In this article, we delve into what is a descriptive essay and offer a complete writing guide with useful tips at the end. For private lecturing or writing assistance, head on to EssayWritingService, a service made to help students succeed academically.
The descriptive essay definition is a paper that gives a verbal account of someone or something, representing all of its characteristics, qualities, and events. In this type of essay, the writer appeals to the reader (taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight) to draw a vivid description of a thing, event, or person:
The cat was described as small, pitch-black, with a red collar and a bell dangling from its neck.
Further, in this article, we find out how to write a descriptive essay in each of its sections (intro, body, conclusion), starting by creating an outline.
How to Choose a Descriptive Essay Topic
Prior to selecting from a pool of topics for descriptive essay, our essay writing service suggests you go ahead and ask yourself: what is something I can show instead of telling? Descriptive writing must evoke visual characteristics while appealing to the emotions of the reader. Certain objects can be easy to describe in mere words but difficult to illustrate and animate with descriptive language.
The phrase "show don't tell" is precisely what descriptive writing teaches you to do. So when thinking about how to choose a topic for descriptive essay, focus on the topic ideas that you feel you could bring to life by appealing to the reader's emotions.
Here's an example, "The cat was angry and antisocial." versus "The cat hissed and scratched at anyone trying to pet it."
The first example tells that the cat is angry yet does a terrible job of appealing to the reader's emotions. Meanwhile, the second sentence uses the verbs "hissed" and "growled," appealing to the senses of sight and hearing. For more successful immersion of your reader into the setting, appeal to the five senses:
- What can the reader see?
- What can they hear?
- What can they touch?
- What can they smell?
- What can they taste?
Keep in mind that you don't have to appeal to all five at once: in the previous sentence, merely the first two were enough to describe the antisocial cat. Whichever topic you choose from a pool of topics from descriptive essay, always follow the "show, don't tell" formula, and use a lot of verbs.
How to Create a Descriptive Essay Outline
A descriptive essay outline is subdivided into three parts that are obligatory to most essay rubrics: the introduction, (three) body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Sporting this descriptive essay structure will land you a higher grade upon submission. Once you start drawing out the outline, you'll provide the points that you want to convey in each of your body paragraphs. Just remember to always follow this descriptive essay format.
- Hook, or attention grabber
- Background context
- Thesis, target of description
Body paragraph 1
- Topic sentence: point of description 1
- Descriptive details that appeal to the senses
- Transition into 2nd paragraph
Body paragraph 2
- Topic sentence: another point of description
- Appeal to a different sense or emotion
Body paragraph 3
- Topic sentence: the last point of description
- Descriptive details to support your last topic sentence
- Summarize everything
- Restate thesis
- Clincher: settle the matter conclusively
Go by this descriptive writing format, and you won't go wrong. Just keep in mind that the description's target should have been illustrated fully, to the point where no questions arise from the reader upon finishing reading your essay. If this descriptive text structure is executed correctly, the reader should be fully educated on the description target, and no questions will come up.
When writing a descriptive essay, we suggest filling out the outline first to guide you through the process. Usually, students finish the outline and write the body paragraphs, as it further solidifies the description and lets them introduce what they've written. In descriptive writing, just like most other writing, the introduction and conclusion are usually written later.
Descriptive Essay Introduction
A descriptive essay introduction is for familiarizing your reader with the work. The reader requires some context to understand the topic of description and why you have chosen it. If you wonder how to start a descriptive essay, our top essay writer recommends keeping it short and sweet to draw momentum and entice the reader to continue into the body.
The section also includes a descriptive essay thesis that summarizes your entire paper in a nutshell. Every paper has one, so take care to draw out your descriptive essay thesis statement so that the reader can see a clear focus.
So here are all the sections of a classic introduction which are mandatory to include when preparing your work:
- Hook, or catchy opener. The entire essay should be illustrious and catchy, but the first sentence is what gets the ball rolling. Impress the reader from the get-go so that they're excited to continue reading.
- Context or background information. Without context, there is no essay. In the descriptive essay introduction, give your reader a setting or an explanation of why your target of a description is important to you, them, or the world.
