Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is a descriptive essay?
The descriptive essay is a genre of essay that asks the student to describe something—object, person, place, experience, emotion, situation, etc. This genre encourages the student’s ability to create a written account of a particular experience. What is more, this genre allows for a great deal of artistic freedom (the goal of which is to paint an image that is vivid and moving in the mind of the reader).
One might benefit from keeping in mind this simple maxim: If the reader is unable to clearly form an impression of the thing that you are describing, try, try again!
Here are some guidelines for writing a descriptive essay.
- Take time to brainstorm
If your instructor asks you to describe your favorite food, make sure that you jot down some ideas before you begin describing it. For instance, if you choose pizza, you might start by writing down a few words: sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, sausage, spices, hot, melted, etc. Once you have written down some words, you can begin by compiling descriptive lists for each one.
- Use clear and concise language.
This means that words are chosen carefully, particularly for their relevancy in relation to that which you are intending to describe.
- Choose vivid language.
Why use horse when you can choose stallion ? Why not use tempestuous instead of violent ? Or why not miserly in place of cheap ? Such choices form a firmer image in the mind of the reader and often times offer nuanced meanings that serve better one’s purpose.
- Use your senses!
Remember, if you are describing something, you need to be appealing to the senses of the reader. Explain how the thing smelled, felt, sounded, tasted, or looked. Embellish the moment with senses.
- What were you thinking?!
If you can describe emotions or feelings related to your topic, you will connect with the reader on a deeper level. Many have felt crushing loss in their lives, or ecstatic joy, or mild complacency. Tap into this emotional reservoir in order to achieve your full descriptive potential.
- Leave the reader with a clear impression.
One of your goals is to evoke a strong sense of familiarity and appreciation in the reader. If your reader can walk away from the essay craving the very pizza you just described, you are on your way to writing effective descriptive essays.
- Be organized!
It is easy to fall into an incoherent rambling of emotions and senses when writing a descriptive essay. However, you must strive to present an organized and logical description if the reader is to come away from the essay with a cogent sense of what it is you are attempting to describe.
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- How to write a descriptive essay | Example & tips
How to Write a Descriptive Essay | Example & Tips
Published on July 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.
A descriptive essay gives a vivid, detailed description of something—generally a place or object, but possibly something more abstract like an emotion. This type of essay , like the narrative essay , is more creative than most academic writing .
Table of contents
Descriptive essay topics, tips for writing descriptively, descriptive essay example, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about descriptive essays.
When you are assigned a descriptive essay, you’ll normally be given a specific prompt or choice of prompts. They will often ask you to describe something from your own experience.
- Describe a place you love to spend time in.
- Describe an object that has sentimental value for you.
You might also be asked to describe something outside your own experience, in which case you’ll have to use your imagination.
- Describe the experience of a soldier in the trenches of World War I.
- Describe what it might be like to live on another planet.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to describe something more abstract, like an emotion.
If you’re not given a specific prompt, try to think of something you feel confident describing in detail. Think of objects and places you know well, that provoke specific feelings or sensations, and that you can describe in an interesting way.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
The key to writing an effective descriptive essay is to find ways of bringing your subject to life for the reader. You’re not limited to providing a literal description as you would be in more formal essay types.
Make use of figurative language, sensory details, and strong word choices to create a memorable description.
Use figurative language
Figurative language consists of devices like metaphor and simile that use words in non-literal ways to create a memorable effect. This is essential in a descriptive essay; it’s what gives your writing its creative edge and makes your description unique.
Take the following description of a park.
This tells us something about the place, but it’s a bit too literal and not likely to be memorable.
If we want to make the description more likely to stick in the reader’s mind, we can use some figurative language.
Here we have used a simile to compare the park to a face and the trees to facial hair. This is memorable because it’s not what the reader expects; it makes them look at the park from a different angle.
You don’t have to fill every sentence with figurative language, but using these devices in an original way at various points throughout your essay will keep the reader engaged and convey your unique perspective on your subject.
Use your senses
Another key aspect of descriptive writing is the use of sensory details. This means referring not only to what something looks like, but also to smell, sound, touch, and taste.
Obviously not all senses will apply to every subject, but it’s always a good idea to explore what’s interesting about your subject beyond just what it looks like.
Even when your subject is more abstract, you might find a way to incorporate the senses more metaphorically, as in this descriptive essay about fear.
Choose the right words
Writing descriptively involves choosing your words carefully. The use of effective adjectives is important, but so is your choice of adverbs , verbs , and even nouns.
It’s easy to end up using clichéd phrases—“cold as ice,” “free as a bird”—but try to reflect further and make more precise, original word choices. Clichés provide conventional ways of describing things, but they don’t tell the reader anything about your unique perspective on what you’re describing.
Try looking over your sentences to find places where a different word would convey your impression more precisely or vividly. Using a thesaurus can help you find alternative word choices.
- My cat runs across the garden quickly and jumps onto the fence to watch it from above.
- My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above.
However, exercise care in your choices; don’t just look for the most impressive-looking synonym you can find for every word. Overuse of a thesaurus can result in ridiculous sentences like this one:
- My feline perambulates the allotment proficiently and capers atop the palisade to regard it from aloft.
An example of a short descriptive essay, written in response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” is shown below.
Hover over different parts of the text to see how a descriptive essay works.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
- Ad hominem fallacy
- Post hoc fallacy
- Appeal to authority fallacy
- False cause fallacy
- Sunk cost fallacy
- Choosing Essay Topic
- Write a College Essay
- Write a Diversity Essay
- College Essay Format & Structure
- Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay
- Grammar Checker
- Paraphrasing Tool
- Text Summarizer
- AI Detector
- Plagiarism Checker
- Citation Generator
Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services
Discover proofreading & editing
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.
