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Features of Text Forms

Description (Creative Writing)


Description is used in all forms of writing to create a vivid impression of a person, place, object or event eg to:

  • describe a special place and explain why it is special
  • describe the most important person in your life
  • describe the animal's habitat in your report

Descriptive writing is usually used to help a writer develop an aspect of their work, eg. to create a particular mood, atmosphere or describe a place so that the reader can create vivid pictures of characters, places, objects etc.


Description is a style of writing which can be useful for a variety of purposes:

  • to engage a reader's attention
  • to create characters
  • to set a mood or create an atmosphere
  • to bring writing to life.


  • aims to show rather than tell the reader what something/someone is like
  • relies on precisely chosen vocabulary with carefully chosen adjectives and adverbs.
  • is focused and concentrates only on the aspects that add something to the main purpose of the description.
  • sensory description - what is heard, seen, smelt, felt, tasted. Precise use of adjectives, similes, metaphors to create images/pictures in the mind eg Their noses were met with the acrid smell of rotting flesh.
  • strong development of the experience that "puts the reader there" focuses on key details, powerful verbs and precise nouns.

Descriptive writing portrays people, places, things, moments and theories with enough vivid detail to help the reader create a mental picture of what is being written about.

Things to Consider as You Write Your Descriptive Essay

  • Think of an instance that you want to describe.
  • Why is this particular instance important?
  • What were you doing?
  • What other things were happening around you? Is there anything specific that stands out in your mind?
  • Where were objects located in relation to where you were?
  • How did the surroundings remind you of other places you have been?
  • What sights, smells, sounds, and tastes were in the air?
  • Did the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes remind you of anything?
  • What were you feeling at that time?
  • Has there been an instance in which you have felt this way before?
  • What do you want the reader to feel after reading the paper?
  • What types of words and images can convey this feeling?
  • Can you think of another situation that was similar to the one you are writing about? How can it help explain what you are writing about?
  • Is there enough detail in your essayto create a mental image for the reader?

Conventions of Descriptive Essays Illustrated by Sample Paragraphs

  • Appealing-to-the-Senses Description: Let the reader see, smell, hear, taste, and feel what you write in your essay.

The thick, burnt scent of roasted coffee tickled the tip of my nose just seconds before the old, faithful alarm blared a distorted top-forty through its tiny top speaker. Wiping away the grit of last night's sleep, the starch white sunlight blinded me momentarily as I slung my arm like an elephant trunk along the top of the alarm, searching for the snooze button. While stretching hands and feet to the four posts of my bed, my eyes opened after several watery blinks. I crawled out of the comforter, edging awkwardly like a butterfly from a cocoon, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. The dusty pebbles on the chilled, wood floor sent ripples spiraling from my ankles to the nape of my neck when my feet hit the floor. Grabbing the apricot, terri-cloth robe, recently bathed in fabric softener and October wind, I knotted it tightly at my waist like a prestigious coat of armor and headed downstairs to battle the morning.






Features of Text Forms



The writer's purpose is to explain how something works or state reasons for some phenomenon. Explanations answer the questions "how" or "why".

Types of Explanation

There are two basic types of explanation which focus on:

  • "How" (How does a pump work? How does a computer work? How are mountains formed? How does a spider spin a web?)
  • "Why" (Why do some things float or sink? Why is the ozone layer getting thinner? Why does iron go rusty? Why do living things need food?)



    • often have a logical sequence
    • use of cause/effect relationships (then, as a consequence, so, if)
    • uses time relationships (first, then, following, finally) Explanations involve the stating of reasons for an activity or process.


    • written in the 'timeless' present tense (are, turns, happens)
    • use of action verbs (falls, rises, changes)
    • use of non-human participants (the sea, the mountains, the computers, the engine)
    • conjunctions (when, then, first, after this so)
    • some passives (is saturated, are changed)
    • use of nouns tends to be general rather than specific (cars, boats, spiders, schools)
    • use of pronouns (their, they, them)


How do lizards communicate?


Lizards in the suborder Iguania communicate by doing push-ups and other athletic displays. They convey territoriality, courtship displays, and other messages with various combinations of push-ups, body postures, head movements, and displays of colorful belly patches or throat dewlaps.

