Today's high school and college writing classes usually demand to write in loads of different essay formats. The reason behind those assignments is pretty apparent and simple. A young person has to gain skills in formulating and expressing own thoughts on a vast variety of topics and in most different forms. Those skills are essential in everyday life for any adult person. Thus, high school and college is a perfect time to learn how to do it.
The models of a discourse range from expressing own thoughts in a relatively free manner in Personal Essay and up to Description, Narration or Argumentation. Thus, students learn how to perform thorough research, combine facts, express the point of view and defend it. Even though some composition scholars can somehow criticize the mentioned formats of assignments, we at StudentShare consider them to be a useful addition to all the skills one can gain during the studies.
What is a descriptive essay?
Let’s move on and get a bit closer to the main topic of our long read. We aim to describe everything related to the Descriptive Essay. It practically would be a step by step guide for everyone, who is looking for a detailed description of each aspect of this writing reinforced with explanations and decent examples. In the very end, we hope our reader gets a full picture and a firm knowledge of how a descriptive essay should be written.
At the very beginning, we need to define what type of writing can be considered as a Descriptive Essay? One second thought leads us to the origin of the word, “Description.’ Consequently, this essay would require us to depict, explain or define something. The object of this writing can be a particular emotion, feeling, sound, happening or situation. You would need to illustrate something so that the reader can feel, see or experience something the same way you did it live.
Loads of scholars say that a Descriptive essay format allows you (the author) to ‘paint a picture in words’ for the reader. Thus, this type of writing allows a great deal of creative and artistic freedom. Still, we always have to keep one essential thing in mind. Descriptive essay is not a work of fiction. Thus, do not let your fantasy go wild. Academic papers should always have a good structure, argumentation, and logic. We’ll get to that a bit later.
So that by now you have got a little knowledge of the subject, thus let us go on and place a link to the descriptive essay writing style examples.
Right now you can use them to get a general idea of what a Descriptive essay is, how it is usually written, how long it can be and so on. Do not fall for details, as we get to them soon. Draw your attention to the general idea of this type of writing.
This one is probably the most frequently asked question in Google search, isn’t it? Sure, when you are off to write an essay for the first time, you might get a bit confused. How to start a descriptive essay? Where should you look for topics? How should it be structured?
One of the keys to writing a good essay is having a precise understanding of that type of essay you are about to complete. Thus, you need to know its definition, how it differs from other types of essays, how it is structured, and so on.
Well, this is precisely what we are going to talk about next. Let’s try to cover each possible step of working on the essay, to make the process of writing for you as simple as it can only be. So, the first question is… How do you start working on a Descriptive essay?
Before rushing to Google for a topic, samples and prewritten first sentence, try to sit down for a second and use your imagination. Descriptive essay is always about something you can depict. Therefore, you have to have a clear picture in your mind. What is that? An outstanding person in your life, a significant place or day, an emotion or a flashback. Everything counts here. The only thing you would need to do is to engage your reader so much, s/he can fell it just the way you did once. The goal of a descriptive essay is to create a realistic picture in your audience’s mind. The best way to do it is to take on all five senses. Thus, you have to remember the feeling, person or place you are about to describe in smallest details. This is the first little secret, which would lay the groundwork for your future successful essay.
After you went through this tiny trick, you can proceed with actual writing.
#1. Choose a topic
At this point, you have the idea of what you are writing about, your primary focus in the essay. As already mentioned, it can be whatever you like, a person, a particular place, event, emotion or happening. So, you got it. But how should you formulate your topic? Luckily, this type of essay is the most unpretentious when it comes to the topic. Thus, if you name it “My best friend,” “My favorite place,” “A road trip,” and so on, it can be left that way with no other additions. Still, if you want something special for your topic, try to expand the idea a bit. Feel free to transform it into “The best person one can know,” “Walking down a quiet street,” “The greatest road trip adventure in my life,” and so on. The secret here is in adding a bit of emotion into the header.