The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Caulfield, J. (2023, August 14). How to Write a Descriptive Essay | Example & Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/descriptive-essay/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to write a narrative essay | example & tips, how to write a literary analysis essay | a step-by-step guide, how to write an expository essay, what is your plagiarism score.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Full Guide With Tips
In this article, we examine the descriptive essay and present a step-by-step writing guide. Stick around for helpful writing tips near the end! Also, check out custom writers at EssayPro — political science essay service, if you need private tutoring or essay editing.
What is a Descriptive Essay?
The definition of a descriptive essay is a type of composition or paper which describes an object, person, process, or event. The writer’s goal is to create a vivid reading experience, or to show instead of tell (metaphorically).
Descriptive writing usually appeals to the five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. (Ex: Jack’s coffee mug exploded into tiny shards of glass, catching the attention of everyone at the office.) Always appealing to the senses is key to writing a good descriptive essay.
When writing a descriptive essay, your goal will be to paint a comprehensive picture for the reader by appealing to the five senses. Last but not least, your work should have a purpose. It could be anything from a lesson you learned from an experience, to a story of how an object impacted your life. It’s all about making your bright ideas come to life.
Difference Between a Description and a Descriptive Essay
When writing this type of paper, you should know the difference between a description and a descriptive essay. A description can be just a simple paragraph, or several ones with no specific structure, meanwhile, a descriptive essay has five or more paragraphs and a clear and complete structure. A descriptive essay is usually written coherently, has a good thesis statement at the end of the introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A description however, does not necessarily have a structure. Its main purpose is to just describe an object, or something else, without having any extra academic layers.
The Issues that Could be Described in Your Paper
- A person. In this paper, you can talk about a person. It can range from simply writing about their appearance to more complex descriptions like actions, behaviours, mood, and qualities of your chosen individual.
- A place. The main thing you should do when describing a place in your work is to describe it interestingly and originally. Your reader(s) should feel, for example, the beauty of your chosen cities—perhaps New York or Rome.
- An event. Here you need to describe the story of what happened. It can be your last vacation, concert, wedding, anniversary, summer music festival, graduation day, or so on.
- An animal. In this type, you need to describe the animal. It may be its appearance, behaviour, or biology.
- An occupation. Here you need to write about a job or occupation.
- A behaviour. This is the type of descriptive writing you should go for if you would like to write about someone’s behaviour. Perhaps you want to describe the strange behaviour of your friend, or highlight how certain people act under different conditions.
Bring your descriptions to life with EssayPro . Our team can help you create vivid, immersive descriptive essays that captivate the senses. Describe scenes, emotions, and experiences like never before.
Two Classic Approaches to the Descriptive Essay
1. Personal Essay
Here you need to describe an experience using your feelings and responses. This work can awake empathy in readers. It can also be vague and disorganized. If you want to write a good personal essay, you should try to focus only on those aspects that most fully express your experience. Do not shy away from vivid, evocative language in this type of assignment.
A few examples of personal essay topics might be:
- Describing the experience of swimming in the azure sea in summer
- Explaining your favourite movie and its impact on you
- Reflecting on your birthday and all the things that have shaped you in the past
2. Formal Description
This type of descriptive writing resembles an argumentative essay. Your main goal should be communicating a set of key points or describing something in detail—according to a clear structure. Rather than focusing on your own experience, you need to use specific categories of information to provide the fullest possible portrait of what you are describing. This approach can also be engaging, especially when the reader is more curious about the subject of the paper than the writer's response to it. Still, try not to make it dull with too formal language.
Topics for formal descriptions can include:
- A descriptive essay about climate change, politics, or historical events.
- A news story that provides a summary of an event or information about the place where it occurred.
Descriptive Essay Topics & Ideas
Finding descriptive essay topics isn’t hard. You can describe pretty much anything—from your favourite car to today’s weather. We’ve gathered some ideas to help you get started. Hopefully, you’ll find good descriptive essay topics to spark your imagination.
