Specific Nouns

Using specific nouns gives readers a more concrete vision of what you’re writing about. It makes the passage more engaging and vivid.

Exercise 1

Up in the tree, a bird sang, its voice warm and melodious. Nearby, an animal crouched, watching the bird. Emotion made the animal’s eyes glitter. Stealthily it began to slink forward, body to the ground. It was only a little distance from the bird when another animal dashed toward it from the next yard. As the first animal fled, the bird flew down and perched confidently on the second animal’s head.

  1. What kind of tree?
  2. What kind of bird? Remember: it must have a melodious song.
  3. “Nearby, an animal crouched.” What kind of animal.
  4. What specific emotion probably made the animal’s eye glitter?
  5. “Stealthily, it began to slink toward, body to the ground.” What part of the body would be close to the ground when an animal slinks?
  6. “It was only a little distance from the bird when another animal dashed toward it from the next yard.” How far away? How many feet?
  7. “It was only a little distance from the bird when another animal dashed toward it from the next yard.” What was the second animal?

Re-reading the passage while substituting our answers for the tree, animals, and bird shows how important specific verbs can be. It also adds humor: many students, not thinking, have frogs stalking Blue Jays with a cat leaping in to save the day — something like the ever-popular MadLibs.

Exercise 2

Intended to combine sensory details with specific nouns, this creation of a description of a favorite birthday dinner often leaves students’ mouths watering.

It was my birthday, and there on the table was my very favorite dinner. I stared greedily before digging in. There were zucchini boats, dark green and glittering, stuffed with chopped pork, rice, and tomatoes. There was corn on the cob, drenched in butter, sparkling with salt crystals. And there was my cake, a fiesta of whipped cream and sweet juicy strawberries.

Write a paragraph describing your favorite dinner. The first introductory sentences have been provided:

It was my birthday, and there on the table was my very favorite dinner. I stared greedily before digging in. There was…

References

Berbrich, Joan D. Thirteen Steps to Better Writing. New York: Amsco School Publications, Inc., 1987.

7 Comments


  1. thanks this helps a lot for my writing class


  2. What are some specific nouns for summer?


  3. Hey I was wondering if there is a specific noun for years like billions of years? Thanks


  4. I don’t know. Sorry I couldn’t help.


  5. you should do specific nouns for winter cuz i need some


  6. The idea, Olivia, is to help my own students, not necessarily to give you the answers. Good luck.

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