As the name suggests, this is an essay that illustrates something using words. Using the power of illustrative words, the writer makes the reader feel, see, or hear what is being described. Descriptive essay writing involves less research effort as compared to other types of academic writing assignments. It is an opportunity for the writer to put his/her creativity to work to bring any topic to life. It is also a pretty open task that doesn’t have a lot of rules to be followed. When assigned such a task, students are usually required to describe an experience, person, feeling, place, object, situation, etc.
A descriptive essay can be an easy task to complete. However, for someone who hasn’t mastered the art of descriptive writing, coming up with a good essay can be an uphill task. Luckily, this guide provides enough resources to help you learn how to write a descriptive essay.
Let’s look at the structure of a good descriptive essay.
Format of a descriptive essay
As previously stated, there aren’t a lot of rules to be followed in descriptive essay writing. The format is often dictated by the subject and the mood you wish to create. Some rules do exist though; the most notable being that you need to start with the general before going into the specifics. An important aspect of good descriptive essay writing is how the essay is structured since it makes it easier for the reader to read and understand the essay. The standard descriptive essay outline thus consists of:
In this section, the main topic of the descriptive essay is introduced to the reader together with the reason why the description is being written. It should start with a strong opening sentence or quote that will catch attention. At the end of the introductory paragraph, a thesis statement should be presented. This section is concerned with giving the readers a general idea of what the essay is about. The introduction section is followed by the body of the essay.
In the body section, you need to provide details about your topic. This part is presented in an artistic way with vivid language rich in adverbs and adjectives. This section is organized into paragraphs as follows.
The first paragraph vividly describes the object, person, or the event itself; providing the necessary details. For instance, if you are writing a descriptive essay about a place, you will describe the place here. For instance, when writing a descriptive essay about the beach, begin by describing the beach itself. Tell your readers about the waves and the appearance of the water and the sand. Tell them what you smelt on the beach, how the sand felt on your feet, and the sounds made by the water; remembering to use good descriptive words.
The second paragraph will discuss the surroundings of the subject of the essay. For the beach scenario, you could talk about the sun, birds, clouds, people and their activities, and other objects of interest in the surrounding. In the third paragraph, you bring the essay to life with a sensual description using your senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound to paint a vivid picture. The main focus here will be on the emotions the subject invokes. In both the description of the surrounding and the emotion, similes and metaphors are often used. Once you’ve exhausted the ideas you had for the body section, you can then conclude the essay.
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In the conclusion, summarize the main points, including your physical and emotional attitude and views on the topic of your descriptive essay. This section is based largely on your imagination and an analysis of the essay topic. The descriptive essay thesis statement is also reframed.
Now that you know how to structure the essay, the next thing we are going to look at is how to go about writing your descriptive essay.
The writing process
Pick a topic
The first step to writing a descriptive essay is obviously selecting a topic; if you’ve not been assigned a specific topic. The problem is that many times students find it difficult to pick a topic. As with any essay, you need to pick a subject that is not too narrow. Doing so will make it difficult for you to meet the required essay length. You may also need to consider a number of topics before you finally settle on one. The topic doesn’t necessarily have to be unique as long as you can paint a vivid picture of it and give it life. Here are some descriptive essay topics to help you figure out what to write about. I’ll get ahead of myself here a bit to give a few things to note when writing each of these categories of descriptive essays.
- Descriptive essay about a person
The subject of your descriptive essay can be your favorite person such as a family member. It can also be a friend, a neighbor, or a famous person. You could also describe yourself. Whichever person you write about should be someone that you know well. As you write the essay, remember to describe other aspects in addition to the physical characteristics. Otherwise, your descriptive essay won’t be considered good. Include personality traits in your description in a creative way. You will probably have to pick just a few traits to talk about in the body paragraphs. It is also possible for a student to struggle with how to make a conclusion paragraph for this category of essays effective. For the conclusion, summarize those traits to explain how complex or interesting the person is. Use it to explain your experience and sentiments about interacting or living with that person.
- Descriptive essay about a place
Places are a common subject for descriptive essays. You could describe a place you love, your bedroom, your favorite classroom, or your favorite store. You could also go against the tide and choose less common places to write about. Cemeteries, construction sites, hospitals, or amusement parks are not commonly selected as descriptive essay topics. The places are not limited to these so feel free to consider more. It could be a real or imagined place. What’s important is that you describe the place, its surroundings and your emotions about it well.
- Descriptive essay about a memory
You can base your essay on a vivid memory that you have. This can be the most embarrassing moment, your saddest or happiest memories, a memorable trip or concert you attended and so on. Search you memories and find one that you can vividly describe in your essay.
- Descriptive essay about an experience
Descriptive essays can be written about common experiences such as graduation. You can however select other topics such as a frightening experience you had and provide descriptive details about what happened, where, when and how you felt. Don’t forget to use your five senses. You can also write about your first day in class regarding aspects such as the classroom, the people, and how you felt during the experience.
