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A descriptive noun serves to indicate a specific person, place, thing, or idea in a way that is intentionally evocative or descriptive rather than being general. It still provides the basic function of a noun within a clause, but does so in a way that is more expressive than some other nouns. The word “dog,” for example is a noun but is not inherently descriptive of any particular breed or type of dog; while a word like “spaniel” or “poodle” indicates a clearer concept. A descriptive noun can be either a common or proper noun and should be capitalized as appropriate.
Use of a descriptive noun in a sentence often provides more specific meaning without the need for adjectives that may make the sentence too wordy. Descriptive words can provide just as much meaning and imagery in a single word as multiple words may otherwise be required to create. A simple sentence that lacks a descriptive noun, or verbs, would be, “The dog walked into the room.” This is grammatically sound as a sentence, containing a subject in the form of the noun phrase, “The dog,” a predicate, “walked,” and a direct object in the form of a prepositional phrase, “into the room.”
The sentence, however, is fairly boring and can be made much more interesting through the inclusion of expressive words, which might be added or used as a substitution for existing words in the sentence. While an adjective could be used, such as “The big dog,” it is often preferable for a writer to avoid these types of statements and “show” that the dog is big rather than “telling” the reader that it is. Use of a descriptive noun such as “great Dane” indicates that the dog is big by specifying the type of dog that it is; the writer shows the size to the reader rather than telling the reader that it is big.
A descriptive verb could be used to make the sentence even more evocative and interesting. Rather than, “The dog walked into the room,” the sentence could be rewritten as, “The great Dane sauntered into the library.” The verb “sauntered” indicates a particular type of walk, which is preferable to “slowly walked,” and a second descriptive noun can be used to indicate exactly what type of room the dog has entered. Much like any other type of noun, a descriptive noun can be common, such as “librarian,” or proper, like “New York,” and should be capitalized accordingly.