So, you think you’ve got what it takes to write a good descriptive essay?
What about a great one?
Writing a descriptive essay usually requires you to describe something – an object, place, person, event, experience, emotion, etc. – making use of details and sensory imagery.
Description allows us to show rather than tell. Think of a park or coffee house, or any other place you like to visit. If you just say “park” or “coffee house” to people, they will come up with their own ideas about these places.
The words themselves are abstract, but in descriptive essays, your goal is to make these terms more concrete by showing them to the reader.
So get ready to bust out thoseadjectives – they’ll be your best friends when writing this type of essay!
That said, you can’t simply describe something without a purpose and organization: that’s like setting up a tent when you’re camping and then sleeping outside on the ground.
In this blog, I’ll show you how to effectively tackle descriptive essays while also giving you some great exercises that can help you practice and get started.
The Barn Exercise
Don’t know where to begin? How about some practice!
For this exercise, describe a barn (outside, inside, or both) from the point of view of a man whose son has just died in a war. Do not mention the war, the man, or the son.
Focus solely on the barn itself, but keep this information in mind. How do you think this man would describe the barn?
Intense, right? This is a great exercise that makes you – the writer – focus on your topic and use only those details that are most relevant to descriptive writing.
The barn is the most important element here, and based on the mood (which we can assume is one of grief, despair, anger, etc.), you can describe the barn using words and a tone that would suggest how the “narrator” feels in that moment.
The barn’s appearance will be affected by the narrator’s emotional state.
This exercise has an alternative. Forget the man and the son for a second. Instead, choose a strong emotion (joy, jealousy, fear, excitement, etc.), and then describe the barn using this emotion, but never mention the emotion itself.
This makes you really think about which words will best describe the barn while letting your reader know how you feel about it through showing not telling.
…Because not all barns are mired in grief. In fact, some are downright cheerful:
How to Write A Descriptive Essay: Strategies for Description
Use Sensory Imagery
|Just using the power of your words, you can let a reader see, hear, taste, feel, or smell the environments you create in your descriptive essay. Think of that first blank white page on your computer as your canvas; using your imagination, “paint” a picture on this canvas so that the reader can experience a “sense” of a place, object, person, etc. from your point of view.Neat, huh?|
Use Similes and Metaphors
Similes use “like” or “as” to describe something.
Examples: My dog is like a bulldozer plowing through the snow.
This room is as cold as ice!
These Kibin editors are so cool; they’re like movie stars!
Metaphors make implicit comparisons; they don’t use “like” or “as”.
Examples: You’re my whole world.
Jeremiah was a bullfrog.
She has a heart of gold.
Be specific to let readers really “see” what you want to show them.
Bad: There was a desk in the corner.
Better: The solid oak writing desk in the corner had a small drawer with round brass handles. It was overstuffed with papers that had yellowed with age.
All right, now – strap on your boots: we’re diving into descriptive essay writing!
|All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs. The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime. Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers opening in the turf, birds were singing.– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings||Use specific details! Look at how well Tolkien makes use of specific details to turn abstract ideas into concrete images that the reader can understand.|
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Determine Your Approach
#1. Objective description – This approach is used to impartially inform the reader about a topic. An objective description is neither personal nor emotional, rather it is based in factual observations. Here is an example:
The 16 reservations of Cleveland Metroparks consist of over 21,000 acres of various landscapes and attractions for visitors to enjoy. The Park District is commonly referred to as the “Emerald Necklace” because the reservations encircle the city of Cleveland. Two of the reservations, Brecksville and Bedford, fall within the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (Source)
Do you see how the writer didn’t put in any emotional or personal details? The description is purely objective and based on just the facts.
#2. Subjective description – This is the more common approach used to write a descriptive essay because it allows you to inject some feeling into your writing. You can write your descriptions from your unique perspective and celebrate your observations with artistic prose.
Ready for another LOTR reference? Let’s see how Smaug describes himself:
|“My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”- J. R. R. Tolkien, The HobbitThink about your assignment requirements, and then determine which style–objective or subjective–is best for your descriptive essay!|
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Plan and Organize
Like any essay you write, you don’t want to just dive in. Start by generating ideas, taking notes, and outlining. Try to stick to one main vantage point and overall “mood.”
Remember that you need to have a purpose for writing this essay, so be sure to come up with a thesis.
Vantage point – Do you get up close and intimate with your subject, or are you more distant? Be sure that you maintain a balance of these vantage points throughout the essay for consistency.
Intimate: Use this approach to describe something or someone you’re very familiar with. Make good use of memory here for specific details.
“My old teddy bear has been discolored by years of attic dust and is more brown than gray now. A bit of cotton stuffing shows where my mom had sewn up the ear after Bugs, our old Collie, got at it. It’s still missing a black-button eye from the attack, and the lonely thread line in the empty ‘socket’ makes the toy look like its always winking.”
Distant: Use this vantage point when you need to describe less significant moments that aren’t as important to the overall essay but are necessary for transition from one moment to the next.
“Jeremy’s house looked like a prison – the walls were made of old unwashed brick, and the windows all had bars on them.”
Mood – This is the impression you want to leave the reader with. Consider the various descriptions above. How did they make you feel?
Think about the contradictory language in this example. How does it affect the tone?
“It was a bright, beautiful day – the sun was shining, and the flowers were in full bloom. My grandfather’s funeral was in two hours.”
Thesis – This is the main purpose for writing your essay. Read this post to get a little help with your thesis statement.