- Descriptive essay about an object
For this type of descriptive essay, any object can be the topic. You can write about your couch if you believe you can portray the couch in a fascinating way and make the essay interesting. Unfortunately, that would be a mean feat for many. If you are not confident about your ability to write a good descriptive essay on the common items before you, go for less orthodox choices. Write about things such as a painting, your favorite childhood toy, a tattoo, or a street.
Once you’ve settled on the general topic, you need to think about what characteristics/aspects you want to include in the essay. Brainstorm on all the details about the subject, its surroundings, and emotions it invokes. Not all of the ideas you come up with here will end up in the essay but just include them. You will filter out the unnecessary ones later as you continue to plan the essay and create an outline.
Draft the essay
Guided by the outline you developed in the first step, write the essay describing the subject and structure it accordingly. The standard descriptive essay format described above will guide you on what to include in each section. Also remember the general guidelines of writing a descriptive essay and ensure that there is a logical flow in the descriptive paragraphs and throughout the essay. Some of these guidelines include:
Descriptive writing guidelines
- Appeal to the senses
When writing a descriptive essay, you need to embellish it with senses. Sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste are key sense to include in your essay. If, for instance, you are describing the new eatery you just visited, talk about what it looked like, but also includes what the place smelt like (e.g. was there a sweet aroma of food or was the air smoke-filled and stuffy?). You could also talk about the sounds that you heard while there, e.g. was there soft music or were the trucks passing outside the only thing that you could hear?
- Tap into your reservoir
A connection with the reader of your essay can only be effectively established if you are able to adequately describe the emotions. Therefore, when writing the descriptive essay, think about what you felt for instance if you are describing an experience. Tap into the feelings of joy, loss, or complacency to write descriptively and effectively create the image you want in the readers’ minds.
- Don’t just tell, show
As the descriptive essay definition indicates, the aim is to paint a picture using words. You can achieve this by using vivid language which will help you show the reader what you are talking about. Choose your words carefully when writing the essay. Avoid vague words. In their place, use more specific words that paint a clearer picture of what you are describing. For instance, rather than simply using ‘horse’, opt for words that paint a stronger, clearer image such as a ‘swift stallion’. This gives the reader the picture of a courser, male horse. It’s not enough to say ‘the woman wore old clothes’. That is simply telling. Show by including more details such as ‘the woman wore a faded dress that was torn on one side and looked as though a rat had made a meal out of the hem’.
There are a lot of good descriptive words that you can use to make the picture you want to create clear. These include adverbs such as angrily, quickly, and lazily; adjectives such as smart, brave, grim, mellow, luxurious, and agreeable, and gerunds such as running, walking, and grazing. Similes and metaphors will also feature in a good descriptive essay. Just remember that the descriptive words you use should flow freely.
- Be clear and concise
A key requirement for writing a good descriptive essay is being concise. The level of conciseness is not as high as that of other essays since you have the freedom to add descriptive words. However, that freedom doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Most importantly, the details included in the essay should be relevant to the subject of the essay. As with any other essay or written literature, the reader won’t necessarily appreciate all the details you provide. In fact, if you fill the essay with unnecessary things, s/he might get bored. Descriptive doesn’t mean that you should go on and on describing a single thing or something that is not crucial to the topic. For instance, if you are describing a surprise party you had, it’s not really necessary to tell the reader about the three, tiled stairs at the door. You should also purpose to use words that are relevant to paint the picture you want to present clearly. Remember to describe without being too wordy and leave the clichés out of your essay.
- Be organized
A great descriptive essay idea can be turned into a boring, impossible-to-read piece of writing when it lacks organization. As you write your descriptive essay, be careful not to rumble incoherently. This is an easy trap to fall into and should be avoided at all costs. Furnish your essay with logical, organized description that will give the reader a clear picture of what you are trying to describe.
The aim should be to leave a strong appreciation for whatever you are describing in the reader’s minds. If you are able to make the reader feel as though s/he was the one relaxing or walking down the beach you just described or crave the pizza you just wrote about, you are on your way to being a great descriptive writer.
Once you are done creating the draft, you should go through the essay again, reorganizing and modifying it as you deem necessary to ensure that the entire essay has a logical flow. As you do these, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- The paragraphs should describe the subject and unfold in such a way that allows easy reading and appreciation of the subject. It should not confuse the reader.
- The language and word choice should involve the five senses and portray emotion and meaning.
- The details provided should be enough to give readers a clear, comprehensive picture.
- Will the reader identify with the conclusion?
Go through the essay removing grammatical mistakes and errors in mechanics, clichés, and overuse of adjectives and adverbs. Another pair of eyes can help you weed out these issues. Once done with this step, you should have a good, error-free descriptive essay ready for submission.
Hopefully, after going through this article, you have an idea about how to write a good descriptive essay. You’ll also find a lot of descriptive essay examples online to further assist you in writing your essay. You can also get assistance in the form of quality custom essays to use as a descriptive essay sample from Writingelites.net.