Descriptive Essay – Best Tips & Examples

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Written By Amanda Green

Amanda Green was born in a small town in the west of Scotland, where everyone knows everyone. I joined the Toastmasters 15 years ago, and I served in nearly every office in the club since then. I love helping others gain confidence and skills they can apply in every day life.

So, your professor asked you to write a five-paragraph essay to describe a topic. How do you get started? A descriptive essay is the kind of written paper that gives a vivid image of any subject. It should be clear, illustrative, and free from bias.

My guide will show you how to write a descriptive essay using the best tips and examples. Learn how to give a vivid picture of something and leave an impression on your readers.

What Is a Descriptive Essay?

A descriptive essay belongs to a genre of essays that creates a vivid reading experience for readers. It aims to describe a person, process, event, place, object, or concept.

When describing a person, you can write about their personality, appearance, behavior, and mood. But when your topic of choice is an event, consider what happened, who was there, and where it took place.

This essay usually appeals to the five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. For example:

Not descriptive: Jane should cut her hair.

Descriptive: Jane’s hair is long and strawberry blonde.

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However, not all descriptions are descriptive essays. Descriptions are just simple paragraphs or sentences with no firm structure. A descriptive essay should include an introduction, at least three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

What Makes a Good Descriptive Essay?

The basis of an excellent descriptive essay isn’t your topic but how you write it. Make sure the following components are included in your writing.

An Interesting Introduction

The introductory paragraph introduces your topic and other contexts that the reader needs to understand your work. Keep it clear to your audience that the essay is meant to focus on description instead of arguments or persuasion.

For example, if you’re writing an essay about climate change, don’t try to argue why climate change is real. Instead, focus on vivid descriptions of the phenomenon. Provide a little background information while keeping it concise.

The most important part of your descriptive essay is the thesis statement. This sentence is the key to strong writing. It summarizes your paper and provides a purpose to it.

Keep your essay objective but interesting. Add a hook statement that will grab the reader’s attention. Then, provide additional details about what you will explain or describe in the following paragraphs.

Detailed Body Paragraphs

After providing the descriptive essay thesis statement, it’s time to practice your critical thinking skills and dive deeper into the body paragraphs.

Writing on academic levels will require you to cover at least three points with formal descriptions. But when writing about a personal experience or any form of creative writing, you can use literary images and tell a story with only one body paragraph.

Every body paragraph should have a topic sentence. When writing about a place, the first body paragraph can discuss its architectural style. For instance, you can say, “The Sydney Town Hall is a manifestation of Victorian architecture.”

Then, support your topic sentence with more descriptions. Ask yourself, how does The Sydney Town Hall represent Victorian architecture?

This part is where you include sensory details. For example, “The Sydney Town Hall has a sophisticated brick and stone structure.” You can add factual information to your body paragraphs, such as “It is inspired by the French Second Empire Hôtel de Ville in Paris.”

Include transitional devices to connect each sentence and let the paragraphs flow smoothly without jumping from one idea to another.

When you gather data from another writer’s work, cite them appropriately. Check the citation style recommended by your professor so you can credit their work and avoid plagiarism.

Short Conclusion

Your entire essay wouldn’t be complete without a good-quality conclusion. Once you’ve painted a memorable image of something through the paragraph, tie it all together in one paragraph.

This part of the essay contains the last few lines that provide meaning to your thesis statement. Use it to leave an impression on your readers.

Your approach to the conclusion should be clear and concise. What is the initial purpose of your work? What is the importance of the details you provided throughout the paper? Reflect on these questions and prepare the audience for the clincher statement.

Finish the entire essay with a thought, quote, or question.

Descriptive Essay Tips

Now that you know the parts of a descriptive essay, here are some tips for writing an essay of this type.

Be Specific With Your Topic of Choice

As a professional writer, the subject matter for your descriptive essays should be specific and clear. Before looking for a topic and creating an essay outline, try setting an objective for your paper. Why do you want to describe an event to your readers vividly?

Once you’ve found your purpose, determine which event, object, person, or idea you want to give a vivid picture of. If it’s a college essay, check the requirements of the professor.

Use Figurative Language

You can make complex descriptions of your topic in non-literal ways. Incorporating figurative language in the essay writing process will give you a creative edge when discussing even the simplest thing.

Understanding similes, metaphors, hyperboles, and other figures of speech are a few descriptive essay writing skills you should master for a flawless essay. Consider this example.

Instead of: We ran fast.

Try: We ran like greased lightning.

“We ran like greased lighting” is more interesting and will stick in your readers’ minds. This is an example of hyperbole, as it indicates an exaggerated statement or claims not taken literally.

However, if you’re producing academic writing, avoid excessive use of figurative language. For example, you should never use metaphors or an analogy to base the foundation of your content.