- Thesis statement: The descriptive thesis statement is the soul of your work, one sentence which binds everything together. Make your target of description clear, as well as your reasons for selecting this target.
When thinking about how to write a descriptive essay introduction, you can refer to some of the examples of thesis statements we've listed below.
- Place: The Roman Forum brings to attention the stunning levels of civilization and politics achieved by our ancestors 2000 years ago.
- Object: The Holy Grail is a mysterious object which has been a topic of controversy and debate for hundreds of years and has not been located or its appearance fully described to this day.
- Person: Although Steve Jobs was the primary creative force behind Apple, it was Steve Wozniak who had the technical capabilities to execute the ideas that changed the game in the world of tech.
There are plenty of amazing things in the world to describe, so pick something that you're passionate about. Or something with lots of historical significance and vivid visual clues. For example, one of the many great ideas for descriptive essay you can take is the Roman Empire, with the Romans' blood-red colors, mixed with the gold armor, the beautiful marble structures, worshipping gods, and the clash of steel at the Coliseum. Use visual cues such as these to make your description come to life.
Descriptive Essay Body Paragraphs
Students often don't know how to write a descriptive paragraph because it's not the type of work they're used to. Unless you're doing a Literature or English language degree, chances are you're faced with structured essays where facts and reasoning win over description. Well, in this case, your academic sources are no good, and you'll have to use your eyes, nose, and ears to create a great body paragraph for a descriptive essay.
As mentioned before, the main body part consists of 3 descriptive essay body paragraphs, each adding to the previous to make your description come to life. Sometimes one sentence is enough to tell a story, but this is not the case. When thinking about how to write a body paragraph for a descriptive essay or how to make notes for a starting reference: make a bullet point list of how your subject appeals to the five senses. Use illustrious language, yet try to be specific, as don't want to create too much abstraction or mystery around your topic. Descriptive writing can be very dreamy, but it's often to the point.
Here's a descriptive essay body paragraph is broken down into three primary sections:
- A topic sentence: The Fender Stratocaster is the hallmark sound of rock'n'roll music.
- Sensory details: Its body sound, the unmistakable clean twang, the gentle yet slappy tone becomes a roaring spectacle when the gain knob is turned to 11, and the iconic Jimi Hendrix riff lifts the hair off the skin for everyone sitting at the bar.
- Actual details: With its iconic shape and form, the very looks of this guitar have managed to piss off every parent in the 1950s, and in a more modern setting, bring back the real Teen Spirit of rock in the 1990s.
Expand, and bewilder. With a strong descriptive essay body paragraph, you'll manage to water the reader's mouth and make them curious for more. This type of essay is best approached with passion and an eagle eye for detail.
How to End a Descriptive Essay
The descriptive essay conclusion is the aftermath. Here, you offer afterthoughts while binding your essay together to finalize the image in the reader's head. All essay writer service agree on one thing - when thinking about how to conclude a descriptive essay on a strong note, simply start by summarizing what you've already written. Then, proceed to offer the final dressing or 'the cherry on top' with a strong closing sentence that makes the reader feel fulfilled.
Combine the following ingredients for a delicious descriptive essay conclusion:
- Reflect on the purpose of your essay, life, the universe, and everything. Sounds funny, but your reader has to know your subject's placement in the context of things. Why did you choose to write about dogs? Tell them that the world can be a gloomy place and that dogs exist to make it happier.
- Why is it important? Okay, so dogs make you smile- but so what? Tell the reader why it's so important to smile: to bring out dopamine, share it with other people, bask in the sunshine of life, and create beautiful things. Of course, this can be achieved without dogs, but it's just a little easier with them. Also, they lick you.
- Clincher, or the solid closer. It's like the hook, but kind of in reverse. Give the reader a final closing sentence that will satisfy them with a sense of completion and maybe even stick in their head for a while. So to conclude, dogs are awesome. But if you're still not sure, just imagine a world without dogs.
So that's how to end a descriptive essay. With the bulk of the work out of the way, you can proceed to edit. But don't forget to check out the handy tips we have prepared in the next section!
Wise Tips for Writing a Descriptive Essay
Finished writing a descriptive essay? Let's see if it ticks off all these points. These are descriptive essay tips that will help you make sure that your essay is beautiful.