The Iguania includes the common sagebrush lizards of the American west, as well as iguanas and tropical anoles. Different species have different languages, and within each species there may be regional "dialects."

A recent study showed that, like the languages of humans and some kinds of birds, lizard body language is an open grammatical system. This means that they can express many different messages using a fixed set of symbols combined in various orders.














Features of Text Forms

Instructions - Procedural Texts


The purpose is to tell the reader how to do or make something.

The information is presented in a logical sequence of events which is broken up into small sequenced steps. These texts are usually written in the present tense.

The most common example of a procedural text is a recipe.

Types of Procedural Texts

There are different procedural texts for different purposes:-

  • Texts that explain how something works or how to use instruction /operation manuals eg how to use the video, the computer, the tape recorder, the photocopier, the fax.
  • Texts that instruct how to do a particular activity eg recipes, rules for games, science experiments, road safety rules.
  • Texts that deal with human behaviour eg how to live happily, how to succeed.



    • Each type of procedural text has a format.
    • Recipes usually have the information presented in at least two basic groups: ingredients and method.
    • Games instructions usually include instructions on how to play, rules of the game, method of scoring, and the number of players.
    • Scientific experiments usually include the purpose of the experiment, equipment, procedure, observations and conclusion.

Instructions need to be clear, logical and easy to follow eg

    • the goal is clearly stated
    • the materials are listed in order of use
    • the layout of the text is easy to understand and follow (steps are numbered or listed)
    • is chronological.


The text usually:

    • is written in the simple present tense (do this, do that)
    • focuses on generalised people rather than individuals (first you take, rather than first I take)
    • the reader is often referred to in a general way, ie. pronouns (you or one)
    • action verbs (imperative verbs), (cut, fold, twist, hold etc)
    • simple present tense (you cut, you fold, you mix)
    • linking words to do with time (first, when, then) are used to connect the text
    • detailed information on how (carefully, with the scissors); where (from the top); when (after it has set)
    • detailed factual description (shape, size, colour, amount)


There are a lot of times when you have to write out directions of how to do something. Sometimes you have to explain how something works, how to make something, or how to get from one place to another.

Here’s a way to help you write an explanation.

  1. Make a list of all the steps – don’t go into a lot of detail, just enough that you remember what to write about.
  2. Make sure all of the steps are in the right order.
  3. If you’re giving directions to make something, make sure you give a list that tells all the stuff you’ll need.
  4. Start your explanation with a good sentence that explains what you’re trying to do.
  5. Write all the directions as briefly and clearly as possible. Use words like first, second, and next to help the reader understand.
  6. Edit what you’ve written, and then try to follow the directions yourself. Make any changes that you might have missed the first time.
  7. Have someone else try to follow your directions. If they don’t understand, write it more clearly so they do.
  8. Use illustrations if they help make the written words more clear.

















Features of Text Forms



The basic purpose of narrative is to entertain, to gain and hold a readers' interest. However narratives can also be written to teach or inform, to change attitudes / social opinions eg soap operas and television dramas that are used to raise topical issues. Narratives sequence people/characters in time and place but differ from recounts in that through the sequencing, the stories set up one or more problems, which must eventually find a way to be resolved.

Types of Narrative

There are many types of narrative. They can be imaginary, factual or a combination of both. They may include fairy stories, mysteries, science fiction, romances, horror stories, adventure stories, fables, myths and legends, historical narratives, ballads, slice of life, personal experience.


  • Characters with defined personalities/identities.
  • Dialogue often included - tense may change to the present or the future.
  • Descriptive language to create images in the reader's mind and enhance the story.


In a Traditional Narrative the focus of the text is on a series of actions:

Orientation: (introduction) in which the characters, setting and time of the story are established. Usually answers who? when? where? eg. Mr Wolf went out hunting in the forest one dark gloomy night.

Complication or problem: The complication usually involves the main character(s) (often mirroring the complications in real life).

Resolution: There needs to be a resolution of the complication. The complication may be resolved for better or worse/happily or unhappily. Sometimes there are a number of complications that have to be resolved. These add and sustain interest and suspense for the reader.

