How to Write a Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay is a form of academic writing that is built around a detailed description of a person, building, place, situation, notion, etc. The main purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe your point of focus in a vivid and particular manner, so that readers can easily picture the described object, person or state in their mind.

Steps for Writing a Descriptive Essay

  1. Choose a subject on which you want to write and decide what or who you will describe.
  2. Write an outline or a sketch, listing the facts, characteristics and peculiarities you will develop throughout your essay.
  3. Gather information for the introductory paragraph, if necessary (in case you choose to write about a certain holiday, historical event, building, place or well-known figure).
  4. Decide upon the main idea for each of your paragraphs in the main body section.
  5. Write each of the paragraphs, starting from a topic sentence and then go into details as you develop your thoughts.
  6. Write an all-inclusive conclusion that presents your main ideas about your description.
  7. Lay your work aside for some time and then do a thorough proofreading.

Topic Selection

There are various kinds of descriptive essays. The most common ones are those that focus on describing people, describing places or buildings, and describing objects. Here are several examples of appropriate topics for each category:

- A person I will never forget

- A place I have always wanted to go

- A person I admire

- The house of my dreams

- A visit to a theater/museum/modern art gallery

- My Remembrance Day celebration in London

- My best friend

- Our family trip to Europe

- My ideal wedding

- A person who changed my life

- Venice – the city of eternal romance

- My favorite fiction writer/poet

Key Points to Consider

  • A descriptive essay, as with any other successfully written piece, needs to have a clear and well-balanced structure. Normally, you should start with an introduction of the object, person or place you plan to describe. You should specify your relation to the person, the location of the place, the purpose of the object, etc.
  • In the main body, you should focus on specific qualities of the chosen subject and go into details of each particular quality in the following paragraphs. For instance, if you chose to write about a person, you could include a paragraph about their appearance, another one about their personality traits, and the third paragraph of the main body section can be about the person’s hobbies, talents and interests.
  • Your conclusion should focus on your personal feelings about the chosen subject, justifying why it had such an influence on you that you decided to write about it.
  • A descriptive essay focuses on details, so make sure to be specific in your descriptions. Including colorful adjectives is always a sound idea. Another tip is to introduce some peculiar facts, situations and words that you associate with the person, place or object you are describing. The more innovative and unique you get, the better.
  • When going into the details of your description, group similar and opposing qualities together to make your writing sound more versatile. For similar qualities, use also, as well as, in addition to; for opposite qualities use at the same time, in spite of this, nevertheless, although, however.

Do and Don’t

Do

  • Do use a variety of transition words to make your descriptions more logical and to connect one idea with another.
  • Do use comparisons to make your descriptions more vivid and brighter. For example, when describing an object, say what its shape reminds you of; when talking about a person, compare their characteristics with that of an animal, flower, or whatever you associate with the person.
  • Do use your emotions, analyze how you feel about the described person, place or object and do not be afraid to include your subjective opinion.
  • Do be creative in your descriptions.
  • Do use a variety of techniques to express your thoughts: build your ideas into subjective clauses and compound sentences.
Don’t

  • Don’t begin all your sentences in a similar way as it will make your essay sound boring and template-like.
  • Don’t switch from present tense to the past and back.
  • Don’t write too generally or too sketchily. Go underneath the surface in your descriptions to make your essay sound more realistic.
  • Don’t write about everything you can think of in terms of your chosen subject. Whether it is a person or building that you chose to describe, think of the most peculiar and interesting characteristics that distinguish and highlight this particular person, object, or phenomena.
  • Don’t focus on what is generally known, believed or considered about your subject. Write about what matters to you personally.

Common Mistakes

  • Absence of a key idea. Your essay should focus around one main idea that needs to be clear to the readers.
  • Usage of unnecessary adjectives. Instead, try to describe the object or person from a personal perspective, using your emotions and feelings.
  • Applying an out-and-out approach when you include negative adjectives in your description. Try to use mild language in such cases. For example, you can replace “John is arrogant” with “Sometimes, John can be rather audacious.”

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic descriptive essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our descriptive essay samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Descriptive Essay

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Questions for Descriptive Essay

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