Keep your abstract writing to an occasional concept sprinkled into your text. Not every sentence requires a figure of speech.

Use Your Senses

Descriptive essay writing will require you to use your five senses. This type of essay will help you explore your sense of taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound.

For example, when describing your favorite life memory, a complete description may include the appearance of the buildings, the laughter of your friends, the smell of the flowers, and the taste of ice cream during that day.

Try creating a table divided into five senses and list each sensation or feeling associated with your topic. These details will help you support your thesis before outlining them.

Here’s an example of a part of an essay about fear with an in-depth physical description.

Instead of: Cameron feels scared.

Try: In a complete state of silence, Cameron curled her hands into tight fists as the room started smelling like his late grandmother’s perfume.

Make an Outline

Whether it’s a narrative essay or an argumentative essay, all kinds of essays require a specific format to guide the entire process. Once you’ve got your senses right, it’s time to look for suitable descriptive essay outlines.

Essay outlines are vital because they simplify the essential components of your paper. They organize your ideas, save time, and prevent writer’s block.

The most common is a five-paragraph essay format, which includes an essay introduction, a strong thesis statement, three body paragraphs, and your conclusion. This format is also the standard essay for college students.

Below is a descriptive essay outline sample about camping.

  • Introduction paragraph: Camping is challenging because of situations we can’t control.
  • Body paragraph 1: Bad weather
  • Body paragraph 2: Wildlife encounters
  • Body paragraph 3: Equipment failure
  • Concluding paragraph: Restate points

Choose the Right Words

The essay writing process is trickier when trying to make memorable descriptions of experiences, objects, or persons. Essay writers may be tempted to use adjectives and adverbs, but these parts of speech aren’t always the best options.

For example, instead of saying “very bad,” some strong word choices include “terrible” or “awful.” It’s also much better to detail what makes the subject matter “very bad.” Consider the sentences below.

Instead of: Jessica ran swiftly.

Try: Jessica swiftly ran across the street to chase her cat.

Review Your Essay

Take a break from your writing once you have completed your descriptive essay. This will allow you to clear your mind and return to the paper with a fresh pair of eyes.

Once you’re ready, it’s time to copy-edit and proofread your work. Read your work aloud and have a friend or family member give feedback. Make one round of edits for each error. Start with clarity issues, then focus on spelling and grammatical errors.

If your descriptive essay cites other papers or describes historical events, make sure you’re using reliable sources. Fact-check your work, then scan the essay for plagiarism.

If this is a lot of work, consider hiring essay editing and writing services. These editors will fine-tune your writing and help you produce a good-quality paper.

Ideas for Descriptive Essay Topics

There is no limit on what topic you can use for your descriptive essay assignment. As long as you can provide sensory details about the subject, then it’s possible! Here are some essay topic ideas for you.

Describing Objects

  • Something I can’t sleep without
  • Research tools
  • Best books
  • My anti-stress doll
  • Family treasures
  • Why I prefer Apple over Android
  • What’s in my bag

Describing a Place

  • The best vacation
  • My hometown
  • My favorite restaurant
  • Best park to walk your dog
  • Dream destination
  • The newest museum in town
  • My favorite part of the house

Describing a Person

  • My mother is the best
  • Favorite celebrity
  • People I miss
  • The writer of my favorite book
  • A person I look up to
  • The best dance
  • Why I love my boyfriend

Describing Memories, Hobbies, Behavior, etc.

  • My idea of a perfect date
  • When I discovered my passion
  • Favorite childhood memory
  • The first day of school
  • Graduation day
  • My first crush
  • What annoys me
  • How I passed the examination
  • Baking a cake
  • Preparing for a first date
  • Writing my first short story
  • My dream job
  • My gym routine
  • A pet peeve
  • My best friend’s traits
  • An emotion I hate feeling

Template for Descriptive Essay

Follow this descriptive essay structure when writing a descriptive essay.

Paragraph 1/Introduction

  • Topic sentence or thesis statement
  • Attention-getter
  • Explain why the topic is interesting or essential

Paragraph 2

  • First description of the topic using vivid language
  • Add human senses details

Paragraph 3

  • Second description using descriptive language
  • Include actual details

Paragraph 4

  • Third detailed description of the topic
  • Use descriptive writing that appeals to any sense

Paragraph 5/Conclusion

  • Summarize your topic and why it is important

Start Writing a Descriptive Essay

Hopefully, my guide has shown you the correct format for a descriptive essay and the best tips for writing one. This essay describes or summarizes any topic, whether a person, place, object, or idea.

Writing a descriptive essay is easy if you consider your five senses and sprinkle some figures of speech. Don’t forget to take a break after writing, then come back to edit and proofread.

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