How To Write A Descriptive Essay: A Step-By-Step Guide

October 12, 2022 Umer
How to write descriptive essay step by step

Search For Perfection In Writing

Writing is still the primary mode of teaching all kinds of subjects and disciplines to students in schools and colleges. Teachers rely on this medium to explain complex concepts and ideas to impressionable pupils in their lectures. Later, writing is used to gauge the level and depth of understanding of what and how much students have learned and retained.

The quest for improving writing, both language, and expression, is visible in essay writing. Since it is about connecting readers with a subject through different literary devices, it requires a level of finesses and expertise to use pertinent words, phrases, and structures for better impact. In this blog, we will take a comprehensive look at descriptive writing, from planning and writing the first draft, to finalizing and completing the task. 

What Is A Descriptive Essay?

In a nutshell, a descriptive essay is a descriptive account of a subject of a person, a thing, or a place. Potentially, anything can be the subject of a descriptive essay, as long as it has the elements of both apparent and hidden traits or characteristics. 

Writers rely on figurative language and sensory details to connect the dots for the readers. There is no way we can downplay the power of solid description because many authors have created fictional worlds and people, solely based on the description.

Although it has room for subjective experiences and impressions, the structure of a descriptive essay is rigid with three distinct sections. These are the introduction, body, and conclusion. We will revisit them later in the relevant sections.

Comparison Between A Description & A Descriptive Essay

Many students make the mistake of mixing a description with a descriptive essay. In reality, they are quite different from each other. A description can be a sentence or a paragraph, laser-focused on the subject to compare and contrast its features with other well-known subjects to sketch a riveting picture. On the other hand, a descriptive essay is a comprehensive account of the subject. This includes an opening to set the stage and put forward the thesis statement, the main body to cover the theme and expand on all the elements, and a satisfying conclusion to tie all the loose ends.

In other words, a description cannot have a theme or dedicated sections to prove a point, while a descriptive essay juxtaposes different sections for added effect.


Common Subjects For A Descriptive Essay

Narrative essays often need a grand theme or central point to base the narrative on, but this is not the case with a descriptive essay. Anything that can be perceived through the five senses of human beings can become a subject for a descriptive essay.

Based on these revelations, here are some of the classes from which subjects can be derived:

  • Describing a person with a certain character(s)
  • Painting a picture of an object
  • Creating a riveting account of a place
  • Reliving or imagining a novel experience
  • Shedding light on the mechanics of an emotion

Writing A Descriptive Essay

Before we move on to the brass tacks of writing a descriptive essay, let us take a look at two of its most common types.

  • Personal or impressionistic descriptive essay relies heavily on a writer’s personal experience or subjective approach toward the subject. It can be vague or less vivid with even contradictory or ironic details in place. This type of descriptive writing can be surrounding an experience or an emotion, such as swimming in the sea for the first time or paragliding around Grand Canyons.
  • A formal or objective description covers the argumentative or concrete details of the subject. It has a rigid structure with vivid details and relies more on the empirical truth than the subjective experience or angle of the author. This approach is put to work when the subject does not require subjective details and readers are more interested in knowing the ultimate reality.

Now that the categories of major descriptive essays are out of the way, let us go through the steps involved in writing a descriptive essay.

Researching & Outlining

Even when the subject matter of the intended descriptive essay is impressionistic and personal, it takes some research and compilation of information before getting started. At least, students need to come up with a suitable title for the topic to provide a unified heading for the essay. When the necessary research is done, it is best to outline the whole essay, from start to finish, so that writers have a clear direction and the conclusion of the whole journey in sight. Many times, students start with enthusiasm but hit a wall because of poor planning or no research, to begin with. To write a good descriptive essay, the first step will always be to research and create a comprehensive outline.

Writing Major Sections

There are three major sections in a descriptive essay. The first one is the introduction that kickstarts the whole thing. It should start with an enticing hook to get readers invested in the essay. A hook can be any provocative thing that can catch the readers off guard. The introduction is often closed with a thesis statement. After the introduction, the main body of the essay comes into play. It has the bulk of the essay in terms of elements and word count. Writers can play the best when they balance all the elements of the descriptive essay, such as sensory details, vivid imagery, and figurative language. In the end, the closing should tie all the loose ends together by summarizing the main premise of the essay.

