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Descriptive Writing: Definition, Tips, Examples, and Exercises

Descriptive writing is about using the power of words to arouse the imagination, capture the attention, and create a lasting impact in the mind of the reader. In this article, you'll learn how to employ descriptive elements in your writing, tips to enhance your descriptive writing skills, and some exercises to better yourself at it.

Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing is about using the power of words to arouse the imagination, capture the attention, and create a lasting impact in the mind of the reader. In this article, you’ll learn how to employ descriptive elements in your writing, tips to enhance your descriptive writing skills, and some exercises to better yourself at it.

Read the two sentences given below:

  • I felt tired at work today.
  • As the day wore on at work, I felt a cramp beginning to form at the nape of my neck, my eyes began to feel droopy, and the computer screen in front of me began blurring.

Which one of the two do you find more interesting to read? Most definitely the second one. This is because, while the first sentence merely tells you directly that ‘you felt tired at work today’, the second one explains the same experience in a much more vivid and relatable manner.

From this you can see that even something as simple as the above sentence can be transformed using literary devices that aid visualization, into something that someone can relate to. This is what descriptive writing is all about: heightening the sense of perception and alluring your reader to read ahead, because you have so much more to say.

Good Examples of Descriptive Writing

Given below are a couple of good pieces of descriptive writing from authors who know their business.

‘But the door slid slowly open before Lupin could reach it. Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downwards, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, greyish, slimy-looking and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…’ – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

‘I don’t know what I’d expected but it was something different than I saw. She looked unexpectedly young. Or, I suppose said better, she looked unexpectedly “not old”. Her hair, which was completely white, had a yellowish cast that could almost have been mistaken for a pale blond, and it was loose around her shoulders. And long. Longer than mine. No doubt she normally wore it pulled up in a bun, and such a style would have given her a more predictable little-old-lady look, but the way it was here now, parted on the side – long, loose, and straight – she seemed ageless as an ancient sculpture. This sense was enhanced by her skin. Though it had the fragile crepeyness of age, she had few wrinkles, especially across her forehead, which was smooth to a point of being almost waxy looking. She was of obvious northern Germanic heritage, with pale eyes and prominent features. Although she was not overweight, her bones were big and blunt, giving the impression of a tall, sturdy woman.’ – Twilight Children by Torey Hayden

Why be Descriptive While Writing?

  • The purpose of descriptive writing is to inspire imagination. When you put your mind into making a piece of writing more descriptive, you automatically begin to pay attention to detail and refine your perception about things. You begin to imagine them as much more than, say a  party hat or a hard-bound book . You begin to look at them as a tall, pink, pointed paper hat with tassels , and a book that had a gleaming golden spine, and weighed a few good pounds .
  • The next, and probably the most important benefit of descriptive writing is that in the process of trying to make the reader visualize what you want to say, you tend to use more interesting words. You want to convey a mental picture to your reader. So you’re bound to use words that might be unconventional or less-used. You will want to find words that exactly describe what you want to say, and will look for different words that mean the same. This will help you suitably build your vocabulary.
  • The success of descriptive writing lies in the details. The more detailed your depiction of a plot or a character or a place is, the more you engross your reader. You become a keen observer and minder of details. You pay attention to the tiniest bits of information and appearance, which in turn helps you transfer the details into your writing.
  • Since you have picked something to describe and have observed all its details, you are sure to understand the subject better. You may even come across bits and pieces that you may have missed the first time you looked at the object/subject in question. Thoroughly understanding what you’re going to write about is exceedingly important to the process of writing about it.

Tips you Can Use Identify what you’re about to describe

As you start with descriptive writing, identify exactly what you are setting out to describe. Usually, a descriptive piece will include the depiction of a person, a place, an experience, a situation, and the like. Anything that you experience or perceive about your subject can be the focal point of your descriptive writing. You build a backdrop by identifying an aspect of a subject that you want to describe.

Decide why you’re describing that particular aspect

While it can be a wonderful creative exercise to simply describe anything you observe, in descriptive writing, there is often a specific reason to describe whatever you have set out to describe. Tapping this reason can help you keep the description focused and infuse your language with the particular emotion or perspective that you want to convey to your readers.

Maintain a proper chronology/sequence Sometimes, you may get so caught up in making your work colorful and creative that you may end up having a mash-up of descriptions that follow no particular order. This will render the effort of writing useless as the various descriptions will simply confuse the reader. For instance, if you want to describe characters in a particular situation, begin by describing the setting, then proceed to the most important character of that particular situation, and then to the least important one (if necessary).

Use Imagery Imagery is the best tool you can employ in descriptive writing. Since you cannot show your reader what you are imagining, you need to paint a picture with words. You need to make the depiction of your imagination so potent that your reader will instantly be able to visualize what you are describing. However, don’t go overboard. Make sure that the focus does not dwindle stray. Keep your descriptions specific to the subject in question. The writing must be able to draw in the reader; hence, the writer should say things that the reader can relate to or empathize with. An introductory backdrop can often provide an effective setting for the remaining part of the piece. Great descriptive writing has the ability to lure the reader, enticing him or her to continue reading right to the end. While giving the details is important, it is how they are presented that makes the difference.

Hone the senses One of the most effective ways to make the experience you are describing vivid for your reader is to use the five senses: smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch. When the descriptions are focused on the senses, you provide specific and vivid details in such a way that it shows your reader what you are describing. So, when you describe a subject, depict it in such a manner that it involves the reader’s possible sensory interpretations. It must make the reader imagine what he would see, hear, smell, taste, or feel when he reads what you have written.

She gently squeezed the juice out of the plump, red tomato. She blended this juice into the simmering mix of golden-brown onions and garlic in the pan, and watched as they melded into each other. She then added the spice mixture that she had prepared, and the air was permeated with a mouth-watering aroma.

Use strong nouns and verbs effectively, adjectives intelligently It is true that the purpose of adjectives is to describe a subject, but overuse of adjectives in descriptive writing can render the piece shallow and hollow. Hence, make it a point to use other parts of speech to express the same sentiment. You’ll be surprised how effectively nouns, verbs and adverbs can be used to describe something, sometimes even better than adjectives alone. For instance, look at the two sentences below.

  • The flowers were as fresh as the morning dew.
  • The flowers had a freshness that could only equal that of the glistening morning dew.

The first sentence has used an adjective (fresh)  to describe the flowers. It is a good description too, because the comparison to morning dew is something that will immediately put the reader in the sense of mind that you want. The second sentence too has compared the freshness to morning dew, but has used a noun (freshness) and a verb (equal)  to do so, and in the process has probably enticed the reader to continue reading, more than the first sentence.

Pick related words Before you actually begin writing, it is always a good idea to build a word bank of related words and ideas. For instance, if you are going to be describing a flower arrangement, you could jot down a few ideas before you start describing it, like: vase, color, types of flowers, leaves, stem, style, shape, fresh, etc. Once you have these basic words, you could start descriptive sentences for each one. Then, carry on from there.

Display passion Impact is what you’re looking to create in the minds of your readers. You want your readers to relate and empathize with what you’re writing. This will be close to impossible if your work does not reflect the passion that you feel for it. Make them feel what you feel with the words you write. Language that relates to powerful emotions such as love, hatred, admiration, disgust, etc., can convey the range and intensity of the sentiment that you are trying to express. Use them to your favor and get the desired effect.

Exercises to Enhance Descriptive Writing

Given below are some simple, yet effective exercises that you can use to better yourself at descriptive writing.

Exercise 1 Decide on an everyday action, say ‘making a pot of coffee’ and write about it in a descriptive manner. Give yourself 3 words that you’re not allowed to use while writing about it. You’ll see yourself reaching for the thesaurus, which will help improve your vocabulary.

Exercise 2 Pick random objects like a hat, a burger, a chair, etc., and place them before you. Enlist the different names that these objects can be called. Describe each of the objects in sentences that have more than 15 words each. Be as imaginative as you can.

Get your ‘assignments’ read by an objective person to see if they can relate to and understand properly what you have tried to convey.

Make descriptive writing a rewarding experience, both for your reader and yourself. If you like what you write, chances are that your reader will too. As is evident, having a comprehensive vocabulary is the key to good descriptive writing. But mere vocabulary will fall short if your piece lacks passion, logic and interest. The trouble is that it can easily become an incoherent rambling of senses and emotions. To avoid that, present what you are writing about in a logical and organized sequence of thoughts, so that the reader comes away from it with a cogent sense of what you have attempted to describe.

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Further insights.

Who Are The Most Romantic Literary Figures of All Time?

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How to Take Descriptive Writing to the Next Level

Lindsay Kramer

Sometimes, writing feels like you’re climbing up a hill. A slippery, muddy hill. During a rainstorm. 

Even when the words are there, it can be tough to get the feeling onto the page. You might have listed the events you’re covering and presented all the facts clearly and logically, but when your writing doesn’t feel engaging, something’s missing. That something is descriptive writing. 

Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate clearly Write with Grammarly

Descriptive writing consists of a variety of techniques and choices you make in an effort to give your reader an accurate, three-dimensional impression of the subject you’re writing about. It’s part word choice , part figurative language, part comparison, and part knowing what to include and what to leave out of your writing to set just the right mood .

Table of contents

When to use descriptive writing, descriptive writing techniques, sensory writing, personification, onomatopoeia, give your writing extra polish.

Use descriptive writing almost anywhere your writing can benefit from immersive scene-setting. Most kinds of writing can benefit from a little bit of descriptive writing. Some, like fiction, poetry, and memoir, can benefit from a lot of it. 

Instead of listing all the types of writing that can benefit from descriptive words, phrases, and sentences, here is the short list of the kinds of writing where this type of content is not appropriate:

  • Technical writing
  • Academic writing
  • Professional emails and other correspondences

Descriptive writing is juicy. It evokes the reader’s senses. It’s the perfect tool for accurately communicating something that isn’t tangible, and that’s precisely why it’s not appropriate for the more formal, objective kinds of writing listed above. 

