In this article, we delve into what is a descriptive essay and offer a complete writing guide with useful tips at the end. For private lecturing or writing assistance, head on to EssayPro, an essay writing service made to help students succeed academically.
The descriptive essay definition is a paper that gives a verbal account of someone or something, representing all of its characteristics, qualities, and events. In this type of essay, the writer appeals to the reader (taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight) to draw a vivid description of a thing, event, or person:
The cat was described as small, pitch-black, with a red collar and a bell dangling from its neck.
Further, in this article, we find out how to write a descriptive essay in each of its sections (intro, body, conclusion), starting by creating an outline.
How to create a descriptive essay outline
A descriptive essay outline is subdivided into three parts that are obligatory to most essay rubrics: the introduction, (three) body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Sporting this descriptive essay structure will land you a higher grade upon submission. Once you start drawing out the outline, you'll provide the points that you want to convey in each of your body paragraphs. Just remember to always follow this descriptive essay format.
- Hook, or attention grabber
- Background context
- Thesis, target of description
Body paragraph 1
- Topic sentence: point of description 1
- Descriptive details that appeal to the senses
- Transition into 2nd paragraph
Body paragraph 2
- Topic sentence: another point of description
- Appeal to a different sense or emotion
Body paragraph 3
- Topic sentence: the last point of description
- Descriptive details to support your last topic sentence
- Summarize everything
- Restate thesis
- Clincher: settle the matter conclusively
Go by this descriptive writing format, and you won't go wrong. Just keep in mind that the description's target should have been illustrated fully, to the point where no questions arise from the reader upon finishing reading your essay. If this descriptive text structure is executed correctly, the reader should be fully educated on the description target, and no questions will come up.
When writing a descriptive essay, we suggest filling out the outline first to guide you through the process. Usually, students finish the outline and write the body paragraphs, as it further solidifies the description and lets them introduce what they've written. In descriptive writing, just like most other writing, the introduction and conclusion are usually written later.
Descriptive Essay Introduction
A descriptive essay introduction is for familiarizing your reader with the work. The reader requires some context to understand the topic of description and why you have chosen it. If you wonder how to start a descriptive essay, keep it short and sweet to draw momentum and entice the reader to continue into the body.
The section also includes a descriptive essay thesis that summarizes your entire paper in a nutshell. Every paper has one, so take care to draw out your descriptive essay thesis statement so that the reader can see a clear focus.
So here are all the sections of a classic introduction which are mandatory to include when preparing your work:
- Hook, or catchy opener. The entire essay should be illustrious and catchy, but the first sentence is what gets the ball rolling. Impress the reader from the get-go so that they're excited to continue reading.
- Context or background information. Without context, there is no essay. In the descriptive essay introduction, give your reader a setting or an explanation of why your target of a description is important to you, them, or the world.
- Thesis statement: The descriptive thesis statement is the soul of your work, one sentence which binds everything together. Make your target of description clear, as well as your reasons for selecting this target.
When thinking about how to write a descriptive essay introduction, you can refer to some of the examples of thesis statements we've listed below.
- Place: The Roman Forum brings to attention the stunning levels of civilization and politics achieved by our ancestors 2000 years ago.
- Object: The Holy Grail is a mysterious object which has been a topic of controversy and debate for hundreds of years and has not been located or its appearance fully described to this day.
- Person: Although Steve Jobs was the primary creative force behind Apple, it was Steve Wozniak who had the technical capabilities to execute the ideas that changed the game in the world of tech.
There are plenty of amazing things in the world to describe, so pick something that you're passionate about. Or something with lots of historical significance and vivid visual clues. For example, one of the many great ideas for descriptive essay you can take is the Roman Empire, with the Romans' blood-red colors, mixed with the gold armor, the beautiful marble structures, worshipping gods, and the clash of steel at the Coliseum. Use visual cues such as these to make your description come to life.
Descriptive Essay Body Paragraphs
Students often don't know how to write a descriptive paragraph because it's not the type of work they're used to. Unless you're doing a Literature or English language degree, chances are you're faced with structured essays where facts and reasoning win over description. Well, in this case, your academic sources are no good, and you'll have to use your eyes, nose, and ears to create a great body paragraph for a descriptive essay.
As mentioned before, the main body part consists of 3 descriptive essay body paragraphs, each adding to the previous to make your description come to life. Sometimes one sentence is enough to tell a story, but this is not the case. When thinking about how to write a body paragraph for a descriptive essay or how to make notes for a starting reference: make a bullet point list of how your subject appeals to the five senses. Use illustrious language, yet try to be specific, as don't want to create too much abstraction or mystery around your topic. Descriptive writing can be very dreamy, but it's often to the point.
