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A descriptive essay is a type of essay that provides a vivid description of a person, place, scene, object, experience, memory, etc. in the way the reader can easily get its physical realization. More than many other types of essays, descriptive essays strive to create a deeply involved and vivid experience for the reader. Great descriptive essays achieve this affect not through facts and statistics but by using detailed observations and descriptions.
What do you want to describe?
As you get started on your descriptive essay, it’s important for you to identify exactly what you want to describe. Often, a descriptive essay will focus on portraying one of the following:
Ultimately, whatever you can perceive or experience can be the focus of your descriptive writing
Why are you writing your description?
It’s a great creative exercise to sit down and simply describe what you observe. However, when writing a descriptive essay, you often have a particular reason for writing your description. Getting in touch with this reason can help you focus your description and imbue your language with a particular perspective or emotion
Example: Imagine that you want to write a descriptive essay about your grandfather. You’ve chosen to write about your grandfather’s physical appearance and the way that he interacts with people. However, rather than providing a general description of these aspects, you want to convey your admiration for his strength and kindness. This is your reason for writing the descriptive essay. To achieve this, you might focus one of your paragraphs on describing the roughness of his hands, roughness resulting from the labor of his work throughout his life, but you might also describe how he would hold your hands so gently with his rough hands when having a conversation with you or when taking a walk.
How should you write your description?
The next time you get a chance, pick up an apple. Feel the weight of it in your hand. Examine it for blemishes. What caused that little black spot? Did the apple tenaciously hang onto the wind-whipped tree branch as a storm dashed it into a neighboring twig? Did a peckish bird sample the apple for ripeness? Look at the apple again and feel it as it warms in your hand. Anticipate the burst of flavor as your teeth crunch through the rich redness of its thin skin.The above is a sample of descriptive writing and a hint of some of the ways you can take an ordinary object and change it into the extraordinary using words. Writing a descriptive essay is a chance to explore your own creativity as you use the senses to draw a picture in words.
Actually, there is more than one way to write a descriptive essay. Some descriptive essays are written objectively, using only the facts:
Tip: Keep your essay on topic by applying descriptive text to your subject only. Notice above that no description is applied to the tree.
Other descriptive writing, like the first example, is subjective in that it intends to paint a vivid picture that elicits sensations or arouses emotion in the reader. However, in either form, descriptive writing adds strength to your essay by adding interesting and specific details to your composition.
Although the first example is a descriptive paragraph, be sure to follow the standard essay writing format of introduction, body, and conclusion when writing your descriptive essay. Use your introduction to both present your subject and to tell your reader why you found it interesting.
Choose your details carefully. In writing a descriptive essay, your objective is to leave your reader with just one impression.
For instance, if the apple was grass green instead of rosy red, you might take some “poetic license” and leave that fact out, selecting only the details that support your description and convey the impression or a ripe and juicy apple.
When writing a descriptive essay, start building your description by brainstorming the facts
By the time you finish this process, you’ll probably have written an objective description and only need to put it into sentences and insert them into appropriate paragraphs of your descriptive essay. In writing a subjective description, you’ll want to build on the facts by adding adjectives to some of them and using synonyms that are more descriptive for others. (e.g. rosy red as opposed to red or weighty as opposed to heavy).
Choose two or three of the descriptions you’ve built and use them as the focal points of your descriptive essay body, with supporting information that describes why they are important to your overall view. (In this example, the ripeness of the apple.)
Conclude your descriptive essay with a summary of your points and restate the impression you meant to create.