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How to Write a Descriptive Essay

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

...and so we lit a bonfire, purging the shadow from the forest.

Words can paint an image worth millions. Writers like Stephen King and Charles Dickens have created entire worlds using descriptive writing techniques.

A descriptive essay is your gateway to immersive writing. Whether it’s for brilliant copywriting (For sale: baby shoes, never worn. - Hemingway), or memorable prose - learning how to write a descriptive essay will catapult you to storytelling heights.

In this article, we examine the descriptive essay and present a cohesive step-by-step writing guide. Stick around for helpful writing tips near the end!

Also, check out EssayPro, if you need private tutoring or additional help.


Table Of Contents

What is a Descriptive Essay?

A descriptive essay is a type of composition which describes an object, a person, a process or an event.

The writer’s goal is to create a vivid reading experience; to show instead of telling.

Descriptive writing usually appeals to the five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. (Ex: Jack’s coffee mug exploded into tiny shards of glass, catching the attention of everyone at the office.)
Always appealing to the senses is key to writing a good descriptive essay.

Here’s a list of what your descriptive essay could be about:

  • People

  • Places

  • Memories

  • Experiences

  • Objects

When writing the descriptive essay, your goal will be to paint a comprehensive picture for the reader, appealing to the five senses.

Last but not least, your essay should have a purpose. It could be anything from a lesson you learned from experience to a story of how an object impacted your life.

It’s all about making your bright ideas come to life!

Cool Topics & Ideas

Finding descriptive essay topics isn’t hard. You can describe pretty much anything, from your favorite car to the weather today.

We’ve gathered some ideas to help you get started. Hopefully, you’ll find good descriptive essay topics which will spark your imagination!

Choosing a person to describe

One idea for a topic is to describe a person. Choose a person who you know well; doing this gives you a lot to write about. You can also portray fictional characters or celebrities!

  • Family members, friends, teachers, etc.

  • A celebrity who exposes most of their private life to the media: The Kardashians, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, etc.

  • A popular superhero like Spider-Man. Such fictional figures have undergone many character studies from both academic and non-academic perspectives.

Describing an Object or a Place

You may also describe an object or a place with which you have a significant connection. This could be your high school, a playground, or a toy which used to scare you as a kid. Fictional places also count!

  • The city where you grew up
  • Buckingham Palace
  • A place that gives you the creeps
  • Your favorite dream car
  • Harry Potter’s wand

Describing an Emotion

Remember your most sincere emotion and turn it into a beautiful essay. You may choose a strong emotion like: anger, happiness, loss, desire, or rage. It doesn’t have to be a personal emotion; it could be an observation.

  • Brotherly love

  • Kid getting frustrated while playing a video game

  • Feeling on top of the world

You can write a descriptive essay about anything you can describe!

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

Creating an Outline

When thinking how to write a descriptive essay, remember that a structured paper outline is your golden ticket. Not only does it help you organize thoughts, but it will also help your essays flow better!

A descriptive essay outline is composed of the following: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Prior to writing, you have to know the topic of your essay! Hopefully, you spent enough time considering the victim of description, because all of your illustrations will be based around it!

Introduction

The introduction serves to introduce your subject to the reader and give them enough context to fully understand your essay.

As with any college paper, a descriptive essay introduction must contain the following points:

  • Hook Sentence: Although the entire essay should be full of exciting and vivid descriptions, grabbing the reader's attention from the very beginning is ideal!

  • Context / Background Information: Tell the reader what you’re about to describe and explain why it is important to you. Give them a brief context for your paper.

  • Thesis Statement: The descriptive essay thesis should be a short, but concise summary of the essay. It must include the subject of description, and your purpose for describing it. For further information on how to write a thesis for a descriptive essay, check out the examples below.

PLACE
If you were writing an essay about Buckingham Palace: “Even though monarchy is long gone, Buckingham Palace serves to remind us of the aesthetic beauty which that era built.”

PERSON
For an essay describing Spider-Man: “The defining characteristics of Spider-Man are his youthfulness, New York City, and the fact that he talks to himself more than Hamlet.”

EMOTION
An essay about a personal experience of fear: “For many reasons, the dark forest is my greatest fear, though not a fear which is necessarily smart to face.”

Body Paragraph(s)

There are usually three body paragraphs in an essay. They cover three different points or arguments.

How many body paragraphs to include in your descriptive essay is entirely up to you. Sometimes it takes a sentence to tell a story while other times it takes books.

How to start a body paragraph for a descriptive essay: Let’s say you are describing an orange. Your description comprises three main points: the Look, the Smell, and the Taste.

  1. Start with a topic sentence: The orange looks familiar; it is a round citrus fruit whose color matches its name.

  2. Sensory details: When describing the orange, appeal to relatable senses.

As you peel back the orange, you immediately recognize the fresh smell of sweet citrus, and it reminds you of winter.

  1. Include factual details: Always include factual details within your body paragraphs.

60s oranges are known to have tasted sweeter. Today, most fruits come from large farms, and they are filled with chemicals to keep them artificially ripe.

  1. Finish a body paragraph by introducing the next: Transition sentences are important because they create immersion within your writing. Better than reading a list of facts.

Now that we’ve talked about the smell of the orange, let’s talk about its sweet taste.

Conclusion

Reflection is Key: The first thing to do in the end is to reflect on the initial purpose of the essay. Spill the beans on why you decided to write about this subject, and how this subject has affected your life.

Signify the Importance of the Details: Next, go over some key moments of the essay. Give a summary of what you have covered, and prepare the audience for the clincher statement.

Clincher Statement: The clincher is the final sentence which reinforces an overall purpose or leaves your audience with an intriguing thought, question or quotation.

You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking of a hook to pull the audience in! Do NOT allow the essay to escape their thoughts right after they finish reading it.

Here’s an excellent descriptive essay conclusion example for your reference.

descriptive essay outline example

Writing and Reviewing Your Paper

The secret to writing great papers lies in the final step: reviewing your paper.

After you finish writing, take a break. It’s always best to clear your mind before editing your paper. When you come back to your descriptive essay, here are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you provided enough context in the introduction?

  • Is the paper easy to read?

  • Does the thesis correlate with the content of the paper?

  • Does the paper feature vivid, descriptive language?

  • Will the clincher statement leave a lasting impact?

  • Overall, if you were the reader, would this paper make sense to you?

  • Are there no problems with grammar and punctuation?

Sometimes web applications like Grammarly or Hemingwayapp can help you sort your grammar. However, it’s always best to master the rules yourself and become the best writer you could be.

Check out our punctuation guide for more info!

When you’re convinced you have the final draft, read it out loud or give it to a friend. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism to tie up loose ends in your writing.

Some Good Examples

Descriptive Essay Example

Descriptive Essay Example

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

As the article articulates very well, my advice when writing descriptive essays is always to show and not tell. In order to captivate the reader, describing an event with sensory details is very important. This will come in handy in any creative writing that you do or on your application essays. When experimenting with describing imagery, make sure to avoid doing two things: focusing on too many details at once and using too many adjectives and adverbs. If you are describing actions, then adverbs are your worst enemy. Attempt to replace them whenever you write anything creative or descriptive. Besides, when you write descriptively make sure to pick out details that are very important to the story to focus the reader’s attention on particular points. For example, if you are writing a descriptive essay about your camping trip, you would probably be describing the trip as opposed to the sky or the birds. Best of luck writing your descriptive essay.

Professor Isabella, from EssayPro

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