Use descriptive writing when your goal is for the reader to feel like they’re standing in your shoes. The most effective way to write about the euphoric feeling of affection you felt when you adopted your puppy may be to use descriptive writing techniques to make the reader feel like they’re the one seeing Fluffy wag her tail and feeling her lick your hand, rather than simply listing her physical features. Descriptive writing promotes empathy in your reader and personalizes your work. 

There are lots of different ways you can make your writing more descriptive. Here are a few of the most common descriptive writing techniques:

A metaphor is a descriptive technique that likens one thing to another. Take a look at these examples of common metaphors:

  • My child is the light of my life.
  • He’s the black sheep of our family. 
  • She’s a tornado that destroys everything in her path.

By stating that one object is another, you’re saying they share certain traits. You aren’t saying they’re indistinguishable or that they’re actually the same object; you’re expressing that the reader will encounter these specific traits in a very similar way in both objects. 

A simile is like a metaphor . And yes, that was a simile. 

Just like a metaphor, a simile describes something by comparing it to something else. The difference between the two is that a simile uses the word “like,” “so,” “than,” or “as” to make the comparison. For example:

  • The building was as tall as Mt. Fuji.
  • She drives faster than a NASCAR racer.
  • They ate like a bunch of vultures.

With a simile, the comparison typically isn’t literal—it’s hyperbole that emphasizes the statement being made, much like it does with a metaphor. If you aren’t familiar with the term “hyperbole,” don’t fret—we’re covering it later on in this section.  

Sensory writing depicts a scene through your senses. Take a look at these examples:

  • When the cool water splashed my face, the contrast made me realize just how red-hot my skin had gotten. 
  • Their home always smelled like freshly baked cookies; a constant cloud of chocolatey, sweet warmth wafted through the house. 
  • The sticky substance reached every centimeter of my skin, oozing into my pores and gluing my fingers and toes together.

As you can see, sensory writing typically incorporates other kinds of descriptive writing, like similes, metaphors, and hyperbole. 

Freewriting is a great way to channel your senses and craft some spot-on sensory writing. Just open your word processor or notebook and start writing what you think, feel, or have experienced. There are no rules, no restrictions—just move everything that’s happening in your mind onto the page, walking through sensations like how you feel, what you hear, what you see, and what these sensations are driving you to do.  

When you use an extreme statement to make a point, you’re using hyperbole . Here are a few quick examples:

  • It was a million degrees out yesterday.
  • I haven’t heard that name in a hundred years. 
  • He was the sweetest boyfriend ever.

You know it wasn’t actually a million degrees, you most likely haven’t been alive long enough to not have heard a specific name in the past century, and surely there are many other boyfriends who are kind and thoughtful. But when you say things like this, you aren’t confusing or lying to your listener—you’re intentionally exaggerating to express just how extreme something was: It was very hot outside, you haven’t heard that name in a long time, and your boyfriend was very romantic. 

It was a joyful bouquet. Each flower had a distinct, vibrant face and together, they were a happy choir of enthusiastic friends, ready to break into song at any moment. 

We’re talking about flowers here and, as you know, flowers don’t have faces, voices, or friendships. But see how giving the flowers in this description human qualities like faces, voices, and interpersonal bonds gives you a clear image of the bouquet being described? It’s not just a collection of flowers; it’s a coherent group of fresh, healthy, colorful flowers. 

Onomatopoeia are words for specific sounds. If you’ve ever watched the live Batman TV show from the 1960s, you’ve seen such onomatopoeia as “bam!” and “thwap!” flash across the screen during the fight scenes, creating a comic book-like feel. That’s what onomatopoeia does—it immerses you in the scene by giving it a “soundtrack.” 

What is a descriptive essay?

A descriptive essay is an essay focused on describing something. That “something” can be anything, such as an event, a place, an experience, an object, or even a person. Descriptive essays aren’t exactly the same as other kinds of essays , though you might find yourself using descriptive writing in other essay types to strengthen your argument. 

In a descriptive essay, your goal is to make the reader feel like they’re experiencing the subject you’re describing firsthand. For example, let’s say you’ve been assigned to write a descriptive essay about the role pizza plays in your campus culture. 

Your descriptive essay might include lines and passages like: 

Sweet relief came over me when I got that notification text saying my pizza had arrived. My stomach was roaring; it was 2:00 a.m. and I hadn’t eaten since dinner at 6:00. Unlike my roommate, whose study habits and time management allowed her to go to bed at midnight, I was up working on a paper that was due in about eight hours. Thick socks on my feet, I quietly stepped away from my desk and out into the hallway to meet the driver at the door. The pizza was already paid for, so all I needed to do was take my hot pie of cheesy stamina from his nocturnal hands and get back to work. While walking back to my room, the garlicky smell emanating from the box lulled me into a state of relieved relaxation, but this relaxation was gone in a flash when I realized where my key was: not in my pocket, but sitting on my desk. 

Compare this to a cause-and-effect essay on the same topic. Instead of trying to make your reader’s mouth water, you’d instead craft a narrative of the effect the local pizza shop has had on your campus culture. You might start by discussing the food options you had before it opened and how the pizza shop upgraded students’ access to delicious food and changed their approach to ordering out. In a persuasive essay , your goal might be to convince the reader that adding the pizza shop to the list of local vendors who accept meal plan credits is a good idea, and in an analytical essay, you’d state a specific position about the pizza shop (for instance, how it’s an inextricable part of campus life). And you’d defend that position with clear evidence (more than half of the pizza shop’s deliveries are to campus, the shop regularly hires students, and the shop caters a significant number of events on campus, for example). 

Crafting a compelling piece of descriptive writing can be tough, especially if descriptive writing is new to you. The two keys to becoming a pro at descriptive writing are to read a wide variety of writing types and practice, practice, practice. This doesn’t mean you have to write an immersive novel or start cranking out poems by the page—you can train your descriptive writing muscles by working a little bit into each of your future assignments. Maybe you add a metaphor to your next history essay’s intro or work some similes into your upcoming economics presentation. 

Wherever you’re working on descriptive writing, Grammarly is here to help. Before you hit “send” or “submit,” have Grammarly give your writing a once-over to catch any spelling mistakes , punctuation errors , and even instances where your tone is less than perfect for your writing’s goals. No matter what you’re aiming to achieve with your writing, Grammarly can help you achieve your goals. 

descriptive writing

Writing Forward

A Guide to Descriptive Writing

by Melissa Donovan | Jan 7, 2021 | Creative Writing | 8 comments

descriptive writing

What is descriptive writing?

Writing description is a necessary skill for most writers. Whether we’re writing an essay, a story, or a poem, we usually reach a point where we need to describe something. In fiction, we describe settings and characters. In poetry, we describe scenes, experiences, and emotions. In creative nonfiction, we describe reality. Descriptive writing is especially important for speculative fiction writers and poets. If you’ve created a fantasy world, then you’ll need to deftly describe it to readers; Lewis Carroll not only described Wonderland  (aff link); he also described the fantastical creatures that inhabited it.

But many writers are challenged by description writing, and many readers find it boring to read — when it’s not crafted skillfully.

However, I think it’s safe to say that technology has spoiled us. Thanks to photos and videos, we’ve become increasingly visual, which means it’s getting harder to use words to describe something, especially if it only exists in our imaginations.

What is Descriptive Writing?

One might say that descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words. But descriptive writing goes beyond visuals. Descriptive writing hits all the senses; we describe how things look, sound, smell, taste, and feel (their tactile quality).

The term descriptive writing can mean a few different things:

  • The act of writing description ( I’m doing some descriptive writing ).
  • A descriptive essay is short-form prose that is meant to describe something in detail; it can describe a person, place, event, object, or anything else.
  • Description as part of a larger work: This is the most common kind of descriptive writing. It is usually a sentence or paragraph (sometimes multiple paragraphs) that provide description, usually to help the reader visualize what’s happening, where it’s happening, or how it’s happening. It’s most commonly used to describe a setting or a character. An example would be a section of text within a novel that establishes the setting by describing a room or a passage that introduces a character with a physical description.
  • Writing that is descriptive (or vivid) — an author’s style: Some authors weave description throughout their prose and verse, interspersing it through the dialogue and action. It’s a style of writing that imparts description without using large blocks of text that are explicitly focused on description.
  • Description is integral in poetry writing. Poetry emphasizes imagery, and imagery is rendered in writing via description, so descriptive writing is a crucial skill for most poets.

Depending on what you write, you’ve probably experimented with one of more of these types of descriptive writing, maybe all of them.

Can you think of any other types of descriptive writing that aren’t listed here?

How Much Description is Too Much?

Classic literature was dense with description whereas modern literature usually keeps description to a minimum.

Compare the elaborate descriptions in J.R.R. Tolkien’s  Lord of the Rings  trilogy  with the descriptions in J.K. Rowling’s  Harry Potter series  (aff links). Both series relied on description to help readers visualize an imagined, fantastical world, but Rowling did not use her precious writing space to describe standard settings whereas Tolkien frequently paused all action and spent pages describing a single landscape.

This isn’t unique to Tolkien and Rowling; if you compare most literature from the beginning of of the 20th century and earlier to today’s written works, you’ll see that we just don’t dedicate much time and space to description anymore.

I think this radical change in how we approach description is directly tied to the wide availability of film, television, and photography. Let’s say you were living in the 19th century, writing a story about a tropical island for an audience of northern, urban readers. You would be fairly certain that most of your readers had never seen such an island and had no idea what it looked like. To give your audience a full sense of your story’s setting, you’d need pages of detail describing the lush jungle, sandy beaches, and warm waters.

Nowadays, we all know what a tropical island looks like, thanks to the wide availability of media. Even if you’ve never been to such an island, surely you’ve seen one on TV. This might explain why few books on the craft of writing address descriptive writing. The focus is usually on other elements, like language, character, plot, theme, and structure.

