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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is a descriptive essay?
The descriptive essay is a genre of essay that asks the student to describe something—object, person, place, experience, emotion, situation, etc. This genre encourages the student’s ability to create a written account of a particular experience. What is more, this genre allows for a great deal of artistic freedom (the goal of which is to paint an image that is vivid and moving in the mind of the reader).
One might benefit from keeping in mind this simple maxim: If the reader is unable to clearly form an impression of the thing that you are describing, try, try again!
Here are some guidelines for writing a descriptive essay.
- Take time to brainstorm
If your instructor asks you to describe your favorite food, make sure that you jot down some ideas before you begin describing it. For instance, if you choose pizza, you might start by writing down a few words: sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, sausage, spices, hot, melted, etc. Once you have written down some words, you can begin by compiling descriptive lists for each one.
- Use clear and concise language.
This means that words are chosen carefully, particularly for their relevancy in relation to that which you are intending to describe.
- Choose vivid language.
Why use horse when you can choose stallion ? Why not use tempestuous instead of violent ? Or why not miserly in place of cheap ? Such choices form a firmer image in the mind of the reader and often times offer nuanced meanings that serve better one’s purpose.
- Use your senses!
Remember, if you are describing something, you need to be appealing to the senses of the reader. Explain how the thing smelled, felt, sounded, tasted, or looked. Embellish the moment with senses.
- What were you thinking?!
If you can describe emotions or feelings related to your topic, you will connect with the reader on a deeper level. Many have felt crushing loss in their lives, or ecstatic joy, or mild complacency. Tap into this emotional reservoir in order to achieve your full descriptive potential.
- Leave the reader with a clear impression.
One of your goals is to evoke a strong sense of familiarity and appreciation in the reader. If your reader can walk away from the essay craving the very pizza you just described, you are on your way to writing effective descriptive essays.
- Be organized!
It is easy to fall into an incoherent rambling of emotions and senses when writing a descriptive essay. However, you must strive to present an organized and logical description if the reader is to come away from the essay with a cogent sense of what it is you are attempting to describe.
Descriptive Essay - A Complete Guide
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Published on: Aug 18, 2018
Last updated on: Feb 28, 2023
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Are you eager to write compelling descriptive essays but don't know how to start?
A descriptive essay describes something - a person, an event, a place, or a personal experience in detail. The purpose of this essay is to provide enough detail about the topic to enable the reader to picture it.
If you want to learn how to write an excellent descriptive essay, this blog is for you!
Here’s a complete guide to help you write good descriptive essays. Along with a step-by-step guide, you’ll also get impressive example essays to learn from.
So let’s get into it!
What Is a Descriptive Essay?
A descriptive essay gives a detailed description of the topic and paints a picture with words in the reader’s mind. It could be about an object, place, person, emotion, situation, or anything.
It is used to sharpen the analytical abilities of the students, which is helpful in further education and professional life. Therefore, it is often given to students in high school and college.
According to the descriptive essay definition,
“It is a type of essay that is used to describe an event, a place, a person, or anything in detail.”
This essay encourages the student’s ability to create an image by appealing to the senses of the reader.
Purpose of a Descriptive Essay
The purpose of writing a descriptive essay is to describe something such as a person, object, place, or situation.
Descriptive speech or essays give readers a clear picture of the essay subject. The writer should make use of vivid language to help the reader understand what the essay is all about.
It does not involve convincing readers or showing factual information to prove something like an argumentative essay does. Instead, it aims to show all the important details about the chosen subject to make the reader understand the subject easily.
Here’s a short video that explains descriptive writing:
Types of Descriptive Essay
Descriptive essays can come in two types: formal and personal.
Personal Descriptive Essay
The personal descriptive essay is a subjective descriptive essay. It aims to describe the writers' own feelings and perceptions of the topic.
It is often written in a first-person point-of-view, allowing readers to understand the writer's personal experiences.
Here are a few examples of personal essay topics:
- The moment that changed my life forever.
- My experience overcoming a fear or phobia.
- A significant challenge I faced and how I overcame it.
- My cultural or family background and how it has influenced me.
- A time I failed and what I learned from the experience.
Formal Descriptive Essay
The formal descriptive essay is an objective descriptive essay. It relies on facts and evidence to describe the object or event – without using any emotion or opinion from the writer.
These essays are valuable in the sciences or other fields of study where finding accurate information is crucial. They are often used to write academic papers, such as research reports.
Some possible topics for formal descriptions could be:
- The architecture of a historical building
- The process of making a traditional dish
- The unique characteristics of a rare gemstone
- The layout and features of a city park
- The cultural significance of a religious monument
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Elements of a Descriptive Essay
There are five basic features of a descriptive essay:
A descriptive essay involves arousing the emotions of the readers and creating an association with them. Sensory details paint a picture of the subject for the reader and engage their senses like sight, touch, smell, and taste.
Using figurative language is one of the main elements of a descriptive essay. The use of metaphors, similes, adjectives, adverbs, etc. creates the character sketch of the subject. This sketch helps the readers feel what the writer felt about the subject and helps him visualize the subject.
The central theme shapes and directs the essay’s content and helps organize the details. It should be well defined and focused on a single point.
The effect of your essay depends on the type of language that you have used in it. The language should emphasize the main theme and aim of the essay. Therefore, avoid using vague and ambiguous words.
An organized structure is an essential element of this essay. Also, the chronology, spatial location, and order play an important role.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay?
Writing an effective descriptive essay involves topic selection, creating an outline of parts of the descriptive essay, organizing ideas, and adding relevant information to the essay.
The following is the process of descriptive writing.
How to Start a Descriptive Essay
1. choose a topic.
Choosing a good topic for your essay is important. The essay topic should be attractive so that it compels the reader to stay with you throughout the essay.
2. Create an Outline
Draft a descriptive essay outline to organize your information in a proper sequence. It will help you structure your essay and remind you to include all the sensory details.
3. Write a Descriptive Essay Introduction
The essay begins with an introduction. It introduces the main topic and includes a strong opinion that creates the first impression of the essay. The introduction gives a brief overview of what the essay is going to be about.
4. Craft an Informative Thesis Statement
A descriptive essay thesis statement defines the scope and purpose of the essay. It is a narrow subject line, which should be clear and precise. Write the statement in a creative way and choose descriptive words for it.
Creating mystery in your thesis statement attracts the reader to the body of your essay.
Writing the Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs support the introduction and follow the direction as defined in the thesis statement. Here’s how you write a body paragraph:
- Use topic sentences as the first sentence of each paragraph. A topic sentence states the main point of a paragraph.
- Connect the topic sentence to the thesis.
- Present evidence and explain how it supports your argument in that paragraph.
- Organize your paragraphs properly in an orderly form, in case of experience and memories.
- Summarize the key points in each body paragraph.
Finally, make sure that body paragraphs are connected to each other through transition words or phrases.
Ending with a Strong Descriptive Essay Conclusion
The conclusion is the last part of the essay according to the descriptive essay format. This is your last chance to impress the reader.
It summarizes and provides a way forward from the essay. The following steps will help you write an excellent conclusion.
- Use the appropriate transition words such as “to finish with”, “in conclusion” and ‘lastly’ suggesting an end to the essay.
- Summarize the main points of your essay in a clear and concise manner
- Discuss how the details from the body of your essay support the initial thesis statement.
- Offer final thoughts on the subject matter that will leave an impression on the reader. It could be food for thought or a call to action.
The last sentence of the essay should finalize the writer’s aim of writing the essay and provide an everlasting effect.
