Characteristics of descriptive text with structure and function

Descriptive text

The descriptive text is written a speech whose purpose is to portray an object, person, animal, event or emotion. Its function is to show the reader what are the characteristics of the objects and characters that make up the narrative. That is, it seeks that the public has a precise idea about what they are reading. In this article we will describe you the characteristics of descriptive text.

In this sense, the descriptive text can be compared to a painting, since both intend to convey a specific image in order for the viewer to imagine –based on their knowledge and experiences– what is told in the work.

Here is an example of a subjective or literary descriptive text, taken from the novel  Perfume , by Patrick Süskind:

“His appearance was creepy. His hair came down to his knees, his beard thin to his navel. His nails were like bird claws and the skin on his arms and legs was peeling off in strips ”.

As can be seen in this fragment, the writer details the neglected appearance of a character: his lack of hygiene and poor health. It is an explicit portrait that shows the reader a specific image.

A descriptive text should not be confused with a narrative text. The latter focuses on telling the facts, while the former focuses on explaining them. Therefore, the description is a common feature in argumentative, expository and fiction texts, since it allows to extend and facilitate the information presented.

Characteristics of descriptive text

Descriptive text is important because it gives the reader specific details about a topic or story. These texts can have the following characteristics: Below are the characteristics of descriptive text.

They tend to be fair

This feature is only presented by scientific, technical or documentary writings, since the authors do not expose their perception or try to convince the public. The purpose is to describe a specific event, such as archaeological discoveries or historical changes.

  • For example: “When Bolívar arrives victorious in Angostura, he sets in motion the project that he maintained for months: the creation of the Republic of Colombia with the Departments of Venezuela and Cundinamarca, apart from incorporating Quito.”

It is impartial because the writer is only exposing what was the objective of Simón Bolívar.

They are varied

The descriptive texts are varied because they detail each exposed element and do not focus solely on an object or some important figure. Therefore, it is natural to find descriptions of cities, thoughts, aromas, dreams and musical notes.

  • For example: “The room was flooded with fresh air. The glittering golden image of the city and the river became a grayish silhouette. The room was suddenly dark ”.

They are retailers

Works or texts that use description as the main resource stand out for detailing the parts of an object or place in a meticulous way.

This can be appreciated, for example, when in a story the physical appearance of the character is exposed, then his way of dressing, finally his attitude and beliefs. In conclusion, descriptive texts represent both minimal gestures and general features.

Structure of descriptive texts (parts)

There are two forms of structures in descriptive texts; linear and circular structure.

Linear structure

The descriptions usually follow a chronological order in order to show a simple and definite story. This structure stands out in scientific writings and some novels, where the following organization is observed:

Presentation of the theme

The author states what his work is about; for example:

“The Congress meeting in Angostura dictates the Fundamental Law of Colombia on December 17, 1819.”

From the beginning it is observed that the subject is objective and that it will be explained how Gran Colombia was formed.

Characterization of the theme or character

The qualities of the character are detailed or it is said why the academic subject is important, as seen below:

“This law caused the Republic of Venezuela to cease to exist and to be incorporated into a larger political project, since it joined with Colombia.”

It portrays how Venezuela stopped being an independent country.

Linking the subject with external reality

This happens when the environment of the work is described or the final purpose of the project is revealed. This is exemplified in the following fragment:

“However, the new Republic did not last long because the ideals of Colombians and Venezuelans were different. That is why the states separated ”.

In this text it is said that the idea of ​​uniting these nations was never going to work.

Circular structure

The descriptive texts that have a circular structure are those of fiction (such as novels or stories) and are characterized by altering both the time and the space of the narrative. That is, a story can start at the end or it can start and end with the same sentence.

This is how it is perceived in the novel The obscene bird of the night by José Donoso, which begins with the description of the end.

Functions of descriptive texts

Depending on the content and interest of the author, the functions and communicative intention of descriptive texts are:


Descriptive texts are intended to convey a specific teaching to the reader, for that reason the authors resort to thoroughness. The purpose is that the writings present a simple language so that they can be understood by all people, who must form their own analyzes.

