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[Detail] General view of harbor at San Juan, Porto Rico looking South.

Writing | Descriptive Writing | Dedications | Book Design

Descriptive Writing

The natural world provides the subject matter for much descriptive writing. In describing the natural world, writers try to paint a word picture. For example, consider this description of the natural setting in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is the fourth in size of the greater Antilles. Its first appearance to the eye of the stranger is striking and picturesque. Nature here offers herself to his contemplation clothed in the splendid vesture of tropical vegetation. The chain of mountains which intersects the island from east to west seems at first sight to form two distinct chains parallel to each other, but closer observation makes it evident that they are in reality corresponding parts of the same chain, with upland valleys and table-lands in the center, which again rise gradually and incorporate themselves with the higher ridges. . . . The summit of this ridge is almost always enveloped in mist, and when its sides are overhung by white fleecy clouds it is the certain precursor of the heavy showers which fertilize the northern coast. . . .

All the large islands in the tropics enjoy approximately the same climate. The heat, the rains, the seasons, are, with trifling variations, the same in all, but the number of mountains and running streams, the absence of stagnant waters and general cultivation of the land in Puerto Rico do, probably, powerfully contribute to purify the atmosphere and render it more salubrious to Europeans than it otherwise would be. In the mountains one enjoys the coolness of spring, but the valleys, were it not for the daily breeze which blows from the northeast and east, would be almost uninhabitable for white men during part of the year. The climate of the north and south coasts of this island, though under the same tropical influence, is nevertheless essentially different. On the north coast it sometimes rains almost the whole year, while on the south coast sometimes no rain falls for twelve or fourteen months. On the whole, Puerto Rico is one of the healthiest islands in the West Indies, nor is it infested to the same extent as other islands by poisonous snakes and other noxious reptiles. . . .

From "History of Puerto Rico," images 185-186, 189-190

Look for other descriptions of the natural setting, either in Spanish (if you read that language) or in English.

  • What descriptive words or phrases are used by multiple authors?
  • What unique descriptions can you find?
  • What descriptions are most helpful in creating a mental image of the natural setting? Why?

Write descriptions of a natural feature near the school and analyze class members' writing using the questions above.