Descriptive Language


What language techniques should I use to make my writing more engaging?

3 years ago


79 Replies




Oma O'reilly

79 Answers

Mathew P

Hi Oma, thank you for your excellent question. In my experience the most engaging pieces of writing are always descriptive, imaginative and heartfelt. If you can enthuse your writing with your own passion and be as vivid as you can in your detail then this will enrich any written assignment. To increase your descriptive abilities it is very useful to practise describing close friends and family as accurately and honestly as you can - remember that you don’t always have to share your observations with them!

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You should use a range of devices such as; metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, speech, personification and assonance. A range of different sentence structures also helps to improve the quality of your writing. If you are being assessed and you are given a text to read and answer questions on, look out for the devices used in the text and mimic them.

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Khadijah Salamut
  • Simile: A comparison using ‘as’ or ‘like’. E.g: The girl ran as fast as lightning.
  • Metaphor: A comparison when you describe something saying it is something else that can’t literally be true. E.g: Her eyes were the ocean, so deep yet so turbulent.
  • Personification: When something is described in a way that makes it sound alive using human qualities. E.g: The sun smiled warmly 
  • Alliteration: When two or more words are spelt with the same letter. E.g: The beautiful bouquet blossomed in the bright sun.
  • Onomatopoeia: When words are spelt to make sound effects. E.g: Crash, bang, boom, splash 
  • Ameliorative language: When words are used to describe something positively creating a positive tone. E.g: It was a joyous occasion full of happiness and laughter 
  • Pejorative language: When words are used to describe something negatively creating a negative tone. E.g: The darkness loomed over her as the stench of the corpse mercilessly tortured her nostrils 
  • Colour: Creates a visual image in the reader's mind. E.g: The beautiful, delicate red roses 
  • Short sentences: This creates tension and makes the piece of writing more dramatic. E.g: This was it
  • Long sentences: Gives more specific detail and information on the situation. 
  • Multi-layered time frames: When the writer jumps between the past and present. 

Amandeep Bhogal


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I'm Rosie and I would love to use my expertise and passion to help.

There are numerous English language techniques that can be used to make writing more engaging. Here are some techniques to consider:

1. Imagery: Use descriptive language that appeals to the senses to bring your writing to life. Create vivid images in the reader's mind.

Example: "The crimson sun slowly dipped below the horizon, casting a golden glow on the tranquil, azure waters."

2. Metaphors and similes: Use comparisons to make your writing more relatable and memorable. Metaphors directly equate two unrelated things, while similes use "like" or "as" to make comparisons.

Example: "Her laughter was like a melody that filled the room."

3. Dialogue: Incorporate conversations between characters to add authenticity and create a sense of interaction.

Example: "‘I can't believe you did that!’ she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air."

4. Personal pronouns: Use inclusive pronouns like "we" and "you" to directly address the reader, making them feel involved and connected.

Example: "Have you ever experienced the thrill of conquering a challenge?"

5. Rhetorical questions: Engage readers by posing thought-provoking questions that make them pause and reflect.

Example: "Can we truly understand the depth of human emotion?"

6. Repetition: Repeat certain words, phrases, or ideas to create emphasis and reinforce a point.

Example: "Hope. It was all she had, all she could cling on to in her darkest moments."

7. Varied sentence structure: Mix up sentence lengths and structures to provide rhythm and prevent monotony.

Example: "Short and succinct. Long and flowing. Each sentence adding its unique touch to the overall tapestry of the narrative."

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Metaphors can be used to make your writing more engaging.

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Making writing engaging depends on a number of factors. First we need to know the purpose of the text. Secondly, we think about the intended audience. Then we get into the nitty gritty of persuasive language. There are lots of linguistic (language based) techniques that we can use to engage our readers or audience. These can include being rhetorical… including the reader in the text. For example, asking a rhetorical question (one the reader can think about and answer in their own minds. ) You can then go on to subtlety answer this yourself in your writing. This helps you to include bias (a point of view).

There are some simple techniques that can really help engage your text with the reader. Repetition is a great example…the more we see or hear something, the more we’re likely to remember it. If you want to be a bit more sophisticated, try using a metaphor (a non literal comparison). For example, I am climbing a mountain of paperwork. This obviously isn’t real, but gives a symbolic representation of how much paperwork there is.

Humour is also great, as are other emotions as we all like to engage with feelings and emotions. There are others but these are a good few examples to start with.

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You should try to include a range of devices such as; adverbs, adjectives, metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration, speech, personification and assonance. Using a range of different sentence structures also helps to improve the quality of your writing.

