Edited by Nicole Eakin, Ben Rubenstein, Flickety, Kyrie Alazen and 28 others The key to writing the perfect descriptive essay is creating a vivid image in your reader’s mind using the five senses. Here are some steps to help you create a strong descriptive essay. Edit Steps
Method 1 of 3: Prewriting for your Essay
Pick a topic. Descriptive essays generally focus on a person, a place, an event, or a thing. Writers convey an idea about their topic by describing the topic for the reader in a ‘show, not tell’ manner. Showing and not telling means that you paint a picture for your reader. For example, instead of saying, “There were trees near the lake” you could say, “The lake stared through the trees, a wide grey eye trapped in a perpetual state of weeping.”
Create a thesis statement. A thesis statement is the idea that governs the whole essay. It states the purpose of the paper and governs all of the information that is in the paper. An example of a descriptive thesis statement is: My backyard is like a jungle. This thesis statement does not mean that your backyard is literally a jungle, but that the different aspects of your backyard make it seem like a jungle.
Draw five columns on a piece of paper with each column labeled one of the five senses. These include taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. This list will help you keep your thoughts straight when describing your essay. Using your five senses, write down sensations and feelings you associate with your topic.
Review your list and choose the most dominant details to write about. These details should be the items that best support your thesis and are the most interesting. These details will be made into your body paragraphs.
Create an outline that lists what each paragraph of your essay is going to discuss. Typically, middle and high schoolers writing descriptive essays will be asked to write a 5 paragraph essay.College level students and above have more free-reign regarding how long to make their essays. 5 paragraph essays are structured to include an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis statement, three body paragraphs proving your thesis statement, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes what you have said in the rest of your essay. Method 2 of 3: Writing your essay
Structure your essay in a way that makes sense for your topic. If you are writing about an event, give your paragraphs a chronological order. If you are writing about a place or thing, try ordering your paragraphs so that they go from general to specific. Example: First paragraph: The things you notice when you look at a house from the outside. Second paragraph: The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings etc. that you experience when you are inside the house. Third paragraph: A description of your favorite section of the house.
Write your introductory paragraph. The introductory paragraph establishes the main ideas of the essay and sets the tone. This paragraph should include an introduction to your topic followed by your thesis statement.
Create a topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph. This sentence lets your reader know what the paragraph is going to be about. It should be clear and concise. Each topic sentence should relate back to the thesis statement. Example: Thesis statement: My backyard is like a jungle that I love to explore. Topic Sentence: When I climb a tree in my backyard, I feel like I am climbing a tall jungle tree.
Write your body paragraphs based on your topic sentences. Body paragraphs are where you get to prove that your thesis is true. Always keep in my mind that everything you write in your body paragraph should relate to your topic sentence and your thesis. Example: The trees in my backyard are filled with the music of birds. Emeralds leaves sway in sun-filled breeze.
Provide sensory details that support your thesis. Use literary tools like descriptive adjectives, similes, metaphors and personification. Smells (“The scent of the newly opened rose danced sweetly upon the wind.”) Sounds (“When she laughed, a wild array of exotic birds burst from within her; it was pretty to look at but there was a lot of squawking involved.”) Sights (“The beach curved into a smile above a flowing blue beard that sometimes grew too high and was then shaved away.”) Taste (“The sugar plum filled my mouth with memories of Christmas mornings long past.”) Touch (“The ferns brushed like a whisper against my skin.”)
Write your conclusion. Your conclusion should summarize everything you have written in your essay. It should also restate your thesis. It is important to have a well-written conclusion because it is the last thing the reader will read, and will stay in his or her mind the longest. Method 3 of 3: Finalizing your essay
Take a break from working after you have finished writing. Stepping away from your writing helps you to clear your head. You will be able to look at your essay the way your reader would look at it once you have taken a break from working on it.
Read your essay with the reader in mind. Ask yourself: Does the essay unfold in a way that helps the reader understand the subject? Are any of the paragraphs more confusing than descriptive? Does the word choice and figurative language convey what you are trying to express about the topic? Are there enough details to give the reader a complete picture? Do the details in the essay help the reader understand what the topic means to the writer?
Read your essay out loud. By reading out loud, you can more easily locate sections of the essay that might be awkward or confusing.
Get someone else to read your essay. Does it make sense to them? Do they think you should add or delete anything?
Proofread your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Delete cliches.
Use all of the senses in a descriptive essay.
Don’t use nondescript adjectives like “nice”. Use a thesaurus and get some new and interesting words, like “effervescent.” Try not to use the word “I” in your sentences.
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.