Descriptive Essay Topics
Whether you are writing about a person or a place, your topic should have good supporting points that explain the topic.
Choosing an engaging topic will develop curiosity and hook the reader to the last bit of the essay. Here we have prepared a list of amazing descriptive essay topics for you.
Descriptive Essay About a Place
- Depict the Lincoln Castle in your own words.
- What does the house of your dreams look like?
- Make a description of the Safari Park you visited last week.
- Describe a conference room situation for your colleagues.
- Describe how you imagine Niagara falls.
Descriptive Essay About a Memory
- Describe one of the earliest memories of your childhood.
- What is the happiest memory in your mind?
- How you have celebrated your best friend's birthday
- When I saw the apple plant seed
- The first time I went abroad
Descriptive Essay About a Person
- Portray Nelson Mandela as a role model.
- Explain how you imagine aliens to be like.
- Write a character sketch of a character from the play Hamlet.
- Describe one of your family members.
- A stranger I met in the lobby.
Descriptive Essay About an Object
- My lucky watch
- My favorite badminton racket
- The flask I broke
- The silk road
- The thing that you passionately wanted to buy
Descriptive Essay About an Emotion
- The feeling of love
- The sense of peace
- The thrill of fear
- The power of anger
- The beauty of joy
Descriptive Essay Topics for University Students
- Describe the feeling of attending your first college class.
- Illustrate the effects of living and studying on a college campus.
- Describe a meaningful experience you had with a professor in college.
- Illustrate the importance of participating in extracurricular activities during university years.
- Describe the impact of financial aid and scholarships on college education.
Want more topics? We’ve got a list of hundreds of descriptive essay topics for you, so be sure to check them out.
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Descriptive Essay Examples
You should read some good essay examples before writing your own essay. An essay example would help you demonstrate, compile, and organize your essay in a structured form.
Below we have provided some amazing examples to help you know the process.
A School Lunch Hall Descriptive Essay Example
The Weekend Market Descriptive Essay Sample
Descriptive Essay on Historical Place
Descriptive Essay on a Teacher that I Remember
Descriptive Essay on my Village
My Favorite Place Descriptive Essay
5 Paragraph Essay - Descriptive Essay PDF
The ultimate aim of this practice is to identify and learn different techniques for writing an impressive descriptive essay. Find more descriptive essay examples to read and learn from.
Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay
Here are some tips for writing a descriptive essay:
- Choose a specific topic: Your essay should focus on a specific person, place, object, or event that you can vividly describe.
- Use sensory details: Sensory details are descriptive words and phrases that help your reader experience the subject of your essay through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
- Organize your essay: Your essay should have a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Consider using a chronological or spatial organization to help your reader understand the sequence of events or the layout of the subject.
- Show, don't tell: Instead of simply telling your reader what you are describing, show them through specific examples and sensory details.
- Use figurative language: Similes, metaphors, and other forms of figurative language can help you convey the emotions and feelings associated with your subject.
Summing it up,
Descriptive essay writing is a skill that requires thorough practice. It involves the ability to craft an engaging story with vivid descriptions, sounding as realistic as possible.
The above-mentioned steps and examples are a great way for students to learn writing a descriptive essay.
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- Literary Terms
I. what is a descriptive essay.
A descriptive essay is an essay that describes something – an object or person, an event or place, an experience or emotion, or an idea. The goal of this kind of essay is to provide readers with enough detailed descriptions for them to be able to picture or imagine the chosen topic.
II. Examples of Descriptive Essays
The list of possible topics is nearly endless. The best topics are those that the author knows well and can clearly imagine. A writer should also consider what may be interesting to their audience.
- The first day of spring (an experience)
- Your best friend (a person)
- Honesty or trust (ideas)
- Courage/bravery (idea)
- Nervousness/fear (emotions)
- Happiness/fun of kite flying (emotion)
- A museum sculpture (an object)
- A ride on the subway (an event)
- Your bedroom (place)
- A leaf, seashell, or other small object
III. Types of Descriptive Essays with Topics
Even though there are countless topics for a descriptive essay, a writer only has to use two types of description. The first type of description is used for concrete topics, and the second is used when the essay describes an abstract topic.
A topic about something concrete is something that you can see, touch or taste, hear, or smell – in other words, something concrete can be described with your senses.
Describing an abstract topic is more challenging. Ideas and emotions are abstract topics – they cannot be touched. Therefore, it is difficult to describe them with our senses. In order to write a descriptive essay of this type, writers often turn to context – experiences or situations – that point the reader towards understanding the topic.
IV. Parts of a descriptive essay with examples
A. clear topic.
A descriptive essay must focus clearly on the topic. The topic should be as specific as you can make it. A vague topic makes it difficult to focus on. In addition, if the description includes a time, place, or point-of-view, the writer must make that clear.
b. Sensory description or context
Depending on whether the topic is concrete or abstract, a large part of a descriptive essay will be sensory description or context. This part of the essay has enough details and information for readers to clearly imagine whatever is being described ( see part III for examples ).
c. Conclusion with purpose
A strong descriptive essay leaves the reader with a strong image or impression of the topic. A purposeful conclusion helps the reader see the value or importance of the topic. In other words, it states the purpose or point of the essay.
V. How to write a descriptive essay
Remember these writing goals when writing a descriptive essay.
a. Use your senses
Think about all five of your senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, taste) when you write about your topic. Let your readers ‘see’ your topic with two or three senses.
b. Consider your point of view
Many descriptive essays use a straightforward look at their topic, but sometimes a creative point of view lets your readers see the topic in a new light. For instance, you can describe a tree from the point of view of a bird, or items in your bedroom described by a person from the past. Writing a descriptive essay with a creative point of view can be very effective, but be aware of what your audience wants!
c. Consider figurative language
Descriptive essays are all about imagery. Similes and metaphors can create vivid images to your descriptive writing.
d. Don’t slip into narrative
A descriptive essay should ‘paint a picture’ — not show a movie. You won’t see dialogue, a chain of events, or characters (unless a character is the topic) in a descriptive essay. Keep your essay focused on a single, steady image.
e. Be clear with your word-choice
A successful narrative essay requires careful word choice. Take a close look at the adjectives (describing words) you use. See if you can find a more specific or descriptive word. Also make sure you use clear, active verbs ( action words).
f. Search for unique details
Find small, interesting details that others may not see. Think about focusing your description in a way that will give your audience a new view on something they might’ve already seen.
List of Terms
- APA Citation
- Comic Relief
- Deus ex machina
- Double Entendre
- Dramatic irony
- Extended Metaphor
- Figures of Speech
- Literary Device
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Rhetorical Device
- Rhetorical Question
- Science Fiction
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
- Turning Point
- Urban Legend
- Essay Guide
- Cite This Website
Definition of descriptive essay.
A descriptive essay , as the name implies, is a form of essay that describes something. In this genre , students are assigned the task of describing objects, things, places, experiences, persons, and situations. The students use sensory information to enable readers to use their five senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight to understand the topic of the essay.
Qualities of a Descriptive Essay
Difference between a description and a descriptive essay, examples of descriptive essays in literature, example #1: the corner store (by eudora welty).
“Our Little Store rose right up from the sidewalk; standing in a street of family houses, it alone hadn’t any yard in front, any tree or flower bed. It was a plain frame building covered over with brick. Above the door, a little railed porch ran across on an upstairs level and four windows with shades were looking out. But I didn’t catch on to those. Running in out of the sun, you met what seemed total obscurity inside. There were almost tangible smells — licorice recently sucked in a child’s cheek, dill pickle brine1 that had leaked through a paper sack in a fresh trail across the wooden floor, ammonia-loaded ice that had been hoisted from wet croker sacks and slammed into the icebox with its sweet butter at the door, and perhaps the smell of still untrapped mice.”
