Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Objective Description

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English

Objectively speaking, healthy orchids have green leaves. This is objective because it is largely confirmed and therefore not an opinion. An objective description is the use of facts to create an image in your mind. Sometimes, however, descriptions blur the line between the subjective and the objective. Studying examples of each can help you identify the difference.

Definition and purpose of objective descriptions

An objective description is a classification of description. A description is the use of words to create an image in your mind. What makes an objective description different from other kinds of description is that it is factual.

The purpose of objective description is to create an accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind. If you want a reader to know the rubber duck is green, you describe it as green. Then, the reader will imagine a green rubber duck, instead of the yellow rubber duck most people imagine.

Objective Description green rubber duck StudySmarterBit of an odd fella, flaticon

Objective descriptions thrive when they act as clarification, and contrast with the expectations of readers. You might not need to describe springtime grass as green, since most people imagine it that way, but if the springtime grass of an alien planet is purple, you will likely describe that in order to clarify its appearance.

You will find objective descriptions everywhere you read. In nonfiction passages, objective descriptions will clarify real-world objects, characters, and settings in order to contextualize the place and time. In fiction passages, objective description will help you to understand foreign and fictional worlds. In action scenes, objective descriptions will help you understand the movement of the characters and their results. Wherever you find an objective description, the goal is always accurate. The question is, how accurate can you get?

The difference between objective description and subjective description

An orchid has wide leaves. Is this an objective description? Not strictly, because what does “wide” really mean? The term “wide” is subjective because there is no quantifiable measurement or classification that correlates to "wide".

Yet intuitively, calling “wide” subjective in this context seems fussy. If terms like big, small, wide, and bumpy are subjective, then objective descriptions would consist purely of verifiable measurements. For example, you would have to describe an orchid leaf as being 2.4 inches wide, instead of just "wide," in order for it to be an "objective" description. This seems silly when the purpose of an objective description is to create an accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.

To give another example, you would probably be better served calling a pea pod “bumpy” than laboriously charting out its curvature using math. The former would give the reader an idea of what it looks like; the latter would mean nothing to most readers.

So, how objective should you be?

The key is your audience. If you are writing a scientific paper for biology class, you should probably use highly objective descriptions. If you are writing a creative story for composition class, you should probably use modestly objective descriptions.

A highly objective description creates a quantifiably accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.

A modestly objective description creates a casually accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.

So what’s the difference between a modestly objective description and a subjective description, then? The answer lies in the intent. A modestly objective description is intended to be simple. It is lightly interpretable.

The tree is filled with flowers.

On the other hand, a subjective description is intended to be complex. It is interpretable.

The tree is gorgeous.

It is much easier to draw a tree that “objectively” has many flowers than a tree that is “objectively” gorgeous. At least "many" is a counting term! A modestly objective description isn’t really intended to be open-ended, the way a subjective description often is. A modestly objective description is just a simple, good enough way to describe something in a casual or artistic context.

The lines blur: Poets often use modestly objective descriptions to create highly open-ended poems. Consider a poem like this: "In red and gold / A soldier staggers forever onward." This could be interpreted in a definitive, objective way, that the soldier is wearing a red and gold uniform. However, these simple words could also be a metaphor for blood and false glory. At the end of the day, when a description is left vague, the reader will complete the image and create their own interpretation. Once the words are in the hands of the reader, the writer’s job is over.

Using facts and evidence to create objective descriptions

If you are writing an argumentative essay or a scientific paper, you will get a lot of use out of highly objective descriptions. To determine if your description is highly objective, consider its specificity. Let’s start with an example of a non-specific description, and then develop it into a specific description.

Redwood National Park has big trees.

What kind of big trees? Cedar trees? No, redwood trees. Let’s specify that.

The redwood trees of Redwood National Park are big.

Cedar trees are big, too. That big? No, redwood trees are much bigger than cedar trees. To be more specific, let’s include a height.

The redwood trees of Redwood National Park stand as tall as 325 feet when fully grown.

This is a highly objective description, although it could be better, depending on your audience. If your audience is not very familiar with trees, something like this would strengthen your description of the redwood tree:

Where a typical cedar tree rarely grows over 150 feet tall, the redwood trees of Redwood National Park stand as tall as 325 feet when fully grown.

Using multiple quantifiable details, you have now objectively described how big a redwood tree is. Well done!

Objective Description A simple digital drawing of a redwood tree StudySmarterBig and beautiful, almost objectively, flaticon.


Whether highly or modestly objective, no objective descriptions are completely a matter of personal opinion, unlike some subjective descriptions. When writing an objective description of any kind, avoid polarizing claims. Avoid anything you recognize as personal preference or personal opinion. Stick to what is more or less obvious!

How many objective descriptions to include

Because our audience wasn’t familiar with the heights of trees, remember how we used the common cedar tree to help contextualize the awesome size of the redwood tree? This is using objective description to describe a foreign concept.

A foreign concept is a subject not well-understood by your reader.

The more foreign your concept, the more you will need to describe it. Say you are a science fiction or fantasy writer. You will need to use a lot more description to bring your setting to life than a general fiction writer whose story takes place on Earth in the modern-day. Because your fantasy world is very foreign, it will take more effort to create an accurate representation of it in your reader’s mind.

