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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 great 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 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?

The descriptive essay definition explains that this paper is a type of composition which describes an object, a person, a process or an event.

The writer’s goal is to create:

  • 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!

Descriptive Essay 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.

  • 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 famous 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 the most sincere emotion and turn it into a descriptive essay. You may choose a strong feeling 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 according to human senses: touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing!

what-to-describe@2x

Creating a Descriptive Essay 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. It is important to 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, but keep it brief and interesting to the reader.

When learning how to write a descriptive essay introduction, remember - the first paragraph of your paper is the part that makes your descriptive essay stand out from the others.

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 crucial 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:

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

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

  3. Include actual details: Always include descriptive information within your body paragraphs.

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

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.

According to the descriptive essay format, the conclusion should be a summary of all of the main points in the body text.

It’s a good idea to write a final sentence related to the main point.

Once this is done, the paper is now complete. It is advisable to proofread the descriptive essay to correct any grammatical errors.

Writing and Reviewing Your Descriptive 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 Hemingway app 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 to 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.

Descriptive Essay Good Examples

This is a commonly assigned and most opted-for form of an essay. Why not have a look at our written descriptive essay examples. In this section, you can find some of the top examples and quotes followed by some critique.

Example 1: Artifacts, Features, and Ecofacts of The 21st Century

The writer of this descriptive essay example is explaining that there was a lot of life before humans existed. The world was full of Blue Jey and North Cardinal birds that most probably ate pansy seeds as a stable diet.It in this example is it is clear that the writer has put himself/herself in a perspective of someone in the far future. He/she is describing how we were in the 21st century, and how we used the poles as communication portals.

Example 2: What It Is Like to Play Rugby

In the eye of the untrained, a rugby game is just bunch of huge individuals senselessly fighting one another, struggling to move an oval ball inch by inch down a field full of mad towards the goal line of the opponent team. Players don’t put on pads nor get timeout in case of injuries except a two-minute deadline to get on. But rugby is a totally different thing, a gentleman sport, to those who understand it. While rugby appears rough, its players maintain good respect toward both teammates and opponents.

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