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How to Write a Descriptive Essay - Ninja Guide

How to write a descriptive essay - image

Descriptive essays are really about drawing pictures with words. As such, the biggest key to success when writing such an essay is the ability to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind – one that engages all five senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. If your essay achieves this, then you have succeeded. If not, well, don't panic. That's what this article is about. By the end, you should know how to write a descriptive essay.

Pick a topic

Descriptive essays usually have a single focus. That focus may be a person, a location, an item, or an event. This makes things simpler, as you're not trying to describe too many things. On top of that, you're basically conveying the topic through your perspective. By describing the topic, you are ultimately giving your ideas or opinions about it. So, here's how to start a descriptive essay. The first step is to pick a topic you feel confident enough to describe clearly so the reader can picture it.

You should also structure your essay so as to make the topic make sense. If it is an event you are talking about, your paragraphs should be laid out chronologically. If you're writing about a location or a person, then you should start with a general and then narrow down to the specifics as the essay progresses.

Don't forget that the introduction will set the tone for the rest of the essay. You should therefore set out the main ideas in the introduction to give the reader a hint of what to expect in the body of the essay.

Create a thesis statement

Next, you will formulate a single idea that will permeate your entire essay – a sort of theme. This is your thesis statement. It performs two duties: it gives the essay purpose and it regulates how you will convey ideas and information in the essay. Despite being called a statement, the thesis statement is actually a paragraph which sets out the framework for your essay. It's an important part of how to write a descriptive essay.

Think about how you will appeal to all the senses

On a rough piece of paper, create five columns and label them with each of the 5 senses. This is where you will sort out your thoughts on the different senses and how you will convey them to the reader as you talk about your chosen topic. For each column, write a list of any feeling with that sense that you associate with the topic. This will help you build a collection of sensory details to use in your work. Be creative about it and use similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and personification to connect more obscure senses to your topic.

Once you have created lists, narrow them down to the most interesting details and flesh those out. These are the ones that will make it into the body of your essay.

Write an outline

Write an outline with details about what each paragraph will cover. You may be given instructions on how many paragraphs to have in the body of your essay. High school students are typically given a minimum of 5 paragraphs, while those in tertiary institutions typically have higher minimums.

Write the essay

Now that you have a clear outline, writing the essay is as simple as fleshing out the main waypoints on the outline. Be sure to include rich examples, metaphors, and other literary devices to make your work interesting to the reader. Also, don't forget to structure your work in a logical sequence that's easy for the reader to follow. Paragraphs should transition seamlessly into each other, and while each paragraph should express its own idea, they should all tie into a coherent whole.

Write a conclusion

Next comes the conclusion paragraph. This is mainly a summary of the main ideas conveyed in your essay. You're not just summarizing though. You're also reaffirming whatever claims you made in the introduction of your essay. Your conclusion wraps things up, so you need to write it very well, tying up any loose threads and satisfying the reader's questions. You should also make it memorable as it is the last thing the reader will likely see in your essay, and you want them to walk away with a favorable impression of your work.

Review your work

Once you're done writing, take a step back and a well-deserved break. Don't look at your work for a while, so as to rest and to clear your mind. This will give you fresh eyes with which to review your essay as if you were reading it for the first time.

Once your break is over, come back and read the whole essay, trying to put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Ask yourself if the essay makes sense to you as a reader. If you don't find it easy to read, neither will a casual reader. If you feel that some lines or paragraphs need to be rewritten, so will your reader.

Descriptive essays are very sensitive with regards to the language. You need to use the right words to convey the exact image you have in mind. Edit ruthlessly, and don't shy away from rewriting however many times.

You should ideally read through your essay a minimum of three times. Once you're convinced you've caught the most obvious mistakes, give it away to someone else to read. They might catch mistakes that were lost to you. Ask them if they can clearly picture whatever it is you are describing, and to point out where they need clarification. Do this as many times as you need to to be satisfied that your work is ready for your instructor and, hopefully, the wider public.


And with that, your essay should be done. Remember that the point of a descriptive essay is to paint a picture with words. First, you need to make sure you're painting a picture as you intend, then you need to work on painting the most beautiful picture you can. So long as you follow the tips above, that's guaranteed!

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