Descriptive Essay Topics: People
Exploring the essence of individuals through this type of writing can be both engaging and insightful. Here are ten distinctive essay topics centered on people that go beyond the ordinary:
- The Eccentric Street Performer Who Danced with Shadows
- A Glimpse into the Daily Routine of a Lighthouse Keeper
- The Mysterious Antique Shop Owner: Guardian of Forgotten Tales
- A Day in the Life of a Vintage Jazz Club's Bartender
- The Tattooed Wanderer: Stories Etched in Ink
- A Conversation with the Urban Gardener Transforming Cityscapes
- Portrait of a Silent Mime Artist: Communicating Without Words
- A Chef's Culinary Odyssey: Exploring Flavor on a Plate
- The Whimsical World of a Puppeteer: Strings of Imagination
- Life Beneath the Spotlight: A Theatrical Makeup Artist's Secrets
Descriptive Essay Topics: Place
Places possess a unique ability to evoke emotions and tell their own stories through descriptive essay writing. To transport your readers to captivating destinations, consider these ten distinct topics, each offering a glimpse into a one-of-a-kind locale:
- The Forgotten Underground Catacombs: A Subterranean Labyrinth of Secrets
- Serenity by the Secluded Cliffside Cottage: Echoes of Solitude
- A Day in the Life of an Abandoned Amusement Park: Whispers of Laughter
- The Enchanted Forest: A Realm of Ancient Mysteries
- A Fishing Village Frozen in Time: Life on the Shores of Nostalgia
- The Rooftop Gardens of Babylon: Urban Oases in the Sky
- The Hidden Café of Lost Conversations: Where Coffee and Stories Brew
- A Night at the Desert Oasis: Starlit Mirages and Mirage Stars
- The Echoing Halls of the Sunken Ship: A Submerged Voyage into History
- The Neon Glow of the Midnight Arcade: Dreams Illuminated in Pixels
Descriptive Essay Topics: Memories
Memories offer a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be woven into your descriptive essays. Dive into the realms of nostalgia and introspection with these topics, each drawing upon the power of recollection:
- The Unfading Echoes of Childhood Hideouts: Adventures in the Past
- A Forgotten Diary's Pages: Secrets of Lost Sentiments
- The Last Summer Before College: Sunsets of Transition
- The Old Family Recipe Book: Savoring Generations in Every Dish
- Ghosts of Prom Nights Past: The Dance of Teenage Dreams
- The Antique Music Box: Tunes That Unravel Time's Veil
- Letters from the Front Lines: Ink-Stained Testaments of Courage
- The Forgotten Album of Polaroids: Snapshots of Precious Moments
- Ancestral Attic Treasures: Relics of Heritage and Identity
- The Whispers of a Childhood Blanket: Comfort Woven in Threads
Creating a Descriptive Essay Outline
When thinking about descriptive essay writing, remember that a structured paper outline is your golden ticket. Not only does it help you organize thoughts, but it will also help your essays flow better.
A descriptive essay outline is composed of the following:
- An introduction
- Hook sentence
- Context/Background information
- Thesis statement
- Body paragraphs
- Topic sentence
- Sensory details
- Actual details
- A conclusion
- Summary of all main points
- Clincher Statement
It is important to spend enough time considering the victim of description because all of your illustrations will be based around it.
Need Some Help?
You will get your written masterpiece delivered to you on time, with a smile on your face!
The introduction serves to introduce your subject to the reader and give them enough context to fully understand your work—but keep it brief and interesting for the reader(s). When learning how to write a descriptive essay introduction, remember – the first paragraph of your paper is the part that can make your descriptive essay stand out from the others.
As with any college paper, a descriptive essay introduction must contain the following points:
- Hook Sentence: Although the entire paper should be full of exciting and vivid descriptions, grabbing the reader's attention from the very beginning is ideal.
- Context/Background Information: Tell the reader what you’re about to describe and explain why it is crucial to you. Give them a brief context for your paper.
- Thesis Statement: The descriptive essay thesis should be a short yet concise summary of the work. It must include the subject of your description, and your purpose for describing it.
For further information on how to write a thesis for a descriptive essay, check out the examples below.
Place. If you were to write about Buckingham Palace: “Even though the monarchy is long gone, Buckingham Palace serves to remind us of the aesthetic beauty which that era had built.” Person. For describing Spider-Man: “The defining characteristics of Spider-Man are his youthfulness, New York City, and the fact that he talks to himself more than Hamlet.” Emotion. A piece about a personal experience of fear: “For many reasons, the dark forest is my greatest fear, though not a fear which I would necessarily like to venture into.”
There are usually three body paragraphs in a paper. They cover three different points or arguments. How many body paragraphs to include in your descriptive essay is entirely up to you—or your professor. Sometimes it only takes a paragraph to tell a story, while other times it takes books.
How to write a body paragraph:
- Start with a topic sentence. ex. The orange looks familiar; it is a round citrus fruit whose colour matches its name.
- Add sensory details. When describing the orange, appeal to relatable senses.
- Include actual details. Always include descriptive information within your body paragraphs. Finish a body paragraph by introducing the next. Transition sentences are essential because they create immersion within your writing. Your writing will become better and it won’t appear as if you are reading a list of facts.
The descriptive essay is one type of 5 paragraph essay , which is the most common type of essay a student may encounter.
According to the descriptive essay format, your conclusion should be a summary of all of the main points in the body text. It is a good idea to write a final sentence that relates to the main point of your paper. Once this is done, the paper is now complete. We advise that you proofread your descriptive essay to correct any grammatical errors.
Try to incorporate the following into your conclusion:
- The first thing to do at the end is to reflect on the initial purpose of the work. Spill the beans on why you decided to write about this subject, and how this subject has affected your life. An article about reflection paper may also be helpful to you.
- Signify the Importance of the Details: Go over some key moments of the paper. Give a summary of what you have covered, and prepare the audience for the clincher statement.
- Clincher Statement: The clincher is the final sentence that reinforces your paper’s overall purpose or leaves your audience with an intriguing thought, question, or quote. You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking of a hook to pull the audience in. Do not allow the paper to escape your audience’s thoughts right after they have finish reading it.
If you need help, leave us a notice ' do my homework ' and get it asap.
Writing and Reviewing Your Descriptive Paper Writing
Writing the paper consists of the following stages:
- Pre-writing stage. Here you need to examine all of the sources you have and define if they all offer important information on the topic of your choice.
- Writing the beginning. You should start your paper with a powerful, engaging hook that will grab the readers' attention. It may include an unusual metaphor or an interesting literary quote.
- Creating the first draft of your descriptive essay. Here is where you just need to write down all of the words that come to your mind; you'll have a chance to narrow down your ideas later.
- Adding details to your paper with the help of enriched English vocabulary and online dictionaries. Use your English vocabulary to add missing feelings, like hearing, to help make the descriptive essay leave a lasting impression.
- Revising and editing the paper with the help of different free online grammar checking tools.