- You show and not tell. The first thing a professor will look at in your descriptive writing is your knack for… well: description.
- This usually means that you don't explicitly state that the car was shiny red; you describe its redness in all of its glory, maybe even put a hint of sunlight reflecting off into your reader's eyes.
- Your introduction is like opening a book. Back in the good old days of print literature, flashy covers and enticing titles didn't do much of a job for a tasteful reader. They had to open a book and read the first several lines, and if these lines drew the reader in, then they'd buy the book. Back to the present, try hard for your essay opener and make the reader 'buy' your essay.
- There's lots of space. Every object, person, or event takes up some space in the space-time continuum. The depth of that space can be different, a large book falling off your shelf with a thud, sending dust to all corners of the room, or a gunshot that rings through the history books and reminds us of the cruel side of humanity. You are the director of this essay, and you get to choose the lens for your camera. Just make sure that your descriptions don't stay too focused on the small picture.
- It's alive! Things move and breathe, even inanimate objects. Your description must make the reader feel like the object is alive; it has a history; it has a purpose. For if it doesn't have a purpose, what's the purpose of writing about it?
- You didn't overdo it. What is descriptive writing? Is it using fancy synonyms and long library words that nobody understands? Or is it using words like a camera to take a picture? Going too complex or too simple can yield unsatisfactory results. When writing a descriptive essay, many students tend to over-metaphorize, over-complicate, thinking that this will make them sound smart or descriptive. But the very smart ones stick to the sense and only use the absolutely necessary words.
- It's well-structured. A building will collapse without a base. So will your essay, if it doesn't follow the format we've provided above. Check to see that each body paragraph has only one point of discussion and no more. Check that they flow seamlessly into each other and together complement each other and your descriptive writing. You can have a fantastic pen game, but without structure, you will have no substance.
- There are no questions left. With the conclusion, the reader should be able to put down your essay and bask in the sense of completion. There should be no unanswered questions, no excluded historical facts of vital significance, no stones unturned. Re-read your essay to see if it makes any sense to you, and if you have any questions, see if you can find the answers within your text.
75 Fresh Descriptive Essay Ideas
The descriptive essay topics we have here cover a wide plethora of ideas and concepts. Given that you could craft such an essay on practically anything, we strived to be imaginative with our ideas. Starting off from general good descriptive essay topics, we later take a look at more focused lists: including topics on an object, a person, an experience, and more.
Feel free to borrow any of our ideas and develop your essay around it:
- A film that inspired you
- A fascinating character from a film
- Describe your encounter with an animal
- Describe a character from literature
- The house you'd dream of living in
- A close friend or acquaintance
- The first time you left your country or city
- The first thing you ever remember
- Your first crush
- A concert or event that fascinated you
- An artist or piece of music
- Describe the process of flying in a plane
- A moment which made you cry with happiness
- Your first time on an airplane
- The longest trip you've ever had
- The career that you dream of pursuing
- An amazing place you've been to or want to go
- A planet you've invented
- An important historical figure like Marcus Aurelius
- An event which changed the course of history
- Something you saw at a museum
- Describe a dream you've had
- A story from your summer vacation
- A childhood toy
- A teacher who had an impact on you
- Your childhood pet
- A magical place you want to revisit
- A fishing experience with your parents
- A hiking experience
- A festival you went to
- The best day of your life
- The worst day of your life
- A piece of fascinating technology
- An encounter with a superstar or celebrity
- A day of your favorite class in school
- A musical instrument
- A street that's important to you
- An important person-- like the president of the USA
- Some party that you've been to
- A piece of clothing that you're proud of owning
- Something that you're proud of creating
- A meal that blew your mind
- The time you thought you met God
- The time you got lost at a supermarket
- The roman empire
- The time you got caught stealing something, how you felt
- The time you danced with somebody
- When you sneaked out of your parents' house at night
- The first ever time that you got drunk
- Your group of friends
- A children's movie that you still watch
- An invention that changed the course of humanity
- A recurring story or dream in your head
- The object of a dream: like a nymph or a demon
- The scariest moment of your life
- Your time at an amusement park with friends
- An imaginative journey through space
- A musical album which you love listening to
- A scene from a movie which stuck with you
- Any given object in your house
- An object on the street that bears significance
- A magical or attractive person that you've met once
- A clever advertisement
- A sleepover at school
- The feeling when you first arrived to college
- Your college dorm
- The way a funny person tells a joke
- Describe the view from your window
- Describe a car that you'd love to own
- Describe your favorite pair of jeans
- Describe a period, like the 16th century
- Your day at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry
- Describe the character you'd be in Star Wars
- Describe a painting
- Describe a member of your family
With such a concise list of topics to write a descriptive essay on, you shouldn't have a problem starting off. Pick one and brainstorm, or continue reading for some more focused picks.