Example #2: And the Orchestra Played On (by Joanne Lipman)
“The hinges creaked when I opened the decrepit case. I was greeted by a cascade of loose horsehair — my bow a victim of mites, the repairman later explained. It was pure agony to twist my fingers into position. But to my astonishment and that of my teenage children — who had never heard me play — I could still manage a sound. “It turned out, a few days later, that there were 100 people just like me. When I showed up at a local school for rehearsal, there they were: five decades worth of former students. There were doctors and accountants, engineers and college professors. There were people who hadn’t played in decades, sitting alongside professionals like Mr. K.’s daughter Melanie, now a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There were generations of music teachers.”
In the first paragraph of this descriptive excerpt, the author clearly describes the decrepit nature of the violin case, as well as the damage time has done to the bow. The second paragraph is a description of the characters , and their similarities. Both use sensory information for effective descriptions.
Example #3: Yarn (by Koyoko Mori)
“The yellow mittens I made in seventh-grade home economics proved that I dreamed in color. For the unit on knitting, we were 1 supposed to turn in a pair of mittens. The two hands had to be precisely the same size so that when we held them together, palm to palm, no extra stitches would stick out from the thumb, the tip of the fingers, or the cuff. Somewhere between making the fourth and the fifth mitten to fulfill this requirement, I dreamed that the ball of yellow yarn in my bag had turned green. Chartreuse, leaf, Granny Smith, lime, neon, acid green. The brightness was electric. I woke up knowing that I was, once again, doomed for a D in home ec.”
Example #4: The Taj Mahal (by Salman Rushdie)
“And this, finally, is why the Taj Mahal must be seen: to remind us that the world is real, that the sound is truer than the echo, the original more forceful than its image in a mirror. The beauty of beautiful things is still able, in these image-saturated times, to transcend imitations. And the Taj Mahal is, beyond the power of words to say it, a lovely thing, perhaps the loveliest of things.”
Function of Descriptive Essay
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What Is a Descriptive Essay? Examples and Guide
- DESCRIPTION student with orange sweater using laptop computer taking notes with descriptive essay definition
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Have you ever had a really delicious cookie? Just the most perfectly balanced sweetness with chunks of melty chocolate and a little salt to bring it all together? And have you described it to a friend, family member, or curious stranger? If you’re nodding your head, you have already partaken in the writing tradition known as the descriptive essay (at least a little bit). With some polishing and tightening up, you can turn that description of a baked good into an award-winning piece of writing.
What Is a Descriptive Essay?
A descriptive essay is sort of what it says on the tin. It’s a type of essay that involves describing a person or object, though it can really extend to any sort of noun , like a place, event, experience, or emotion. If you think that seems pretty broad, you’re right. You’re technically describing something in every essay.
What makes the descriptive essay notable is that focus on description — the details, colors, feelings, sights, and sounds. Some descriptive essays might have a slight argument in their theses, but it’s not really a requirement. Your thesis statement could be as simple as “I had a cookie that changed my entire life.”
You can think of “descriptive essay” as more of an umbrella category. It can encompass other essay types , particularly analytical essays , expository essays , and personal narrative essays .
Ideas for Descriptive Essay Topics
Truly, the hardest part of descriptive essays is coming up with a topic. You really do have your entire world to potentially write about, which is understandably daunting for anyone.
Just remember that you can quite literally describe anything as long as you yourself find it interesting enough to write about. That might include:
- A long nature hike through beautiful surroundings
- Your favorite sport or a specific game/match that was memorable
- Your most recent birthday and all the things that have shaped you in the past
- A country or city, broken down into geography, climate, politics, religion, and culture
- A historical event, including its causes, ramifications, and consequences
- A news story that includes context about the people involved, information about where it occurred, and insight into other events it links to
General Format and Structure of a Descriptive Essay
There isn’t a set format for descriptive essays. A lot of it really comes down to the subject that you’re describing and your own approach to how you experience things, and it turns out that we all experience and see things differently.
A good outline structure that you can start with might look like this.
- Write a hook that helps your reader relate to the senses you’re tapping into.
- Provide some general background about the thing you’re describing.
- Form a thesis statement that makes a claim (but may not necessarily include an argument or opinion).
- Provide a topic sentence introducing the subject.
- Give an in-depth physical description of the subject.
- Describe your subject within its given context, like its physical surroundings or temporal environment.
- Describe how the subject emotionally or mentally affected those who interacted or experienced it.
- Restate your thesis about the subject’s description.
- Consider the subject (and its description) outside of what you’ve already mentioned in the essay. How might it apply to other people or society at large?
Obviously, if you have a different angle, go with that. For example, if you’re going more for a personal essay, the structure might have more of a narrative (beginning, middle, end) format.
Descriptive Essay Examples
With a better understanding of how to approach a descriptive essay, you’re ready to prosper and write an essay of your own. We can’t write your essay for you because we don’t know your subject, but you will absolutely have more interesting and insightful descriptions than us. However, if you need some tips for writing descriptive essays , we can give you a descriptive essay example to guide your way.
- DESCRIPTION descriptive essay full example with labels
- SOURCE Created by Karina Goto for YourDictionary
- PERMISSION Owned by YourDictionary, Copyright YourDictionary
Example of a Descriptive Essay Introduction
Your introduction exists to provide a little background context for your essay. What’s difficult with a descriptive essay is that you want your introduction to intrigue without giving away too much of your description (that’s what the body of your essay is for).
Home is where the heart is, but not everyone has the same heart. For some, a home is four walls, some furniture, and a fireplace. For others, home is a cactus, sand dunes, and a nearby oasis. Comfort is subjective, and the only comfort I have known is from the mud and gunk of my humble swamp.
Sample Body Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay
Unlike with other essay forms, you do not have to worry about providing evidence. You obviously can if you think it’ll help you with your description, but it’s largely about you and your experience of the subject. Outside evidence is purely secondary at that point.
A swamp, a bog, a quagmire, whatever you might call it, my swamp is the only place I would ever consider home. The climate ranges with the season, and the mud pits offer a surprising level of insulation from the weather, never too hot or too cold. Nights are filled with the sounds of crickets, toads, and the wayward donkey, the soft sounds of the angry village in the distance.
Descriptive Essay Conclusion Example
The crux of your descriptive essay will feel mostly concrete as it focuses on the subject at hand and your experience of it through the five senses. The conclusion is where you can go outside of that, and expand outward to include larger ideas and themes. In fact, if you really wanted, you could use the conclusion to essentially create an opinion or argument that could become the thesis for an entirely different essay.
To many, the swamp might seem like a scary and unwelcoming space, but for me, that is part of its charm. It is a place of warmth and love if you look close enough, and much like an onion, it is a place of layers. The humble bog may be the most ideal environment to live, and yet part of its appeal is that it is not for everyone. That is the ideal home; a place that perfectly fits you.
Descriptive Essay: Definition, Examples & Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay
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When you are asked to write an essay , there are many different types to choose from. One such type is the descriptive essay which is favoured by a lot of authors. In this article, we are going to be looking at the descriptive essay in a little more detail such as what they are used for and how you can write a good descriptive essay yourself. We are also going to take a look at an example of a well written descriptive essay and a selection of topics about which you could write.
Table of Contents
What Is A Descriptive Essay?