As seen in the play The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, where each viewer has a different interpretation of the value of childhood and the sense of creativity.

Define and report

Through description it is sought to define the features that characterize a particular society; By detailing an event, space or character, the reader is shown the customs, ideas and fashions of a certain stage. For this reason it is affirmed that the purpose of descriptive writing is to inform.

An example is the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen , which shows the restricted role that women had in the 19th century and what were the qualities they had to have to be considered good wives.

Descriptive text types

Descriptive texts can be classified as follows:

Objective or scientific-technical text

The descriptive scientific or technical text is characterized by being impartial, since it must be impersonal (it does not have to be written in the first or third person) and the author cannot include his opinion. A very obvious example is the descriptions and definitions in encyclopedias.

  • Example of descriptive scientific-technical text:

The Moon is 384,000 km from Earth, being its only natural satellite. Currently it distances itself from the Earth about 4 cm each year and to make a complete revolution around our planet it takes 27 days and 8 hours.

Literary or subjective descriptive text

Descriptive literary texts stand out for their subjective content, since the writer incorporates his vision of the events that occur in the world. These stories have an aesthetic purpose, since they seek to embellish or distort reality. It must be borne in mind that the events narrated can be invented by the author.

  • Example of descriptive literary text

How beautiful is the Moon, shining every night, hiding during the afternoon. She is alone in the sky, without siblings, but that makes her more loved, for being our only natural satellite.

Where do the descriptive texts appear? Forms of presentation

Descriptive texts can be found in various formats:

Instruction manuals

Instruction manuals were created to show people how to behave or act at a certain time. In other words, these texts are guides that seek to guide others. An instruction manual could be, for example, an etiquette book explaining how to set up the table.


Of course, descriptive texts often appear on the internet, especially on web pages when they describe aspects related to a specific topic. For example, technical-scientific descriptive texts are used on animal websites.

Educational books

They are the textbooks that are used in schools or sold to the general public dealing with a general or specific topic.

Novels and short stories

Literary or subjective descriptive texts appear in novels and short stories.

Academic works

These texts are the result of a long investigation and have numerous objectives, such as teaching what is the procedure to carry out a scientific study or offering data on how musical instruments were made. An example of this format is encyclopedias.

Literary resources used

In descriptive literary texts, different resources can be used:


It is when the author focuses on the description of the space; that is, it makes a portrait of the landscape or the environment.


The physical features of the characters are shown, such as skin color, eye shape, and hairstyle.


The character’s clothing, social hierarchy, and trade are described. It is like doing a biography of the fictional figure.


It is when the narrator focuses on showing the psychology of the character: he details his character, virtues, thoughts, dreams, ideas and desires; makes a portrait of your inner reality.


The writer disfigures the physical and psychological features of fictional beings or deforms the landscape. The purpose of this description is to give the work a comic or critical sense: it makes fun of society.

Examples of descriptive texts

In the following lines some fragments of descriptive texts will be presented:

Topography: Perfume , by Patrick Süskind

“There was a stench barely conceivable to modern man in this city. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards stank of urine, the stairwells stank of rotten wood; the kitchens, to rotten cabbage and mutton fat; the unventilated rooms stank of moldy dust; the bedrooms to greasy sheets ”.

(Subjective descriptive text).

Academic text: The Republic , by Rafael Arráiz Lucca

“Fernando VII sent troops under the command of generals to crush the rebellion, but the generals and their troops joined it, leaving the King with no other way than to recognize the Constitution of Cádiz. This news was terrible for Morillo, who was waiting for the reinforcements because without them they could not succeed ”.

(Descriptive objective text).

Etopeia: Falke , by Federico Vegas

“Armando Zuloaga reflects a childish image. I will only describe its effect on others: Armando is an epicenter type, which is not the same as selfish. It was born so that the rest of us can turn around it ”.

(Subjective descriptive text).

We hope that you have understood the Characteristics of descriptive text.

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