Here is a thesis statement example for a descriptive essay I would have fun writing:
“This description of the Millennium Falcon shows that Han Solo piloted more than just a ‘bucket of bolts’; the iconic spacecraft had many upgrades that allowed Solo to smuggle successfully, evade capture, and outmaneuver the best Imperial fighters in the galaxy.”
Not sure how to format an essay? Be sure to check with your teacher about the specifics.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Develop a Draft
Once you have finished planning your mood, vantage point, and approach, start writing the paper! There are three main components to any essay: Introduction, Body, Conclusion. These are all terms you may be familiar with, but let me give you the details!
Introduction – Tell the reader what you will tell them. In this paragraph, you briefly summarize the main points of your essay and provide your thesis. Think about the overall imagery and mood you want to convey – this is the spot where you first “dip your toe in the water” to get an idea of what it feels like. That’s the type of effect you’ll want the introduction to have.
Body – Tell them. The body paragraphs are the “meat” of your essay in which you’ll be doing the most describing. Unlike narrative essays, which are often chronological and move from one event to the next through time, a descriptive essay often takes a reader from one place to the next .
If you’re describing the interior of a house, for example, you may go from one room to the next, ending on your most favorite room – the pinball-laser-tag-bowling-alley-bouncey-castle room in your basement. (Okay, perhaps you don’t have such a room, but you can see where I’m going with this).
All essays must be organized in some way, and moving from one place to the next is typically how descriptive essays handle this.
Keep in mind that a strong organization for this paper will include a topic-by-topic approach. If you’re writing about that house, be sure that each door you move through begins a new paragraph. Hit the “Enter” key and indent that next line!
Conclusion – Tell the reader what you told them. As a general rule, a conclusion never introduces new information. Much like the intro, it summarizes the essay’s main points and then returns to the thesis to reinforce your claim one last time, leaving the reader with the impression you wanted them to have from the very beginning.
Final Thoughts on How to Write a Descriptive Essay
Writing is a muscle that needs exercise, so starting out with a little practice works well for many writers.
Check out these sources for extra help and inspiration on how to write a descriptive essay. A review of some descriptive essay examples can also go a long way toward helping you better tackle this writing style. You can see how other students approached their descriptive essays.
Let’s recap! A descriptive essay should have:
- An intro, body, and conclusion
- A thesis statement that tells your reader the point of your essay
- An objective or subjective approach
- A vantage point and an intentional mood or tone (think about the barn exercise!).
- Specific details, sensory imagery, metaphors, and similes
- A logical progression from one topic to the next (remember the “room-to-room house” example above).
Now that you have the tools to help you start writing a descriptive essay that is expressive, it’s time to fill that blank white page with your words! When you’ve finished your draft, Kibin’s editing service is here to help you make sure it’s polished and awesome!
Now go forth and describe, you brave wordsmiths!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Descriptive Essay on How a Football Game is a Metaphor of War
Did you know that the first instances of football can be found in manuals of war of ancient China? It describes a sport that was used to train the soldiers at that time and it included kicking a leather ball through hoops. This was supposedly there to train the soldiers in the art of precision and allowed them to be better warriors. This was later evolved into a game that was played between two opposing teams. Even if we look at the modern version of our football game today, we can find many elements that relate it as a war-like scenario. Just as in a war or a battle, there are two opposing sides, a field where the sport takes place, players that participate in the battle, scores are kept, and one side ultimately emerges as a victor.
One of the things that make football look like a metaphor for war is the contest between the two opposing teams. War is a contest as well; the only difference is that football players are fighting for a title or a prize, while soldiers in a battle are fighting for their country. Even in these differences, many similarities can be found. For example, both in war as well as in football, the soldiers and the players are required to wear a certain color of uniform. The soldiers and the players have to wear protective clothing such as helmets, etc. Each side and team has a flag and an emblem that they have their loyalties to. And each side and team has an objective, which is to defeat the other side.
Just like wars and battles are fought on battlefields, the game of football also takes place on a certain standardized field. The football field is a hundred yards long and this constitutes the boundaries inside which the 'battle' takes place. The real battles in wars also take place in certain confined areas and not inside cities and towns. The players in footballs are penalized if the ball goes out of bounds and they have to try very hard to keep the ball inside the boundaries in order to progress in the game. Similarly, just as a war has its casualties, so does football has its own rules that allow the referee to monitor the actions of the players. If a player does not play by the rules, he is given a warning by the referee and he might even be thrown out of the game if he breaks more than one rule more than once.
The game play involved with football is also very much similar to how a war is waged. One of the sides or teams assumes an offensive position, while the other side or team does its best to defend itself against the attack. The players in the offensive position charge against the defensive side and try to take the ball as far as they can into the opposing team's territory. This is similar to what happens in wars, where the side that is on the offensive pushes the other side deeper into its own territory in order to claim the enemy's land and win the war. The whole act of scoring a touchdown is a metaphor for this as the team takes the ball into the 'enemy's' side of the field and throws the ball there, signifying an attack. In modern terms, it can be related to having thrown a bomb in the enemy's land.
Therefore, we see that there are many similarities between football and war. Both these represent sports for their respective audiences: the spectators in case of football and the politicians in case of war. Two sides compete for a certain prize in both these events and the prize is won by the participation of soldiers or teammates. In the end, one side emerges the victor and the other side has to face defeat. This is how football is like war in many respects and it will not be too far fetched to say that many die-hard football fans would consider a football match as not being much further than war itself.