A descriptive essay is one which is used in order to describe something. These essays can describe anything from a person or place to an item or idea. The idea of the descriptive essay is to give the author a chance to hone their writing skills by way of description. On top of this, the descriptive essay is a great chance for the author to use their creative skills – the more vivid the description, the more the reader can picture clearly what is being talked about. This means that the writer should employ all their skills to paint an image for the audience.
How To Write A Good Descriptive Essay
Now that we have a good understanding of what a descriptive essay is, we are going to take a look at some handy tips for how to write one and the process that should be followed in order to create a convincing descriptive essay.
Choose A Topic
Any essay requires an engaging topic and the descriptive essay is no exception to this rule. When choosing a topic, you should choose something which you have an interest in as this will make you more passionate about your writing. There are a whole host of things you could write about so let’s take a look at some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
- Describe a summer holiday.
- Describe your oldest memory.
- Describe a member of your family .
- Describe a book you have read.
- Describe a movie you have seen.
- Describe an invention.
- Describe a place that means a lot to you.
- Describe your ideal home or room.
- Describe something from your imagination.
- Describe an outfit or an item of clothing.
- Describe a piece of jewellery.
Create An Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is used to lay out the purpose of the essay and should be referred back to at varying points throughout your writing. It should be included in the introduction so that your readers are clear on what the essay is about.
Speak To The Senses
When planning your essay it is important to remember that a descriptive essay should appeal to the senses. When describing your subject you should include how it looks, smells, how things taste, what can be heard and how something feels. It is important to lay out these senses in your essay outline as using these will create a much clearer picture for the reader.
Create Your Essay Outline
An essay outline is used to order your ideas and make rough notes of anything that is to be included in the work. Every essay should be written with the assistance of an essay outline, and it should look something like this:
- Introduction -Include your thesis statement, a hook to grab the attention of the reader (this could be a personal story, anecdote , joke or fact) and a little bit about the purpose of the essay.
- Body 1st paragraph -This section will detail the first point of your essay. In the case of a descriptive essay, you might detail how something looks in the first paragraph. A traditional essay is made up of three body paragraphs and each of these should be outlined too. That being said, there is some leeway when writing an essay and you can write more or less body paragraphs depending on what you need.
- Conclusion -This final part of your essay outline should refer back to the thesis statement and sum up all the ideas which have been presented throughout the essay.
Further Tips For Writing A Descriptive Essay
In order to write a clear, concise and easy to read descriptive essay, there are some more points that you should consider whilst writing. These tips will help you to construct an essay which will be well received and credited.
- Make sure that you take the time to properly brainstorm before you begin writing your descriptive essay. This is important because it will help you to make sure that you include all of your ideas and miss nothing out.
- The language that you use within your essay should be concise and clear, making it easy for the reader to get a grasp of. Whilst you want to use colourful descriptions that easily paint a picture, you do not want to over-complicate the language and therefore make the essay unreadable.
- Consider using synonyms (understandable ones) to make your writing sound more intelligent and creative. These will also add to the descriptive flair of this type of essay.
Example Of A Descriptive Essay
In order to gain a greater understanding of what a well written descriptive essay looks like, we are now going to take a look at an extract from a descriptive essay called ‘Yarn’ written by Kyoko Mori .
Those yellow mittens which I had made in 7th grade home ec had proven that I dreamt in colour. For the section about knitting, we were 1) meant to create a pair of mittens and 2) the hands must be the same size, so when they were held together, none of the stitches would stick out of the thumb, the fingers or from the cuff. Somewhere, in between the making of the 4th and the 5th mitten to meet this requirement, I dreamt that the yellow ball of yarn which was in my bag turned green. It was so bright, it was eclectic, I awoke in the knowledge that, once again, I was doomed for a D in that class.
Descriptive Essay Infographic
D D Dd Dd Dd D Dd. D. Dd. D. D. Dd . Dd. D. D.. S..
This is so clearly explained, especially for young readers. Well done.
Thank you for this, really helpful
hard for me but okay and because I am a kid
How to Write a Descriptive Essay
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 custom writers at EssayPro — political science essay service, if you need private tutoring or essay editing.
What is a Descriptive Essay?
The definition of a descriptive essay is a type of composition or paper which describes an object, person, process, or event. The writer’s goal is to create a vivid reading experience, or to show instead of tell (metaphorically).
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.
When writing a descriptive essay, your goal will be to paint a comprehensive picture for the reader by appealing to the five senses. Last but not least, your work should have a purpose. It could be anything from a lesson you learned from an experience, to a story of how an object impacted your life. It’s all about making your bright ideas come to life.
Difference Between a Description and a Descriptive Essay
When writing this type of paper, you should know the difference between a description and a descriptive essay. A description can be just a simple paragraph, or several ones with no specific structure, meanwhile, a descriptive essay has five or more paragraphs and a clear and complete structure. A descriptive essay is usually written coherently, has a good thesis statement at the end of the introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A description however, does not necessarily have a structure. Its main purpose is to just describe an object, or something else, without having any extra academic layers.
The Issues that Could be Described in Your Paper
- A person. In this paper, you can talk about a person. It can range from simply writing about their appearance to more complex descriptions like actions, behaviours, mood, and qualities of your chosen individual.
- A place. The main thing you should do when describing a place in your work is to describe it interestingly and originally. Your reader(s) should feel, for example, the beauty of your chosen cities—perhaps New York or Rome.
- An event. Here you need to describe the story of what happened. It can be your last vacation, concert, wedding, anniversary, summer music festival, graduation day, or so on.
- An animal. In this type, you need to describe the animal. It may be its appearance, behaviour, or biology.
- An occupation. Here you need to write about a job or occupation.
- A behaviour. This is the type of descriptive writing you should go for if you would like to write about someone’s behaviour. Perhaps you want to describe the strange behaviour of your friend, or highlight how certain people act under different conditions.
Two Classic Approaches to the Descriptive Essay
1. Personal Essay
Here you need to describe an experience using your feelings and responses. This work can awake empathy in readers. It can also be vague and disorganized. If you want to write a good personal essay, you should try to focus only on those aspects that most fully express your experience. Do not shy away from vivid, evocative language in this type of assignment.
A few examples of personal essay topics might be:
- Describing the experience of swimming in the azure sea in summer
- Explaining your favourite movie and its impact on you
- Reflecting on your birthday and all the things that have shaped you in the past
2. Formal Description
This type of descriptive writing resembles an argumentative essay. Your main goal should be communicating a set of key points or describing something in detail—according to a clear structure. Rather than focusing on your own experience, you need to use specific categories of information to provide the fullest possible portrait of what you are describing. This approach can also be engaging, especially when the reader is more curious about the subject of the paper than the writer's response to it. Still, try not to make it dull with too formal language.
Topics for formal descriptions can include:
- A descriptive essay about climate change, politics, or historical events.
- A news story that provides a summary of an event or information about the place where it occurred.
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Descriptive Essay Topics & Ideas
Finding descriptive essay topics isn’t hard. You can describe pretty much anything—from your favourite car to today’s weather. We’ve gathered some ideas to help you get started. Hopefully, you’ll find good descriptive essay topics to spark your imagination.
Describe a Person
Pick a person who you know well—doing so gives you a lot to write about. Choose from family members, friends, teachers, etc. You can even write about a celebrity who exposes most of their private life to the media: The Kardashians, Kanye West, or Taylor Swift for instance. A famous superhero like Spider-Man is also interesting. Such fictional figures have undergone many character studies from both academic and non-academic perspectives.
Examples: Why my father is my favourite person. How Kim Kardashian changed my life.
