Descriptive Essays: General Overview

Students at colleges and universities have to know what EDNA means – Exposition, Description, Narration, and Argumentation, which are commonly known as the modes of discourse. Students have to comprehend the basic differences and requirements of the abovementioned modes of discourse if they want to succeed in academic writing. To develop one’s descriptive essay writing skills, he/she has to work on the task and keep practicing all the time. However, there are some prompts, which if used properly, can help you write very imaginative, effective descriptive essays. At, we will provide an extensive descriptive essay definition and explain how students have to approach such writing tasks.

As the name suggests, the main goal of writing a descriptive essay is to describe something in a thorough manner from someone’s personal or impressionistic perspective. Descriptive essays have some characteristics that are similar narrative essays’ ones, but the end goals of descriptive and narrative essays are different.

Descriptive Essay: Definition and Purpose

A descriptive essay is a form of essay that asks a student to describe something; for instance, a place, person, incident, even or even an emotion. Providing a detailed description of something, in this type of essay the author is painting a picture in words. A descriptive essay allows the writer to explain his/her point of view in his/her own way. The writer should provide a vivid description of every aspect of the topic, giving the readers an opportunity to feel as if they have personally experienced that.

Descriptive essays are written with the aim of describing someone’s experience, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, places, objects, people, customers, cultures, etc. It is just a small list of what this type of writing can entail. Professors usually assign writing descriptive papers when they want to make students apply their creativity and imagination to the writing task. The key feature of descriptive papers is to reflect your artistic freedom and make reader visualize the subject of description. You are welcome to look at our descriptive essay examples produced by the writers at, which will help you understand better how to organize your ideas in descriptive pieces of writing.

Usually professors do not restrain students from the selection of their own descriptive essay topics. Therefore, you should choose the one that interests you the most. However, you have to understand that describing an object, event, etc. you know little about will not bring good results. Therefore, do not think that the choice of a difficult topic will surprise your professor, who is interested not in the topic itself, but the way you explore it. While working on any descriptive paper, it is preferable to have someone who can read it. It can be your friend or classmate who could tate if it was easy to visualize what you described and whether the language is vivid/dull to create any impressions.

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What Are the Elements of a Descriptive Essay?

When students get such an assignment for the first time, they often ask “what are critical elements of descriptive essays?” There are some major and critical elements of an essay that are to be followed, a few of them are mentioned below:

  • Expressions or sensory details

It is like adding the details that can arise emotions in the readers so that they can connect to whatever they are reading. A writer has to add all the details that can add to the underlying meaning of the content. The sensory details are a must in the essay such as helping readers engage their senses such as sight, smell, touch, and taste.

  • Use of figurative language

It is central to make use of figurative language because it is another major element of the descriptive essay. One should make use of metaphors, adjectives, similes, adverbs, and symbols that can make a reading worth a time. The use of figurative language can also help the readers understand the subject and visualize the meaning of the work.

  • Major idea and the theme

Although the essay is based on the expressions, it is important to infer that there is a central theme that should be followed. The choice of the theme helps to create the underlying essence of the essay and it is important to keep the essay to the point and focused.

  • To the point language

The language of the essay should be to the point because it will help to keep the readers stay connected with the content and the subject. The language should also be compatible with the theme that the writer is following in the essay

  • Ideas organization

An essay should have organized ideas taking into account the chronology, the orders plat, and the spatial location.

USEFUL TIP: A narrative essay investigates a topic using narrative techniques, while the aim of a descriptive essay is to illustrate a place, concept, or an object in detail.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

When you are working on this type of paper, it is important to know the descriptive essay format. If you wonder “what is a descriptive writing procedure?”, we are going to give you some useful tips. To create this type of paper, follow the steps provided below:

  • Choose a Topic

Choosing a good topic for your essay is important. The essay topic should be attractive so that it compels the reader to stay with you throughout the essay.

  • Create an Outline

Draft a descriptive essay outline to organize your information in a proper sequence. It will help you structure your essay and remind you to include all the sensory details.

  • Write a Descriptive Essay Introduction

The essay begins with an introduction. It introduces the main topic and includes a strong opinion that creates the first impression of the essay. The introduction gives a brief overview of what the essay is going to be about.

  • Craft an Informative Thesis Statement

A descriptive essay 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.

  • Compose Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs support the introduction, the purpose, and follow the direction as defined in the thesis statement. Use topic sentences as the first sentence of each paragraph and back it with supporting evidence. The next step is to link your paragraphs with transition words. In this essay, most of the transition words used are conjunctions. Make appropriate use of conjunctions that suit your essay. Organize your paragraphs properly in an orderly form, in case of experience and memories.

