Using Descriptive Writing in Nonfiction

What is the first goal of any piece of writing? Engaging the reader. Descriptive writing does just that. It gives interest and color to any topic.

This is not Dragnet ™

descriptive writing

Nonfiction writers often fall into the trap of "just the facts". However, except for hard news journalism, this won't work.

You, the writer, must draw the reader into the story you are telling.

Or you need to make clear the steps that the reader must take when following directions in your how-to article.

You are their eyes

Descriptive writing helps the readers to see the situation you are writing about in their minds. It gives them something specific to relate to in the story.

Sometimes, it can provoke action or help the reader to better understand a situation. But even gossip magazines and tabloids use it. 

Have you ever noticed that even celebrity interviews will offer bits like:

She was wearing her usual jeans and t-shirt when we meet for coffee. The sun warmed us as we sipped our lattes and began to chat...

This is descriptive. You can visualize a woman in casual clothing drinking coffee in the sunshine.

Not every detail is given, but enough to allow readers a sense of place and the people involved in the story, much like fiction. This is why descriptive writing is a major part of nonfiction writing.

It gives a piece power, color and holds reader interest.

How can you add descriptive elements to your own writing?

What scenes can you evoke in your articles?

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