For contemporary writers, the trick is to make the description as precise and detailed as possible while keeping it to a minimum. Most readers want characters and action with just enough description so that they can imagine the story as it’s unfolding.

If you’ve ever encountered a story that paused to provide head-to-toe descriptions along with detailed backstories of every character upon their introduction into the narrative, you know just how grating description can be when executed poorly.

However, it’s worth noting that a skilled writer can roll out descriptions that are riveting to read. Sometimes they’re riveting because they’re integrated seamlessly with the action and dialogue; other times, the description is deftly crafted and engaging on its own. In fact, an expert descriptive writer can keep readers glued through multiple pages of description.

Descriptive Writing Tips

I’ve encountered descriptive writing so smooth and seamless that I easily visualized what was happening without even noticing that I was reading description. Some authors craft descriptions that are so lovely, I do notice — but in a good way. Some of them are so compelling that I pause to read them again.

On the other hand, poorly crafted descriptions can really impede a reader’s experience. Description doesn’t work if it’s unclear, verbose, or bland. Most readers prefer action and dialogue to lengthy descriptions, so while a paragraph here and there can certainly help readers better visualize what’s happening, pages and pages of description can increase the risk that they’ll set your work aside and never pick it up again. There are exceptions to every rule, so the real trick is to know when lengthy descriptions are warranted and when they’re just boring.

Here are some general tips for descriptive writing:

  • Use distinct descriptions that stand out and are memorable. For example, don’t write that a character is five foot two with brown hair and blue eyes. Give the reader something to remember. Say the character is short with mousy hair and sky-blue eyes.
  • Make description active: Consider the following description of a room: There was a bookshelf in the corner. A desk sat under the window. The walls were beige, and the floor was tiled. That’s boring. Try something like this: A massive oak desk sat below a large picture window and beside a shelf overflowing with books. Hardcovers, paperbacks, and binders were piled on the dingy tiled floor in messy stacks.  In the second example, words like  overflowing  and  piled are active.
  • Weave description through the narrative: Sometimes a character enters a room and looks around, so the narrative needs to pause to describe what the character sees. Other times, description can be threaded through the narrative. For example, instead of pausing to describe a character, engage that character in dialogue with another character. Use the characters’ thoughts and the dialogue tags to reveal description: He stared at her flowing, auburn curls, which reminded him of his mother’s hair. “Where were you?” he asked, shifting his green eyes across the restaurant to where a customer was hassling one of the servers.

Simple descriptions are surprisingly easy to execute. All you have to do is look at something (or imagine it) and write what you see. But well-crafted descriptions require writers to pay diligence to word choice, to describe only those elements that are most important, and to use engaging language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Instead of spending several sentences describing a character’s height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, and clothing, a few, choice details will often render a more vivid image for the reader: Red hair framed her round, freckled face like a spray of flames. This only reveals three descriptive details: red hair, a round face, and freckles. Yet it paints more vivid picture than a statistical head-to-toe rundown:  She was five foot three and no more than a hundred and ten pounds with red hair, blue eyes, and a round, freckled face.

descriptive writing practice

10 descriptive writing practices.

How to Practice Writing Description

Here are some descriptive writing activities that will inspire you while providing opportunities to practice writing description. If you don’t have much experience with descriptive writing, you may find that your first few attempts are flat and boring. If you can’t keep readers engaged, they’ll wander off. Work at crafting descriptions that are compelling and mesmerizing.

  • Go to one of your favorite spots and write a description of the setting: it could be your bedroom, a favorite coffee shop, or a local park. Leave people, dialogue, and action out of it. Just focus on explaining what the space looks like.
  • Who is your favorite character from the movies? Describe the character from head to toe. Show the reader not only what the character looks like, but also how the character acts. Do this without including action or dialogue. Remember: description only!
  • Forty years ago we didn’t have cell phones or the internet. Now we have cell phones that can access the internet. Think of a device or gadget that we’ll have forty years from now and describe it.
  • Since modern fiction is light on description, many young and new writers often fail to include details, even when the reader needs them. Go through one of your writing projects and make sure elements that readers may not be familiar with are adequately described.
  • Sometimes in a narrative, a little description provides respite from all the action and dialogue. Make a list of things from a story you’re working on (gadgets, characters, settings, etc.), and for each one, write a short description of no more than a hundred words.
  • As mentioned, Tolkien often spent pages describing a single landscape. Choose one of your favorite pieces of classic literature, find a long passage of description, and rewrite it. Try to cut the descriptive word count in half.
  • When you read a book, use a highlighter to mark sentences and paragraphs that contain description. Don’t highlight every adjective and adverb. Look for longer passages that are dedicated to description.
  • Write a description for a child. Choose something reasonably difficult, like the solar system. How do you describe it in such a way that a child understands how he or she fits into it?
  • Most writers dream of someday writing a book. Describe your book cover.
  • Write a one-page description of yourself.

If you have any descriptive writing practices to add to this list, feel free to share them in the comments.

Descriptive Writing

Does descriptive writing come easily to you, or do you struggle with it? Do you put much thought into how you write description? What types of descriptive writing have you tackled — descriptive essays, blocks of description within larger texts, or descriptions woven throughout a narrative? Share your tips for descriptive writing by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

Further Reading: Abolish the Adverbs , Making the Right Word Choices for Better Writing , and Writing Description in Fiction .

Ready Set Write a Guide to Creative Writing

I find descriptions easier when first beginning a scene. Other ones I struggle with. Yes, intertwining them with dialogue does help a lot.

Melissa Donovan

I have the opposite experience. I tend to dive right into action and dialogue when I first start a scene.

R.G. Ramsey

I came across this article at just the right time. I am just starting to write a short story. This will change the way I describe characters in my story.

Thank you for this. R.G. Ramsey

You’re welcome!

Bella

Great tips and how to practise and improve our descriptive writing skills. Thank you for sharing.

You’re welcome, Bella.

Stanley Johnson

Hello Melissa

I have read many of your articles about different aspects of writing and have enjoyed all of them. What you said here, I agree with, with the exception of #7. That is one point that I dispute and don’t understand the reason why anyone would do this, though I’ve seen books that had things like that done to them.

To me, a book is something to be treasured, loved and taken care of. It deserves my respect because I’m sure the author poured their heart and soul into its creation. Marking it up that way is nothing short of defacing it. A book or story is a form of art, so should a person mark over a picture by Rembrandt or any other famous painter? You’re a very talented author, so why would you want someone to mark through the words you had spent considerable time and effort agonizing over, while searching for the best words to convey your thoughts?

If I want to remember some section or point the author is making, then I’ll take a pen and paper and record the page number and perhaps the first few words of that particular section. I’ve found that writing a note this way helps me remember it better. This is then placed inside the cover for future reference. If someone did what you’ve suggested to a book of mine, I’d be madder than a ‘wet hen’, and that person would certainly be told what I thought of them.

In any of the previous articles you’ve written, you’ve brought up some excellent points which I’ve tried to incorporate in my writing. Keep up the good work as I know your efforts have helped me, and I’m sure other authors as well.

Hi Stanley. Thanks so much for sharing your point of view. I appreciate and value it.

Marking up a book is a common practice, especially in academia. Putting notes in margins, underlining, highlighting, and tagging pages with bookmarks is standard. Personally, I mark up nonfiction paperbacks, but I never mark up fiction paperbacks or any hardcovers (not since college).

I completely respect your right to keep your books in pristine condition. And years ago, when I started college, I felt exactly the same way. I was horrified that people (instructors and professors!) would fill their books with ugly yellow highlighting and other markips. But I quickly realized that this was shortsighted.

Consider an old paperback that is worn and dog-eared. With one look, you know this book has been read many times and it’s probably loved. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit of books. I see markups as the same — that someone was engaging with the book and trying to understand it on a deeper level, which is not disrespectful. It’s something to be celebrated.

Sometimes we place too much value on the book as a physical object rather than what’s inside. I appreciate a beautiful book as much as anyone but what really matters to me is the information or experience that it contains. I often read on a Kindle. Sometimes I listen to audio books. There is no physical book. The experience is not lessened.

I understand where you’re coming from. I used to feel the same way, but my mind was changed. I’m not trying to change yours, but I hope you’ll understand.

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How to Write a Descriptive Essay | Example & Tips

Published on July 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

A descriptive essay gives a vivid, detailed description of something—generally a place or object, but possibly something more abstract like an emotion. This type of essay , like the narrative essay , is more creative than most academic writing .

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Table of contents

Descriptive essay topics, tips for writing descriptively, descriptive essay example, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about descriptive essays.

When you are assigned a descriptive essay, you’ll normally be given a specific prompt or choice of prompts. They will often ask you to describe something from your own experience.

  • Describe a place you love to spend time in.
  • Describe an object that has sentimental value for you.

You might also be asked to describe something outside your own experience, in which case you’ll have to use your imagination.

  • Describe the experience of a soldier in the trenches of World War I.
  • Describe what it might be like to live on another planet.

Sometimes you’ll be asked to describe something more abstract, like an emotion.

If you’re not given a specific prompt, try to think of something you feel confident describing in detail. Think of objects and places you know well, that provoke specific feelings or sensations, and that you can describe in an interesting way.

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The key to writing an effective descriptive essay is to find ways of bringing your subject to life for the reader. You’re not limited to providing a literal description as you would be in more formal essay types.

Make use of figurative language, sensory details, and strong word choices to create a memorable description.

Use figurative language

Figurative language consists of devices like metaphor and simile that use words in non-literal ways to create a memorable effect. This is essential in a descriptive essay; it’s what gives your writing its creative edge and makes your description unique.

Take the following description of a park.

This tells us something about the place, but it’s a bit too literal and not likely to be memorable.

If we want to make the description more likely to stick in the reader’s mind, we can use some figurative language.