Describe an Object or a Place
You may also describe an object or a place with which you have a special connection. This could be your high school, a playground, or a toy which used to scare you as a kid. Fictional places also count!
Examples: My native city – Paris My trip to London
Describe an Emotion
Remember the most sincere emotion you’ve experienced and turn it into a descriptive essay writing. 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 observed one.
Examples: How love changed me Hatred and love – how they are similar
You can also write a descriptive essay about anything you can describe according to human senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, or hearing.
Creating a Descriptive Essay Outline
When thinking about descriptive essay writing, 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
- Hook sentence
- Context/Background information
- Thesis statement
- Body paragraphs
- Topic sentence
- Sensory details
- Actual details
- A conclusion
- Summary of all main points
- Clincher Statement
It is important to spend enough time considering the victim of description because all of your illustrations will be based around it.
The introduction serves to introduce your subject to the reader and give them enough context to fully understand your work—but keep it brief and interesting for the reader(s). When learning how to write a descriptive essay introduction, remember – the first paragraph of your paper is the part that can make 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 paper 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 yet concise summary of the work. It must include the subject of your 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 to write about Buckingham Palace: “Even though the monarchy is long gone, Buckingham Palace serves to remind us of the aesthetic beauty which that era had built.” Person. For 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. A piece about a personal experience of fear: “For many reasons, the dark forest is my greatest fear, though not a fear which I would necessarily like to venture into.”
There are usually three body paragraphs in a paper. They cover three different points or arguments. How many body paragraphs to include in your descriptive essay is entirely up to you—or your professor. Sometimes it only takes a paragraph to tell a story, while other times it takes books.
How to write a body paragraph:
- Start with a topic sentence. ex. The orange looks familiar; it is a round citrus fruit whose colour matches its name.
- Add sensory details. When describing the orange, appeal to relatable senses.
- Include actual details. Always include descriptive information within your body paragraphs. Finish a body paragraph by introducing the next. Transition sentences are essential because they create immersion within your writing. Your writing will become better and it won’t appear as if you are reading a list of facts.
The descriptive essay is one type of 5 paragraph essay , which is the most common type of essay a student may encounter.
According to the descriptive essay format, your conclusion should be a summary of all of the main points in the body text. It is a good idea to write a final sentence that relates to the main point of your paper. Once this is done, the paper is now complete. We advise that you proofread your descriptive essay to correct any grammatical errors.
Try to incorporate the following into your conclusion:
- The first thing to do at the end is to reflect on the initial purpose of the work. Spill the beans on why you decided to write about this subject, and how this subject has affected your life. An article about reflection paper may also be helpful to you.
- Signify the Importance of the Details: Go over some key moments of the paper. Give a summary of what you have covered, and prepare the audience for the clincher statement.
- Clincher Statement: The clincher is the final sentence that reinforces your paper’s overall purpose or leaves your audience with an intriguing thought, question, or quote. You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking of a hook to pull the audience in. Do not allow the paper to escape your audience’s thoughts right after they have finish reading it.
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Writing and Reviewing Your Descriptive Paper Writing
Writing the paper consists of the following stages:
- Pre-writing stage. Here you need to examine all of the sources you have and define if they all offer important information on the topic of your choice.
- Writing the beginning. You should start your paper with a powerful, engaging hook that will grab the readers' attention. It may include an unusual metaphor or an interesting literary quote.
- Creating the first draft of your descriptive essay. Here is where you just need to write down all of the words that come to your mind; you'll have a chance to narrow down your ideas later.
- Adding details to your paper with the help of enriched English vocabulary and online dictionaries. Use your English vocabulary to add missing feelings, like hearing, to help make the descriptive essay leave a lasting impression.
- Revising and editing the paper with the help of different free online grammar checking tools.
Let’s talk in detail about the final step here: 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 some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you provided enough context in the introduction?
- Is the paper easy to read?
- Does the thesis relate to the content of the paper?
- Does the paper feature vivid, descriptive language?
- Will the clincher statement leave a lasting impact?
- Are there enough details to make it possible for your readers to obtain a full and vivid perception of your description?
- Does each section of your work focus on one aspect of your description?
- Does your paper possess any unnecessary details in your description that can be thrown away or replaced by more meaningful information?
- Overall, if you were the reader, does this paper make sense to you?
- Are there any problems with grammar and punctuation?
Sometimes web applications like Grammarly or the Hemingway app can help you sort your grammar. However, it’s always best to master the rules of grammar yourself and become the best writer you can be. Once you’re convinced you have the final draft, read it out loud or give it to a friend to read. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism to tie up loose ends in your writing. You can also trust the professionals and buy cheap essay on EssayPro service.
Descriptive Essay: Video Guide
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.
The writer of this descriptive essay example explains how there was a lot of life before humans existed. The world was full of Blue Jays and North Cardinal birds that most probably ate pansy seeds as a stable diet. In this example, it is clear that the writer has put himself/herself in the perspective of someone in the far future. He/she describes how we were in the 21st century, and how we used the poles as communication portals.
In the eyes of the untrained, a rugby game is just a bunch of huge individuals senselessly fighting one another, struggling to move an oval ball inch by inch down a field full of mud towards the goal line of the opposing team. Players don’t put on pads or get a timeout in the event of injuries. Yet rugby is a different thing, a gentleman’s sport—to those who understand it. While rugby appears rough, its players maintain good respect toward both teammates and opponents.
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What is descriptive writing?
Descriptive writing helps the reader visualize the person, place, thing, or situation being described. When a text conjures a vivid, sensory impression in the reader’s mind, not only does it make the writing more interesting to read; it helps the reader understand the text better and recognize the author’s intention more clearly.
Why teach descriptive writing?
- It helps students make their writing more interesting and engaging to read.
- It creates opportunities for students to practice using new words in meaningful contexts, a key strategy for building vocabulary.
- Descriptive writing tends to include figurative language, such as simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia. Noticing figurative language in mentor texts and incorporating it into their own writing help students build critical verbal reasoning skills. To find out more about verbal reasoning and other components of language comprehension, see the “In Depth” section from the Comprehension module of our Reading 101 Course.
- It encourages students to learn from—and be metacognitive about—the techniques other authors use to write vivid descriptions.
- It can help students clarify their understanding of new subject matter material and remember more of what they learn.
How to teach descriptive writing
If only descriptive writing were as simple as “show, don’t tell”! Descriptive writing is a skill — and a craft — that takes instruction, practice, and time to learn. The good news is that it can be explicitly taught. An understanding of the characteristics of effective descriptive writing, combined with a toolkit of structures and strategies to scaffold learning and practice, can enhance students’ development as authors of vivid, evocative writing.
What effective descriptive writing looks like
Authors of descriptive writing use a variety of styles and techniques to connect with readers, but effective descriptive writing often shares these characteristics:
- Vivid details. Specific details paint a picture in the reader’s mind and appeal to the reader's senses. Descriptive writing may also go beyond creating a strong sensory impression to give the reader a “picture” of the feelings the description evokes in the writer.
- Figurative language. Tools of the writer’s craft such as analogy, simile, and metaphor add depth to authors’ descriptions.
- Precise language. General adjectives, nouns, and passive verbs are used sparingly. Instead, specific adjectives and nouns and strong action verbs give life to the picture being painted in the reader's mind.
- Thoughtful organization. Some ways to organize descriptive writing include: chronological (time), spatial (location), and order of importance. Descriptive writing about a person might begin with a physical description, followed by how the person thinks, feels and acts.
What effective instruction in descriptive writing looks like
There isn’t one right approach to teaching descriptive writing, but effective instruction often includes:
- Mentor texts. Reading aloud and analyzing high-quality mentor texts to help students understand how authors use descriptive writing to connect with readers.