In fact, it will probably take too much effort. This is why many writers rely on modestly objective, vague, and subjective descriptions to get their images across. Although more is left up to the reader, it takes less time to write. Besides, leaving more up to the reader is a good habit to develop as a story writer:

The pockywood tree of Bratpatch stood as tall as a mountain giant.

As far as objective description, only use an amount that suits your pacing, your medium, and your audience. Too much description of any kind can slow down a story and even an essay.

When to include objective descriptions in your essay

When writing an essay, use descriptions only when necessary. While it is important to keep your reader well-informed, you don’t want to slow down the exploration of your thesis. When contextualizing the height of a redwood tree, it is helpful to describe the height of a common tree, but it is not helpful to describe the height of the ten tallest trees in North America. One takes part in a sentence. The other could take a paragraph.

When using objective descriptions to contextualize your argument, always consider what your audience stands to gain. Consider, will the sheer extent of your contextualization benefit or distract your reader? Are you keeping them on track with regard to your thesis, or are you going down a rabbit hole? Is this something you need to include, or is this something you would like to include?

Examples of objective descriptions

If you need examples of objective descriptions, here is a variety of them across multiple genres. In each example, the objective description is underlined.

Twenty-six angry emotes danced through the Twitch chat of ClabeSpade42.

The cyclist cruised through the yellowed valley at high speeds.

Tall and square, the porch acted like a waterfall for the falling rain.

At a staggering eight feet tall, the partially scaled half-dragon warrior hefted her huge two-ton hammer.

No one dared to enter the burning hot hole in the earth, which rapidly reached a temperature of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use these to help you identify objective descriptions in your own passages!

Objective Description - Key takeaways

  • An objective description is the use of facts to create an image in someone's mind.
  • A highly objective description creates a quantifiably accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.
  • A modestly objective description creates a casually accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind. A modestly objective description is intended to be simple.
  • The more foreign your concept, the more you will need to describe it.
  • When writing an essay, use descriptions only when necessary.

Objective Description

The purpose of objective description is to create an accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.

Yes, an objective description uses evidence and facts. In highly objective descriptions, you will use quantifiable metrics and verifiable facts.

Objective descriptions help clarify the subject for the reader and help clarify foreign concepts.

An objective description is the use of facts to create an image in your mind. 

Objective description is not interpretable, while subjective description is not interpretable. Objective descriptions use facts and allow the reader less room to draw their own conclusions about the image. Subjective descriptions use opinion and allow the reader a lot of room to draw their own conclusions about the image.

Final Objective Description Quiz

Question

An objective description is the use of _____ to create an image in your mind.

Show answer

Answer

Facts

Show question

Question

"The purpose of objective description is to create an accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind."

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Objective descriptions thrive when they act as _____.

Show answer

Answer

Clarification

Show question

Question

Describing a pea pod as bumpy is an example of what?

Show answer

Answer

A modestly objective description. 

Show question

Question

What is the problem with describing a pea pod in a highly objective way?

Show answer

Answer

Laboriously charting out the curvature of a pea pod using math (the highly objective way) would mean nothing to most readers. Therefore, a modestly objective description is more appropriate: calling a pea pod "bumpy."

Show question

Question

"A highly objective description creates a casually accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind."

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. A highly objective description creates a quantifiably accurate mental representation of the subject in the reader’s mind.

Show question

Question

"The road is covered in leaves" is an example of _____.

Show answer

Answer

A modestly objective description.

Show question

Question

Where lies the difference between a modestly objective description and a subjective description?

Show answer

Answer

Intent. A modestly objective description is intended to be simple. It is lightly interpretable. On the other hand, a subjective description is intended to be complex. It is interpretable.

Show question

Question

If you are writing a scientific paper, would you rather include highly objective descriptions or modestly objective descriptions?

Show answer

Answer

Highly objective descriptions, because your paper is concerned with hard evidence.

Show question

Question

How should you clarify a foreign concept for your reader?

Show answer

Answer

It depends on your audience. The more scientific your paper, the more objective your descriptions should be. Use subjective descriptions in creative writing.

Show question

Question

What is a foreign concept?

Show answer

Answer

A foreign concept is a subject not well-understood by your reader. Try your best to clarify it.

Show question

Question

Is "slowing down the exploration of your thesis" a problem with including objective descriptions?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, if you include too many. Too many descriptions of any kind can be distracting. When using objective descriptions to contextualize your argument, always consider what your audience stands to gain. 

Show question

Question

"The cat is quick."

Is this an objective description?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, it is a modestly objective description, meaning it is intended to be a simple description. 

Show question

Question

"The tree, which had lost its many pretty flowers, stands eleven feet tall."

What kinds of description does this use?

Show answer

Answer

Modestly objective description (many), subjective description (pretty), and highly objective description (eleven feet tall). 

Show question

Question

If you are writing an essay, should you rely on highly objective descriptions?

Show answer

Answer

Use them, but don't use them so much that you slow down the exploration of your thesis.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Objective Description quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.