To help students plan for writing of narratives, model, focusing on:

  • Plot: What is going to happen?
  • Setting: Where will the story take place? When will the story take place?
  • Characterisation: Who are the main characters? What do they look like?
  • Structure: How will the story begin? What will be the problem? How is the problem going to be resolved?
  • Theme: What is the theme / message the writer is attempting to communicate?


  • Action verbs: Action verbs provide interest to the writing. For example, instead of The old woman was in his way try The old woman barred his path. Instead of She laughed try She cackled.
  • Written in the first person (I, we) or the third person (he, she, they).
  • Usually past tense.
  • Connectives,linking words to do with time.
  • Specific nouns: Strong nouns have more specific meanings, eg. oak as opposed to tree.
  • Active nouns: Make nouns actually do something, eg. It was raining could become Rain splashed down or There was a large cabinet in the lounge could become A large cabinet seemed to fill the lounge.
  • Careful use of adjectives and adverbs: Writing needs judicious use of adjectives and adverbs to bring it alive, qualify the action and provide description and information for the reader.
  • Use of the senses: Where appropriate, the senses can be used to describe and develop the experiences, setting and character:
    • What does it smell like?
    • What can be heard?
    • What can be seen - details?
    • What does it taste like?
    • What does it feel like?
  • Imagery
    • Simile: A direct comparison, using like or as or as though, eg. The sea looked as rumpled as a blue quilted dressing gown. Or The wind wrapped me up like a cloak.
    • Metaphor: An indirect or hidden comparison, eg. She has a heart of stone or He is a stubborn mule or The man barked out the instructions.
    • Onomatopoeia: A suggestion of sound through words, eg. crackle, splat, ooze, squish, boom, eg. The tyres whir on the road. The pitter-patter of soft rain. The mud oozed and squished through my toes.
    • Personification: Giving nonliving things (inanimate) living characteristics, eg. The steel beam clenched its muscles. Clouds limped across the sky. The pebbles on the path were grey with grief.
  • Rhetorical Questions: Often the author asks the audience questions, knowing of course there will be no direct answer. This is a way of involving the reader in the story at the outset, eg. Have you ever built a tree hut?
  • Variety in sentence beginnings. There are a several ways to do this eg by using:
    • Participles: "Jumping with joy I ran home to tell mum my good news."
    • Adverbs: "Silently the cat crept toward the bird"
    • Adjectives: "Brilliant sunlight shone through the window"
    • Nouns: "Thunder claps filled the air"
    • Adverbial Phrases: "Along the street walked the girl as if she had not a care in the world."
    • Conversations/Dialogue: these may be used as an opener. This may be done through a series of short or one-word sentences or as one long complex sentence.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Students have heard the rule "show, don't tell" but this principle is often difficult for some writers to master.
  • Personal Voice: It may be described as writing which is honest and convincing. The author is able to 'put the reader there'. The writer invests something of him/her self in the writing. The writing makes an impact on the reader. It reaches out and touches the reader. A connection is made.





Features of Text Forms



The purpose of a recount is to list and describe past experiences by retelling events in the order in which they happened (chronological order). Recounts are written to retell events with the purpose of either informing or entertaining their audience (or both).

Types of Recount

  • Personal Recount
    These usually retell an event that the writer was personally involved in.
  • Factual Recount
    Recording an incident, eg. a science experiment, police report.
  • Imaginative Recount
    Writing an imaginary role and giving details of events, eg. A day in the life of a pirate; How I invented...

Features of Recounts

  • focuses on individual participants/events


  • the recount has a title, which usually summarises the text
  • specific participants (Mum, the crab)
  • The basic recount consists of three parts:
    1. the setting or orientation - background information answering who? when? where? why?
    2. events are identified and described in chronological order.
    3. concluding comments express a personal opinion regarding the events described
  • details are selected to help the reader reconstruct the activity or incident (Factual Recount)
  • the ending may describe the outcome of the activity, eg. in a science activity (Factual Recount)
  • details of time, place and incident need to be clearly stated, eg. At 11.15 pm, between Reid Rd and Havelock St a man drove at 140 kms toward the shopping centre (Factual Recount)
  • descriptive details may also be required to provide information, eg. He was a skinny boy with a blue shirt, red sneakers and long tied back hair (Factual Recount)
  • includes personal thoughts/reactions (Imaginative Recount)


