How to write a descriptive essay

What is a descriptive essay?

A descriptive essay requires the student to paint a picture with words. This picture could be of a person or an object, an experience or an emotion, or whatever you want to share. It is essential to be able to transmit this picture to the mind of the reader, so that it becomes real for them too.

The genre allows for a great deal of artistic freedom as you seek to convey a living experience, event, etc. Here are some guidelines to help you:

Take time to brainstorm

If your instructor asks you to describe your favorite food, for instance, jot down some ideas first. If you have a passion for pizza, your thoughts will turn to mozzarella, tomatoes, stone baked dough, mushrooms, peperoni, herbs and so on.

You can then start to compile descriptive lists for each one.

Use clear and concise language

Choose words carefully, and particularly for their relevance to what you are trying to describe. Choose vivid language For example, use the word stallion instead of horse, and it will spring to life before your reader; tempestuous implies something more complex than violence; and miserly adds another dimension to cheap!

Use your senses

Smells, sounds, taste and touch will all bring the moment alive for your reader, and will allow them to experience it too, so embellish that moment with senses.

What were you thinking?!

If you can describe your own feelings, you will forge a deeper connection with the reader. After all, we all experience emotional highs and lows at some point in our lives, and so can then empathise on those levels.

Leave the reader with a clear impression

You are aiming to evoke a strong sense of familiarity and appreciation. If your reader walks away craving that pizza, longing for that experience, or resolved to visit that place, you are on your way to producing effective descriptive essays.

Be organised!

Discipline yourself to create a clear and well organized description. There is no room for emotive ramblings that will confuse the impressions in your reader’s head. They need to come away with a clear grasp of what you are trying to describe, as if seeing it through your eyes.