To describe something is to put words to something that already exists. Descriptions usually come from a genuine, outside perspective. Descriptions usually have no agenda but to share.
To prescribe something is to use words to force things into existence. Prescriptions usually come from the person / side / thing that’s being described. Prescriptions usually have an agenda, whether it be explicit or hidden.
In most situations, it’s obvious whether a set of words is descriptive or prescriptive. If I tell you that you gained weight over the holiday season, it’s a description of what has already taken place. However, if I tell you to go to the gym to work off the holiday gluttony, then it’s a prescription telling you what to do.
But sometimes it isn’t so clear.
If a book review tells you that a book is the best book ever written, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a true an honest review that is trying to help you understand if the book would be a worthwhile read or simply a review to get you to buy the book.
And sometimes a confusion can cause some major problems.
Someone who is described as a good leader generally is a good leader. Someone who is prescribed as a good leader might turn out to be extremely manipulative.
But still yet, it’s not that simple.
Everyone has their share of beliefs, their worldview, and perspective that effects the words that they use. It’s impossible to be certain whether a person is using words to simply describe something or trying to prescribe something.
Pay attention to the words that you use and the way that you say things. What do you realize?