To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact


How to Create a Dominant Impression in Your Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 13, 2020 • 3 min read

As a writer, you get to shape your reader’s point of view. Through strategic use of descriptive detail and sensory language, you filter your reader’s perception of a character, setting, or event. When you guide your reader using careful word choice, you provide them with a subjective description—in other words, a description based on the dominant impression you wish them to have.



David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

Learn More

What Is a Dominant Impression?

A dominant impression is a mood, point of view, or controlling idea that is communicated by an author to a reader. Descriptive writing routinely sets dominant impressions through the use of:

  • Vivid adjectives
  • Action verbs
  • Sensory details
  • Figurative language
  • Figurative comparisons
  • The conscious omission of specific details by the author

An essay establishes its dominant impression via the thesis statement, which lays out the point of view of the author about a specific topic. The essayist then makes deliberate use of concrete details to buttress that thesis.

You can use dominant impressions when writing fiction, such as a novel, short story, or screenplay. In prose fiction, the position of the narrator offers natural opportunities to shape a point of view through sensory description and expository storytelling.

2 Examples of Dominant Impression

The clearest way to demonstrate the power of dominant impressions is to describe the same scene from two different points of view. Compare these contrasting descriptions of a baseball game:

  • Example one: The ballpark was stultifyingly hot, like the asphalt beneath the stiff bench seats might actually melt and give way, sending patrons tumbling into the catacombs of the stadium below—which would have been a respite from the heat. On the field, the heat slowed players to a standstill, as though any superfluous motion would dehydrate them on the spot.
  • Example two: The game remained tied—the tension so electric that it seemed to literally transmit heat into the surrounding air. If the stakes were any higher, players and fans might literally roast. As the pitcher toed the rubber, the players stood perfectly still, as though a single false move could be the spark that would ignite an inferno.

Obviously both versions describe a very hot baseball game. However, the first paragraph chooses to emphasize the negative aspects of the heat, namely the physical discomfort. The following paragraph describes the heat as a manifestation of the game’s electric energy. In other words, the heat is positive.

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
Judy Blume Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
James Patterson Teaches Writing

How to Create a Dominant Impression in Your Writing

Once you know how to shape a reader’s perspective, you can articulate almost any idea you want in a descriptive essay, narrative essay, or opinionated research paper. From the very first draft of your next writing project, use these descriptive writing strategies to create a dominant impression in your reader’s mind:

  • Know your purpose as a writer. In other words, choose a point of view that you want to convey.
  • Select a thesis statement. If you’re writing a nonfiction essay, use your thesis statement and the topic sentence of your body paragraphs to reinforce your point of view.
  • Choose your words carefully. Make ample use of adjectives and adverbs to convey mood.
  • Focus on sensory details. Try to let your reader imagine the physical settings, characters, and events you describe.
  • Edit for consistency. Every single word will matter, so make sure there’s unity throughout your writing, and do multiple editing passes to weed out any fluff.

Precision and a unified perspective will always let you shape a dominant impression in your reader’s mind. Stay conscious of these tips and strategies, and you’ll always be able to control and shape your audience’s reading experience.


Suggested for You

Online classes taught by the world’s greatest minds. Extend your knowledge in these categories.

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

Learn More
Judy Blume

Teaches Writing

Learn More
Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

Learn More
James Patterson

Teaches Writing

Learn More

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Become a better writer with the Masterclass All-Access Pass. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, David Baldacci, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, and more.