- Focus on the five senses. Helping students make the connection between sensory input (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) and descriptive writing.
- Teacher modeling. Modeling different ways to generate descriptive writing.
- Guided practice. Repeated, structured practice scaffolded to meet students’ needs.
- Feedback and revision. Cycles of constructive teacher and peer feedback followed by thoughtful revision.
Watch a demonstration: show NOT tell using your 5 senses
In this virtual lesson, the teacher models generating written descriptions of a hot day using the five senses as a framework.
Watch a classroom lesson: five senses graphic organizer
Students use their five senses and a graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas for writing a report on a recent school event and to help them think about interesting words to include in their report. See the lesson plan .
Watch a classroom discussion: writer’s workshop
Writer's Workshop connects great children's literature with children’s own writing experiences. In this video clip from our Launching Young Readers PBS series , Lynn Reichle's second graders practice their use of descriptive writing.
Here are some routines and structures for teaching descriptive writing:
The RAFT strategy encourages descriptive writing and supports writing in general by encouraging students to think through the writer's Role, the Audience, the Format, and the Topic. ReadWriteThink offers this RAFT Writing Template .
This Sense Chart — organized into sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch categories — helps students capture sensory details related to a topic. The Describing Wheel offers a more open-ended format for capturing and organizing descriptive language.
The Show-Me Sentences lesson plan from ReadWriteThink was created for students in grades 6-12. However, elementary teachers can modify the Show-Me sentences to make them interesting for younger students.
This lesson plan from Utah Education Network guides students through the process of writing about a favorite place using descriptive language.
This lesson plan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art has students work collaboratively to generate descriptive writing about works of art. It is intended for upper elementary and middle grades but can be adapted for lower grades.
Teacher Laura Torres created a lesson plan that uses images to jumpstart vivid writing: Three Descriptive Writing Picture Prompts .
This resource from Greenville County Schools in South Carolina provides several ideas for writing in math class . Writing and mathematics are similar in that they both require gathering, organizing, and clarifying thoughts. Writing can assist math instruction by helping children make sense of mathematics and by helping teachers understand what children are learning.
Writing in science gives students an opportunity to describe observations and scientific phenomena, and can help them comprehend new material by having to explain it in their own words. Fazio and Gallagher propose two instructional strategies to assist teachers and student when writing in science: a mnemonic acronym (POWER) and an editing checklist.
In social studies, descriptive writing can help students describe an important historical figure or event more clearly. Writing rich in detail will create vivid depictions of people and places and help make history come alive.
For English-learners, readers of different ability levels, or students needing extra support:
- Use dictation as a way to help capture students thoughts and ideas.
- Provide sentence frames for writing descriptive sentences or paragraphs.
- Use pictures and other sensory prompts.
- Provide budding writers with real-life or virtual experiences that give them something to write about. Trips to a relative’s house, playground or grocery store provide real-life experiences that can be recorded by a new writer.
- Encourage students to work with a buddy or in a small group to develop first drafts .
- Work with students to brainstorm a word bank of interesting and descriptive words students can incorporate into their writing.
Extend the learning
This resource from Greenville County Schools in South Carolina provides several ideas for writing in math class . Writing and mathematics are similar in that they both require gathering, organizing, and clarifying thoughts. Writing can support math instruction by helping students make sense of important concepts and procedures.
Descriptive writing in science can help students capture observations and scientific phenomena with greater precision, and can help them comprehend new material by explaining it in their own words. Fazio and Gallagher propose two instructional strategies to assist teachers and student when writing in science: a mnemonic acronym (POWER) and an editing checklist.
- RAFT helps students understand their roles as writers, the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the topic they'll be writing about.
- Revision teaches students about the characteristics of good writing, which will carry over into their future writing. Revision skills complement reading skills; revision requires that writers distance themselves from the writing and critically evaluate a text.
- Writing Conferences give students a chance to share their writing and and receive feedback from peers or the teacher.
- Think-alouds can be used for writing as well as reading instruction
Learn more about building writing skills in our self-paced module Reading 101: Writing .
See the research that supports this strategy
Akerson, V. L., & Young, T.A. (2005). Science the 'write' way. Science and Children , 43(3), 38-41.
MacArthur, C., Graham, S., & Fitzgerald, J. (2016). Handbook of research on writing (2nd Edition). NY: Guilford.
Miller, R.G., & Calfee, R.C. (2004). Making thinking visible: A method to encourage science writing in upper elementary grades. Science and Children , (42)3, 20-25.
Mitchell, D. (1996). Writing to learn across the curriculum and the English teacher. English Journal , 85, 93-97.
Children's books to use with this strategy
The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)
In this spin-off off from the traditional tale, the indomitable bread-making Little Red Hen makes pizza. Describe why her friends wouldn't help her and in the order they refused her request. Make the pizza, its maker, and the ingredients irresistible in your description. Compare it to a time-honored version.
Read a Rhyme, Write a Rhyme
A prolific (and popular) poet, Prelutsky provides poem starters for slightly older children. Young poets can either finish the "poemstarts" suggested here or create their own original poem.
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella
Cinderella stories are found around the world; here, they have been fused into one tale with special characteristics in text and illustrations that reflect the different origins. Expand parts of the story to echo the traditions of the culture and its history from which it comes. It may be possible to develop a map of tales (e.g., ancient vs. modern countries, or as a visual as to where it is/was told).
Each Orange Had 8 Slices: A Counting Book
Counting is fun especially in this sophisticated but accessible and handsomely illustrated book. Various situations are introduced in straightforward sentences followed by questions that are answered by counting. Describe each situation in the order presented.
A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder
Arresting photographs of water in various states not only introduces water but also weather, solids and liquids, and more. The sophisticated text further encourages experimentation and observation, although is not necessary to use the entire book with younger children.
26 Letters and 99 Cents
Sequencing, sets, counting, and money (coins) are introduced in crisp photographs in this wordless concept book. Upper and lower case letters from A to Z with attendant objects are half of the book; turn it over and numbers, counting, and more are presented.
I Face the Wind
Children are encouraged to observe as experiment as they learn about wind and air as well as practice science writing by describing their findings.
A boy has five pennies and spends them one at a time as he meets people during a walk. Told in rhyme, this cumulative story is appealing and well supported by illustration.
Jack and the Beanstalk
The traditional tale of a boy who planted magic beans is reimagined as a city story of a spell broken. Illustrations are photographs that have been manipulated for good effect.
A mother and her child get the ingredients for soup on a snowy day and then add everything to the pot. The pair plays snug and warm while the soup simmers until Dad comes home when they enjoy soup together. Crisp collage and a simple text make for a cozy read.
No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season
Ted Williams never flinched at hard work or a challenge. In his last season with the Boston Red Sox, Williams had to decide if he wanted to take the chance and lose his rare .400 average or go to bat. Williams' decision creates a riveting read in this handsome and thoughtful look at one man's ethics and the times in which he lived.
The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
Two machines captivated young Philo Farnsworth: a telephone and a phonograph. Both had cranks and both connected people with others (one in real time, the other through music). These and other inspirations motivated young Philo to invent what was to become known as the television. His early story is fascinatingly told and well illustrated.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
Relive the journey of the Apollo 11 where the first people stepped on the Moon's surface and saw Earth from a very different perspective. Eloquent language and illustrations combine to present this historical event in a unique, unforgettable way.
