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:
- a person
- a place
- a memory
- an experience
- an object
Ultimately, whatever you can perceive or experience can be the focus of your descriptive writing.
Why are you writing your descriptive essay?
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?
If there's one thing you should remember as you write your descriptive essay, it's the famous saying: show don't tell. But what's the difference between showing and telling?
Consider these two simple examples:
- I grew tired after dinner.
- As I leaned back and rested my head against the top of the chair, my eyelids began to feel heavy, and the edges of the empty plate in front of me blurred with the white tablecloth.
The first sentence tells readers that you grew tired after dinner. The second sentence shows readers that you grew tired. The most effective descriptive essays are loaded with such showing because they enable readers to imagine or experience something for themselves.
As you write your descriptive essay, the best way to create a vivid experience for your readers is to focus on the five senses.
When you focus your descriptions on the senses, you provide vivid and specific details that show your readers rather than tell your readers what you are describing.
Quick Tips for Writing Your Descriptive Essay
Writing a descriptive essay can be a rich and rewarding experience, but it can also feel a bit complicated. It's helpful, therefore, to keep a quick checklist of the essential questions to keep in mind as you plan, draft, and revise your essay.
Planning your descriptive essay:
- What or who do you want to describe?
- What is your reason for writing your description?
- What are the particular qualities that you want to focus on?
Drafting your descriptive essay:
- What sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures are important for developing your description?
- Which details can you include to ensure that your readers gain a vivid impression imbued with your emotion or perspective?
Revising your descriptive essay:
- Have you provided enough details and descriptions to enable your readers to gain a complete and vivid perception?
- Have you left out any minor but important details?
- Have you used words that convey your emotion or perspective?
- Are there any unnecessary details in your description?
- Does each paragraph of your essay focus on one aspect of your description?
- Are you paragraphs ordered in the most effective way?
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The most inimitable place to be, besides in my husband’s arms, is Harrogate, Tennessee. The rolling hills, clean crisp air, and spaciousness all surpass the city life. The memories and joy I experience when I am there will always have a special place in my heart.
My house resided in the country. A cow field was my backyard, and I would play hide and seek with my friends behind the hay bales. From the moment we got home and put our Bratz Doll backpacks down until the moment the pinkish, yellow sun was setting, my friends and I were always in a new adventure. At times, the golden rays would shine and radiate without a cloud in the sky. The gentle breeze was just enough to make it comfortable. The grass had already dried from the early morning dew, making it look freshly cut and greener than ever. As we would run around making up games to play, my black and white English Springer Spaniel, otherwise known as Bubba, would follow us eagerly with his wet teeming tongue hanging out of his parched mouth and his tail wagging like a hammer in an ongoing alarm clock. In Knoxville, the population and space is far too crowded to enjoy pleasures like those in Harrogate. In a way, it is suffocating here, and I miss the feeling of peace and contentment when at home.
During winter season, it would snow fervently. My yard also consisted of a rather giant slope. Due to many hills and back roads that would get black ice very easily, school was called off frequently. My friends and I would get so excited and call each other to make plans to go sledding! I would jump in my thick, white leggings and blue nylon pants along with three pairs of socks and waterproof shoes. On top I would have two under shirts, two regular shirts, a small jacket, a large heavy jacket and a toboggan on. Layered and ready for the cold, I would run outside and find my aqua green plastic sled from underneath the back porch. It was crisp and cold outside, and the snow was a clean white ready to be destroyed by the power of my sled. Hours later our paths would be perfectly carved in the snow, and we would be ready to go in and change to dry clothes, watch a movie, and drink a cup of hot chocolate. Snow doesn’t fall in the city, and even if it did, there is no room to go sledding. These memories will not be forgotten.
When summertime came around again, the park was a popular place to be. I always made new friends, and there was always so much to do with these new acquaintances. Activities consisted of playing basketball at the court, playing in the sand, riding bikes, and rollerblading on the trail, playing on the jungle gym and tire swing, swinging, and so much more! Once my mom and I had our picture taken on the swings and put in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Sometimes the church congregation would have a picnic for everyone there, and we would grill and enjoy each other’s company. Even family reunions have been held there. The people in Harrogate are country people, down to earth, and content with the simple life. They are not concerned with the greatest and latest of things. This made the events at the park so much more enjoyable.
If I could, I would go back and relive some of these memories. No matter where I go, Harrogate will be home in my heart. No matter my age, Harrogate holds some of the most memorable and cherishing parts of my life.