Let’s look for some examples, as they would be quite useful here.
As you see, each topic relates to some kind of your personal experience and emotions. You can choose any of these, or think of your own; both variants would be great as long as you have the vision, feel the emotion and are ready to transfer it to your future reader.
Also, when choosing a topic, you have to remember one essential thing. It would structure your whole piece, thus pick the header carefully. Remember, if you have an idea of describing an event or happening, you most probably would need to organize your essay chronologically. When choosing a person or a place as the theme, you would need to start your description in a general manner and fall into details later. Thus, selecting a topic sets the ground for the whole essay, pre-creates its structure and also inspires the tone of voice you are about to use.
#2. Create a statement
Creating a first sentence of the essay might sometimes take more time than writing the whole essay itself. It took us three days to start this guide. True story. It is not that easy, especially when you try to follow all the rules, like ‘First sentence should be a thesis statement’ (whatever it means), ‘It should be the opening of the essay and engage the audience in reading more,’ or ‘It should set out the topic’s framework,’ and so on.
Sure, all these rules are important. And yes, your essay should have a strong opening, which sets the tone for the text and gives a short explanation of the topic. In the first paragraph, you should make your reader slowly dive into the text, and your first sentence plays the most significant role in it. It should be a hook, to make audience read more. We at StudentShare already have a great article, named “How to write a hook for an essay: Catchy ideas with examples.” Feel free to use it while creating a perfect opening for your essay.
Still, let’s be more precise, and look for some examples of great statements in existing Descriptive essays.
Example 1. A Beautiful Place: “I think we all have a beautiful place in our mind. I have a wonderful place that made me happy a lot of times, years ago. But sometimes I think that I am the only person who likes this place, and I'm asking myself if this place will be as beautiful as I thought when I would go back to revisit it. Perhaps I made it beautiful in my mind.”
Example 2. My mother “My mother is, without doubt, the most important person in my life and the complete individual I know.”
Example 3. Love “People often talk about love, but most of us are not fully aware of its true essence. There is a lot of misconception about the efficacy of love that holds us back to generate loving feelings towards others.”
As you see, there is no single recipe to create the opening for your essay. Even though you have to remember and follow loads of rules when creating it… Sometimes it is better to relax and start writing. There would be time for editing when you finish. So why get stuck, if the sentence is not perfect right now?
#3. Dive into senses
The goal of each descriptive essay is to create a picture, make your reader dive into it and experience the object just like you did. You might wonder, how it can possibly be done?
Well, first of all, you have to dive into own senses. Try closing your eyes and imagine all the essential details, how you feel them with all your five senses. Memorize this image.
Now you can either start writing them down, one by one, as they came to your mind, or you can try to rationalize the experience. For that, you would need to divide a piece of paper into five columns, for each of five senses correspondingly. Thus you’ll get a column for taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. Now write down at least several positions in each column. This part might play a significant role in your future essay, as it helps to create a full sensory picture. You won’t be focused on, f.e. sight or sound solely, but paint the picture with all the five senses, for you have been thinking of each separately.
So, if you decide to go for five columns, feel free to fill them in with as many details as you want. The more, the better, actually. Use all the literary tools you know, like metaphors, personification, adjectives or similes. If you get a lot of positions, in the end, it never hurts. You don’t need to put them all in your text. Still, you have to be aware of all of them. It would simplify the writing process genuinely.
#4. Create an outline
That’s right. Only now it is the perfect time to create the framework for your future work. Do not be skeptic about this point. Loads of students omit this essential part of the essay writing, and practically each of them ends up lost in paragraphs somewhere between entirely different thoughts. Even though it seems tempting to skip doing this part of work in the name of ‘saving time,’ remember, it might take more time to tighten it all up once you get lost in different directions your writing led you to.
Let’s now try to clarify, what is an outline and how should you write one.
