Description(s)

The first paragraph is mostly argument but it also contains some descriptions.

Yet another word that has slightly different meanings in its countable and uncountable forms. I can’t remember ever seeing it causing grammar problems, but as in the above example, the wrong form may be inappropriate in certain situations. Let’s first of all examine correct usage.

Writing skill (description uncountable)

  • The view here was grand beyond description.
  • Only the accuracy of description of a past debate can be challenged.
  • You really did a nice job of description.

In these examples, description refers to the act/skill of describing.

Text type (description uncountable)

  • The first paragraph is mostly argument but it also contains some description.
  • My professor told me that there’s too much description in my essay.
  • A certain amount of description helps to orient the reader so that they can understand your argument more easily.

In these examples we’re focusing on the type of text rather than the content of the text itself.

The content of the text (description countable)

  • Details are given where applicable in each course description.
  • Descriptions of each item are included in the museum catalogue.
  • These descriptions should include your primary keywords.

And in these examples we’re focusing on text in which descriptions apply to numerous items in some kind of collection.

Summary

  • You really did a nice job of descriptions.
  • Obviously this is a comment about the skill of describing, and so the plural countable form – although grammatically correct – is inappropriate.
  • The first paragraph is mostly argument but it also contains some descriptions.
  • Here ‘argument’ (uncountable) is presented as a text type, and so it would be better to present ‘description’ as a contrasting text type, signaled by ‘but’.
  • Description of each item is included in the museum catalogue.
  • Here the writer seems to be telling us that the catalogue includes a particular type of text – description! But since this is the text type we expect to find in a catalogue, then we do not need to be reminded about it.

Practice

Select words from the drop-down menus to complete the text. When you have finished, click 'Check your answers!' for feedback.

OK I understand

Australian professors often complain that even though Asian students are very good at , their writing includes far too and not enough argument. Admittedly, of experiments and methodology are often unavoidable in academic assignments. However, when discussing research findings, should only be used to support debatable claims and to define terminology used in these claims.

Answer Key

Answers here, but only if you're really stuck!

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