boys who drive red convertibles, she woke with a start as her mother, still talking, shook her violently by the shoulders. [As you can see here, the occasional ‘-ly’ adverb is not the end of the world.]
  3. To whisper: Synonyms for ‘to talk’ like these are excellent for creating volume and mood. For example: The closer they got to the abandoned house, the softer her brother whispered his protests, until she spun around, eyes flashing. “Either shut up or speak up.”
  4. To drawl: Words such as ‘drawl’ are great for characterization. It means ‘to speak in a slow, lazy way with prolonged vowel sounds.’ For example: The sleaze-bag looked her up and down as he drawled. “Pretty thing like you shouldn’t ever break down on a quiet road like this.”
  5. To stammer/stutter: Even though their causes aren’t necessarily nervous, speech impediments are useful for conveying faltering speech in a tense or anxious situation. For example: “I d-didn’t even t-touch-:” (he swallowed) “anything here.” The shop assistant glared down at the smashed glass.



Verbs for laughter and joking

  1. To guffaw: This synonym for ‘laugh’ conveys a sense of raucous, uninhibited laughter. For example: He slapped his knee and guffawed when the groom tripped over the stairs to the altar, but quickly disguised his outburst as a cough when he caught his wife’s warning glare.
  2. To giggle: A great word for suppressed or youthful laughter. For example: Their friends were camping two meters away so she giggled and covered his face with her hand as he started unbuckling, saying risque things in that dumb pirate voice he loved to put on.
  3. To chuckle: This synonym for ‘to laugh’ conveys affection or an easy-going nature, and is also a good option for characterizing. For example: He didn’t find her joke funny but he chuckled as naturally as he could, hoping she couldn’t tell.
  4. To be hysterical: This synonym is great for conveying intense mirth. For example: The more they tried to keep it together, the more hysterical they became, until their faces were crimson and they burst out shrieking, causing Mr Howard to spin around from the blackboard and exile them to the Headmaster’s office.
  5. To snicker: Another useful laughter substitute, this time with an undertone of mockery. For example: ”Oh, Mister ‘I don’t care if I get a D for woodwork’ is making a tree-house this summer? Good luck!” She snickered as she got off the school bus.


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