If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States
If all of the 300 million people were simply one village of 100 people, its diversity is easier to understand. That's just what the author has done to make the complex make-up of the U.S. residents (in terms of languages spoken, ages, and more). Colorful illustrations accompany the understandable text. Additional resources complete the book. If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People , also by Smith, looks at the inhabitants of the world as a village to allow its diversity to become more understandable for adults and children.
One World, One Day
Every day children around the world awake to begin their days having breakfast, going to school, coming home to families. A poetic text combines with photographs from myriad countries to visually highlight the richness of the world and its people.
10 Minutes Till Bedtime
At One Hoppin' Place, the countdown to bedtime is about to begin when a family of hamsters — a mother and father with nine kids and a baby all wearing numbered striped jerseys — arrives at the front door.
The Mysterious Tadpole
When Louis' uncle sends a tadpole from a certain lake in Scotland, the small tadpole grows to enormous proportions. With the help of a resourceful librarian, Louis figures out a way to feed his large and ever-hungry Alphonse as well as determine a permanent solution. Humor abounds in this contemporary classic.
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up fascinated by big words. He would later go on to use these words to inspire a nation and call people to action. In this award-winning book, powerful portraits of King show how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice.
Squids Will Be Squids
Scieszka and Smith set sights on creating fresh fables — short traditional tales intended to teach a moral lesson. With humorous twists and take-offs, new, different and wacky fables are presented for readers' edification and amusement.
This boy's curse begins when his teacher suggests that the "poetry of science" can be heard everywhere. From Moore to Frost, familiar poems are parodied and turned into science verse. Again art and illustration are inseparable as are the laughs in this offbeat look at science.
Easy to read and understand.
This was really helpful. Very detailed I feel like.
Really good examples and nice enjoyable videos. The videos make it easy to understand.
Fun, useful, precise and captures all the elements needed to build a descriptive essay.
Great, they are supported by video and some examples too.
amazing and helps me learn
clear information, brief, interesting examples and also provide nice video
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- How to write a descriptive essay | Example & tips
How to Write a Descriptive Essay | Example & Tips
Published on July 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on November 28, 2022.
A descriptive essay gives a vivid, detailed description of something—generally a place or object, but possibly something more abstract like an emotion. This type of essay , like the narrative essay , is more creative than most academic writing .
Table of contents
Descriptive essay topics, tips for writing descriptively, descriptive essay example, frequently asked questions about descriptive essays.
When you are assigned a descriptive essay, you’ll normally be given a specific prompt or choice of prompts. They will often ask you to describe something from your own experience.
- Describe a place you love to spend time in.
- Describe an object that has sentimental value for you.
You might also be asked to describe something outside your own experience, in which case you’ll have to use your imagination.
- Describe the experience of a soldier in the trenches of World War I.
- Describe what it might be like to live on another planet.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to describe something more abstract, like an emotion.
If you’re not given a specific prompt, try to think of something you feel confident describing in detail. Think of objects and places you know well, that provoke specific feelings or sensations, and that you can describe in an interesting way.
The key to writing an effective descriptive essay is to find ways of bringing your subject to life for the reader. You’re not limited to providing a literal description as you would be in more formal essay types.
Make use of figurative language, sensory details, and strong word choices to create a memorable description.
Use figurative language
Figurative language consists of devices like metaphor and simile that use words in non-literal ways to create a memorable effect. This is essential in a descriptive essay; it’s what gives your writing its creative edge and makes your description unique.
Take the following description of a park.
This tells us something about the place, but it’s a bit too literal and not likely to be memorable.
If we want to make the description more likely to stick in the reader’s mind, we can use some figurative language.
Here we have used a simile to compare the park to a face and the trees to facial hair. This is memorable because it’s not what the reader expects; it makes them look at the park from a different angle.
You don’t have to fill every sentence with figurative language, but using these devices in an original way at various points throughout your essay will keep the reader engaged and convey your unique perspective on your subject.
Use your senses
Another key aspect of descriptive writing is the use of sensory details. This means referring not only to what something looks like, but also to smell, sound, touch, and taste.
Obviously not all senses will apply to every subject, but it’s always a good idea to explore what’s interesting about your subject beyond just what it looks like.
Even when your subject is more abstract, you might find a way to incorporate the senses more metaphorically, as in this descriptive essay about fear.
Choose the right words
Writing descriptively involves choosing your words carefully. The use of effective adjectives is important, but so is your choice of adverbs , verbs , and even nouns.
It’s easy to end up using clichéd phrases—“cold as ice,” “free as a bird”—but try to reflect further and make more precise, original word choices. Clichés provide conventional ways of describing things, but they don’t tell the reader anything about your unique perspective on what you’re describing.
Try looking over your sentences to find places where a different word would convey your impression more precisely or vividly. Using a thesaurus can help you find alternative word choices.
- My cat runs across the garden quickly and jumps onto the fence to watch it from above.
- My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above.
However, exercise care in your choices; don’t just look for the most impressive-looking synonym you can find for every word. Overuse of a thesaurus can result in ridiculous sentences like this one:
- My feline perambulates the allotment proficiently and capers atop the palisade to regard it from aloft.
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An example of a short descriptive essay, written in response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” is shown below.
Hover over different parts of the text to see how a descriptive essay works.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.
The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.
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"The fog comes / on little cat feet." 1 In his poem, "Fog," Carl Sandburg captures the essence of fog by describing it in a pretty unusual way. Yet, fog does move like a cat — silently, smoothly, and disappearing as suddenly as it arrives. Notice how much more interesting Sandburg's description is than simply stating that it's foggy?
In a descriptive essay assignment, use sensory and figurative language to help your reader form a picture in their mind. You can divide descriptive essays into three broad formats (a personal essay, formal description, or impressionistic description) and, from there, into a myriad of topics. After you've chosen your topic, brainstormed your ideas, and created your outline, you can follow the standard format to write your essay.
Fun fact: myriad technically means the number ten thousand!
Descriptive Essay Definition
As the name suggests, when writing a descriptive essay, you aim to describe something thoroughly from a personal, formal, or impressionistic perspective. Descriptive essays share some characteristics with narrative essays, but descriptive and narrative essays' end goals are different.
A narrative essay explores a theme using narrative techniques, while a descriptive essay illustrates an object, place, or concept thoroughly.
Descriptive Essay Formats
You can categorize a descriptive essay as a:
- Personal Essay : a description of a personal experience that affected your life.
- Formal Description : an impersonal, precise report of the subject's characteristics — you are like a camera.
- Impressionistic Description : using descriptive language to create an emotional response in the reader.
Sensory details refer to the features of the five senses — taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. When you use sensory details appropriately to describe your subject, you create a moving experience for the audience. As a result, they become emotionally invested and eager to read more. There are a couple of points to keep in mind when using sensory details:
- Make sure your sensory details have a purpose: As you write, ask yourself whether the component you are including is necessary. If it does not add to the point of the essay, leave it out. Too many descriptive details can make your essay sound muddled.
- Follow a consistent pattern in your description: For example, if you describe a flower, choose a starting point and work your way outward. Bouncing around from the stem to the stamen and then back to the leaves creates a disjointed image — similar to a cubist Picasso painting.
Showing Versus Telling
Which is more engaging: Sandburg's creative description of fog or a lengthy, scientific explanation of fog? Where appropriate, using figurative language to communicate the subject of your essay to the reader can create more interest than simply explaining the idea.
Examples of figurative language include:
- Metaphor : substituting one thing for another to draw an association (e.g., "love is a battlefield").
- Simile : compares two things using "like" or "as" (e.g., "as happy as a clam").
- Personification : gives an object human-like characteristics (e.g., "the wind whispered in the trees").