Here we have used a simile to compare the park to a face and the trees to facial hair. This is memorable because it’s not what the reader expects; it makes them look at the park from a different angle.

You don’t have to fill every sentence with figurative language, but using these devices in an original way at various points throughout your essay will keep the reader engaged and convey your unique perspective on your subject.

Use your senses

Another key aspect of descriptive writing is the use of sensory details. This means referring not only to what something looks like, but also to smell, sound, touch, and taste.

Obviously not all senses will apply to every subject, but it’s always a good idea to explore what’s interesting about your subject beyond just what it looks like.

Even when your subject is more abstract, you might find a way to incorporate the senses more metaphorically, as in this descriptive essay about fear.

Choose the right words

Writing descriptively involves choosing your words carefully. The use of effective adjectives is important, but so is your choice of adverbs , verbs , and even nouns.

It’s easy to end up using clichéd phrases—“cold as ice,” “free as a bird”—but try to reflect further and make more precise, original word choices. Clichés provide conventional ways of describing things, but they don’t tell the reader anything about your unique perspective on what you’re describing.

Try looking over your sentences to find places where a different word would convey your impression more precisely or vividly. Using a thesaurus can help you find alternative word choices.

  • My cat runs across the garden quickly and jumps onto the fence to watch it from above.
  • My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above.

However, exercise care in your choices; don’t just look for the most impressive-looking synonym you can find for every word. Overuse of a thesaurus can result in ridiculous sentences like this one:

  • My feline perambulates the allotment proficiently and capers atop the palisade to regard it from aloft.

An example of a short descriptive essay, written in response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” is shown below.

Hover over different parts of the text to see how a descriptive essay works.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.

The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.

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Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing has a unique power and appeal, as it evokes sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes. Using description in your writing brings the world within your text to your reader.

Creating A Dominant Impression

The first step in using effective description is to focus on a dominant impression. A dominant impression creates a mood or atmosphere in your paper. This mood can be conveyed through effective descriptive writing. For example, pay attention to the mood in the following paragraph.

My family ate dinner at Merrymead Diner every Friday night while I was a child. We huddled close in a large, red booth as we scanned the familiar menu. The aroma of gravy over creamy mashed potatoes lingered in the air. I snuggled close to my mom's arm as she ordered our drinks. The waitress brought our thick milkshakes out on a tray and placed them in front of us on a paper doily. The jukebox in the back played songs that we all knew the words to, and we sang along until our food arrived, hot and enticing on the table. Outside I shivered in the cold air, but in the diner I was cozy, munching on crispy French fries and enjoying a hot, juicy cheeseburger.

Can you feel the mood of this paragraph? The author is trying to convey a feeling of safety , comfort , and happiness . Notice how the author does not tell the reader she feels safe and happy. She shows the reader through descriptive detail. Her dominant impression is one of comfort and happiness.

Sensory Details

Sensory description uses sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste to sketch an impression in writing. Consider a paragraph without sensory description.

My sister and I walked along the boardwalk each afternoon of our vacation. We watched the ocean and listened to the waves. Usually we stopped for a snack at one of the many stores that line the boardwalk. Afterwards, we walked along the beach and let our feet get wet.

Now, consider this paragraph with all five sensory descriptors: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

My sister and I walked along the boardwalk one afternoon on our vacation. The hot boards warmed our bare feet. We watched the foam-covered waves topple over each other and then slide back into sea. The crashing water competed with the exuberant yells from the seagulls. We bought a perfectly oval fluff of pink cotton candy that dissolved sweetly in our mouths. Afterwards, we walked along the edge of the water, letting the warm salty air blow our hair away from our necks as the cool water lapped over our toes.

Vivid vs. Vague Language

The sensory details you select in your writing should create for your reader the same picture you have in your mind. Instead of using vague, general words, your sensory language should be concrete and sensory-packed. This makes the difference between vivid and vague language. Take a look at the comparison between vague and vivid sentences.

Vary Sentence Structure

When using descriptive language, it is important to vary your sentence structure. Try to avoid using the same subject-verb pattern in all sentences. Embedding descriptive elements and combining sentences can help to avoid the routine subject-verb structure.

The hall was empty. She ran towards the classroom. She entered right after the bell rang.

Varying this sentence structure by embedding descriptive detail breaks the monotonous tone and the clipped, subject-verb style.

Racing down an empty hall, she skidded into the classroom, breathless, just as the bell clanged above her.

What to Avoid When Using Sensory Detail

Too many adjectives—retain only the most powerful words in your writing, deleting any unnecessary words

Too many adverbs—verbs are stronger than adverbs. She strolled into the room is more powerful than She walked casually into the room.

Clichéd figures of speech—overused language, such as green with envy , signals a lack of imagination. Use fresh, descriptive words that go against rote thinking.

by Ali Faucher

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Descriptive Essays

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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

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. 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!

Here are some guidelines for writing a descriptive essay.

  • Take time to brainstorm

If your instructor asks you to describe your favorite food, make sure that you jot down some ideas before you begin describing it. For instance, if you choose pizza, you might start by writing down a few words: sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, sausage, spices, hot, melted, etc. Once you have written down some words, you can begin by compiling descriptive lists for each one.

  • Use clear and concise language.

This means that words are chosen carefully, particularly for their relevancy in relation to that which you are intending to describe.

  • Choose vivid language.

Why use horse when you can choose stallion ? Why not use tempestuous instead of violent ? Or why not miserly in place of cheap ? Such choices form a firmer image in the mind of the reader and often times offer nuanced meanings that serve better one’s purpose.

  • Use your senses!

Remember, if you are describing something, you need to be appealing to the senses of the reader. Explain how the thing smelled, felt, sounded, tasted, or looked. Embellish the moment with senses.

  • What were you thinking?!

If you can describe emotions or feelings related to your topic, you will connect with the reader on a deeper level. Many have felt crushing loss in their lives, or ecstatic joy, or mild complacency. Tap into this emotional reservoir in order to achieve your full descriptive potential.

  • Leave the reader with a clear impression.

One of your goals is to evoke a strong sense of familiarity and appreciation in the reader. If your reader can walk away from the essay craving the very pizza you just described, you are on your way to writing effective descriptive essays.

  • Be organized!

It is easy to fall into an incoherent rambling of emotions and senses when writing a descriptive essay. However, you must strive to present an organized and logical description if the reader is to come away from the essay with a cogent sense of what it is you are attempting to describe.

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Descriptive Text Examples

Bright red and orange sunrise

  • The sunset filled the sky with a deep red flame, setting the clouds ablaze.
  • DESCRIPTION student woman in sweater and glasses sitting outdoors and writing with descriptive text definition
  • SOURCE Igor Barilo / iStock / Getty Images Plus / via Getty created by YourDictionary
  • PERMISSION Used under Getty Images license

In descriptive writing, the author does not just tell the reader what was seen, felt, tested, smelled, or heard. Rather, the author describes something from their own experience and, through careful choice of words and phrasing, makes it seem real. Descriptive writing is vivid, colorful, and detailed.

Good Descriptive Writing

Good descriptive writing creates an impression in the reader's mind of an event, a place, a person, or a thing. The writing will be such that it will set a mood or describe something in such detail that if the reader saw it, they would recognize it.

To be good, descriptive writing has to be concrete, evocative and plausible.

  • To be concrete , descriptive writing has to offer specifics the reader can envision. Rather than “Her eyes were the color of blue rocks” (Light blue? Dark blue? Marble? Slate?), try instead, “Her eyes sparkled like sapphires in the dark.”
  • To be evocative , descriptive writing has to unite the concrete image with phrasing that evokes the impression the writer wants the reader to have. Consider “her eyes shone like sapphires, warming my night” versus “the woman’s eyes had a light like sapphires, bright and hard.” Each phrase uses the same concrete image, then employs evocative language to create different impressions.
  • To be plausible , the descriptive writer has to constrain the concrete, evocative image to suit the reader’s knowledge and attention span. “Her eyes were brighter than the sapphires in the armrests of the Tipu Sultan’s golden throne, yet sharper than the tulwars of his cruelest executioners” will have the reader checking their phone halfway through. “Her eyes were sapphires, bright and hard” creates the same effect in a fraction of the reading time. As always in the craft of writing: when in doubt, write less.

Examples of Descriptive Writing

The following sentences provide examples of the concreteness, evocativeness and plausibility of good descriptive writing.

  • Her last smile to me wasn’t a sunset. It was an eclipse, the last eclipse, noon dying away to darkness where there would be no dawn.
  • My Uber driver looked like a deflating airbag and sounded like talk radio on repeat.
  • The old man was bent into a capital C, his head leaning so far forward that his beard nearly touched his knobby knees.
  • The painting was a field of flowers, blues and yellows atop deep green stems that seemed to call the viewer in to play.
  • My dog’s fur felt like silk against my skin and her black coloring shone, absorbing the sunlight and reflecting it back like a pure, dark mirror.
  • The waves rolled along the shore in a graceful, gentle rhythm, as if dancing with the land.
  • Winter hit like a welterweight that year, a jabbing cold you thought you could stand until the wind rose up and dropped you to the canvas.

Examples of Descriptive Text in Literature

Because descriptive text is so powerful, many examples of it can be found in famous literature and poetry.

The High Window

The mystery novelist Raymond Chandler was one of American literature’s masters of descriptive language. This sentence from The High Window strikes the perfect notes to embody its subject:

“She had pewter-colored hair set in a ruthless permanent, a hard beak, and large moist eyes with the sympathetic expression of wet stones.”

Life in the Iron Mills

Notice the vivid description of smoke in this excerpt from Rebecca Harding Davis's Life in the Iron Mills:

"The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river--clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two faded poplars, the faces of the passers-by."

Jamaica Inn

In this excerpt from Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, notice the writer's choice of adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Granite. Mizzling. Du Maurier’s choice of words allows the reader to almost feel the weather occurring on the page.

"It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the afternoon the pallor of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist."

