for Writing Good Descriptions
- OVERVIEW. Begin with a brief overview that reveals the object’s
(a) overall framework, arrangement, or shape, and
(b) purpose or function.
- PARTS. Divide the object into parts and describe each part
(a) in enough detail to use, make, or draw it, and
(b) in a way that reveals its role, its relation to other parts.
- ORDER. Organize the part descriptions to help your reader:
(a) spatial order (top to bottom, outside to inside), or
(b) priority order (most to least important), or
(c) chronological order (order of [dis]assembly).
- Include relevant specific features (such as size, shape, color, material, technical names).
- Omit irrelevant background, confusing details, and needless words.
- COMPARISON. Compare features or parts with other things already familiar.
- CONTRAST. Contrast properties with different ones to reveal their significance.
Signals for Your Reader
- FORMAT. Clarify your text with:
- Heads. Identify topics with clear, nested section headings.
- Lists. Itemize related features with indenting and marks.
- Figures. Integrate figures and text with labels and references.
- VERBAL CUES. Guide your reader’s expectations with:
- Parallelism. Use parallel words and phrases for parallel ideas.
- Proleptics. Use verbal links (also, but, however, etc.) to signal how your description fits together.