Let’s talk in detail about the final step here: reviewing your paper. After you finish writing, take a break. It’s always best to clear your mind before editing your paper.
When you come back to your descriptive essay, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you provided enough context in the introduction?
- Is the paper easy to read?
- Does the thesis relate to the content of the paper?
- Does the paper feature vivid, descriptive language?
- Will the clincher statement leave a lasting impact?
- Are there enough details to make it possible for your readers to obtain a full and vivid perception of your description?
- Does each section of your work focus on one aspect of your description?
- Does your paper possess any unnecessary details in your description that can be thrown away or replaced by more meaningful information?
- Overall, if you were the reader, does this paper make sense to you?
- Are there any problems with grammar and punctuation?
Sometimes web applications like Grammarly or the Hemingway app can help you sort your grammar. However, it’s always best to master the rules of grammar yourself and become the best writer you can be. Once you’re convinced you have the final draft, read it out loud or give it to a friend to read. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism to tie up loose ends in your writing. You can also trust the professionals and buy cheap essay on EssayPro service.
Check out our PUNCTUATION GUIDE
Descriptive Essay Examples
Embracing the art of descriptive writing isn't always a natural gift for everyone. For those seeking inspiration and guidance, we prepared an example of a descriptive essay which is a valuable resource. Meanwhile, we acknowledge that not everyone may possess the innate talent for painting vivid word pictures. If you find yourself in need of assistance with more intricate endeavors, such as dissertations, rest assured that our team comprises writers who possess the innate ability to weave eloquent prose that breathes life into your ideas.
Example 1: 'The Enchanted Library: A Gateway to Forgotten Realms'
In this descriptive essay example, the author masterfully employs a wide array of descriptive tools, deftly painting a vivid picture of 'Bibliotheca Mirabilis.' Through metaphor, personification, and sensory details, the library comes to life, almost becoming a character within the narrative. The author's choice of words and careful descriptions immerses the reader in the enchanting setting, creating a captivating journey through the realms of imagination.
The writer of this descriptive essay example explains how there was a lot of life before humans existed. The world was full of Blue Jays and North Cardinal birds that most probably ate pansy seeds as a stable diet. In this example, it is clear that the writer has put himself/herself in the perspective of someone in the far future. He/she describes how we were in the 21st century, and how we used the poles as communication portals.
Example 2: 'The Forgotten Watchmaker: Crafting Timepieces of Elegance'
In this essay, the author adeptly employs a variety of descriptive tools to transport the reader into the heart of the potter's workshop. Through carefully chosen words, the workshop's ambiance, from the earthy scent of clay to the warmth of the kiln, becomes palpable. The rustic charm and ceramics in different stages of creation evoke a strong sense of tradition and dedication. The potter emerges as a central figure, their expertise and passion clearly portrayed. This essay immerses the reader in a world of craftsmanship, where each piece of pottery carries a unique narrative, and the art of creation is celebrated with profound reverence.
In the eyes of the untrained, a rugby game is just a bunch of huge individuals senselessly fighting one another, struggling to move an oval ball inch by inch down a field full of mud towards the goal line of the opposing team. Players don’t put on pads or get a timeout in the event of injuries. Yet rugby is a different thing, a gentleman’s sport—to those who understand it. While rugby appears rough, its players maintain good respect toward both teammates and opponents.
For those who may find writing a challenging endeavor, rest assured that it's a skill that can be developed over time. If you're looking for expert guidance or assistance with your academic life, our team includes experienced wordsmiths who can even help with dissertation writing. Whether you're working on essays, stories, or any writing project, we're here to support your creative journey and help you convey your ideas more effectively.
Need To Describe Something But DON'T KNOW HOW?
Let one of our essay writers do it for you, all you have to do is send us your paper requirements and wait for your original paper to be written.
- Words with Friends Cheat
- Wordle Solver
- Word Unscrambler
- Scrabble Dictionary
- Anagram Solver
- Wordscapes Answers
Make Our Dictionary Yours
Sign up for our weekly newsletters and get:
- Grammar and writing tips
- Fun language articles
- #WordOfTheDay and quizzes
We'll see you in your inbox soon.
What Is a Descriptive Essay? Examples and Guide
- DESCRIPTION student with orange sweater using laptop computer taking notes with descriptive essay definition
- SOURCE Mirel Kipioro/ iStock / Getty Images Plus / via Getty created by YourDictionary
- PERMISSION Used under Getty Images license
Have you ever had a really delicious cookie? Just the most perfectly balanced sweetness with chunks of melty chocolate and a little salt to bring it all together? And have you described it to a friend, family member, or curious stranger? If you’re nodding your head, you have already partaken in the writing tradition known as the descriptive essay (at least a little bit). With some polishing and tightening up, you can turn that description of a baked good into an award-winning piece of writing.
What Is a Descriptive Essay?
A descriptive essay is sort of what it says on the tin. It’s a type of essay that involves describing a person or object, though it can really extend to any sort of noun , like a place, event, experience, or emotion. If you think that seems pretty broad, you’re right. You’re technically describing something in every essay.
What makes the descriptive essay notable is that focus on description — the details, colors, feelings, sights, and sounds. Some descriptive essays might have a slight argument in their theses, but it’s not really a requirement. Your thesis statement could be as simple as “I had a cookie that changed my entire life.”
You can think of “descriptive essay” as more of an umbrella category. It can encompass other essay types , particularly analytical essays , expository essays , and personal narrative essays .
Ideas for Descriptive Essay Topics
Truly, the hardest part of descriptive essays is coming up with a topic. You really do have your entire world to potentially write about, which is understandably daunting for anyone.