In Alfred Tennyson's "The Eagle," he conveys power and majesty in just a few lines:

"He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls."

Descriptive Text in Songs

Descriptive text examples can also be found in many songs, since songs are meant to capture your emotions and to invoke a feeling.

Through the Strings of Infinity

Some of the most vivid and effective descriptive writing in music can be found in rap. The evocation of alienation and the need to create in “Through the Strings of Infinity” by Canibus is truly poetic.

“I was born in an empty sea, My tears created oceans Producing tsunami waves with emotions Patrolling the open seas of an unknown galaxy I was floating in front of who I am physically Spiritually paralyzing mind body and soul It gives me energy when I’m lyrically exercising I gotta spit ‘til the story is told in a dream by celestial bodies Follow me baby”

The heavy metal band Opeth uses vivid descriptive writing to evoke loneliness in their song “Windowpane.”

“Blank face in the windowpane Made clear in seconds of light Disappears and returns again Counting hours, searching the night”

Blank Space

In her hit song “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift uses concrete, evocative descriptions to evoke two very different impressions.

“Cherry lips, crystal skies I can show you incredible things Stolen kisses, pretty lies You’re the king, baby, I’m your queen”
“Screaming, crying, perfect storm I can make all the tables turn Rose gardens filled with thorns Keep you second guessing”

All in the Details

Now that you have several different examples of descriptive text, you can try your hand at writing a detailed, descriptive sentence, paragraph or short story of your own. If you need help with powerful descriptions, try some figurative language to help to paint a picture and evoke emotions.

If you need inspiration, explore the authors linked above, or check out our quotes from poets like ”H.D.” Hilda Doolitle and Gerard Manley Hopkins, novelists like Angela Carter, or songwriters like Tori Amos and Tom Waits.

Description in Rhetoric and Composition

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation

Examples and Observations

  • Show; Don't Tell

Selecting Details

  • Chekhov's Advice to a Young Writer

Two Types of Description: Objective and Impressionistic

  • Lincoln's Objective Self-Description
  • Rebecca Harding Davis's Impressionistic Description of a Smoky Town
  • Lillian Ross's Description of Ernest Hemingway

Description of a Handbag

  • Bill Bryson's Description of the Residents' Lounge in the Old England Hotel

Stronger Than Death

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition , description is a  rhetorical strategy using sensory details to portray a person, place, or thing.

Description is used in many different types of nonfiction , including essays ,  biographies , memoirs , nature writing , profiles , sports writing , and travel writing .

Description is one of the  progymnasmata  (a sequence of classical rhetorical exercises) and one of the traditional  modes of discourse . 

"A description is an arrangement of properties, qualities, and features that the author must pick (choose, select), but the art lies in the order of their release—visually, audibly, conceptually—and consequently in the order of their interaction, including the social standing of every word." (William H. Gass, "The Sentence Seeks Its Form." A Temple of Texts . Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)

Show; Don't Tell

"This is the oldest  cliché of the writing profession, and I wish I didn't have to repeat it. Do not tell me that the Thanksgiving dinner was cold. Show me the grease turning white as it congeals around the peas on your plate. . . . Think of yourself as a movie director. You have to create the scene that the viewer will relate to physically and emotionally." (David R. Williams, Sin Boldly!: Dr. Dave's Guide To Writing The College Paper . Basic Books, 2009)

"The descriptive writer's main task is the selection and verbal representation of information. You must choose the details that matter—that are important to the purposes you share with your readers—as well as a pattern of arrangement relevant to those mutual purposes. . . . " Description can be an engineer describing the terrain where an embankment must be built, a novelist describing a farm where the novel will take place, a realtor describing a house and land for sale, a journalist describing a celebrity's birthplace, or a tourist describing a rural scene to friends back home. That engineer, novelist, realtor, journalist, and tourist may all be describing the very same place. If each is truthful, their descriptions will not contradict each other. But they will certainly include and emphasize different aspects." (Richard M. Coe, Form and Substance . Wiley, 1981)

Chekhov's Advice to a Young Writer

"In my opinion, descriptions of nature should be extremely brief and offered by the way, as it were. Give up commonplaces, such as: 'the setting sun, bathing in the waves of the darkening sea, flooded with purple gold,' and so on. Or 'swallows flying over the surface of the water chirped gaily.' In descriptions of nature one should seize upon minutiae, grouping them so that when, having read the passage, you close your eyes, a picture is formed. For example, you will evoke a moonlit night by writing that on the mill dam the glass fragments of a broken bottle flashed like a bright little star and that the black shadow of a dog or wolf rolled along like a ball.'" (Anton Chekhov, quoted by Raymond Obstfeld in Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes . Writer's Digest Books, 2000)

" Objective description attempts to report accurately the appearance of the object as a thing in itself, independent of the observer's perception of it or feelings about it. It is a factual account, the purpose of which is to inform a reader who has not been able to see with his own eyes. The writer regards himself as a kind of camera, recording and reproducing, though in words, a true picture. . . . " Impressionistic description is very different. Focusing upon the mood or feeling the object evokes in the observer rather than upon the object as it exists in itself, impressionism does not seek to inform but to arouse emotion. It attempts to make us feel more than to make us see. . . . "[T]he writer may blur or intensify the details he selects, and, by the clever use of figures of speech , he may compare them to things calculated to evoke the appropriate emotion. To impress us with the dreary ugliness of a house, he may exaggerate the drabness of its paint or metaphorically describe the flaking as leprous ." (Thomas S. Kane and Leonard J. Peters, Writing Prose: Techniques and Purposes , 6th ed. Oxford University Press, 1986)

Lincoln's Objective Self-Description

"If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and gray eyes--no other marks or brands recollected." (Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Jesse W. Fell, 1859)

Rebecca Harding Davis's Impressionistic Description of a Smoky Town

"The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river—clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two faded poplars, the faces of the passers-by. The long train of mules, dragging masses of pig-iron through the narrow street, have a foul vapor hanging to their reeking sides. Here, inside, is a little-broken figure of an angel pointing upward from the mantel-shelf; but even its wings are covered with smoke, clotted and black. Smoke everywhere! A dirty canary chirps desolately in a cage beside me. Its dream of green fields and sunshine is a very old dream—almost worn out, I think." (Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills." The Atlantic Monthly , April 1861)

Lillian Ross's Description of Ernest Hemingway

​​ "Hemingway had on a red plaid wool shirt, a figured wool necktie, a tan wool sweater-vest, a brown tweed jacket tight across the back and with sleeves too short for his arms, gray flannel slacks, Argyle socks, and loafers, and he looked bearish, cordial, and constricted. His hair, which was very long in back, was gray, except at the temples, where it was white; his mustache was white, and he had a ragged half-inch, full white beard. There was a bump about the size of a walnut over his left eye. He had on steel-rimmed spectacles, with a piece of paper under the nose-piece. He was in no hurry to get to Manhattan." (Lillian Ross, "How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?" The New Yorker , May 13, 1950)

​"Three years ago at a flea market, I bought a small, white-beaded handbag, which I have never since carried in public but which I would never dream of giving away. The purse is small, about the size of a paperback bestseller, and thus it is totally unsuited for lugging around such paraphernalia as a wallet, comb, compact, checkbook, keys, and all the other necessities of modern life. Hundreds of tiny pearl-colored beads dot the outside of the handbag, and on the front, woven into the design, is a starburst pattern formed by larger, flat beads. Creamy white satin lines the inside of the bag and forms a small pocket on one side. Inside the ​pocket someone, perhaps the original owner, has scrawled the initials "J.W." in red lipstick. At the bottom of the purse is a silver coin, which reminds me of my teenage years when my mother warned me never to go out on a date without a dime in case I had to telephone home for help. In fact, I think that's why I like my white beaded handbag: it reminds me of the good old days when men were men and ladies were ladies." (Lorie Roth, "My Handbag")

Bill Bryson's Description of the Residents' Lounge in the Old England Hotel

"The room was casually strewn with aging colonels and their wives, sitting amid carelessly folded Daily Telegraph s. The colonels were all shortish, round men with tweedy jackets, well-slicked silvery hair, an outwardly gruff manner that concealed within a heart of flint, and, when they walked, a rakish limp. Their wives, lavishly rouged and powdered, looked as if they had just come from a coffin fitting." (Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island . William Morrow, 1995)

"Great description shakes us. It fills our lungs with the life of its author. Suddenly he sings within us. Someone else has seen life as we see it! And the voice that fills us, should the writer be dead, bridges the gulf between life and death. Great description is stronger than death." (Donald Newlove, Painted Paragraphs . Henry Holt, 1993)

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What is a Descriptive Essay? How to Write It (with Examples)

What is a Descriptive Essay? How to Write It (with Examples)

A descriptive essay is a type of creative writing that uses specific language to depict a person, object, experience, or event. The idea is to use illustrative language to show readers what the writer wants to convey – it could be as simple as a peaceful view from the top of a hill or as horrific as living in a war zone. By using descriptive language, authors can evoke a mental image in the readers’ minds, engaging readers and leaving a lasting impression, instead of just providing a play-by-play narrative.

Note that a description and descriptive essay are not the same thing. A descriptive essay typically consists of five or more well-written paragraphs with vivid imagery that can help readers visualize the content, as opposed to a description, which is typically one or more plain paragraphs with no particular structure or appeal. If you are still unsure about how to write a compelling descriptive essay, continue reading!

Table of Contents

What is a descriptive essay, types of descriptive essay topics.

  • Characteristics of descriptive essays

How to write a descriptive essay using a structured outline

Frequently asked questions.

A simple descriptive essay definition is that it is a piece of writing that gives a thorough and vivid description of an object, person, experience, or situation. It is sometimes focused more on the emotional aspect of the topic rather than the specifics. The author’s intention when writing a descriptive essay is to help readers visualize the subject at hand. Generally, students are asked to write a descriptive essay to test their ability to recreate a rich experience with artistic flair. Here are a few key points to consider when you begin writing these.

