Tips on Writing a Descriptive Essay
Writers use the descriptive essay to create a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing. Unlike a narrative essay, which reveals meaning through a personal story, the purpose of a descriptive essay is to reveal the meaning of a subject through detailed, sensory observation. The descriptive essay employs the power of language and all the human senses to bring a subject to life for the reader.
If readers come away from a descriptive essay with the feeling that they have really met a person, gone to a particular place, or held a certain object, the writer has done a good job. If readers also feel an emotional connection and deep appreciation for the subject’s significance, the writer has done a great job.
The Five-Step Writing Process for Descriptive Essays
Professional writers know one thing: Writing takes work. Understanding and following the proven steps of the writing process helps all writers, including students. Here are descriptive essay writing tips for each phase of the writing process:
1. Prewriting for the Descriptive Essay
In the prewriting phase of descriptive essay writing, students should take time to think about who or what they want to describe and why. Do they want to write about a person of significance in their lives, or an object or place that holds meaning? The topic doesn’t have to be famous or unusual. The person could be a grandparent, the object, a favorite toy, and the place, a tree house.
Once a topic is chosen, students should spend time thinking about the qualities they want to describe. Brainstorm about all the details associated with the topic. Even when not writing about a place, reflect on the surroundings. Where is the object located? Where does the person live? Consider not just physical characteristics, but also what memories, feelings, and ideas the subject evokes. Memory and emotion play an important role in conveying the subject’s significance. Plan the focus of each paragraph and create an outline that puts these details into a logical sequence.
2. Drafting a Descriptive Essay
When creating the initial draft of a descriptive essay, follow the outline, but remember, the goal is to give the reader a rich experience of the subject. Keep in mind, the most important watchword of writing a descriptive essay is show, don’t tell. One of the best ways to show is to involve all of the senses—not just sight, but also hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Write so the reader will see the sunset, hear the song, smell the flowers, taste the pie, or feel the touch of a hand.
Use descriptive and figurative language, as well as concrete images to describe the subject. Similes and metaphors work well. Here are some examples:
The house was old.
The house frowned with a wrinkled brow, and inside it creaked with each step, releasing a scent of neglected laundry.
If you had to pick a study buddy, you would pick this guy.
The clock had been in our family for years.
The clock stood by our family, faithfully marking the minutes and hours of our lives.
Enjoy the process of describing the subject—it can be a rewarding experience. A descriptive essay doesn’t rely on facts and examples, but on the writer’s ability to create a mental picture for the reader.
3. Revising a Descriptive Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be. In revising a descriptive essay, students should reread their work with these considerations in mind:
- Does the essay unfold in a way that helps the reader fully appreciate the subject? Do any paragraphs confuse more than describe?
- Does the word choice and figurative language involve the five senses and convey emotion and meaning?
- Are there enough details to give the reader a complete picture?
- Has a connection been made between the description and its meaning to the writer? Will the reader be able to identify with the conclusion made?
Always keep the reader in mind from opening to concluding paragraph. A descriptive essay must be precise in its detail, yet not get ahead of itself. It’s better to go from the general to the specific. Otherwise, the reader will have trouble building the image in their mind’s eye. For example, don’t describe a glossy coat of fur before telling the reader the essay is about a dog!
4. Editing a Descriptive Essay
At this point in the writing process, writers proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics. It’s also the time to improve style and clarity. Watch out for clichés and loading up on adjectives and adverbs. Having a friend read the essay helps writers see trouble spots and edit with a fresh perspective.
5. Publishing a Descriptive Essay
Sharing a descriptive essay with the rest of the class can be both exciting and a bit scary. Remember, there isn’t a writer on earth who isn’t sensitive about his or her own work. The important thing is to learn from the experience and take whatever feedback is given to make the next essay even better.
Time4Writing Teaches Descriptive Essay Writing
Time4Writing essay writing courses offer a highly effective way to learn how to write the types of essays required for school, standardized tests, and college applications. A unique online writing program for elementary, middle school, and high school students, Time4Writing breaks down the writing process into manageable chunks, easily digested by young writers. Students steadily build writing skills and confidence, guided by one-on-one instruction with a dedicated, certified teacher. Our middle school Welcome to the Essay and Advanced Essay courses teach students the fundamentals of writing well-constructed essays, including the descriptive essay. The high school Exciting Essay Writing course focuses in depth on the essay writing process with preparation for college as the goal. The courses also cover how to interpret essay writing prompts in testing situations. Read what parents are saying about their children’s writing progress in Time4Writing courses.
A descriptive essay is considered to be extremely powerful in its sole purpose. It stimulates to feel and imagine provoking smells, sensations, and visions. An impression lies at the very heart of a good descriptive essay. Originally, it creates the atmosphere in your essay paper.
Descriptive Essay: Definition and Meaning
We share our moods and impressions through descriptive essay writing. The very important thing is to involve all possible sensory details. All sights, touches, smells, sounds and tastes must help the reader to see the same picture that the writer has in his / her mind. It must be mentioned, that descriptive essay writing requires avoidance of the same patterns in the sentences. The writer should use figurative and vivid language. Try to combine descriptive sentences smoothly and avoid general words. The picture must be clear, not vague.
Writing an Effective Descriptive Essay You Must:
- Provide complete and intense description of the subject;
- Involve even the tiniest details if they are significantly important
- Demonstrate the emotional qualification of the subject
- Show your own response and impression about the subject
- Avoid irrelevant elements
- Observe every single aspect step by step
In this manner, we see that a descriptive essay is based on detailed observation and characterization.
Descriptive Essay Structure
The main aim of a descriptive essay is not simply to describe a particular object, place, person or situation, but to make your reader see and feel the same you do. In other words, you should try to reproduce your thoughts on the paper. Obviously, you must write in accordance with the particular structure, which usually contains:
- Introduction. This part is supposed to explain why the author has chosen a specific object or person. Introduction comprises a strong thesis statement and must captivate reader’s attention from the first lines.
- Body. Here, the author pays more detailed attention to the main points. As a rule, each point is considered and discussed in a separate section. Usually, the body consists of three paragraphs:
- The first paragraph tells the reader about the object itself, its characteristics and the most distinguishing features. It gives a full and vivid picture through the smallest details of observation.
- The second paragraph portrays surroundings. In this section, you are free to use as many stylistic devices as you want. Your reader must feel the atmosphere of the environment you describe.
- The last paragraph refers to senses and emotions. You describe everything you can feel, see, hear, touch, and smell. Your task is to make the picture alive.
- Conclusion. The last stage is the conclusion. It emphasizes the importance of your description. In this part, you sum up your emotions, attitudes, and impressions.
There are some helpful tips for proper descriptive essay structuring :
- Compare a few topics and choose the subject of description. Try to find an interesting thing, place, or person or use some memorable experience. Avoid vague language. Use powerful words to describe all specific details;
- Try to find the most relevant sources related to the topic;
- Do not forget about sufficiency. Your essay must contain an adequate number of idioms, metaphors, clichés, etc.;
- Always go from general to specific;
- The strongest accent must be put on the descriptions of the subject and observation details.
To compose a brilliant essay, try to adhere to all these guidelines. Remember that facts and examples are less important than your writer’s ability to create a vivid picture. Make your readers feel and imagine and do your best to give them a complete perception. Let them create a whole picture in their minds. Illustrate the most important details using all human senses, bring a subject to life, and you will succeed.