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Genre (Text Type)

Descriptive Text in Teaching English

A Picture Media To describe by the Students

A picture that can be used to stimulate the students' idea to write descriptive text

One of the text types taught for MTs/SMP student is a descriptive text presented in grade seven. Stanley (1988) mentions that description presents the appearance of things that occupy space, whether they are objects, people, buildings or cities. In this kind of text, the students are required to ”list the characteristics of something and usually deals with the physical appearance of the described thing (Smalley et. al., 2001). In other words, a particular person, place or thing is described in details in this composition. The description tells the object as the way it is without being affected by the writers’ personal opinion. Before telling what they have caught through their sensory system, a mental activity is involved. They firstly identify certain imagery or real object which is located somewhere. Through the words, then they describe the thing they have in mind. In short, writing a descriptive text is “a way of picturing images verbally in speech or writing and of arranging those images in some kind of logical or association pattern” (D’Angelo, 1980).Meanwhile, according to Corbett (1983) that descriptive text is one of the expository writing. The description draws a picture, tries to convey the sound, taste, and smell of things or objects. Tompkins (1994) and Stanley (1988) defined descriptive text as painting pictures with words. By reading a descriptive text, readers feel that they see the description just like they see pictures. Descriptive text has the purpose to describe an object or a person that the writer is interested in. Thus, in ,writing a descriptive text the writers should know well what they want to describe. They describe their ideas and thought vividly based on what they see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. Anderson & Anderson (2003) add that descriptive text is different from information reports because they described a specific subject rather than general group.

In addition, Temple, et al. (1998) states. “description is discourse that help us visualize. It focuses upon the appearance or the nature of an object. In description, we see vividly and concretely, we perceive the object with a kind of fullness for which exposition does not strive”. In Library of Congress (2008) it is stated that we use descriptive text to describe a person, place or thing. For example, we might want to describe what a crab looks like, or how he moves. Be sure to include details that describe sounds, color, smells, setting and so on. According to Friedman (2010) descriptive details mean to grab the reader’s attention.

A descriptive text is considered as the simplest and easiest writing form compared to narrative, recount, or procedure, particularly for the beginning writers (Ellis et. al., 1989). In addition, it allows students to share interesting impressions of a person, a place, or an object surrounding them (Troyka, 1987).

The purpose of writing description is to describe a person, place, or thing in such vivid detail that the reader can easily form a precise mental picture of what is being written about, or can feel that they are part of the experience (KangGuru in the Classroom: Teacher’s Guide SMA Package, 2005). Stanley (1988) asserts that the aim of description is to convey to the reader what something looks like. Furthermore, Johnston & Morrow (1981) states that the purpose of descriptive text is to describe objects or persons in which the writer is interested. Therefore, the writer should know well what he wants to describe, starts by observing the objects carefully to take the significant details and brings clear picture to the readers and avoid ambiguities.

Wardiman, et. al. (2008) specify the generic structure of descriptive text into two parts, that is 1) introduction is the part of paragraph that introduces the character; and 2) description is the part of paragraph that describes the character. This indicates that a descriptive text has two elements – an element to identify phenomenon (identification) and another one (description) to portray parts, qualities, or characteristics. In terms of significant lexico grammatical features, the text focuses on specific participants, contains attribute and identifying process, comprises epithets and classifiers in nominal groups as well as uses simple present tense (Sutardi & Sukhrian, 2004).


Anderson, M. & Anderson, K. 2003. Text Types in English 3. South Yarra: Macmillan.

Corbett, W. 1983. The Little Rhetoric and Handbook with Reading. Bloomington, Illinois: Scott, Freshman.

D’Angelo, F.J. 1980. Process and Thought in Composition. Second Edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Winthrop Publishers.

Ellis, A., Standal, T. & Rummel, M.K. 1989. Elementary Language Arts Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Friedman, L.S. 2010. Writing the Critical Essay: Euthanasia. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press.

Johnston, K. & Morrow, K. 1981. Communication in the Classroom. London: Longman

KangGuru in the Classroom. 2005. Teacher’s Guide SMA Package. Bali: IALF

Library of Congress. 2008. Junior Skill Builders: Writing in 15 Minutes a Day. New York: Learning Express, LLC.

Smalley, R.L., Ruetten, M.K., & Kozyrev, J.R. 2001. Refining Composition Skills: Rhetoric and Grammar. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle

Stanley, L. 1988. Ways to Writing. New York: Macmillan.

Sutardi, A. & Sukhrian, Y. 2004. Bahasa Inggris Program Paket B Setara SMP. Jakarta: Direktorat Pendidikan Masyarakat.

Temple, C. Nathan, R., Burris, N. & Temple, F. 1998. The Beginning of Writing. Massachusetts: Allyan and Bacon, Inc.

Tompkins, G.E. 1994. Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product. New York: Macmillan College Company, Inc.

Troyka, L.Q. 1987. Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Wardiman, et. al. 2008. English in Focus for Grade VII Junior High School. Jakarta: Pusat Perbukuan Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.


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15 thoughts on “Descriptive Text in Teaching English

  1. I used to confuse to differentiate which is descriptive text or report text when I meet some articles.
    But, after I read this, I come to the conclusion that Report text might content of descriptive text.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by Akiko | January 31, 2011, 3:36 am


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