  • Look for a fascinating subject

You might be assigned a topic for your descriptive essay, but if not, you must think of a subject that interests you and about which you know enough facts. It might be about an emotion, place, event, or situation that you might have experienced.

descriptive writing

  • Acquire specific details about the topic

The next task is to collect relevant information about the topic of your choice. You should focus on including details that make the descriptive essay stand out and have a long-lasting impression on the readers. To put it simply, your aim is to make the reader feel as though they were a part of the experience in the first place, rather than merely describing the subject.

  • Be playful with your writing

To make the descriptive essay memorable, use figurative writing and imagery to lay emphasis on the specific aspect of the topic. The goal is to make sure that the reader experiences the content visually, so it must be captivating and colorful. Generally speaking, “don’t tell, show”! This can be accomplished by choosing phrases that evoke strong emotions and engage a variety of senses. Making use of metaphors and similes will enable you to compare different things. We will learn about them in the upcoming sections.

  • Capture all the different senses

Unlike other academic articles, descriptive essay writing uses sensory elements in addition to the main idea. In this type of essay writing, the topic is described by using sensory details such as smell, taste, feel, and touch. Example “ Mahira feels most at home when the lavender scent fills her senses as she lays on her bed after a long, tiring day at work . As the candle melts , so do her worries” . It is crucial to provide sensory details to make the character more nuanced and build intrigue to keep the reader hooked. Metaphors can also be employed to explain abstract concepts; for instance, “ A small act of kindness creates ripples that transcend oceans .” Here the writer used a metaphor to convey the emotion that even the smallest act of kindness can have a larger impact.

  • Maintain harmony between flavor and flow

The descriptive essay format is one that can be customized according to the topic. However, like other types of essays, it must have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The number of body paragraphs can vary depending on the topic and available information.

It is crucial to remember that a descriptive essay should have a specific topic and goal, such as sharing personal experiences or expressing emotions like the satisfaction of a good meal. This is accomplished by employing exact language, imagery, and figurative language to illustrate concrete features. These language devices allow the writer to craft a descriptive essay that effectively transmits a particular mood, feeling, or incident to readers while also conjuring up strong mental imagery. A descriptive essay may be creative, or it may be based on the author’s own experiences. Below is a description of a few descriptive essay examples that fit into these categories.

  • Personal descriptive essay example

A personal essay can look like a descriptive account of your favorite activity, a place in your neighborhood, or an object that you value. Example: “ As I step out of the front door, the crisp morning air greets me with a gentle embrace; the big chestnut tree in front, sways in the wind as if saying hello to me. The world unfolds in a symphony of awakening colors, promising a day filled with untold possibilities that make me feel alive and grateful to be born again”.

  • Imaginative descriptive essay example

You may occasionally be required to write descriptive essays based on your imagination or on subjects unrelated to your own experiences. The prompts for these kinds of creative essays could be to describe the experience of someone going through heartbreak or to write about a day in the life of a barista. Imaginative descriptive essays also allow you to describe different emotions. Example, the feelings a parent experiences on holding their child for the first time.

Characteristics of descriptive essay s

The aim of a descriptive essay is to provide a detailed and vivid description of a person, place, object, event, or experience. The main goal is to create a sensory experience for the reader. Through a descriptive essay, the reader may be able to experience foods, locations, activities, or feelings that they might not otherwise be able to. Additionally, it gives the writer a way to relate to the readers by sharing a personal story. The following is a list of the essential elements of a descriptive essay:

  • Sensory details
  • Clear, succinct language
  • Organized structure
  • Thesis statement
  • Appeal to emotion

descriptive writing

How to write a descriptive essay, with examples

Writing an engaging descriptive essay is all about bringing the subject matter to life for the reader so they can experience it with their senses—smells, tastes, and textures. The upside of writing a descriptive essay is you don’t have to stick to the confinements of formal essay writing, rather you are free to use a figurative language, with sensory details, and clever word choices that can breathe life to your descriptive essay. Let’s take a closer look at how you can use these components to develop a descriptive essay that will stand out, using examples.

  • Figurative language

Have you ever heard the expression “shooting for the stars”? It refers to pushing someone to strive higher or establish lofty goals, but it does not actually mean shooting for the stars. This is an example of using figurative language for conveying strong motivational emotions. In a descriptive essay, figurative language is employed to grab attention and emphasize points by creatively drawing comparisons and exaggerations. But why should descriptive essays use metaphorical language? One it adds to the topic’s interest and humor; two, it facilitates the reader’s increased connection to the subject.

These are the five most often used figurative language techniques: personification, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and allusion.

  • Simile: A simile is a figure of speech that is used to compare two things while emphasizing and enhancing the description using terms such as “like or as.”

Example: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving – Albert Einstein

  • Metaphor: A metaphor are also used to draw similarities, but without using direct or literal comparisons like done in similes.   

Example: Books are the mirrors of the soul – Virginia Woolf, Between the acts

  • Personification: This is the process of giving nonhuman or abstract objects human traits. Any human quality, including an emotional component, a physical attribute, or an action, can be personified.

Example: Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world – Louis Pasteur

  • Hyperbole: This is an extreme form of exaggeration, frequently impractical, and usually employed to emphasize a point or idea. It gives the character more nuance and complexity.

Example: The force will be with you, always – Star Wars

  • Allusion: This is when you reference a person, work, or event without specifically mentioning them; this leaves room for the reader’s creativity.  

Example: In the text below, Robert Frost uses the biblical Garden of Eden as an example to highlight the idea that nothing, not even paradise, endures forever.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay

– Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost (1923)

Descriptive essays need a combination of figurative language and strong sensory details to make the essay more memorable. This is when authors describe the subject matter employing senses like smell, sound, touch, and taste so that the reader can relate to it better.

Example of a sensory-based descriptive essay: The earthy fragrance of freshly roasted chestnuts and the sight of bright pink, red, orange fallen leaves on the street reminded her that winter was around the corner.

  • Word choice

Word choice is everything in a descriptive essay. For the description to be enchanting, it is essential to utilize the right adjectives and to carefully consider the verbs, nouns, and adverbs. Use unusual terms and phrases that offer a new viewpoint on your topic matter instead of overusing clichés like “fast as the wind” or “lost track of time,” which can make your descriptive essay seem uninteresting and unoriginal.

See the following examples:

Bad word choice: I was so happy because the sunset was really cool.

Good word choice: I experienced immense joy as the sunset captivated me with its remarkable colors and breathtaking beauty.

  • Descriptive essay format and outline

Descriptive essay writing does not have to be disorganized, it is advisable to use a structured format to organize your thoughts and ensure coherent flow in your writing. Here is a list of components that should be a part of your descriptive essay outline:

  • Introduction
  • Opening/hook sentence
  • Topic sentence
  • Body paragraphs
  • Concrete details
  • Clincher statement

descriptive writing

Introduction:

  • Hook: An opening statement that captures attention while introducing the subject.
  • Background: Includes a brief overview of the topic the descriptive essay is based on.
  • Thesis statement: Clearly states the main point or purpose of the descriptive essay.

Body paragraphs: Each paragraph should have

  • Topic sentence: Introduce the first aspect or feature you will describe. It informs the reader about what is coming next.
  • Sensory details: Use emphatic language to appeal to the reader’s senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).
  • Concrete details: These are actual details needed to understand the context of the descriptive essay.
  • Supporting details: Include relevant information or examples to improve the description.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize key points: Here you revisit the main features or aspects of the subject.
  • Restate thesis statement: Reinforce the central impression or emotion.
  • Clincher statement: Conclude with a statement that summarizes the entire essay and serve as the last words with a powerful message.

Revision and editing:

  • Go over your essay to make sure it is coherent, clear, and consistent.
  • Check for logical paragraph transitions by proofreading the content.
  • Examine text to ensure correct grammar, punctuation, and style.
  • Use the thesaurus or AI paraphrasing tools to find the right words.

A descriptive essay often consists of three body paragraphs or more, an introduction that concludes with a thesis statement, and a conclusion that summarizes the subject and leaves a lasting impression on readers.

A descriptive essay’s primary goal is to captivate the reader by writing a thorough and vivid explanation of the subject matter, while appealing to their various senses. A list of additional goals is as follows: – Spark feeling and imagination – Create a vivid experience – Paint a mental picture – Pique curiosity – Convey a mood or atmosphere – Highlight specific details

Although they both fall within the creative writing category, narrative essays and descriptive essays have different storytelling focuses. While the main goal of a narrative essay is to tell a story based on a real-life experience or a made-up event, the main goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe a person, location, event, or emotion.

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descriptive writing

Descriptive Writing – Format, Examples And Techniques Of Descriptive Writing

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, popularly known as R. K. Narayan, was one of the finest Indian writers. Known for his…

Descriptive Writing – Format, Examples And Techniques Of Descriptive Writing

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, popularly known as R. K. Narayan, was one of the finest Indian writers. Known for his Malgudi series, Narayan left his mark through extraordinarily simple and unpretentious writing style. He drew inspiration from his real life and his ability to juxtapose reality with fiction is a common tactic used by descriptive writers.

More often than not, we use descriptive writing in our email and text messages, without even realizing it. Anybody can learn how to become a descriptive writer, with patience and practice. Let’s explore what is descriptive writing and how it can benefit us in a business environment?

Descriptive Writing: Meaning & Types

How to master the art of descriptive writing, descriptive writing: meaning and types.

As the name suggests, descriptive writing is a type of writing where an author describes a person, place or object. The purpose of descriptive writing is to help readers visualize everything that’s written. In other words, readers imagine themselves to be a character in the story, experiencing different events and situations. It creates sensory experiences by describing, illustrating, persuading and demonstrating descriptive details.

