How to Write a Descriptive Essay

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Recommended Reading 

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., according to Purdue University.

Create reader interest with a catchy introduction, reads page 167 of Writing With Power by Perfection Learning. The text suggests that you try out several possible beginnings if necessary.
• Suggest your overall impression early on to unify the essay.
• Follow your outline, but be willing to improvise if you come up with new ideas as you go along.
• Use fresh, vivid language. Employ descriptive, sensory words and images.
• Use transitions that are appropriate for the type of order you have chosen (See Writing With Power pages 5, 90–92, and 291).
• Conclude in a way that ties the description together and leaves the reader with a satisfying feeling of closure.

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!

Remember that the first draft of your essay should include the following elements:

a central idea or impression that is well chosen for the purpose and audience
a clear organizational structure with abundant transitions
specific details and words that appeal to the senses and create a vivid mental picture of the subject
Everyone has a different writing process. Some writers follow their outlines closely as they draft from the beginning to the end.

Other writers write down their initial ideas first and then organize them to produce a solid draft, doing any or all of the following along the way:

moving around blocks of text to organize the information clearly
deleting sections that are not important
adding more details
writing a new introduction
writing a new conclusion
Whatever process works best for you is the one you should use. Although following an outline is immensely helpful to writing and staying organized, there is no right order or way to compose the first draft!

Paint Masterful Descriptions on the Page!

Writing strong descriptions is an art form, one that you need to carefully develop and practice. The words you choose to describe your characters, scenes, settings, and ideas–in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction–need to precisely illustrate the vision you want to convey.

So I recommend Word Painting Revised Edition. The book shows you how to color your canvas with descriptions that captivate readers. Inside, you’ll learn how to:

Develop your powers of observation to uncover rich, evocative descriptions.
Discover and craft original and imaginative metaphors and similes.
Effectively and accurately describe characters and settings.
Weave description seamlessly through your stories, essays, and poems.
You’ll also find dozens of descriptive passages from master authors and poets–as well as more than one hundred exercises–to illuminate the process. Whether you are writing a novel or a poem, a memoir or an essay, Word Painting Revised Edition will guide you in the creation of your own literary masterpiece.

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