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Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

5 Rhetorical Modes of Writing
Descriptive Mode

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In the descriptive mode of writing, you focus on details about the subject matter such as a person, place, concept, and so on.

Descriptions typically help readers visualize something; however, they can involve all the senses by describing smells, textures, colors, temperature, and so on.


Descriptive mode of writing

Impact on readers. Descriptive writing makes use of human beings’ ability to use all senses to understand the world around them. Descriptions can make it easier for readers to understand abstract, complex topics.

Tone. In the descriptive mode of writing, you can choose the tone that is most appropriate to the message. A description can be very precise, humorous, didactical, and so on.

Type of Materials. Descriptive writing is often found in product descriptions; first-person accounts such as journal and blog writing; memoirs; descriptions of nature, a product, or travel destination; and so on; recipes or tutorials.

When asked to provide the details in an exam question, students should use a descriptive mode of writing writing.

Example descriptive mode of writing

Below is a paragraph in which National Geographic contributor Paul Salopek uses descriptive writing to tell the reader about his experience in the Himalayas.

Earlier this year, a teacher friend named Yang Wendou and I hiked across the Hengduan Mountains from south to north. We climbed through forests of fir, spruce, and Yunnan pine. We skidded down snowy passes within sight of Tibet. We breathed razor-cold air at 15,000 feet. We yo-yoed among ice peaks for 220 miles. We saw many wonders. Ours was perhaps the first foot traverse of the vast mountain range, an eastern extension of the Himalaya, undertaken in generations.


Salopek, Paul. “Ancient Himalayan towers keep their secrets on a walk through southwest China.” National Geographic, 2022, .

Note. In this article, Salopek describes the scenery, the temperature of the air, and the sensation of motion through the scenery. The passage also has an element of narrative as the author tells the story of that experience; however, the predominant mode of writing is descriptive.

Writing tip

Have you heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” before? It means that an image can convey a complex message better than a long explanation.

You do not always need to (or can) include visual aids in your writing. A good description helps your reader create a mental picture, which helps them understand difficult-to-explain concepts, definitions, and so on.

Are you having difficulties explaining or defining a complex concept or topic? Consider adding descriptive text to your writing.

Up Next: Persuasive Mode

Continue the course to learn to learn about the persuasive mode of writing.