Descriptive writing techniques help you become experimental and creative. You pay attention to detail and become more observant. Not only does it change the way you write, but it also influences the way you interact with others. Being well-versed with a descriptive writing format is an important skill in the workplace. Whether you want to pitch new ideas or write convincing emails, descriptive writing is the way to go. You’ll be able to hold your readers’ attention and engage them in ways like never before!

To paint a vivid picture in the minds of your readers, here are the various examples of descriptive writing that explore its different kinds.

Location Description

You describe places and want to connect to a memory that transpired in a particular place. For example, you met a potential investor at a business conference. If you reach out to them, remember to talk about where and how you both met.

Action Description 

You describe what your characters are doing. For example, you have to present a progress report of the project your team is doing. Look at every member as an individual character who is contributing to the project in their own ways.

Emotion Description

You describe the emotions that your characters are feeling. For example, while drafting a congratulatory email, you’re likely to have an emotional tone and describe your feelings. It helps you connect with your readers better.

How To Master The Art Of Descriptive Writing  

Writing is one of the most crucial business communication skills. Whether you’re looking for a new job or asking for a letter of recommendation, your style, tone and language matter a lot. Well-crafted descriptive writing will help you get into essential details without sounding boring. Here are some of the top descriptive writing techniques that’ll effectively get your message across.

Show, Don’t Tell

One of the most useful tactics is to sprinkle specific details that appeal to the readers’ senses. Sensory information helps them experience the description more closely, captivating their attention and interest.

Exaggerate In Moderation

Figurative language is a powerful literary device that can paint instant pictures of your characters or settings. Similes and metaphors are some of the common tools but even onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they mean; e.g., tick-tock) can make a difference. Brands often use this device for slogans and advertisements.

Surprise Your Readers

Descriptive writing gives you the liberty to pepper your sentences with surprising elements i.e., more interesting words. For example, instead of a cold mountain, you can describe it as a sleepy mountain. Using unique adjectives will keep your writing fresh and your readers interested.

Prompt For Prompts

Create your own mystery box by writing a few ideas or words in small pieces of paper and tossing them inside a box. You can grab a piece at random and use it to enhance your writing. You can even describe the way you feel about the object or what you think about it. Be adventurous and try out challenging ways to describe things.

What Do You See?

Before you paint mental images for others, take time to understand how you visualize a character or a setting. What do your five senses tell you? A good way to expand your sensory experiences is to read comic books or graphic novels. Replicate tactics from your favorite authors and make note of what you experience.

Harappa Education’s   Writing Proficiently course will help structure your thoughts, polish your writing style and teach you to write clearly, concisely and compellingly. The SCQR—Situation, Complication, Question and Resolution—Framework will guide you in enhancing your storytelling skills and tactics. The tried-and-tested methods will make your business communication so effective that everyone sits up and takes notice!

Explore topics such as Significance of  Writing Skills , Different Types of  Writing Styles ,  Expository Writing ,  Process of Writing  &  How to Write an Email  from Harappa Diaries and polish your writing skills.

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How to Write a Descriptive Essay

Last Updated: February 8, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,503,902 times.

A good descriptive essay creates a vivid picture of the topic in the reader’s mind. You may need to write a descriptive essay as a class assignment or you may decide to write one as a fun writing challenge. Start by brainstorming ideas for the essay. Then, outline and write the essay using vivid sensory details and strong descriptions. Always polish your essay and proofread it so it is at its best.

Brainstorming Ideas for the Essay

Step 1 Choose a person to describe.

  • You could also choose a fictional person to write about, such as a character in a book, a story, or a play. You could write about a character on your favorite TV show or video game.

Step 2 Pick a place or object to describe.

  • Another take on this option is to write about a made-up place or object, such as the fantastical school in your favorite book or the magic wand from your favorite TV show.

Step 3 Select an emotion to describe.

  • You could also choose a more specific emotion, such as brotherly love or self-hatred. These emotions can make for powerful descriptive essays.

Step 4 Make a list of sensory details about the topic.

  • For example, if you were writing about a person like your mother, you may write down under “sound” : “soft voice at night, clack of her shoes on the floor tiles, bang of the spoon when she cooks.”

Writing the Essay

Step 1 Outline the essay in sections.

  • If you are writing the essay for a class, your instructor should specify if they want a five paragraph essay or if you have the freedom to use sections instead.

Step 2 Create a ...

  • For example, if you were writing a descriptive essay about your mother, you may have a thesis statement like: “In many ways, my mother is the reigning queen of our house, full of contradictions that we are too afraid to question.”

Step 3 Write a strong introduction.

  • For example, if you were writing the essay about your mom, you may start with: “My mother is not like other mothers. She is a fierce protector and a mysterious woman to my sisters and I.”
  • If you were writing an essay about an object, you may start with: "Try as I might, I had a hard time keeping my pet rock alive."

Step 4 Describe the topic with vivid adjectives.

  • You can also use adjectives that connect to the senses, such “rotting,” “bright,” “hefty,” “rough,” and “pungent.”
  • For example, you may describe your mother as "bright," "tough," and "scented with jasmine."

Step 5 Use metaphors and similes.

  • You can also use similes, where you use “like” or “as” to compare one thing to another. For example, you may write, “My mother is like a fierce warrior in battle, if the battlefield were PTA meetings and the checkout line at the grocery store.”

Step 6 Discuss your emotions and thoughts about the topic.

  • For example, you may write about your complicated feelings about your mother. You may note that you feel sadness about your mother’s sacrifices for the family and joy for the privileges you have in your life because of her.

Step 7 Wrap up the essay with a strong conclusion.

  • For example, you may end a descriptive essay about your mother by noting, “In all that she has sacrificed for us, I see her strength, courage, and fierce love for her family, traits I hope to emulate in my own life.”

Polishing the Essay

Step 1 Read the essay out loud.

  • You can also read the essay aloud to others to get their feedback. Ask them to let you know if there are any unclear or vague sentences in the essay.

Step 2 Show the essay to others.

  • Be open to constructive criticism and feedback from others. This will only make your essay stronger.

Step 3 Revise the essay for clarity and length.

  • If you have a word count requirement for the essay, make sure you meet it. Add more detail to the paper or take unnecessary content out to reach the word count.

Outline for a Descriptive Essay

descriptive writing

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ http://www.writeexpress.com/descriptive-essay.html
  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 24 July 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.iup.edu/writingcenter/writing-resources/organization-and-structure/descriptive-writing.html
  • ↑ https://spcollege.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=10168248
  • ↑ http://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/descriptive_essay.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/descriptive_essays.html
  • ↑ https://vln.school.nz/groupcms/view/845349/descriptive-writing

About This Article

Jake Adams

To write a descriptive essay, start by choosing a topic, like a person, place, or specific emotion. Next, write down a list of sensory details about the topic, like how it sounds, smells, and feels. After this brainstorming session, outline the essay, dividing it into an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Open with a vivid introduction that uses sensory details, then introduce your thesis statement, which the rest of your essay should support. Strengthen your essay further by using metaphors and similes to describe your topic, and the emotions it evokes. To learn how to put the finishing touches on your essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Examples of Descriptive Writing Using the 5 Senses

example-of-descriptive-writing-for-kids

What is Descriptive Writing?

Descriptive writing uses details and the five senses to describe a person, place, thing, or event. Proper word choice and the use of adjectives are very important for the reader to create a picture in their mind. Similes and onomatopoeia (sound words) are some other examples of descriptive writing.

Basic Sentence: The leaf fell off the tree.

Detailed Sentence: The yellow leaf fell off the big tree.

Descriptive Writing: SWOOSH! The smooth yellow leaf floated down from the enormous oak tree.

Using the 5 Senses

Using the five senses is one of the best ways to incorporate descriptive writing. Describing sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch will enable the reader to envision the words and better understand the writing. Although it may be difficult to use all five senses, even just using a few will enhance the reader’s experience.

Grab your FREE 5 Senses Charts!

5-senses-chart

It’s fun to choose one topic and describe it in depth. Look at the list below for some examples of descriptive writing ideas for kids to try.

  • Food – pumpkin pie, ice cream, hot chocolate
  • Animal – dog, bird, elephant
  • Season – winter, spring, summer, fall
  • Holiday – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas
  • Place – zoo, island, school
  • Event – birthday, parade, sporting event

Winter by Mrs. Sutton

Cold harsh wind engulfs me like a tornado.

White fluffy snow falls from the sky.

WHOOSH! The sound of the sled as it races past.

The smell of logs burning in the fireplace.

Sweet hot cocoa hits my tongue.

example-of-descriptive-writing

Autumn is Here by Mrs. Sutton

Bright vibrant red and yellow leaves.

The sound of leaves rustling in the wind.

Cool crisp air surrounds me.

The sweet smell of pumpkin pie as the warmth enters my mouth.

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Descriptive Writing

6 July 2023

last updated

Writing skills are essential in achieving academic success. Basically, students should understand different types of writing to ensure that they score better grades. In this case, some common examples of writing include formal and descriptive. Firstly, formal or scholarly writing is less personal and appropriate for educational and professional purposes. Academic writing follows unique writing rules that enhance the clarity and quality of the message delivered. Then, descriptive writing provides illustrations of people, places, events, ideas, and feelings. Also, descriptions provide sensory information that makes the writing interesting. In particular, descriptive writing illustrates events and objects to create a dominant impression but becomes formal when written for educational purposes since one must follow specific rules that enhance clarity and quality.   

Formal Writing

Formal writing follows specific rules to remove ambiguity and enhance communication compared to descriptive writing. For instance, formal writing is objective while people need to use appropriate terms. In this case, this type of writing states the main points confidently and provides evidence to support arguments. Besides, scholarly writing avoids emotive punctuations. In turn, formal writing does not use contractions or abbreviations but covers full words. Besides, abbreviations must be spelled out in full to enhance the clarity of the content. On the other hand, academic writing avoids words, like “I,” “we,” and “you,” and relies on the third person. Besides, all phrases should use present tense to enhance clarity. Thus, formal writing uses clear rules that improve the communication of ideas. 