Just remember that you can quite literally describe anything as long as you yourself find it interesting enough to write about. That might include:
- A long nature hike through beautiful surroundings
- Your favorite sport or a specific game/match that was memorable
- Your most recent birthday and all the things that have shaped you in the past
- A country or city, broken down into geography, climate, politics, religion, and culture
- A historical event, including its causes, ramifications, and consequences
- A news story that includes context about the people involved, information about where it occurred, and insight into other events it links to
General Format and Structure of a Descriptive Essay
There isn’t a set format for descriptive essays. A lot of it really comes down to the subject that you’re describing and your own approach to how you experience things, and it turns out that we all experience and see things differently.
A good outline structure that you can start with might look like this.
- Write a hook that helps your reader relate to the senses you’re tapping into.
- Provide some general background about the thing you’re describing.
- Form a thesis statement that makes a claim (but may not necessarily include an argument or opinion).
- Provide a topic sentence introducing the subject.
- Give an in-depth physical description of the subject.
- Describe your subject within its given context, like its physical surroundings or temporal environment.
- Describe how the subject emotionally or mentally affected those who interacted or experienced it.
- Restate your thesis about the subject’s description.
- Consider the subject (and its description) outside of what you’ve already mentioned in the essay. How might it apply to other people or society at large?
Obviously, if you have a different angle, go with that. For example, if you’re going more for a personal essay, the structure might have more of a narrative (beginning, middle, end) format.
Descriptive Essay Examples
With a better understanding of how to approach a descriptive essay, you’re ready to prosper and write an essay of your own. We can’t write your essay for you because we don’t know your subject, but you will absolutely have more interesting and insightful descriptions than us. However, if you need some tips for writing descriptive essays , we can give you a descriptive essay example to guide your way.
- DESCRIPTION descriptive essay full example with labels
- SOURCE Created by Karina Goto for YourDictionary
- PERMISSION Owned by YourDictionary, Copyright YourDictionary
Example of a Descriptive Essay Introduction
Your introduction exists to provide a little background context for your essay. What’s difficult with a descriptive essay is that you want your introduction to intrigue without giving away too much of your description (that’s what the body of your essay is for).
Home is where the heart is, but not everyone has the same heart. For some, a home is four walls, some furniture, and a fireplace. For others, home is a cactus, sand dunes, and a nearby oasis. Comfort is subjective, and the only comfort I have known is from the mud and gunk of my humble swamp.
Sample Body Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay
Unlike with other essay forms, you do not have to worry about providing evidence. You obviously can if you think it’ll help you with your description, but it’s largely about you and your experience of the subject. Outside evidence is purely secondary at that point.
A swamp, a bog, a quagmire, whatever you might call it, my swamp is the only place I would ever consider home. The climate ranges with the season, and the mud pits offer a surprising level of insulation from the weather, never too hot or too cold. Nights are filled with the sounds of crickets, toads, and the wayward donkey, the soft sounds of the angry village in the distance.
Descriptive Essay Conclusion Example
The crux of your descriptive essay will feel mostly concrete as it focuses on the subject at hand and your experience of it through the five senses. The conclusion is where you can go outside of that, and expand outward to include larger ideas and themes. In fact, if you really wanted, you could use the conclusion to essentially create an opinion or argument that could become the thesis for an entirely different essay.
To many, the swamp might seem like a scary and unwelcoming space, but for me, that is part of its charm. It is a place of warmth and love if you look close enough, and much like an onion, it is a place of layers. The humble bog may be the most ideal environment to live, and yet part of its appeal is that it is not for everyone. That is the ideal home; a place that perfectly fits you.
- Literary Terms
I. what is a descriptive essay.
A descriptive essay is an essay that describes something – an object or person, an event or place, an experience or emotion, or an idea. The goal of this kind of essay is to provide readers with enough detailed descriptions for them to be able to picture or imagine the chosen topic.
II. Examples of Descriptive Essays
The list of possible topics is nearly endless. The best topics are those that the author knows well and can clearly imagine. A writer should also consider what may be interesting to their audience.
- The first day of spring (an experience)
- Your best friend (a person)
- Honesty or trust (ideas)
- Courage/bravery (idea)
- Nervousness/fear (emotions)
- Happiness/fun of kite flying (emotion)
- A museum sculpture (an object)
- A ride on the subway (an event)
- Your bedroom (place)
- A leaf, seashell, or other small object
III. Types of Descriptive Essays with Topics
Even though there are countless topics for a descriptive essay, a writer only has to use two types of description. The first type of description is used for concrete topics, and the second is used when the essay describes an abstract topic.
A topic about something concrete is something that you can see, touch or taste, hear, or smell – in other words, something concrete can be described with your senses.
Describing an abstract topic is more challenging. Ideas and emotions are abstract topics – they cannot be touched. Therefore, it is difficult to describe them with our senses. In order to write a descriptive essay of this type, writers often turn to context – experiences or situations – that point the reader towards understanding the topic.
IV. Parts of a descriptive essay with examples
A. clear topic.
A descriptive essay must focus clearly on the topic. The topic should be as specific as you can make it. A vague topic makes it difficult to focus on. In addition, if the description includes a time, place, or point-of-view, the writer must make that clear.
b. Sensory description or context
Depending on whether the topic is concrete or abstract, a large part of a descriptive essay will be sensory description or context. This part of the essay has enough details and information for readers to clearly imagine whatever is being described ( see part III for examples ).
c. Conclusion with purpose
A strong descriptive essay leaves the reader with a strong image or impression of the topic. A purposeful conclusion helps the reader see the value or importance of the topic. In other words, it states the purpose or point of the essay.