Common Descriptive Essay Topics

The greatest thing in working on descriptive essays is the variety of topics and the wide range of aspects that can be discussed. One can write the essay about a person, a place, an object or a memory. Here are a few examples of descriptive essay topics:

Essay about a person:

  • Describe someone you love
  • Describe your best friend
  • Describe one of your family members
  • How might Othello look like in real life
  • Princess Diana as a role model
  • A stranger that I would like to meet

Essay about a place:

  • Explain the detailing of the Lincoln Castle
  • The description of the dream house
  • The description of Safari Park
  • A detailed insight into the Niagara Falls

Essay about an object:

  • The description of my best watch
  • How my favorite PlayStation looks like
  • What are the things that I want to purchase patiently?
  • The description of the vase that I got from my mother

Essay about a memory:

  • Describe any memory of the childhood
  • What is the worst memory of life
  • How I celebrated my birthday
  • How I felt when I went abroad for the first time

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What Makes Good Descriptive Writing?

The answer to ‘what makes good descriptive writing?’ isn’t always a clear one. Everyone writes differently and has their own unique style. However, there are ways that children can learn and improve their descriptive writing as they grow. One of the most effective ways to make good descriptive writing is to make use of the five senses: sound, sight, smell, touch and taste. By exploring the senses, we can create a vivid picture that the reader can visualize. Think about it: when you go to the park or even when you sit at home, you don’t just see things. You hear, feel, touch (and sometimes taste) them too. Using this helps to make the description more real, authentic and effective for the reader. As well as this, here are some other pointers to help an author understand what makes good descriptive writing:

  • Use unexpected words – Sometimes it’s possible to convey a certain mood by using words or phrases that aren’t usually associated with the thing being described.
  • Think about the person who is describing – Like the above, certain characters might have different views about what’s being talked about. Try to match the words you use with how the character might think.
  • The use of figurative language – Metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia, alliteration, similes, idioms and hyperbole can all elevate the standard of descriptive writing.
  • Do not over-describe – Sometimes, there are certain things that don’t need to be described, but it all depends on what the story is about and what’s important to it. While a window might not be important for one story, it might be the centre-piece for another. Think about what’s important and don’t over-describe what’s not.

Learn More about Figurative Language

To create vivid and effective descriptive writing and develop writing techniques, it is necessary to learn everything about descriptive language. Writing techniques are specific language devices used by many writers in order to uplift their writing and make it fascinating and more attractive to the readers. Let us explore those techniques in writing in more detail.

Writing Technique Explanation Example
Metaphor It is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing (a person, place or a thing) by mentioning another. She is an early bird. The grass was covered with a blanket of snow.
Simile A figure of speech that compares one thing to another, usually with the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. It is used to make a description more vivid or emphatic. The room was black as night.
Personification An inanimate object is given human feelings or it acts in the way that a person might. Small lights on the counter blinked at me.
Hyperbole Hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration of what’s being described. I would be 80 years old before I reached my destination
Oxymoron An oxymoron is a phrase that combines two words that contradict each other. I swallowed back a silent scream.
Emotive language This is language that has been purposefully written to make the reader feel a certain emotion. Lee begged passers-by for help. When I sat up, I saw two eyes, four legs and a fluffy tail looking at me innocently.
Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia refers to words that sound like what they mean. The branch snapped beneath my feet.
Alliteration Alliteration is when two or more words next to each other begin with the same letter or sound. Polly’s prancing pony performed perfectly

While it’s important to use these techniques in writing and it can make the writing much more engaging for the reader, it’s a good idea to use them in moderation. When writing is packed full of metaphors, hyperbole, alliteration and more, the original meaning can be lost and it can be hard for the reader to follow. That’s why writing techniques should be carefully thought out and chosen. What does the technique add to the story and the reader’s experience? Is the reader going to be overwhelmed with foreshadowing and similes? One powerful metaphor will be much more effective than 10 weak ones. Remember that techniques in writing are an incredible tool – when used correctly!

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Expert Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay

If you have read our descriptive essay examples and still do not know how to begin writing your paper, please have a look at our writing guidelines that the writers at follow while working on such tasks:

  • Use some brainstorming techniques.

If you want to describe your perfect day off, you have to know beforehand what your essay will include. In this way, brainstorming is just what you need. Take a sheet of paper and write down everything you would like to do. Your list can look in this way: eat pizza, go to sleep, have a date with Mike/Mia, read a book, etc. This list will help you organize ideas in your paper and include all the necessary details.

  • Your language must be formal and concise.

If you want to write a descriptive essay about a place, event, object, etc., please make sure that your language is formal or neutral. Academic writing is all about formality and the choice of “high vocabulary.” Moreover, it is highly advisable to use vivid language that will stir readers’ imagination. You have to resort to the verbs that will provoke visualization of the discussed subject.

  • Resort to the sense verbs.

It is of primary importance to appeal to the senses of your future readers. You have to use the sense verbs that represent the look, taste, sound, smell, and feelings. Your reader should experience the situation as if they are present there or are doers of the action.

  • Your reader has to be impressed with your discussion.

Examples of descriptive essays should make you wish to complete the same action according to the author’s description. If you have just described how to cook pasta, your reader should wish to do the same after reading your essay. Descriptive essay must be compelling and interesting for readers to experience the same emotions in the nearest future.


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Writing a descriptive essay is both interesting and entertaining, but it takes time and requires lots of creativity. Follow the simple steps we outlined and consider our useful tips for making your writing easier and more appealing. Mind though, even when you are short of time, you can still have papers that will bring you As.

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