Descriptive Essay : Sound

Sound waves are acoustic waves, with no electrical component. They are simply vibrations in the air, a physical pressure made by the utterance of the speaker. In somewhat challenging yet elegant writing, A.T.&T. once described sound in these terms, “Audible sound is thus defined as a disturbance in the atmosphere whereby a form of wave motion is propagated from some source at a velocity of 1,075 feet per second, the transmission being accomplished by alternating condensations and rarefacations of the atmosphere in cycles having a fundamental frequency ranging somewhere between 16 per second and 32,000 per second.” Principles of Electricity applied to Telephone and Telegraph Work, American Telephone and Telegraph. C.F. Myers, Supervisor of Instruction. Murray Hills, New Jersey? 1939. p.66 (from

The above paragraph must sound like a handful to you, but that’s how description works – it is extremely detailed. A good way to work with descriptive essays is to use images to look at details. Details mean examining interesting features that is of interest to the readers, and to describe them with fluent vocabulary and imagery. Pictures that have such features in the first place will help writers to begin, or brainstorm for things to write about.

When you begin with an image, simply stick to your five senses when you describe – what you see, hear, touch, feel, taste (if possible) because that would help you trawl through details before you go deeper into associated memories. This will enable your writing to “stay true”, in an authentic way that doesn’t go out of point. Be as frank about the facts as much as possible, and use imagery to make the featured details come alive!


I tried out this exercise with Daryl and Wei Yi (2OA2, 09) today. It’s a descriptive essay exercise that I feel can be of tremendous benefit for those who are stuck with ideas on how to write essays – the descriptive essay you will be choose is the one word essay titles from the O level topics (remember you must know what the word means before you try it out). The title I gave Daryl and Wei Yi was Sound.

1. Basically, what you do is to take a piece of blank paper and draw for exactly 2 minutes, thinking about the topic. Not more nor less. This is because what you doodle has to be expansive enough to write about, and not too long that you take up precious writing time.

2. Next, write a few sentences describing what you did, in sequence. You cannot imagine why this was drawn – I only want factual descriptions, e.g. “I drew an ear listening to music”, and NOT “the ear is listening to my music because it is interesting”. You should have 6-7 rough sentences.

3. Group these sentences into potential paragraphs. Eg. a sentence about an ear listening to music, and the music notes can be in one paragraph, and a picture of the person singing is another… (remember this is about your drawing, so follow it rigorously).

4. Elaborate on these paragraphs using vocabulary, imagery, interesting sentence structures. E.g. The person is singing into the microphone. The lines of his lips are wavy, as if he is warbling, but we don’t really know. (Simply be factual, and don’t pretend you know whatever you are drawing. You can suggest but don’t overdo it, else you will go out of point.)

5. Now re-draft the entire essay by distancing yourself from the first person. Instead of “I drew an ear”, why not say, “the boy drew an ear”. This makes the essay rather intriguing to read, helping the readers to imagine a narrative video of someone doing something else. The abstraction is fine as long as you don’t keep referring to “the boy” every two lines. One per paragraph may be enough.

6. Read the entire essay and make sure the word limit is reached. If you need to elaborate more, you can add in quotes or draw more things on the paper. Hand the work in and ask the teacher for comments.

Download a short excerpt based on this exercise : Sound (inspired by Wei Yi’s drawing)



What did you think of the finished excerpt? Could you imagine the picture?

What help do you need with the exercise?

Try a few descriptive essays with the following titles
1. Pain
2. Love
3. Diversity
4. Uniform
5. Books


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s