V. How to write a descriptive essay
Remember these writing goals when writing a descriptive essay.
a. Use your senses
Think about all five of your senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, taste) when you write about your topic. Let your readers ‘see’ your topic with two or three senses.
b. Consider your point of view
Many descriptive essays use a straightforward look at their topic, but sometimes a creative point of view lets your readers see the topic in a new light. For instance, you can describe a tree from the point of view of a bird, or items in your bedroom described by a person from the past. Writing a descriptive essay with a creative point of view can be very effective, but be aware of what your audience wants!
c. Consider figurative language
Descriptive essays are all about imagery. Similes and metaphors can create vivid images to your descriptive writing.
d. Don’t slip into narrative
A descriptive essay should ‘paint a picture’ — not show a movie. You won’t see dialogue, a chain of events, or characters (unless a character is the topic) in a descriptive essay. Keep your essay focused on a single, steady image.
e. Be clear with your word-choice
A successful narrative essay requires careful word choice. Take a close look at the adjectives (describing words) you use. See if you can find a more specific or descriptive word. Also make sure you use clear, active verbs ( action words).
f. Search for unique details
Find small, interesting details that others may not see. Think about focusing your description in a way that will give your audience a new view on something they might’ve already seen.
List of Terms
- APA Citation
- Comic Relief
- Deus ex machina
- Double Entendre
- Dramatic irony
- Extended Metaphor
- Figures of Speech
- Literary Device
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Rhetorical Device
- Rhetorical Question
- Science Fiction
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
- Turning Point
- Urban Legend
- Essay Guide
- Cite This Website
- PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
- EDIT Edit this Article
- EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
- Browse Articles
- Learn Something New
- Quizzes Hot
- This Or That Game New
- Train Your Brain
- Explore More
- Support wikiHow
- About wikiHow
- Log in / Sign up
- Education and Communications
- College University and Postgraduate
- Academic Writing
How to Write a Descriptive Essay
Last Updated: February 8, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,493,419 times.
A good descriptive essay creates a vivid picture of the topic in the reader’s mind. You may need to write a descriptive essay as a class assignment or you may decide to write one as a fun writing challenge. Start by brainstorming ideas for the essay. Then, outline and write the essay using vivid sensory details and strong descriptions. Always polish your essay and proofread it so it is at its best.
Brainstorming Ideas for the Essay
- You could also choose a fictional person to write about, such as a character in a book, a story, or a play. You could write about a character on your favorite TV show or video game.
- Another take on this option is to write about a made-up place or object, such as the fantastical school in your favorite book or the magic wand from your favorite TV show.
- You could also choose a more specific emotion, such as brotherly love or self-hatred. These emotions can make for powerful descriptive essays.
- For example, if you were writing about a person like your mother, you may write down under “sound” : “soft voice at night, clack of her shoes on the floor tiles, bang of the spoon when she cooks.”
Writing the Essay
- If you are writing the essay for a class, your instructor should specify if they want a five paragraph essay or if you have the freedom to use sections instead.
- For example, if you were writing a descriptive essay about your mother, you may have a thesis statement like: “In many ways, my mother is the reigning queen of our house, full of contradictions that we are too afraid to question.”
- For example, if you were writing the essay about your mom, you may start with: “My mother is not like other mothers. She is a fierce protector and a mysterious woman to my sisters and I.”
- If you were writing an essay about an object, you may start with: "Try as I might, I had a hard time keeping my pet rock alive."
- You can also use adjectives that connect to the senses, such “rotting,” “bright,” “hefty,” “rough,” and “pungent.”
- For example, you may describe your mother as "bright," "tough," and "scented with jasmine."
- You can also use similes, where you use “like” or “as” to compare one thing to another. For example, you may write, “My mother is like a fierce warrior in battle, if the battlefield were PTA meetings and the checkout line at the grocery store.”
- For example, you may write about your complicated feelings about your mother. You may note that you feel sadness about your mother’s sacrifices for the family and joy for the privileges you have in your life because of her.
- For example, you may end a descriptive essay about your mother by noting, “In all that she has sacrificed for us, I see her strength, courage, and fierce love for her family, traits I hope to emulate in my own life.”
Polishing the Essay
- You can also read the essay aloud to others to get their feedback. Ask them to let you know if there are any unclear or vague sentences in the essay.
- Be open to constructive criticism and feedback from others. This will only make your essay stronger.
- If you have a word count requirement for the essay, make sure you meet it. Add more detail to the paper or take unnecessary content out to reach the word count.
Outline for a Descriptive Essay
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://www.writeexpress.com/descriptive-essay.html
- ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 24 July 2020.
- ↑ https://www.iup.edu/writingcenter/writing-resources/organization-and-structure/descriptive-writing.html
- ↑ https://spcollege.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=10168248
- ↑ http://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/descriptive_essay.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/descriptive_essays.html
- ↑ https://vln.school.nz/groupcms/view/845349/descriptive-writing
About This Article
To write a descriptive essay, start by choosing a topic, like a person, place, or specific emotion. Next, write down a list of sensory details about the topic, like how it sounds, smells, and feels. After this brainstorming session, outline the essay, dividing it into an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Open with a vivid introduction that uses sensory details, then introduce your thesis statement, which the rest of your essay should support. Strengthen your essay further by using metaphors and similes to describe your topic, and the emotions it evokes. To learn how to put the finishing touches on your essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
- Send fan mail to authors
Reader Success Stories
Mar 25, 2021
Did this article help you?