  • is written in the past tense (she yelled, it nipped, she walked)
  • frequent use is made of words which link events in time, such as next, later, when, then, after, before, first, at the same time, as soon as she left, late on Friday)
  • recounts describe events, so plenty of use is made of verbs (action words), and of adverbs (which describe or add more detail to verbs)
  • details are often chosen to add interest or humour to the recount.
  • use of personal pronouns (I, we) (Personal Recount)
  • the passive voice may be used, eg. the bottle was filled with ink (Factual Recount)












Features of Text Forms


"Reports can be straightforward recounts of events, but many of them are more than this. They may contain accounts and descriptions, but they often do more than describe a thing, event or situation. Some reports state a problem and suggest a solution. Some argue a case for or against a particular option, supporting their case with evidence and making a recommendation."

(The Learner as a Reader, Learning Media NZ:P 129)


The purpose of a report is to describe and classify information. Reports have a logical sequence of facts that are stated without any personal involvement from the writer.

Informative reports are written about living things like plants and animals and non-living things like cars or oceans. An information report is used when we talk and write about, eg. Bikes. (When writing a description we only talk/write about one specific thing, eg. My Bike).



Reports usually consist of the following:

    • an opening statement. (The Antarctic is a large continent at the South Pole or Possums are nocturnal animals that were introduced to New Zealand from Australia)
    • a series of facts about various aspects of the subject eg where possums live, what they eat, problems they cause, etc.
    • paragraphs have been used to organise information
    • organisation of information is coherent
    • diagrams, photographs, illustrations and maps may be used to enhance the text
    • reports don't usually have an 'ending", although sometimes the detailed information is rounded off by some general statement about the topic.


    • Nouns and noun phrases are used rather than personal pronouns. The use of personal pronouns is limited.
    • Most reports are written in the present tense.
    • Some reports use technical or scientific terms.
    • Linking verbs are used, eg. is, are, has, have, belong to, to give coherence.
    • Uses some action verbs (climb, eat).
    • Descriptive language is used that is factual rather than imaginative eg colour, shape, size, body parts, habits, behaviours, functions, uses.















Features of Text Forms



To support ideas presented in sequence to justify a particular stand or viewpoint that a writer is taking.

The writer's purpose is to take a position on some issue and justify it.

An argument usually consists of the following:

  • a logical sequence
  • begins with a statement of position
  • the argument is put forward in a series of points with back up evidence
  • finishes with a summing up or restating of position
  • a good argument shows cause and effect. This is the connection between an action and what leads to it, eg. The fish died as a result of pollution in the water: Violence in movies contributes to violence in society

Types of arguments

  • To plead a case - letters to the school principal / local council with regard to current issues.
  • To promote/sell goods and services - advertisement writing to promote the school concert/sports.
  • To put forward an argument - School uniforms should not be compulsory.

Language Features

  • The argument is written in the timeless present tense. This might change to the past if historical background to the issue was being given. If predictions are being made the tense might change to the future.
  • The writer uses repetition of words, phrases and concepts deliberately, for effect.
  • Verbs are used when expressing opinions, eg. I think ___ are the best! We believe students should not be stopped from eating junk food.
  • Strong effective adjectives are used.
  • Thought provoking questions are used. These may be asked as rhetorical questions. (Rhetorical questions: a question asked only for effect, not for information, eg. Would you give your pre-schooler matches to play with?)
  • Use of passive verbs to help structure the text.
  • Written in the timeless present tense.
  • Use of pronouns (I, we, us) is used to manipulate the reader to agree with the position argued. eg. We all know that smoking causes cancer so we do not smoke.
  • Use of emotive language ie. words that will appeal to the reader's feelings, eg. concern, unreasonable, should.
  • Use of passive voice ie verbs in which the subject is acted upon and not doing the action. This helps structure the text, eg. We would like to suggest that an enquiry be held into the running of the steel mills. Water is being polluted.
  • Conjunctions that can exemplify and show results - they are usually used in concluding statements to finalise arguments

More Language Features


Debates, which are conducted orally, are a form of argument in which two opposing points of view are stated and both sides are argued. Supporting evidence for each side is put forward and finally an opinion is stated based on the two arguments.






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