An essay outline is its basis, a skeleton you can build your writing on. This should be a plan, which structures your ideas and thoughts in a logical order. The outline should organize your work in a way you’ll get the starting point, a strong flow of arguments, that would lead you to the logical conclusion. Thus, not you, nor your reader would be confused with the main theme and the purpose of the writing.
Creating an outline for a descriptive essay might at first seem to be a waste of time. The goal of this essay is to describe something. What can possibly go wrong? Still, there are loads of pitfalls to be aware of. Without an outline, f.e., you can easily go wild in random descriptions and end up with a work of fiction, not the essay you were meant to complete.
So, how can a descriptive essay be structured? We’d like to show you the basic plan you can follow by adding specific details. Here it is.
An introduction should get your reader acquainted with the text, by revealing several spicy details. This part of the text should make your audience want to read more. Therefore, an introduction has to contain several essential points, namely
II. Body Paragraphs
The amount of paragraphs depends on the length of your story. Sometimes two of them are more than enough, but sometimes you need the entire pages to tell what you want. There is no unique recipe for how much you should write. The only thing important is for you to express yourself clearly and avoid unnecessary repetitions. So, try organizing the body paragraphs of your descriptive essay in the following way:
III. Final Thoughts
This is the bottom line of your essay. Thus, usually, nothing new is told here. This part should be a short sum up of everything you wrote before. So try to add
Final sentence. This one is as important as the first one, if not more. A reader should leave reading your essay on the interesting thought. Give people something to consider.
#5. Write your essay
Now is your finest hour. Try to shut down all the distractions and simply write what you feel and, most important, how you feel it. With all the due preparations you went through already, it doesn’t seem that challenging to write your text, isn’t it?
Let’s try to highlight the most significant points here. When the process of writing starts, we bet, you cannot stop overthinking whether this and that sentence are relevant and appropriate. No matter how many guides tell you to ‘stop thinking and just write,’ we know it is close to impossible. Thus, we offer you to try to hold your focus on two main points while developing your description.
While overthinking those two points when writing your essay, you can never go wrong. Always think of your audience, imagine those people, and write for them. And do not forget to stick to your plan. Those are the only keys to a successful essay.
We will share a few little examples of how you can ‘show’ the picture, not tell. This is what you better do while completing your description.
Telling: The house was old.
Showing: The house frowned with a wrinkled brow, and inside it creaked with each step, releasing a scent of neglected laundry.
The difference between those two sentences is obvious. The first sentence simply states the fact, ‘The house is old.’ Fine. Your reader won’t ever get any emotional experience while reading such a statement. What we see in a second example is adding emotions and details, which are extremely important in any description. Try to make your reader believe s/he sees this old house with own eyes. What is flashy? What would any person notice, when seeing such a house? A crack on the side? A specific scent of old laundry? The overall look of it? The contrast it makes towards modern buildings nearby? Fantasize and write it all down. There will be time for revision, so don’t be too strict with yourself now. Release all your creativity.
#6. Review your essay
Before starting to work on this step, you would definitely take time for a break. Let your essay sit for a while, at least an hour or two. There will be no good if you rush to review and edit right after writing. Your mind won’t be able to find obvious mistakes, typos, and plot cracks.
Still, when it finally comes to revision, draw your attention to the following questions.
Also, try to check whether your essay is easy and exciting to read. You can try giving it to your relatives or trusted friends so that they could point out the blind spots, mistakes or plot cracks. Ask, whether is it is easy to build the image of what was described. Such help cannot be overemphasized.
#7. Finish it up
This stage might be the simplest of all. You need to tie up loose ends, proofread and correct the grammar and spellcheck. Read your whole essay for the last time. See, whether it is precise on details and scenes, but not too ahead of itself. You don’t want your reader to get lost in numerous descriptions with no end. You also might want to improve the style and clarity of the text, remove clichés, etc. That all is up to you. Your primary task here is to polish your descriptive essay in a way you like it most.
Once you feel it is finished, go on to upload or publish it. We hope the experience of working on this essay would be enjoyable and you will get all the best results.