Descriptive writing

Features of Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing is one of the writing styles that cover objects and develops an overall impression. For instance, an informative speech seeks to express a unique idea or theme to the audience. Basically, descriptions create a literary texture of the impression of a story. Along these lines, the overall impression helps to show the audience through various senses. For example, a descriptive essay includes several vivid sensory details that appeal to the reader. In this case, it helps the audience to imagine or develop feelings toward an object of the event. Besides, this form of writing utilizes similes, metaphors, and imagery to explain events or objects. Thus, the descriptive essay provides clear explanations that influence the reader’s thoughts.

Descriptive writing utilizes some rules to achieve an academic objective. For instance, descriptive essays can utilize the standards used in formal writing. Along these lines, students use full words, third person, present tenses and avoid contractions when writing descriptive papers. In turn, they use these traits in descriptive writing to make it formal. For instance, expressive writing can utilize various rules to meet academic standards. Along these lines, descriptive and formal essays bear similar traits. Therefore, descriptive and academic writing can take the same characteristics.

Conclusion on Descriptive Writing

In conclusion, descriptive and scholarly writing have some differences and similarities. Firstly, official writing utilizes specific rules to achieve clarity. In this case, people must void the use of contraction or first-person language in formal papers. Besides, it relies on present tenses to make arguments clear. On the other hand, descriptive essays include illustrations of objects or events. Also, the primary focus of descriptions is to develop an overall impression on the audience through various meanings. Hence, students write a descriptive essay for academic purposes where they must observe specific rules. Thus, scholarly and descriptive papers bear similar traits. In turn, a cause and effect essay is another type of paper while expository essay examples can help people to learn new aspects of writing.

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Descriptive Writing: Check out the Essay Formats and Examples

Descriptive writing

Descriptive Writing: Descriptive Writing is a writing format in which the writer describes the topics in an ideal way so that the reader can easily picturize and experience the scenario. This is very important for all the students and government exam aspirants. This writing process not only improves an individual’s writing abilities but also helps construct subjective answers in exams.

It can be done in various formats of writing like essay writing, answer writing, story writing, poetry, etc. In this, the writer briefs every detail to the reader and creates an interesting space through the minor details. Although, dragging the same things won’t make the article worth it. Instead, writers need to use a proper format and make the most sense out of their writing.

How to do Descriptive Writing?

Many people find it difficult to expand their thoughts while writing or they habitually write each piece in short. This is a major problem that students experience while writing subjective answers or essays. We will be providing you with the techniques to make your writing descriptive and interesting for the readers.

  • Have a depth knowledge of the topic: To write anything or to think about writing any piece, you need to have a clear understanding of your topic. An individual cannot construct interesting descriptive writing when he/she does not have knowledge of the topic. Before writing, the writer needs to do research about the given topic and dig for as much information as possible.
  • Always start with an introduction: Whenever writing any piece, people always make the mistake of skipping the introduction. The introduction is a very important part as it gives the reader idea about the contents and relevance of the whole article. This not only makes the article more informative but also helps in elaborating the whole article.
  • Create the outline: Whenever you start writing, it’s very important to create an outline of the whole article. By outline, we refer to the subheading and headings of the article and brief them accordingly. This will make your task easier and more effective for the reader.
  • Always summarize the article at last: After completing the writing, always add a conclusion part and summarize the whole article. If you are unable to summarize the whole thing, make sure to summarize the main points of the whole writing.

Essay Writing 

Descriptive writing can be used in various forms of writing. Although, it is mainly used in essay writing. Descriptive essays are very different from normal essays but descriptive writing can be used in other forms of essays also. An essay is one of the best ways to convey your thoughts or experience in an interesting and precise way.

Essays are generally used for academic purposes and are often asked in government exams. There are basically four types of essays and they are as follows:

Narrative essays

These type of essays basically narrate a story in the form of essays. While writing this kind of essay, writer needs to properly detail about the characters, plot and climax should not be missed. Narrative essay give an emotional ride and provide relevance to the reader.

Argumentative Essays

This is also called a persuasive essay. Through these kinds of essays, the writer tries to prove their point or create a point of view for the readers they want. Writers try to create an opinion about a particular topic whether it is in favor or against the topic.

Descriptive Essays

As the name suggests, descriptive essays are always in brief detail. Writer explains the topic from every perspective and covers each minor detail. In these kind of essays, it is very important for writer to have a deep knowledge of the given topic. Although, descriptive does not mean that you can fill it up with anything that comes in your mind, essay should be interesting and engaging for the readers.

Expository Essays

These types of essays exposes the perspectives or problems regarding the particular topic. The main idea of these kind of essays is to provide information with the explanation. Although, storytelling is also included in these essays but they only to convey information in a simple and easy form. The motive of these essays is to provide the explanation to the readers and it should be fulfilled.

Formats of Essay Writing

When writing an essay, you should follow a proper set of formats. The format makes it easy for the writer to design a blueprint for the essay. Also, essay is judged or reviewed on the basis of proper format and it’s elements. The format of essay writing is as follows:

descriptive writing

  • Introduction: The introduction is the first paragraph of the essay in which the writer introduces the topic. This gives an idea of the content of the essay to the reader. Although, the introduction is not lengthy and mostly has 5-6 lines.
  • Body: This is the most crucial part of the essay, you can also call it one of the favorite parts of writers. In the body, writers give all the information about the topic and this is the part that engages the readers. It is very important to write an informative and interesting body so it provides information to the readers and at the same time engages them.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion is the summarization of the whole essay. It is necessary to inform the readers about the output of the whole essay. Sometimes, the body has vast information and it becomes necessary to conclude the information to give an accumulative perspective.

Example of the Descriptive Essay

descriptive writing

As mentioned above, you must have understood the format and types of essays by now. We will provide you with a sample of an essay to give a better understanding. The topic of sample essay is “Is Technology a Boon or Bane?”

Introduction

Technology has highly evolved over time. In fact, nowadays almost everybody has some sort of machine at hand, be it computers, cars, or even washing machines. But although machinery was devised to benefit mankind, it has also brought along many flaws to match.

[The topics is introduced and developed in this paragraph. The write talks about both, the good and the bad aspects. This not only indicates knowledge of the topic but will also help him present a “range of ideas” in the subsequent paragraphs.]

Firstly, when it comes to technological equipment such as computers, disruption most often arises between the person using the computer, and the household he or she is surrounded by, or living with. For example, many old family traditions such as eating meals with your relatives at the dining table seldom take place now that one of the family members might be too busy working on his Mac. laptop. Thus, family values and morals have changed in order to adapt to this technological age. 

Secondly, having many kinds of machinery at hand is not only destroying family traditions, but is also very harmful to our environment. Many people are careless about allowing their car engines to run haphazardly, or leaving their laptops on for long periods of time, however they do not seem aware of the fact that all this energy and electricity consumption is dangerous to not only our local environment, but to the world as a whole. Additionally, it is the over-usage of machinery big or small that is bringing our society ever closer to Global Warming, and we must stop.

As mentioned in the introduction, technological equipment was never programmed to damage nature per se, but to help people all around the globe. Now that nuclear families aren’t as closely intact compared to the 1950s or 1990s, technology has given us an alternative method to keep in touch with our relatives thanks to computer applications such as Skype, or even mobile phone applications such as WhatsApp. Machinery has most definitely done wonders in our lives, and we as people should be grateful to easily possess cars, and phones when poorer countries do not even have the chance to. 

[ In the above three paragraphs, the usage of pointers, such as ‘firstly’ and ‘secondly’ shows the logical cohesiveness of the essay. The writer has developed each supporting point richly by using examples and connected the ideas together so that the essay reads smoothly. ] 

However, with all the advantages machinery has brought to us all, I personally believe that possessing too many cars or phones, or even consuming too much of their energy and battery, is beginning to get out of hand and needs to be controlled. 

[ Note that the writer has also, made a conclusion. This is a very important part of an essay. The entire essay shows a proficiency with grammatical structures and vocabulary. ]

We have provided numerous numbers of examples of descriptive essays in our e-book. You can check out the e-book and enhance your writing skills in a short period. Candidates can download the Descriptive Writing Free e-book from the link given below.

We hope that this blog gave you a better understanding of Descriptive Writing- Essay formats and their examples. To read more blogs like this check out the Oliveboard website.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The four major types of essays are Narrative essays, Argumentative essays, Descriptive essays, and Expository essays.

Yes, the introduction is a crucial part of any essay.

descriptive writing

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    In composition, description is a rhetorical strategy using sensory details to portray a person, place, or thing. Description is used in many different types of nonfiction, including essays , biographies, memoirs, nature writing, profiles, sports writing, and travel writing . Description is one of the progymnasmata (a sequence of classical ...

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    2 Pick a place or object to describe. Another option is to focus on a specific place or object that you have strong feelings about. This could be a place like your high school, your workplace, or your childhood home. You could also write about an important family heirloom or a gift from a friend. [2]

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    Descriptive writing uses details and the five senses to describe a person, place, thing, or event. Proper word choice and the use of adjectives are very important for the reader to create a picture in their mind. Similes and onomatopoeia (sound words) are some other examples of descriptive writing. Basic Sentence: The leaf fell off the tree.

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  23. Descriptive Writing: Main Features with Explanations

    Descriptive writing is one of the writing styles that cover objects and develops an overall impression. For instance, an informative speech seeks to express a unique idea or theme to the audience. Basically, descriptions create a literary texture of the impression of a story. Along these lines, the overall impression helps to show the audience ...

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  25. Example prompts to try with Microsoft Copilot with Graph-grounded chat

    Use Microsoft Copilot to catch up, create content, and ask questions. This article provides several example prompts you can try. Tip: When you're giving Copilot instructions, you can direct it to specific work content by using the forward slash key ("/"), then typing the name of a file, person, or meeting.