A descriptive essay is an academic paper that challenges a writer to describe something. It can be a person, a place, an object, a situation—anything an individual can depict in writing. The task is to show your abilities to communicate an experience using vivid, illustrative language.
Simply stated, if you want to produce a good descriptive essay, you need to contemplate these aspects:
- how someone or somewhere looks;
- what happens with the person or there;
- what historical record you can add, if at all possible.
Our team prepared this guide so that you’ll manage to write a famous descriptive essay. See the tips and explanations below, along with illustrative examples.
🖌️ What Makes an Essay Descriptive?
It’s time to make clear what we mean by a descriptive essay. For example, let’s suppose we were asked to write about a sports stadium. Here are two introductions we might come up with:
Example 1: A stadium is a place where sports, concerts, or other events take place. Usually, there will be a field or a stage, which most often will be surrounded completely or partially by a structure where spectators can sit or stand to watch.
Example 2: American sports nuts got what was probably their first sight of Twickenham rugby stadium when the Rugby World Cup Final was played there in 2015. Rugby has been played at Whitton Road in Twickenham since 1907, and the first international match took place three years later in 1910; when no game was scheduled, horses grazed the pitch. What is now the shining steel and glass double-decker West Stand was still, in the 1960s, a car park. Currently one of the world’s most state-of-the-art grounds, Twickenham holds 82,000 people, and it’s no longer horses when rugby is not being played but world-famous bands like U2, The Rolling Stones, and Bon Jovi who fill the place.
The first introduction is excellent for analytical essays as it’s a definition of what a sports stadium is. The second one depicts a specific stadium, and that – that act of describing – is what makes it descriptive.
When you’re writing a descriptive essay, it’s the style of the second example and not the first that you should be striving for. Try to use living, vivid language to draw a picture in words of whatever it is you’re writing about.
🎨 How to Write Good Descriptive Essays
When you’re writing a paper, the standard advice would be:
- Say what you’re going to tell your reader.
- Say that.
- Say what you’ve told your reader.
The same fundamental structure applies to a descriptive essay. Yet, there are numerous nuances that you should keep in mind to produce an outstanding paper. In the following sections, we’ll elaborate on them in detail.
Research & Prepare
So, you are ready to write your excellent descriptive essay, but you don’t know how to start? Don’t be lost. While writing any kind of paper, start with the research and preparation. Take a look at our tips!
- Consider the topic that you’re working with. Whether it’s assigned or picked by you, make sure you understand it completely. Make sure that it’s a descriptive essay that you’re supposed to write.
- Have a brainstorming session. Jot down some notes on what you think about the matter. Some of them will be useless, but it’s okay: among all the ideas, you’ll find something useful for your paper.
- Do some research. Find out what other people think about the place or event, if possible. Make notes about essential historical facts and people’s opinions.
- Add details. A good descriptive essay should be full of specifics. So, include background information, dates, names, physical characteristics, etc. This trick will help the reader to dive deep into the story and get the idea better.
- Summarize all the notes you’ve made. In some cases, your opinion will correspond to other’s views, but not always. When it’s different, decide:
- Are you going to go with your perspective?
- Are you going to go with other people’s opinions?
- Would the best result for this particular essay come from weighing the options? (So, you’d write, “Some people think this and some people believe in that).
After all these steps, you’ll have enough material to create your descriptive essay structure.
Outline Your Essay
When you have enough facts and memories, you can move on to the next step – outlining. We highly recommend you create an outline before you start writing an essay. It will help you to structure your ideas logically and coherently.
Your essay outline should include the following elements:
- Introduction. A good introduction should be catchy and concise. Start with the hook—an attention-grabbing element (rhetorical question, joke, statistics, etc.). Then, provide the general background and highlight the issues your essay will cover. End your intro with a clear thesis statement—a sentence that reflects your position.
- Body paragraphs. Each body paragraph should contain only one idea and start from the topic sentence, so the reader knows what to focus on. Make your body paragraphs full of details and specific examples. Don’t be too general because you risk losing the reader’s attention very fast.