Here's a descriptive essay body paragraph is broken down into three primary sections:
- A topic sentence: The Fender Stratocaster is the hallmark sound of rock'n'roll music.
- Sensory details: Its body sound, the unmistakable clean twang, the gentle yet slappy tone becomes a roaring spectacle when the gain knob is turned to 11, and the iconic Jimi Hendrix riff lifts the hair off the skin for everyone sitting at the bar.
- Actual details: With its iconic shape and form, the very looks of this guitar have managed to piss off every parent in the 1950s, and in a more modern setting, bring back the real Teen Spirit of rock in the 1990s.
Expand, and bewilder. With a strong descriptive essay body paragraph, you'll manage to water the reader's mouth and make them curious for more. This type of essay is best approached with passion and an eagle eye for detail.
How to End a Descriptive Essay
The descriptive essay conclusion is the aftermath. Here, you offer afterthoughts while binding your essay together to finalize the image in the reader's head. When thinking about how to conclude a descriptive essay on a strong note, simply start by summarizing what you've already written. Then, proceed to offer the final dressing or 'the cherry on top' with a strong closing sentence that makes the reader feel fulfilled.
Combine the following ingredients for a delicious descriptive essay conclusion:
- Reflect on the purpose of your essay, life, the universe, and everything. Sounds funny, but your reader has to know your subject's placement in the context of things. Why did you choose to write about dogs? Tell them that the world can be a gloomy place and that dogs exist to make it happier.
- Why is it important? Okay, so dogs make you smile- but so what? Tell the reader why it's so important to smile: to bring out dopamine, share it with other people, bask in the sunshine of life, and create beautiful things. Of course, this can be achieved without dogs, but it's just a little easier with them. Also, they lick you.
- Clincher, or the solid closer. It's like the hook, but kind of in reverse. Give the reader a final closing sentence that will satisfy them with a sense of completion and maybe even stick in their head for a while. So to conclude, dogs are awesome. But if you're still not sure, just imagine a world without dogs.
So that's how to end a descriptive essay. With the bulk of the work out of the way, you can proceed to edit. But don't forget to check out the handy tips we have prepared in the next section!
Wise Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay
Finished writing a descriptive essay? Let's see if it ticks off all these points. These are descriptive essay tips that will help you make sure that your essay is beautiful.
- You show and not tell. The first thing a professor will look at in your descriptive writing is your knack for… well: description.
- This usually means that you don't explicitly state that the car was shiny red; you describe its redness in all of its glory, maybe even put a hint of sunlight reflecting off into your reader's eyes.
- Your introduction is like opening a book. Back in the good old days of print literature, flashy covers and enticing titles didn't do much of a job for a tasteful reader. They had to open a book and read the first several lines, and if these lines drew the reader in, then they'd buy the book. Back to the present, try hard for your essay opener and make the reader 'buy' your essay.
- There's lots of space. Every object, person, or event takes up some space in the space-time continuum. The depth of that space can be different, a large book falling off your shelf with a thud, sending dust to all corners of the room, or a gunshot that rings through the history books and reminds us of the cruel side of humanity. You are the director of this essay, and you get to choose the lens for your camera. Just make sure that your descriptions don't stay too focused on the small picture.
- It's alive! Things move and breathe, even inanimate objects. Your description must make the reader feel like the object is alive; it has a history; it has a purpose. For if it doesn't have a purpose, what's the purpose of writing about it?
- You didn't overdo it. What is descriptive writing? Is it using fancy synonyms and long library words that nobody understands? Or is it using words like a camera to take a picture? Going too complex or too simple can yield unsatisfactory results. When writing a descriptive essay, many students tend to over-metaphorize, over-complicate, thinking that this will make them sound smart or descriptive. But the very smart ones stick to the sense and only use the absolutely necessary words.
- It's well-structured. A building will collapse without a base. So will your essay, if it doesn't follow the format we've provided above. Check to see that each body paragraph has only one point of discussion and no more. Check that they flow seamlessly into each other and together complement each other and your descriptive writing. You can have a fantastic pen game, but without structure, you will have no substance.
- There are no questions left. With the conclusion, the reader should be able to put down your essay and bask in the sense of completion. There should be no unanswered questions, no excluded historical facts of vital significance, no stones unturned. Re-read your essay to see if it makes any sense to you, and if you have any questions, see if you can find the answers within your text.
Those are the tips on writing a descriptive essay that we can offer you for now. For further reference, read some Edgar Allen Poe or Charles Dickens if Poe's phantasmagorical mood doesn't strum a chord with you.