Revision Exercise: Practice in Revising a Place Description

"Augusta, Kentucky"

The following rough draft was composed in response to the guidelines in How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph. After carefully reading the paragraph, consider some of the specific ways in which it might be improved. Then respond to the questions that follow the paragraph, and compare your answers with the sample responses on page two. (On page three you'll find a revised version of this draft paragraph: "River Street After the Flood.")

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Augusta, Kentucky

I grew up in a poor family in a poor town. We did not have much money or many of the good things in life, but we did have one another. One year the flood wiped out our home. It fact, it wiped out all of River Street. I'll never forget the morning I saw River Street for the last time. The river was on one side of the street, and the houses were on the other. We lived in one of these houses before the flood hit. There was mud on the walls of the houses, and many windows were broken. The roofs were in terrible shape. There were many gigantic trees. Children were still playing here, and I remember hearing music. There was a bar at the end of the street and after that a lot of weeds. The whole scene was pretty desolate.

Revision Questions

  1. The paragraph doesn't begin with a clearly focused topic sentence. Do you think any of the opening sentences in this draft could be eliminated without confusing the reader or altering the basic sense of the paragraph?
  1. What particular place is the writer attempting to describe?
  2. What is the dominant mood or feeling that the writer is trying to evoke?
  3. Using your answers to questions 2 and 3, create an effective topic sentence for this paragraph.
  4. What are some of the items mentioned in the paragraph that you think need to be described in more detail?
  1. Can you suggest a more appropriate title--one that indicates more clearly what the paragraph is about?

For more practice:
Revising a Place Description: Practice in Developing a Descriptive Paragraph

Here are sample responses to the revision questions on page one.

Sample Responses to Revision Questions

  1. Because the writer's family isn't the main subject of the paragraph, the first two sentences can probably be eliminated. The next two sentences might be combined.
  2. The place is River Street after the flood, not the entire town of Augusta.
  3. As the last sentence states, the dominant mood is one of desolation.
  1. (Various answers are possible.)
  2. The trees, the roofs, the music, and the street itself--all could be described in more detail.
  3. The revised title should probably refer to the flood and, in particular, to River Street.

On page three you'll find a revised version of the draft paragraph: "River Street After the Flood."

For more practice:
Revising a Place Description: Practice in Developing a Descriptive Paragraph

Here is a thoroughly revised version of "Augusta, Kentucky," the draft paragraph on page one. Notice that this revised paragraph is not only more descriptive than the original but also more clearly organized.

River Street After the Flood

I will never forget that desolate spring morning when I saw River Street for the last time. On the east side of the street, the Ohio River waited menacingly. The west side was lined with a single row of flood-damaged houses, sitting dark and abandoned, so completely decayed that even the poor could no longer live in them.

Walls that once were pastel blue, green, or yellow were now layered with mud six or seven feet high. Paneless window jambs were opened like dark mouths to gulp down the muddy flood tides. Once sturdy beams that supported porch roofs stood shakily, missing chunks of molded wood from their damp middles. These rotting houses were still shaded by the enormous limbs of the old oaks. Fed by the rich river soil, the trees loomed over the streets like strange, dark mourners. Their massive gnarled roots had broken through the sidewalk, pushing up great chunks of jagged concrete. Tattered, dirty children played on these slabs while twangy country music drifted down from the bar at the end of the street. And that's where my memory ends, at the end of the street, lost in mud, weeds, and rubble. This was the last view I had of the street where I had grown up.