And the three stages are…(wait for it, wait for it…)
You had to read Moby Dick in high school. Could have been worse; could have been better, too; there were a number of books you’d rather have been reading. And it got worse because after you’d read the book you had to turn in an essay about how Melville got his effects. Torture!
But now you’re expected to write essays every week. And it gets worse: for one of your modules, the essays have to be descriptive essays. (You might be wondering: What’s a descriptive essay? Well, obviously, it’s an essay that gives the description of something. Duh!) You have to take a subject – shopping malls, for example – and “capture its essence” in words.
So: how to write a descriptive essay. We’re going to talk you through the process. Before we do that, let’s listen to Virginia Woolf, who said that an essay should draw a curtain around the reader and that the curtain must be one that shuts the reader in and not out.
Now, a lot of people might say Virginia Woolf wasn’t the sanest person on the planet, and we might be among them, but sometimes a little craziness sees things clearly and what she’s saying here is:
Rule #1: If you do your job well, your essay will make the reader feel at home. Comfortable. At ease. How do you do that?
You don’t need to be a style ninja to score top marks
Good news: It’s not about style: you can write in any way that suits you and keeps to the right descriptive structure. Where does that descriptive structure come from?
- Understand what it is you’re trying to do, which is to write an essay describing the subject of the essay, whatever that happens to be.
- Jot down some notes on what you think about the subject.
- Do some research on what other people think about the subject, and make notes about that, too.
- Now summarize all the notes you’ve made. In some cases, what you think will be the same as what other people think and in some cases it will be different. When it’s different, decide:
- Are you going to go with your opinion?
- Are you going to go with other people’s opinion?
- Would the best result for this particular essay come from weighing the options? (So, you’d write, “Some people think this and some people think that).
Good outlines make for A+ essays
- Prepare an outline setting down:
- What points will be included in the essay; and
- What sections the essay will need to have to get those points in.
Writing a winning outline
Step back here. We’re trying to create an outline that will help us write a descriptive essay that meets Rule #1 above. How?
More good news! Essays follow a set of rules, and that makes defining the outline easy.
If you were standing up in front of a bunch of people making a presentation, the standard advice would be:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you’ve told them
What does this mean for you?
Essays follow the same pattern: the intro, in which you say what the essay is going to be about and what its conclusion will be; the body, or “meat” of the essay (the “argument,” if you like); and the conclusion.
So that’s how your outline looks:
- Introduction. You could also call this the Summary. Say what the essay is going to be about and what it will contain.
- Argument. Set out the facts as your research says they are, highlighting those that support the conclusion you’re going to reach and saying what other ideas there are and why you don’t agree with them. (This part of the outline will be broken down into sections dealing with different aspects of the subject, just as the essay itself will be).
Making a descriptive essay descriptive
It’s time to make clear what we mean by “descriptive essay”. Let’s suppose we were asked to write about a sports stadium. Here are two examples of introductions we might come up with:
- 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.
- 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. Now 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 of those is analytical and is a definition of what a sports stadium is. (We talk about writing analytical essays here). The second describes a specific stadium and that – that act of describing – is what makes it descriptive. Simply stated, when you’re writing a descriptive essay, it’s the style of the second quote 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.
Simply stated, if you want to produce a good descriptive essay, you need to think about how somewhere looks, what happens there and, if at all possible, add a dash of the historical record.
Start like a winner and you’ll finish like one, too
The most valuable advice we can offer when you start the process is: don’t let it intimidate you. American novelist Cynthia Ozick said that an essay comes from the imagination; that actual information was only there as a by-product and that an essay was the product of a free mind at play – it had no sociopolitical, polemical or educational use.
“A free mind at play.” That’s you! You’re not on tramlines; there isn’t a set destination you have to reach. Research the subject, study the subject, but let your imagination run free. Unless you are writing for someone who you know will mark you down unless you agree with his or her opinions, say what you really think.
So what to do?
- Don’t write. Talk.
When we mentioned shopping malls, we said you could probably talk endlessly about them but might find writing on the subject a little more difficult. So take the easy bit first, and start by talking. Think of someone you know well and imagine that you are talking to them, telling them about the subject of your essay. Describing to them the subject of your essay.
- Imagine what you say. Imagine what they reply.
- Does what they say modify what you think? Do they come up with ideas that hadn’t occurred to you? Make a note of those ideas and those changes in your outline.
Finally. Whatever you think about Paris Hilton, she got it right when she said the only rule was not to be boring. Life, she said, was short and there wasn’t time to blend in.
A good descriptive essay does not bore. Never forget that your essay needs to interest people if it’s to get the highest possible mark. What came out in your conversation that you or the person you were having it with found most interesting about the subject? Did you highlight that in the outline? Did you make it a hook on which you could hang more ideas and with which you can attract the reader’s attention?
- Don’t forget – strong, vivid language.
- Start writing, keeping two things in mind:
- The outline you created; and
- The imaginary conversation you just had.
- Revise! When you reach the end, you haven’t finished. What you’ve done is to create the first draft. Professional writers know how important the first draft is, because it isn’t possible to edit a blank page. That’s been said by many writers and the number is large because it is so utterly, vitally true. The point of writing the first draft is so that you can have something to edit and the point of editing is to end up with a finished essay that is what you wanted to write and that will get the best mark you are capable of achieving. That’s what this whole process is about.
- Then check the grammar and the punctuation. And the spelling. If there are errors, remove them.
You may go through this revision and rewriting process several times, or you may become so good at writing descriptive essays that you’re good to go after the first revision.
Good luck and good writing! But one last thing: If you’re really stuck, you need an A+ paper and you just can’t find your way through to completion, all is not lost. We’re here! Get online, find the subject you want, order your essay, pay for it and we’ll do the rest. One of our custom academic papers will make sure you score resounding success. It’s your future. Can you settle for less?