Add details to improve the number of words per sentence and to improve sentence structure.

Adding more details has the effect of adding more words to an essay. More importantly, it changes a general, humdrum essay into a specific, interesting essay. If the number of sentences stays the same, then the number of words per sentence increases, usually a good outcome for children who tend to write tiny sentences.Add Details graphicUntil they work with me, many students think that adding more details means adding more adjectives. Not so. When I say details, here is what I mean:

  • Proper nouns—Give names to common nouns already in the essay, or add names.
  • Numbers—Use specific amounts of items, not “some” or “a lot.”
  • Dates, time of day, time of year, year, season
  • Sensory details—Identify and describe smells, sounds, tastes, textures, and sights.
  • Sizes, shapes, colors, amounts.
  • Thoughts and opinions of the characters or the writer, if appropriate
  • Dialog—Let the reader hear characters talking instead of using indirect quotes.
  • Feelings of a character, including the narrator. These are often overlooked, yet it is through feelings that readers connect with characters.
  • Similes, metaphors, hyperbole and other figures of speech.
  • Examples—probably the most important kind of details.

One way to shake up an older student’s writing is to ask him to add each of these kinds of details (if appropriate) to a single essay. Or pick a number—five, for example—and let the student choose which kind of details to use. Some details are easier for the student to add by herself; others will take teacher modeling.
More on each of these kinds of details in the next blog.

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