Jul 13, 2020
May 13, 2021
Aug 21, 2019
Apr 11, 2019
- Do Not Sell or Share My Info
- Not Selling Info
Don’t miss out! Sign up for
Descriptive Essay - A Complete Guide
10 min read
Published on: Aug 18, 2018
Last updated on: Nov 15, 2023
People also read
Descriptive Essay Examples & Writing Tips
Top 250+ Descriptive Essay Topics & Ideas
Creating a Descriptive Essay Outline - Format & Example
Crafting an Authentic Portrait: A Guide to Writing a Descriptive Essay About a Person
Writing a Descriptive Essay About Myself - Tips and Tricks
Writing a Descriptive Essay About A Place - Guide With Examples
How to Craft the Perfect Descriptive Essay About A Person You Admire
Descriptive Essay About My Mother - A Guide to Writing
Delicious Descriptions: A Guide to Writing a Descriptive Essay About Food
Write A Descriptive Essay About Nature With This Guide
Learn Tips to Write a Descriptive Essay About Autumn - Step into the Golden Season
Share this article
Have you ever found yourself struggling to paint a vivid picture with your words, to capture the essence of a scene, person, or experience in your writing?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Many writers face this challenge when tasked with crafting descriptive essays.
For that, MyPerfectWords.com has come up with a solution!
In this blog, you’ll get easy steps to write good descriptive essays. Along with a step-by-step guide, you’ll also get impressive example essays to learn from.
With expert examples and helpful tips, you'll discover the secrets to crafting captivating descriptive essays.
So let’s get into it!
On This Page On This Page -->
What Is a Descriptive Essay?
According to descriptive essay definition,
“It is a type of essay that is used to describe an event, a place, a person, or anything in detail.”
In a descriptive essay, you're not merely telling the reader about something; you're showing it to them. You're using your powers of observation and imagination to transport your audience to the scene you're describing.
Whether it's a bustling city street, a serene natural landscape, a beloved childhood memory, or a complex character in a novel, a well-crafted descriptive essay can make the subject come alive in the reader's mind.
Purpose of a Descriptive Essay
The purpose of a descriptive essay is to evoke a strong, sensory experience in the reader's mind.
Unlike other forms of writing that may aim to inform, persuade, or argue, the primary objective of a descriptive essay is to create a detailed and vivid portrayal of a subject.
Whether you're describing a person, place, object, or experience, the goal is to transport your audience to that specific moment or location.
This allows them to feel as if they are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling what you're describing.
Here’s a short video that explains descriptive writing:
Types of Descriptive Essay
Descriptive essays come in various forms, each serving a unique purpose and style of writing.
Here are some common types of descriptive essays:
- Spatial Descriptive Essays
These essays focus on describing a specific location or setting. Whether it's a serene beach, a bustling city street, spatial descriptive essays transport the reader to a particular place, allowing them to visualize it vividly.
- Personal Descriptive Essays
In these essays, writers delve into their personal experiences, memories, and emotions to create a connection with the reader. They often describfge a significant moment in their life, a cherished memory, or a transformative event.
- Object Descriptive Essays
These essays revolve around the detailed description of a particular object. It could be a family heirloom, a work of art, a unique gadget, or any item that holds personal or historical significance.
- Character Descriptive Essays
These essays offer a comprehensive portrayal of a character's physical appearance, personality, motivations, and development within the narrative.
- Process Descriptive Essays
These essays break down a complex process into a step-by-step description. Whether it's a cooking recipe, a scientific experiment, or an artistic technique. Process descriptive essays help readers understand how something is done.
Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!
Elements of a Descriptive Essay
There are five basic features of descriptive essay:
- Sensory Details
A descriptive essay involves arousing the emotions of the readers and creating an association with them. Sensory details paint a picture of the subject for the reader and engage their senses like sight, touch, smell, and taste.
- Figurative Language
Using figurative language is one of the main elements of a descriptive essay. The use of metaphors, similes, adjectives, and adverbs, etc. creates the character sketch of the subject.
This sketch helps the readers feel what the writer felt about the subject and helps him visualize the subject.
- Central Theme
The central theme shapes and directs the essay’s content and helps organize the details. It should be well defined and focused on a single point.
- Precise Language
The effect of your essay depends on the type of language that you have used in it. The language should emphasize the main theme and aim of the essay. Therefore, avoid using vague and ambiguous words.
- Organized Ideas
An organized structure is an essential element of this essay. Also, the chronology, spatial location, and order play an important role.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay? 6 Steps
Writing an effective descriptive essay involves topic selection, creating an outline of parts of the descriptive essay, organizing ideas, and adding relevant information into the essay.
The following is the process of descriptive writing.
Step# 1. Choose an Engaging Topic
Selecting the right topic is the crucial first step in writing a descriptive essay. Your topic should be captivating, drawing the reader in and keeping them engaged throughout the essay.
A well-chosen topic sets the stage for an immersive and memorable descriptive experience.
Step# 2. Craft a Detailed Outline
Crafting an outline is essential to ensure your descriptive essay flows cohesively. It serves as a roadmap, helping you organize your thoughts and sensory details in a logical sequence.
An effective outline keeps you on track to include all the necessary elements that make your description come alive.
Here's the typical descriptive essay structure for you to follow:
Explore this blog about creating a structured descriptive essay outline for organized essay writing.
Step# 3. Begin with a Compelling Introduction
The essay introduction sets the tone for your descriptive essay. It not only introduces the central theme but also incorporates a strong, captivating opinion that makes an initial impact on the reader.