- Hyperbole : an exaggerated description (e.g., "he was hungry enough to eat a horse").
- Symbolism : an object that represents something else (e.g., using a red rose to represent love).
Do the figurative language examples seem really, really familiar to you? Yes? They are all clichés, meaning they are images that have been used too often. If you want your writing to sound unique, avoid clichés like the plague.
Descriptive Essay Topics
You will be describing the topic of your descriptive paper in minute detail, so it's crucial to pick one that excites you. Here are a few example descriptive essay categories and topics:
- Your favorite childhood toy.
- An object that reminds you of a loved one.
- A tree that always catches your eye.
- Your favorite hangout.
- Your favorite vacation destination.
- Your first day of high school.
- Losing your first tooth.
- Your first concert.
- Someone you admire.
- Someone you love.
Learning to write a descriptive essay is important because it teaches you how to focus on your writing style and vocabulary. When you describe something in the level of detail a descriptive paper requires, it shows you a different way of engaging with the world around you.
Descriptive Essay Structure
Structure your descriptive essay into a traditional essay format with an introduction , body paragraphs , and a conclusion .
Open your essay with a hook to get the reader's attention by choosing a thought-provoking quote or statistic related to your topic or asking a question. Then, introduce the subject by relating it to the hook. Finally, include your thesis statement in the last sentence of the introduction.
The number of body paragraphs you include will depend on the topic and breadth of your essay, but usually, you should include at least three . Focus each body paragraph on a specific feature of your thesis . At the end of each body paragraph, wind down with a transition sentence that carries the subject to the next element or the conclusion .
Wrap up the essay by rewording your subject's thesis and central points. Don't introduce new ideas . The conclusion is the final impression, so keep the energy level consistent .
Descriptive Essay Outline
Before you sketch your outline, give some thought to researching your essay topic. Sources are not usually required for descriptive essays, but pictures, letters, text messages, and conversations can provide vivid details. In addition, brainstorming helps you decide which features make the most sense to include in the essay and how to include them. Experiment with the description 's sequence when you write the outline.
Once you have everything figured out, your outline should look something like this:
A. Hook (e.g., a statistic or quote)
B. Connection between the topic and hook
C. Thesis statement
II. Body paragraphs (number of paragraphs will vary)
A. Main point of the paragraph
B. Description of the main point
C. Transition to the next paragraph or conclusion
A. summary of the thesis
B. Summary of the main points
C. Final impression
Descriptive Essay Example
The following example of an abbreviated descriptive essay will give you an idea of what a completed descriptive essay assignment could look like:
Around 11% of Americans have a panic attack every year. 2 For years, I was rushed to the emergency room, sometimes weekly, sure that I was dying. It became more frustrating every time doctors said nothing was wrong with me and sometimes treated me like I was just trying to get drugs. Blood work and vitals were within normal limits, so I was a hysterical patient in their eyes. But, in my eyes, they were missing something. My heart was pounding, I was dizzy, and my chest hurt. A voice loop in my brain kept telling me this wasn't a panic attack, but a panic attack happens unexpectedly, leaving you feeling out of control and like you could die.
My first panic attack happened when I was walking with my kids. The world shifted to the left, and my son asked me a question, but all I could hear was a tinny buzz and a whirl of thoughts fighting with each other, some screaming, "I'm going to die!" and others ordering me to "act normal, don't scare the kids." There's a python wrapped around me, waiting for me to exhale so it can squeeze slightly tighter after every breath , and I freeze because the sidewalk is marshmallow under my feet. The trees stand their ground, brilliantly green leaves fingering the sunlight. I run my hand along a nearby trunk, and its cat tongue bark gives me a lick. The breeze pricks at my skin, giving me goosebumps while I create patterns in the tree's bark — dark lines merging into wizened faces, into pits and curves, taking a chance to smile at my son when the python's grip slips a bit. The image of pretending to be a willow tree while I was in ballet pops into my head. My roots grounded, arms branched and lazily waving. They undulate like a python . Finally, the python slithers away, and I ask my son what was he saying. I had never felt anything like that before.
In a list of many, one of the unnerving things about panic attacks is that they can happen at any time. In addition, their symptoms can mimic serious health emergencies such as a stroke or heart attack. Your brain says you are under attack, and it takes practice to believe otherwise — lots of practice.
Have a look at some of the author's techniques:
The descriptive essay example is personal and impressionistic . It discusses an event that affected the author's life in a way that attempts to make the audience feel something. The long sentence structure mimics the feeling of racing thoughts. The words " buzz " and " pops " are examples of onomatopoeia . The metaphors and simile develop images in the reader's mind. Hyperbole expresses the physical sensation and irrational thoughts.
Onomatopoeia: when a word mimics the sound it describes.
Descriptive Essay - Key takeaways
- Descriptive essays describe objects, places, or concepts in deep detail.
- Descriptive essays can be personal, formal, impressionistic, or a combination of styles.
- Descriptive essays use sensory details and figurative language to show rather than tell the audience about the subject.
- There are numerous options when picking a descriptive paper topic, so choose the one you'll enjoy writing about.
- Researching the descriptive essay topic will help you include vivid details in your writing, brainstorming will help you decide what to include, and the outline will help organize the sequence of the essay topic.
1 Sandburg, Carl. "Fog." Chicago Poems . 1916.
2 "Panic Disorder." Cleveland Clinic . 2020.
Frequently Asked Questions about Descriptive Essay
--> what is a descriptive essay.
A descriptive essay describes an object, place, or concept in deep detail.
--> What are some descriptive essay topics?
Some descriptive essay topics are:
- Your favorite childhood toy
- Your favorite vacation destination
- Losing your first tooth
--> Why is learning to write a descriptive essay important?
Learning to write a descriptive essay is important because it teaches you how to focus on your writing style and vocabulary. When you describe something in the level of detail a descriptive paper requires, it also teaches you a different way of engaging with the world around you.
--> How do you write a descriptive essay?
You write a descriptive essay using sensory images and figurative language to create a picture of the subject for the reader.
--> What are some examples of a descriptive essay?
Examples of descriptive essays include:
- "A Hanging" (1931) by George Orwell
- "Once More to the Lake" (1941) by E.B. White
- "My Misspent Youth" (2001) by Meghan Daum
Final Descriptive Essay Quiz
Why is learning to write a descriptive essay important?
All of the above
A _____ describes an object, place, or concept in deep detail.
What are some types of figurative language?
A _____ is an image or saying that has been overused.
Why should you follow a consistent pattern in your description?
You should follow a consistent pattern in your description because if you don't, it creates a disjointed image in the reader's mind.
Why should you research you descriptive essay topic?
Researching your descriptive essay topic helps you include concrete details in your writing.
What is a personal descriptive essay?
A personal descriptive essay describes an event that affected the author's life.
A(n) _____ essay creates an impersonal, photograph-quality image of a subject.
A(n) _____ essay attempts to create an emotional reaction with its description.
True or False: You can combine descriptive essay formats.
True: Descriptive essay formats can be combined depending on the subject.
A(n) _____ essay describes an experience that affected your life.
It is substituting one thing for another to draw an association.
It compares two things using "like" or "as."
It gives an object human-like characteristics.
It is an exaggerated description.
It is an object that represents something else.
It is a description of a personal experience that affected your life.
It is an impersonal, precise report of the subject's characteristics — you are like a camera.
It is using descriptive language to create an emotional response in the reader.
They are pictures, letters, text messages, and conversations that can provide vivid details.
- Creative Story
- Free Response Essay
- Text Comparison
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