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How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Topics, Outline, Samples

What is a descriptive essay? To define a descriptive essay, it is meant to help the reader feel like they are experiencing what they are reading. It should appeal to the reader’s senses to help them create the experience they are reading about. An example is a descriptive essay about the beach in which the author writes about the sounds of the waves and the birds, the smell of the sea, the feel of the ocean spray, the color of the sea against the sky and possibly even the taste of the salt in the air. This gives the reader a more than just an understanding of the beach, it helps them to experience it and feel like they are right there. Don’t forget to check out samples of other descriptive essays to help increase your understanding!


Five Senses

How to Start a Descriptive Essay

To begin, you need to have a **topic**. Popular topics include a person or a place, an experience or memory and much more! Once your topic is chosen, you will then begin your outline, much like any other essay. Your outline is where you chart out your topic, examples, and details in relevant order to help create a flow of information and details before you begin writing.

Descriptive Essays about a Place

Descriptive essays about a place are common because when talking about a specific place it is natural to try to create an experience for your reader. When writing about a place, you are going to talk about how it looks, smells, feels, sounds, etc. which evoke feelings from your reader and help them to relate to your essay. An example would be the beach essay referenced earlier in this article. When writing about the beach you can talk about how all your senses experience the beach. Other examples of a descriptive essay about a place include:

  • Describing your favorite vacation spot
  • Your dream house, in detail
  • Painting a picture of the neighborhood you grew up in on a summer day

The end goal for a descriptive essay about a place is to help the reader feel like they are there, seeing the things you’ve seen, and experiencing the location just as you did.

Descriptive Essays about a Person

Descriptive Essay about a preson

Descriptive essays about a person are a very common type of descriptive essay as well. The following are great examples:

  • Your mom or dad
  • A role model
  • Your favorite celebrity
  • Your childhood or current best friend

And the list goes on and on. Your essay should include descriptions of they way the person looks, a scent that may be associated with them like a favorite perfume or cologne they wear, how their voice sounds, and how their hand feels when you hold or shake it or even the feel of their hair. There are so many ways to incorporate the five senses that help the reader feel like they have met the person too and can visualize them.

Descriptive Essays about an Experience or Memory

A descriptive essay can also be about an experience. Describing your dream wedding or even your actual wedding is a great example of a descriptive essay about an experience. A helpful list of descriptive essay ideas and topics can be found here. As long as you include details in a way that helps the reader to not only visualize the wedding but to feel like they were there listening to the music, tasting the food, dancing with friends, etc. it is a descriptive essay. Additional topics for descriptive essays about memories include:

  • Your earliest childhood memory
  • Your first day of school
  • What happened the first time you drove a car

Outline for a Descriptive Essay

Outline for a Descriptive Essay

Beginning a descriptive narrative essay is much like any other essay in that you need to capture the reader’s attention. The best way to do that is with an “attention grabber” sentence. This should be the first sentence and should evoke feelings in your reader that makes them want to continue reading. Next you need to introduce the topic, whether it’s a memory, object, person, or place, you need to establish the topic and why it’s relevant without giving away all the exciting information. To follow the topic, you need to include a description of the topic and why it may be relevant or interesting to the reader. Remember to keep it exciting while not giving away all the information in order to keep the reader interested and continuing to read.

Finally, you need to include what is known as “sensory language”. This is how you incorporate the five senses into your essay. By using key details and descriptions you can relate your topic to all five senses, or as many of the senses as possible, to create that experience for your reader. When using sensory language you can go so far beyond just telling a story and for the reader, it is much more interesting than reading a plain story. With sensory language the reader gets to imagine they are there, going through the experience or seeing the object or at the place you are describing. It is much more of an exciting literary experience reading a descriptive essay than any other type of essay.

How to Conclude

When concluding your descriptive essay you want to do more than simply restate your topic and details. Once you have given all the information and details about your topic, your conclusion gives you and the reader a chance to reflect on those details. Why is this topic important? This is your chance to tell them! Explain the reasoning behind your topic. Why did you write about that? Why does that experience, person, etc. stand out to you and why should they matter to the reader? The conclusion gives you a chance to offer all that information to your readers.

Another unique aspect to a descriptive essay conclusion is the second “attention grabber”. You hooked readers at the beginning with a statement that got the readers excited to continue reading. This same idea should be used in your conclusion to help readers to remember your essay. Rather than just reading, enjoying it, and moving on, you want your essay to stand out to your readers. By closing with a statement that reinforces the ideas you’ve written about but is also thought provoking and profound, readers will think about your essay long after they’ve read it. After all, isn’t that always our goal when writing?

We’ve found a helpful video on the web to help You understand this type of writing:

Descriptive Essay Samples

When writing a descriptive essay, or any kind of essay for that matter, it is always a good idea to read other examples so you can see samples of the set-up and flow you are aiming for. There are many websites out there that can help clarify and offer more ideas when you are beginning such as this helpful video that can help you understand why and how to use descriptive language.

Descriptive Essay Sample: Description of Galleria Mall

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If you think you understand how to use descriptive language, then these sample paragraphs can help you see how it can be done. The paragraphs are excellent samples of how to paint “word pictures” in your writing. Read them, I guarantee when you are finished you will not only have read about the topics and understood them but also been able to actually visualize these things in your own mind.Writing a descriptive essay can be a daunting task when you’re struggling with the topic, unsure of how to incorporate the senses into your chosen topic, how to help paint an even more vivid picture of your topic, or how to hook your audience to entice them to read and remember your essay. However, it doesn’t have to be. With the information and links provided in this article and the help from some professional essay writers, your next descriptive essay writing experience should be a breeze.

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