Exercise in Revising Descriptive Sentences

Practice in Writing With Specific Details

People On Street Amidst Buildings In City
Make a street scene come alive with detailed descriptions. Jeff Mendelson / EyeEm / Getty Images

This revision exercise will give you practice in writing with specific descriptive details.


Here's the opening sentence from a student's report on what she saw one afternoon on a city street:

One brisk afternoon in late September, I took a walk down Prospect Street.

What follows are six sentences from the student's first draft. Revise each of these sentences according to the suggestions in parentheses. If you think one of your new sentences is too long, feel free to break it up into two or three shorter sentences.

Of course, there's no single set of "correct answers" to this exercise. Rely on your imagination to create details that are precise and vivid. Then compare your responses with those of your classmates.

Prospect Street

  1. Music thudded out of the shop and mingled with some of the other noises of the city.
    (Identify the kind of music that "thudded out of the shop," name the shop, and give some specific examples of "the other noises of the city.")
  2. Garbage danced along the sidewalk and lay crushed against the curb.
    (For the word "garbage," substitute specific examples of litter.)
  3. A woman reading a book was sitting there.
    (Briefly describe the woman, identify the book she was reading, and specify where she was sitting.)
  4. Steam blew out of the air vents of a restaurant, carrying with it various smells.
    (Name the restaurant, and identify some of the smells coming out of it.)
  5. An old man was talking to "Annie," even though he was walking by himself.
    (Describe the old man in more detail.)
  6. A red-faced man was pleading with a traffic cop as the cop was doing something.
    (What was "the cop" doing?)

The answers to this exercise are limited only by your imagination. After completing the exercise, read aloud these revised sentences by the student author, and compare them with your own.

Example Rewritten Descriptive Sentences

  1. Electro-pop thudded out of Shiki's Fashions and mingled with the noise of growling engines, pneumatic drills, and people gossiping, arguing, and bargaining on the busy street.
  2. Garbage danced along the sidewalk and lay crushed against the curb: cellophane chip bags, crumpled cigarette packs, wine bottles, Diet Coke cans, paper sacks from Krispy Chik, and yellow foam boxes from Bucky's Burgers.
  3. A shrunken woman, with ragged hair bobby-pinned to her skull, was sitting on the curb, moving her lips as she read a Candlelight Ecstasy romance.
  4. Steam blew out of the air vents at Dwight's Diner, carrying with it smells of coffee, chili, and chicken noodle soup.
  5. An old man with a scraggly beard was arguing loudly with a woman he called "Annie," even though he was walking by himself.
  6. A red-faced man was pleading with a traffic cop who was calmly filling out a jaywalking ticket.