A descriptive essay may sound like an assignment for a creative writing class, but it is far more versatile than that. It is indeed a creative task, but many academic disciplines employ descriptive essays. They help determine how well students understand the material or how deeply they are immersed in the practice.
For example, you may be asked to write a descriptive essay for a History class (“Describe one day in a medieval fortress under the siege”), for a Nursing class (“Describe a case from your practice that made you think about the importance of your work”), a Geography class (“Describe a walk in a rainforest”), etc.
As you can see, a descriptive essay may appeal to your lived experience, or it may require you to use imagination and do research. Whatever the topic is, this blog will teach your how to write descriptive essay step by step.
What is a Descriptive Essay
A descriptive essay is a form of writing where your main objective is to give a vivid description of a person, object, event, or experience using expressive means, such as figurative language, sensory language, etc. Descriptive essay gravitates towards creative writing, but it’s not only about self-expression. Elements of descriptive writing can be found in newspaper articles, blogs about places and people, book and film reviews, and even research papers.
The objective here is to communicate the experience to your readers by creating a memorable image. Thus, descriptive essays are all about “show, don’t tell.” You can explain and narrate occasionally to give your essay structure and cohesiveness, but mostly your task is to create impressions.
Tips for a Newbie Descriptive Essay Writer
Usually, when they assign to write a descriptive essay in high school or college, they give you a set of prompts or one concrete topic to write about. However, that doesn’t mean you are all set. First, you must come up with a dominant impression you will focus on creating in your essay.
For example, if the prompt says, “Describe a place you used to frequent as a child,” think about the mood you want to create with your description. Is it a feeling of safety and comfort? Feeling of joy and carefreeness? The anticipation of discovery and freedom? Angst and anxiety? It’s important to decide on the dominant impression before you start outlining.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay Introduction
When you write an introduction, it’s okay to tell. You can start showing later when you have given your readers some background information and set the scene. For example, “There was a beach house where we used to spend every summer with our extended family.” However, it’s good to start strong with a compelling hook sentence:
- A bold statement: “We all have our own version of paradise lost.”
- A “preview” of what’s coming: “Golden flickers on deep blue dazzled me for the first time in my life. ‘Is that the sea?’ I asked.”
- An anecdote: “When I went away for college, I set a snapshot of a seaside as a desktop image.”
- A rhetorical question: “What color is happiness for you?”
How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Descriptive Essay
A descriptive essay thesis does not necessarily have to be pronounced and formal as in other types of academic writing, but you must know it. Your thesis is the purpose of your description. It is a general point you organize your essay around. For example, you want to convey the idea that early childhood memories shape our worldview for years to come. That’s your thesis. No need to spell it out – show it. Yet first, you must understand what it is that you are showing.
As this is a more creative genre, your thesis may even appear in the conclusion – as a revelation that gives closure.
How to Write Body Paragraphs of a Descriptive Essay
- Use sensory language
In the body of your descriptive essay, you should switch on full “show don’t tell mode.” Instead of telling “Everything was new and exciting to me,” show: “The touch of hot sand to my bare soles, the bitter-sweet smell of rotting seaweed, the thundering crushing of waves that filled the air and made it humid and salty, the dumbfounding blue vastness of the ocean – all spoke of adventures and made me heady.”
- Vary syntax structure
Avoid monotonous passages. Instead, vary the sentence length, break homogenous subject-verb sentence structure with descriptive details.
- Organize your essay
Your descriptive essay should still have some inner logic and flow. Otherwise, you risk confusing your readers and lose them. Organize your description in a way that seems right to you and fits the object – chronologically or spatially (left to right, top to bottom, outside to inside, etc.)
How to Write a Conclusion to a Descriptive Essay
Just like the introduction, the conclusion is where you can reflect on your subject and tell rather than show. Here you can clarify why you have written this description and why the place/person/experience was so meaningful. The purpose you state should align with the intended dominant impression your entire essay has been building towards.
What to Look For When You Edit
These are the most common mistakes inexperienced paper writers make in descriptive essays:
- Clichés. These figurative expressions have lost their power because they are overused. They grew stale and no longer appeal to the imagination. Proud as a peacock, brave as a lion, green with envy, etc., won’t add expressiveness to your description but will instead dull it down.
- Too many adjectives. Descriptive writing relies on adjectives, so, naturally, there will be a fair share of them in your essay. Yet you must focus on the most powerful words and delete everything unnecessary that waters the impression down.
- Adverbs. Adverbs aren’t bad as such, but if you see one in your writing, think if you could rephrase the sentence to convey the same meaning without using an adverb. This is a good way of finding stronger words. For example, instead of “cried loudly,” you can say “bellowed” or “hollered”; instead of “walking lazily,” you can say “strolling” or “meandering.”
- Literary expressions. On the other hand, be careful using a thesaurus to find expressive and sophisticated vocabulary. You may end up sounding comically pompous or obscure. The rule of thumb is only using the words you know and won’t have trouble putting in the right stylistic context.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Examples and Practice
In this guide, we illustrated tips and suggestions with examples. However, topics for descriptive essays are diverse, and you may want to see something closer to your assignment. If you need a sample that fits your topic, enjoy personalized assistance and tips from my paper writer team of inspired creators. They will prepare customized descriptive essays for sale even on the tightest deadline.
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