How to Write a Descriptive Essay
This article is an overview of descriptive writing that may be a useful guide for college students in writing their descriptive essays. First, let's focus on what a descriptive writing is.
What Is a Descriptive Essay?
A descriptive essay is one of the major types of essays, requiring the student to provide a description of an object, person, place, device, - or just about any other type of thing that can be described verbally. Very often writers of descriptive essays are likened to artists who need to paint their pictures using only words – and that's exactly what is happening in descriptive writing.
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Descriptive Writing: What Is Special about the Descriptive Essay?
The two essay methods of narrative and descriptive writing take very different approaches. A narrative essay deals with facts, situations, and events, and aims to educate and inform using direct, clear language.By contrast, a description essay uses more sensory means. The writer describes the topic in terms of detailed descriptions and impressions, using simile and metaphor to strong effect. A descriptive essay works on a deeper emotional level, and if successful it describes objects and situations in such a way that the reader feels they almost have a shared experience of the essay's topic. It's an often-used but nonetheless true phrase that description essay writing relies on 'showing' and not 'telling'. Rather than simply relating a fact, a writer should show the reader how the topic is experienced, by using sensory details that draw the reader in and using their sense of empathy to construct powerful images that they can relate directly to.
When you need to choose the descriptive essay topics, you may need an information on how to pick proper essay topics:
How to Pick Proper Essay Topics
Purpose of Descriptive Writing
The purpose of descriptive writing is to involve the reader in a deeper way than the drier style of narrative writing. By painting more vivid pictures that appeal to all of the five senses it offers a more affecting view, communicated in a stronger way.
It's a powerful technique that requires some forethought to produce effective results. The precise approach you take, and the choice of similes and other figurative devices, will depend on what you're trying to convey. For example, you could simply describe a man as being old, but a more descriptive approach is to use words such as careworn, wise, dignified, and so on to put across a more nuanced impression than the bare facts that a narrative description would provide.
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Descriptive Essay Example about Pandas
Descriptive Essay Outline and Structure
Although descriptive techniques can be used to improve the quality of almost any piece of writing, there is also a recognized structure to be followed when writing academic examples of descriptive essays. This consists of three major parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
How to start a descriptive essay? The introductory paragraph of a descriptive essay should include a strong opening element to catch the reader's attention, possibly using a quote or a particularly powerful image. It then goes on to outline the object, event, or situation that will be described and the reason that the specific subject of the essay has been selected as the topic.
The body of the descriptive essay usually consists of three paragraphs. In the first, the object of the essay itself is described in detail, using as many points as necessary to paint a rich portrait. In the second paragraph, the context for the object is provided by describing the surroundings or background. Both these paragraphs should use strong imagery and imaginative comparisons throughout.
The third paragraph appeals more directly to the reader's senses and emotions, using the writer's skill to describe the subject in ways that bring it to life and make the reader feel an empathetic connection.
This is in many ways a repetition and reinforcement of the introduction and body sections, outlining again why the object or situation was chosen for the essay, and how the attributes described in the body paragraphs came to mean to the author in relation to the overall idea being expressed.
Connective Words and Phrases in Descriptive Essay Writing
An essay consisting of repetitions of the same sentence structures quickly becomes monotonous and difficult to read, lessening the gut-level descriptive effect. Connecting words and phrases help with this problem, providing natural ways to link the parts of the essay, and giving it greater flow and power.
The possibilities for using connective words are almost unlimited, but a few examples of common linking situations and potential words to use in them include:
|Introducing another viewpoint, statement, or concept||furthermore, what's more, additionally|
|Showing the similarity between two points||likewise, similarly, equally|
|Showing contrasts||however, nevertheless, on the other hand|
|Proving or reinforcing a point||evidently, therefore, particularly|
While the value of connective words and phrases is clear, sentences also lose the reader's attention when they are too long. Even in descriptive essays brevity is a virtue. Connective words shouldn't be used excessively when succinct wording, shorter sentences, and a clearer separation of ideas could be more effective.
A final point to bear in mind is that the first draft of a descriptive essay is rarely the most successful attempt. This is even truer than in other types of writing. Because of this, revision is an essential part of the process. Reviewing the essay with a fresh mind will help to reveal the true clarity or otherwise of the similes, metaphors, and other devices that have been used, and possible improvements will often make themselves surprisingly clear during the revision process.
Descriptive Essay Writing Tips
1. Appeal to the reader's imagination and senses. Describe how the thing looked, smelled, felt, sounded or even tasted, or even thought or imagined.
Example: We imagined they weren’t just mere dogs, but gigantic, slobbering wolves.
2. Use adjectives to describe things. They are probably the most important words that create a picture in your readers' mind. Use a synonyms thesaurus if you feel you're running short of descriptors.
