Description Writing: Describing People

This page was first published on the 7th of May, 2016 and last updated on the 10th of May, 2016 by Patrick Carpen.

Tags: Descriptive Writing; English for CXC; Describing People

Sometimes, you may need to describe a person so that another person may have a clearer understanding of whom you are talking. A good description gives the listener an “aha moment”. That is, it results in the listener saying something like “ohhh, now I know who you are talking about”.

Describing people may be useful in cases where the person you are communicating with does not realize offhand who you are referring to. But after a good description, the listener should be able to pick the person out of a crowd.

For example:

First Person: “Mr. Smith came to meet you today but you weren’t home”.

Second Person: “Which Mr. Smith?”

In a scenario like the above one, the first person needs to expound more. Here are some parameters for describing people:

1. Age: does the person appear old or young?

2. Height: Does the person appear tall, short or medium height?

3. Size: Does the person appear fat, medium-built or thin?

4. Skin color: Does the person appear fair, dark, brown, ruddy, pale…?

5. Hair color? Is the person’s hair black, brown, white, red, blonde…?

6. Hair texture: Is the person’s hair straight, curly or wavy?

7. Hair length? Is the person’s hair long or short?

8. Eye color: is the person’s eye brown, black, blue, green….?

9. Teeth color: is the person’s teeth white, yellow, stained….?

10. Body type: is the person sturdy, slobby, muscular, athletic…?

Aside from physical characteristics, you can also use abstract qualities to add to a person’s description. For example:

Personality: From your short interaction with the person, does the person appear to be serious, friendly, humorous?

State of mind: does the person appear to be happy or sad?

Aside from physical characteristics and abstract qualities, you can also use a person’s habits to add to their description. For example:

Was the person well dressed? Or was he or she wearing “shabby clothes”.

You can also add peculiar qualities to a person’s description. Peculiar qualities are qualities which are unique to the person. These may include distinguishing marks such as moles, marks that result from injury, birthmarks, etc.

Let’s go ahead and rewrite our conversation.

First Person: “Mr. Smith came to meet you today but you weren’t home”.

Second Person: “Which Mr. Smith?”

First Person: “He was a tall man, in his sixties, dark in complexion, with short black, curly hair. He was medium built with a muscular appearance. He seemed like a very jovial fellow. He was always smiling and he cracked a few jokes out of the blue. As he opened his mouth to talk I noticed that he had really white teeth. He was well dressed with a suit and tie, like a lawyer, and as he spoke, I noticed that he had the habit of rubbing his hands together frequently. I noticed a mark just over his left eye about two inches long.”

Try to avoid using opinions which may border on the defamatory such as “he was an ugly man” or “he looked like a crazy guy”.

Related: Using Words Beautifully.

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denny carpen
denny carpen

great method for describing a person. however, you should have given a model description of an ordinary, everyday person as well. this person here is full of characteristics normal people do not possess half of.
but the method achieves its objective smoothly and the style of pedagogy is easy to follow and duplicate.