Proofreading & Editing

There is no way you can overstate the importance of proofreading and editing in a descriptive essay writing process. Experts even say that great writing is good proofing and editing. This is natural because initial drafts are written with little to no oversight for errors and inconsistencies. The rationale, back then, is to get it all on paper. In the proofreading and editing phase, writers need to approach the manuscript from a different angle. They should adopt the readers’ persona to check what is working and what is not. The best way to do so is by dividing the process of editing into different steps. This will ensure that no mistakes or slip-ups remain in the text when you move on to finalizing the draft.

Finalizing The Draft

After proofing and editing the earlier manuscript, students will have something better than a half-baked draft. In this step, the focus is on finding the contextual flaws and working on them. To do that, it is necessary to recall the purpose of descriptive writing, which is to connect the readers with the subject. Again, the readers’ persona will come fore to rescue writers from dead passages. They need to make sure that every example is true to the source and sensory details are working accordingly. The three major sections are well-defined but complement one another for the added effect. In the end, writers should see to it that the title, the thesis statement, and the content of the write-up are aligned together.

The Ultimate Checklist

No matter how well we cover all the bases for the writing of a great descriptive essay, some crucial details are bound to be lost or forgotten in the process of writing and editing. In these situations, it pays to have a checklist that can help writers revisit and check the essentials of the write-up accordingly.

Here is a comprehensive checklist that will take care of all the necessary angles:

  • Provision of context in the introduction
  • Readability of the essay
  • A direct relation between thesis statement and content
  • Use of literary devices such as figurative language and sensory details
  • A comprehensive conclusion
  • Laser-focused sections and paragraphs
  • No grammatical and punctuation errors!

After writing the essay, the writer should go through this list and check items off of it to ensure everything worthwhile is covered in the draft.

F.A.Q

What is the format of a descriptive essay?

A descriptive essay follows the standard format of the essay, despite its subjective and impressionistic inclinations. The format is based on three major sections.

  • An introduction or opening to start the essay with a hook and set the stage before putting down the thesis statement
  • The main body covers the bulk of the essay, including the manifestation of the theme, figurative language, and sensory details
  • A satisfying closing or conclusion to summarize the main points before signing off

How can I start a descriptive essay with better impact?

Writers employ “hooks” to lure readers in and made them invested enough to read on. This could be one or multiple literary devices for a better impact. The most common types of hooks include asking a direct question, starting with a quote, or making a bold statement that can catch the readers off guard.


What are the major elements of a descriptive essay?

Just like the building blocks of an edifice, certain elements are necessary to compose a well-rounded and balanced descriptive essay. Here are the major elements that you must keep in mind:

  • A focused title represents one thing or aspect
  • Figurative language
  • Sensory details
  • Three well-defined sections
  • The intent is to educate or entertain readers

How can vivid details add to the descriptive essay?

In a descriptive essay, the rationale behind weaving the whole narrative is to show the readers what the subject is all about. Since readers may not have first-hand information or appreciation of the topic, it is necessary to provide vivid details and make the subject come alive on the paper for them.


What is an example of a descriptive sentence?

There are two types of sentences. One is the basic sentence that has no description but only necessary information. The other type is a descriptive sentence that borrows elements from figurative language and relies on sensory details to show the “real” thing. Saying the day was hot is only a basic sentence, but describing it as “the day when the gates of hell were opened” is a descriptive sentence. 


What is the best way to write a descriptive paragraph?

A descriptive paragraph is different from a descriptive essay because it is laser-focused on the subject and only mentions brass tacks. The best way to write a descriptive paragraph is to set the stage with the opening sentence and then jump right into the description. In the end, the last sentence should hold the water for the depth and potency of the subject.


Summing It All Up

Writing a descriptive task is not an easy task. Many elements need to be balanced and require expertise to amplify their effects. It can be said that writing a descriptive essay is easy but writing a good descriptive essay that checks all the boxes and connects the subject with the readers is a tough nut to crack. School and college students often have limited experience and tools to put the subject on display. 

In this spirit, we have designed this guide that will help the students understand the nature of a descriptive essay, its distinguishing characteristics, as well as the steps involved in writing a great descriptive essay. In the end, we have topped it off with a checklist to better remember and understand things.

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