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David M

Hello Oma - In order to make your writing more engaging you should begin by considering the reader as they are much more likely to be engaged if your piece feels relevant to them. Be clear about what you want to say and spend some time planning before you make a start. A strong introduction should serve as the shop window for your piece as the reader should be able to see your clear signposting and outline of the structure. If you are writing a creative piece be descriptive, invoking multiple senses by immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and tactile sensations of your story. Don't forget to create intriguing characters who evoke strong emotions through their actions/voice. For answering essay questions, make your writing flow by using connectives and signposting. The reader should know that you have not just read, but have also understood the question. Your introduction should indicate that you have a thesis statement developed from the question. Remember to use PEEL paragraphs. Point to the question, provide Examples, then Explain their relevance, and finally, Link back to the question. By using this method your essay will remain focused and in doing so will engage the reader.

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Especially for poetry or stories it can help to use metaphors, similes, personification and so on, just to create a more engaging or ‘unique’ perspective to your writing! Good luck! ☺️

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Samantha Campbell

Similes- compare two things using like or as- these can help the reader imagine what you are describing through comparison

personification- giving objects human qualities- the wind whispered down the chimney

imagery- 5 senses- sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing- the cold air snapped at my fingers - there was a rumbling of thunder

David M

Hello Oma. A good place to start would be by looking at whether your sentences are too long and overly academic. To help the reader engage with your writing, consider shortening your sentences (particularly those longer than 20 words). Save your most powerful content for concise phrases that will really stand out rather than being drowned in a sea of words. It's all about getting the right balance as you don't want to sound too long winded, but neither should your paragraphs be made up of staccato sentences that have no flow.

I hope that this has been of some help.

David McCormack

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Hi Oma,

There's loads of great advice in this thread already, so I'll just add a few tricks from my toolbox as a poet.

  1. Always think about what MOOD or FEELING you want your reader to get. And whatever devices you choose, make sure they make that feeling happen. You can practice by writing the same little scenario so that it makes your reader laugh, or feel sad, or scared.
  2. COLOURS are a really simple way of getting across ideas and feelings. They all have their own connotations, as you'll know. So red can be danger, romantic love or excitement. Why not bring a zingy romance to your story by including little details of red things strung through your writing? A rose here, a strawberry there, the words crimson, vermillion, lipstick etc.
  3. PATTERNS are actually how many of the devices work, so think about using more than one of the same time of device. If you choose an image, or a certain kind of sound (some soft alliteration of s, f and l maybe for that love story?) then try to repeat them throughout the writing, a bit like a sound track to a movie.
  4. Finally, the NECKLACE TECHNIQUE can be a great way of linking up your beginning and end. Why not use a metaphor or image at the start, like perhaps a person's eyes like jewels, and link it up in the last paragraph returning to a similar image, maybe the jewels are now in a ring, or two people's eyes are now like matching jewels. Or there's a shut window at the start and an open window at the end? This is like doing the clasp up fastening the opening and the ending of a necklace.
  5. Use at least one VERY SHORT SENTENCE. Her lips shut. It was over.

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Ellena Murray

What language technique makes your writing more engaging? Answer: the rhetorical question!

Using a well-placed rhetorical question can cut through even a wordy essay and help your reader focus on the pith of your argument. It also helps you, as a writer, to focus your ideas into a single question that you can answer clearly.

Top tips:

  • Keep your question relatively short and easy to follow.
  • Use it when you need to refocus your essay and, if you can, refer to terms of the essay title. One good place might be at the tail end of your introduction.
  • If you're losing track of your important points in an exam essay, use a rhetorical question to bring yourself and your reader back on track.

Here is an example of me using a rhetorical question in the introduction of an unpublished essay on morality in literary classics, where I used Wuthering Heights as a case study:

Critics and students alike are both drawn to and troubled by Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights because of its lack of what David Cole describes as a ‘moral centre’. He recounts ‘the despair of a bright student who exclaimed, ‘Where is its moral centre?’’ and who then ‘went on to argue that Wuthering Heights failed as a novel because in fact it had no moral centre’. Indeed, many critics identify this resistance in the novel to a single moral interpretation, yet most follow this statement in the same manner as Cole: ‘But perhaps this moral centre may be found by pursuing…’ Rather than adding to this ever-growing quantity of interpretations that such an open text can easily support, it is perhaps worth paying attention instead to the text’s exclusion of a satisfactory or consistent moral reading, especially given Frank Kermode’s argument that this ‘plurality of meaning’ is what makes Wuthering Heights a ‘classic’. This quality is one that Emma Smith calls ‘gappiness’ and identifies it as a defining feature of Shakespeare and the reason behind his literary prestige: ‘ambiguity is the oxygen of these works, making them alive in unpredictable and changing ways’. If a lack of a moral centre is part of what elevates a text to ‘classic’ status, then what can be said about the relationship between literature and morality?

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Depending on what you are writing, there are many techniques which can make your work more enticing!

If you are writing a persuasive piece, you could incorporate the following into your work:

Direct address (you)




Rhetorical Question


Exaggeration/ Hyperbole


Triple (Rule of three)

If you are writing a descriptive piece or a story, you could incorporate the following into your work:


Triple (Rule of three)







All of these techniques can make your piece of writing more exciting.

I hope this helps!

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