- Conclusion. Wrap up your essay by restating the main points and summarizing your key ideas. Don’t include any new facts in the last paragraph. If you suspect that you miss an essential argument, better add it in the body.
Besides having a good structure, the best descriptive essay should be composed of strong and dynamic words. In this section, we will explain how to make your paper illustrative and memorable.
To make your writing descriptive, try the following:
- Choose your POV.
Decide who is the narrator of your story and filter the vocabulary through the narrator’s perspective. For example, you are describing your memories of childhood. Thus, your character is a child. Think how the kid’s perception of the world differs from reality and try to convey the feelings using appropriate words. Note that you can still write in the third person.
- Rely on precise words.
Avoid too abstract terms and general words. Instead, use dynamic vocabulary that precisely conveys your feelings. For example, you might write, “I felt bad.” Let’s make it more specific! How about writing, “I felt exhausted/ horrified/ anxious/ sick/ stressed, etc.”?
- Use figures of speech.
Don’t forget about the wide variety of literary devices! Use comparisons, metaphors, onomatopoeia, or exaggeration. You might say, “my girlfriend has beautiful eyes.” But Shakspeare would say. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Sonnet, 130). Strive to be this creative!
- Keep connotations and variations in mind.
Use the richness of the language to improve your creative writing skills. English is full of synonyms and various grammar structures. Take the maximum benefit from them. BUT! Avoid using the word if you are unsure about its meaning.
- Compare and contrast.
Nothing can help to describe things better than comparison. So, deepen your sentences by examining the contrast and similarities between the objects or emotions.
- Implement sensory details.
Do you remember the five basic human senses? They are sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Rather than just telling the story, try to appeal to the reader’s five senses. This trick will help you to make the audience more engaged in your narrative.
Revise & Polish
When you reach the end, you haven’t finished. What you’ve done is to create the first version of your descriptive essay. Professional writers know how vital the first draft is because it isn’t possible to edit a blank page.
To revise and polish your text, follow these steps:
- Check the structure. Your essay has to contain all the fundamental parts (introduction, main body, conclusion). Also, make sure that there are transitions between the key points and topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph.
- Check the balance. All the essay parts should be approximate of the same significance. Keep in mind that each point should have the same number of details and arguments.
- Make sure you explored all the points. Read your introduction, paying extra attention to the thesis statement. Then, look through the entire essay and check whether you discussed every aspect you introduced in the first paragraph.
- Examine your information. Every piece of data and detail has to be valid. Make sure your arguments are logical, and your examples are appropriate. If something seems weak, rewrite it or consider cutting that part down.
- Polish your conclusion. The last paragraph of your essay should correspond to the introduction. Moreover, it should summarize your points and make a final impression on the reader. Make your conclusion memorable and dynamic.
You may go through this revision and rewriting process several times. Or you may become so skilled at writing descriptive essays that you’re good to go after the first revision.
🖼️ Famous Descriptive Essay Examples
Now that we’ve discussed how to write a descriptive essay, we should tell you the last crucial tip. Your chances of composing a perfect paper are low when you don’t check the samples first.
Here, you can find specific descriptive essay examples in these guides:
Do you admire wildlife? Are you fascinated by the divine beauty of the sea and ocean creatures? If you have a task to write about nature, or you can choose the topic yourself, think about composing a descriptive essay about coral reefs!
Do you need to talk about an outstanding historical figure? Or you need to compose a descriptive essay about a person? Choose an American political activist Harriet Tubman. Her biography and achievements won’t leave you indifferent!
Americanism is one of the most common paper topics for college students in the U.S. Has your instructor gave you the assignment to write about the USA identity? Compose a descriptive essay on Americanism!
Everybody loves holidays! And the teachers like to give the tasks to write about them. If you are wondering what celebration to select, consider choosing Halloween. It offers a bunch of traditions to describe.
In case these ideas aren’t for you, you can find more descriptive essay topics on our website.
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