How to Write an Impressive Descriptive Essay

What is a descriptive essay?

A descriptive essay is an academic paper in which you need to describe a place, person, item or event. You might have encountered the descriptive passages in books or even in manual instructions. Here is one from the Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone. When the boy sees the Hogwarts Great Hall for the first time:

Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place. It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles which were floating in mid-air over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting […]The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there around the students, the ghosts shone misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes, Harry looked upwards and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars […] It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn't simply open on to the heavens.

It is a short extract of a description from the fiction book, so it is not as full as your essay should be. However, along with the depiction of the place, it describes the feelings that it triggers.  That is what worth noticing for you.

Shortly, your descriptive essay must give a full picture of the object or situation. In most of the cases you need to come up with the topic by your own, but sometimes your assignment can suggest you a theme. 

How to write a descriptive essay

 Writing of such kind can be very engaging and captivating if you set the process properly.

  • The first thing you need is to imagine your potential reader. Similar to the process analysis essay, this work is aimed at the audience, not at the analysis or definition itself.
  • Think of a topic you want to present. It must be something that touches you, provoking a lot of thoughts and emotions. You can describe some object that you see in front of you or appeal to your memories. Either way, you need to have something to say both about the physical appearance of the object and the feelings it evokes in you.
  • The description you provide must be detailed and perceptible, so the reader could share your vision and feeling regarding the object.
  • Your essay must logically develop your thoughts. So before starting, you should outline the main points you’d like to present. If you write about the situation or event, describe its stages in chronological order. If your topic concerns a person, location or a thing, move from a general description to specific details.

How to start a descriptive essay

Choose a topic

The core question of your writing that will determine the process and the outcomes of your work is your topic. You have at least 4 options for your descriptive essay ideas: to write about a place, a thing, a person or a situation.

Some of the prompts for your essay:

Places:

  • The most interesting place where you stayed overnight
  • Your favorite bar or club
  • Your parent’s house kitchen
  • The place that calms you

Things:

  • Your favorite piece of clothing
  • The most memorable thing from your grandparents
  • Your personal mascot
  • Family dinner table 

People:

  • The person that inspires you
  • The film character that frightens you the most
  • The most annoying literary character
  • Your most interesting fellow traveler

Situations:

  • The most memorable episode from your early childhood
  • The most disappointing moment
  • Your favorite scene from a novel
  • The most touching film scene

 These topics are just a starting point for you. Don’t stick strictly to them. You can also write about an animal, natural phenomenon, some of Emma Stone’s La La Land dresses or whatever your fantasy prompts you.  The only condition – the object must be describable and mean something to you.

Outline your description  

Since your task is to give a dimensional picture of an object, you should think how the latter affects your sight, touch, taste, sense of smell and hearing. Draw a five column table for five senses and for the each column write how you can characterize the object in terms of these senses. That can give you ideas on how to structure your descriptive essay. Explain your feelings regarding the feature of the object. Describe what impressed you the most and in what way.

How to structure the essay

Think of what can be your essay culmination and how to bring the reader gradually to it.

The best structure for your paper is your old friend five-paragraph-essay.

  • In the opening paragraph, you introduce the object you are you are about to describe. Explain what is so special about this object and why you’ve chosen it for your paper.
  • In the body part move from what strike an eye to your personal feelings and reflections on the object. Appeal not so to the reason of the readers, but to their feelings.
  • In the final part sum your experience up - both the physical and sentimental side of it. Restate the reasons why this object or the event is meaningful for you.

 Once again:

  • Aim your writing at the readers
  • Appeal to their feelings rather than to their reason
  • Choose a topic that affects you
  • Point out the features of the object in the five-column table
  • Build up the composition to emphasize the culmination of your description.

Final touch

Proofread the piece! Pay attention not only to misspellings and grammar mistakes but to the consistency of your narrative. 

There is a known feeling of joy and pride when you hold a finished essay in your hands. Well, pass it further. Give it some of your friends to read, so they could give your paper a fresh look.