In this section, you provide a concise preview of what the essay will explore, leaving your readers eager to delve further into your descriptive narrative.
Step# 4. Craft an Informative Thesis Statement
A thesis statement defines the scope and purpose of the essay. It is a narrow subject line, which should be clear and precise. Write the statement in a creative way and choose descriptive words for it.
Creating mystery in your thesis statement attracts the reader to the body of your essay.
Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!
Step# 5. Writing the Body Paragraphs
To create good body paragraphs for your essay, start each one with a topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement.
Then, use evidence to support your point and explain how it backs up your argument. Make sure your paragraphs are well-organized, especially if you're talking about personal experiences or memories.
Finally, summarize the main points in each paragraph to keep your essay easy to follow and well-structured. This will help your essay flow smoothly and support your main idea.
Step# 6. Ending with a Strong Descriptive Essay Conclusion
Crafting a strong essay conclusion is your final opportunity to make a lasting impression on your reader.
This section should effectively tie together the key elements of your essay. Begin by using appropriate transition words like "to finish with," "in conclusion," or "lastly" to signal the end of your essay.
Moreover, offer insightful closing thoughts that resonate with the reader, whether it's a thought-provoking idea or a call to action.
Descriptive Essay Topics
Whether you are writing about a person or a place, your topic should have good supporting points that explain the topic.
Choosing an engaging topic will develop curiosity and hook the reader to the last bit of the essay. Here we have prepared a list of amazing descriptive essay topics for you.
- A Place of Childhood Memories: Describe your favorite childhood location.
- The Perfect Sunset: Depict a mesmerizing evening sky.
- A Walk in the Enchanted Forest: Explore the depths of a magical forest.
- A Day at the Beach: Capture the sights, sounds, and sensations of a beach day.
- An Abandoned House: Describe the mysterious allure of an abandoned building.
- The Art of Street Photography: Portray the life and characters of a city street.
- A Significant Family Heirloom: Tell the story of a cherished family keepsake.
- A Visit to a Cultural Festival: Share the experience of a vibrant cultural event.
- A Place of Solitude: Describe a location where you find peace and tranquility.
- A Family Reunion: Capture the joy of a memorable gathering with family members.
- My High School Cafeteria: Recount the bustling atmosphere and diverse interactions in the high school cafeteria.
Descriptive Essay Examples
You should read some good essay examples before writing your own essay. An essay example would help you demonstrate, compile, and organize your essay in a structured form.
Below we have provided some amazing examples to help you know the process.
A School Lunch Hall Descriptive Essay Example
The Weekend Market Descriptive Essay Sample
Descriptive Essay on Historical Place
Descriptive Essay on a Teacher that I Remember
Descriptive Essay on my Village
My Favorite Place Descriptive Essay
5 Paragraph Essay - Descriptive Essay PDF
Descriptive Essay about a person
Descriptive Essay Example about a place
The ultimate aim of this practice is to identify and learn different techniques for writing an impressive descriptive essay. Find more descriptive essay examples here to read and learn from.
Tips for Writing an Effective Descriptive Essay
Writing a compelling descriptive essay requires more than just describing a subject; it demands the skill to make your readers truly see, feel, and experience what you're portraying. Here are some valuable tips to help you craft an effective descriptive essay:
- Choose an Engaging Topic: Start with a captivating subject that resonates with you and your audience. The more connected you are to the topic, the more vividly you can describe it.
- Create a Detailed Outline: Plan the structure of your essay. Identify the key elements and sensory details you want to include in your description. A well-organized outline will keep your essay coherent.
- Use Vivid Language: Your words are the paintbrush for your reader's imagination. Employ descriptive adjectives, strong verbs, and figurative language to create a vivid picture. Paint with words.
- Engage the Senses: Appeal to all five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. This immersive approach helps readers connect with your narrative on a deeper level.
- Show, Don't Tell: Rather than telling your readers about a subject, show it to them through sensory descriptions and tangible experiences. Let them draw their own conclusions.
- Use Metaphors and Similes: Comparing your subject to something familiar can enhance the reader's understanding. Metaphors and similes create memorable images.
- Organize Your Description: Present your sensory details logically. Consider the order in which you introduce them, ensuring a smooth flow that makes sense to the reader.
- Engage Emotions: Your description should evoke emotions in the reader. Describe not only what is visible but also the feelings and atmosphere surrounding the subject.
Summing it up,
Descriptive essay writing is a skill that requires thorough practice. It involves the ability to craft an engaging story with vivid descriptions, sounding as realistic as possible.
The above-mentioned steps and examples are a great way for students to learn how to write a descriptive essay.
However, if you still need expert help to write a flawless essay, we’ve got your back.
You can hire an expert descriptive essay writer at MyPerfectWords.com. Our Write My Essay service is your go-to choice for all types of essay writing help.
Moreover, we provide non-plagiarized essays and high-quality papers based on your custom requirements. So contact our descriptive essay writing service now to get the best essay help at an affordable price.
Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)
Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.
Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!
We value your privacy
Website Data Collection
Are you sure you want to cancel?
Your preferences have not been saved.
an Excelsior University site
A descriptive rhetorical style is one that uses the five senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, smell) and other details to provide the reader with a vivid idea or picture of what is being represented. Your professors may ask you to write short, descriptive essays in some classes, but, most often, you’ll want to add a descriptive style to different types of essays. Narrative essays should generally be quite descriptive, for example. Still, you may encounter assignments in which you are asked to maintain a descriptive style for most of the essay.
Write | Read | Educators
Grumble... Applaud... Please give us your feedback!
- Rhetorical Styles »
- Descriptive Essay »