Example: The warm summer sun and the clear blue summer sky are such a marvelous experience.
3. Use literary devices. Things like simile and metaphor are the most basic ones. They will definitely add weight to your essay.
Example: His rough fingers that felt softer than silk when they brushed her skin (simile). Aunt Kathie's long fingers were thin gnarled branches (metaphor).
4. Use inversion (or inverse word order) for emphasis.
Example: These were the neighborhood people.
These are the basic tips and techniques for writing a descriptive essay. Tools and literary devices should suffice for any of the college level writing. Remember to edit and proofread your essay once you are done with the draft of your paper. This will help to eliminate silly mistakes and is likely to prevent you from losing points.
One of the keys to writing a descriptive essay is to create a picture in your reading audience’s mind by engaging all five of their senses – smell, sight, touch, taste and sound. If you can do this, then your essay is a success, if not, then you have a lot of work to do. The first steps in writing a descriptive essay will lay the groundwork for the entire piece.
Step 1: Choose a topic
A descriptive essay will usually focus on a single event, a person, a location or an item. When you write your essay, it is your job to convey your idea about that topic through your description of that topic and the way that you lay things out for your reader. You need to show your reader (not tell them) what you are trying to describe by illustrating a picture in their mind’s eye very carefully.
Your essay needs to be structured in a manner that helps your topic to make sense. If you are describing an event, you will need to write your paragraphs in chronological order. If you are writing about a person or a place you need to order the paragraphs so that you start off in a general manner and then write more specific details later. Your introductory paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the essay, so it needs to set out all of the main ideas that you are going to cover in your essay.
Step 2: Create a statement
The next step is to create a thesis statement. This is a single idea that will be prominent throughout your essay. It not only sets out the purpose of the essay, but regulates the way that the information is conveyed in the writing of that essay. This is an introductory paragraph that sets out your topic framework.
Step 3: Get the senses right
Next, create five labelled columns on a sheet of paper, each one having a different of the five senses. This labelled list will help you to sort out your thoughts as you describe your topic – the taste, sight, touch, smell and sound of your topic can be sketched out among the columns. List out in the columns any sensation or feeling that you associate with the topic that you are writing about. You need to provide full sensory details that help to support the thesis. You can utilize literary tools such as metaphors, similes, personification and descriptive adjectives.
Once you have the columns laid out you can start to fill them with details that help to support your thesis. These should be the most interesting items that you have noted in your columns and will the details that you flesh out into the paragraphs of the body of your essay. Topics are set out in each separate paragraph and a topic sentence begins that paragraph and need to relate to your introductory paragraph and your thesis.
Step 4: Create an outline
The next step is to create an outline listing the details of the discussion of each paragraph. Students in high school are generally asked to write a five paragraph essay while college students are given more freedom with the length of their piece. The standard five paragraph essay has a particular structure including the introductory paragraph with the inclusion of a thesis statement, followed by three body paragraphs which prove that statement.
Step 5: Write the conclusion
Finally, the conclusion paragraph makes a summary of the entirety of your essay. This conclusion also needs to reaffirm your thesis (if necessary). Your conclusion needs to be well written because it is the final thing to be read by your reader and will remain on their mind the longest after they have read the remainder of your essay.
Step 6: Review your essay
It is important to take a break from your writing once you have completed the work. By stepping away from the work for a short time you can clear your mind and take a short rest. You can then take a look at the essay with fresh eyes and view it in much the same way that a person reading it will when they first see the piece.
After you have taken a short break or a walk (or whatever the case may be), read the entire essay again thinking about your reader. You should ask yourself if you were the reader, would the essay make sense to you? Is it easy to read so that anyone can understand what the topic of the essay is? Do any of the paragraphs need to be rewritten because they are confusing and need to be better written to be descriptive?
Your choice of words and language need to convey what you are trying to describe when you talk about a particular topic. The details that you have provided should give your reader enough information that they can form a complete picture. Any details in the essay should help a reader to understand the meaning of the topic from the writer’s point of view.
Read your entire essay over again, out loud this time. Sometimes reading something out loud can help to identify any issues that should be worked out. Read the essay again to a friend or family member and have them give you any criticisms that they might have. Have someone else ready your essay and then ask them if anything needs to be clarified or if they received a clear picture from the details given in the essay.
Step 7: Finish it up
Finally, read your essay again very carefully and check for any grammar, punctuation or spelling errors that are obvious within the essay. If you find any clichés, be sure to delete them, they certainly do not belong in your essay. If there are any parts that are not completely descriptive or don’t make as much sense as you would like them to, rewrite them once again and then follow the proof reading and reading aloud process again to ensure that the final product is exactly as expected. You can never be too thorough when it comes to reading the essay over again and checking for any areas that need to be reworked.
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