Descriptive Essay Topics about a Person
When writing about a person, most people pick a family member or a meaningful person from their own life. If that's the path you choose, then give yourself some questions to answer about the given person.
- What are their most standout characteristics?
- What is unique about this person?
- What personal reason prompted you to write about them? Are they inspiring? Are they wise? Do they have a great fashion sense? Etc..
But if you want to take it to the next level and write about somebody famous, we've produced a descriptive essay topics list that covers impressive people throughout history and popular culture. Take a peek:
- Emperor Augustus - the greatest emperor of the Roman Empire
- Socrates - one of the founders of Western philosophy
- Alexander the Great - the greatest leader who ever existed
- Barack Obama - the first black president
- John Lennon - the troubled genius of the Beatles
- Edgar Allen Poe - the father of gothic literature
- Vivienne Westwood - groundbreaking fashion designer
- Richard Branson - genius business magnate
- Anthony Fantano - the internet's busiest music nerd
- Logan Paul - YouTube entertainer
- Stanley Kubrick - genius filmmaker
- Adam Driver - an incredibly versatile actor
- Captain Jack Sparrow - legendary pirate
Descriptive Essay Topics about a Place
Writing about people doesn't strike you fancy? It's okay-- there are plenty of fascinating places in this world you could write about. Most often, professors see descriptive essay topics such as the place that spooked me when I was a child of the house I grew up in. These descriptive essay topics are the most common because they're easy to describe, as the writer has emotional connection to the given place. Here are the questions to ask yourself when writing about that childhood haunted house:
- What did the place look like? What made it so scary, or memorable, or curious looking?
- Why were you drawn to this place? What kind of aura did it have? Was it magical?
- Upon exploration of this place, what did you discover? Has your perception of it changed?
Haunted houses are fine, but there are plenty of other places in the world you could talk about. Choose anything from our place-oriented descriptive essay topics list:
- An ancient city, temple, or forum
- A magical place from fantasy or science fiction
- A place from a specific time period: the battlegrounds of Troy or the searing mount Vesuvius upon eruption
- 'The Spot" where you'd often go with friends
- A place of history that your hometown is proud of
- A place in a video game, movie, or piece of literature
- A place in nature: a mountain or a lake
- Your dream house, with all of its perks
- The greatest sandcastle you've ever built
- A treehouse that you loved spending time in
- Your rich friend's house or apartment
- A place that you'd often visit in your dreams
- Describe the lair of a dragon
- Describe the underworld
Descriptive Essay Topics about an Object
Objects, stuff that you can pick up, or give sentimental value, often appear in students' work as they can be great descriptive writing ideas. They're enticing because of their simplicity, yet depth: like a single red rose in a small vase standing passionately in the middle of the room.
Here's what to think about when describing an object:
- What are its most striking characteristics?
- Is this object for use or adoration?
- Does it look, smell, feel a certain way?
- What is so significant about this object?
- Whether or not this object has power' or any other kind of value
With that in mind, here's a list of topics you can steal from us:
- An object with mystical value
- An object that never leaves your bag
- Just pick something up and describe it
- An object of historical significance
- An object of sentimental value that you'll never throw away
- An object that you've created by yourself
- A significant object from a movie: like a wand from Harry Potter
- Something that you wanted to buy at first sight
- Describe a weapon like a sword
- Describe an object with a complex mechanism
- Describe a beautiful object and why it's so striking to you
- An object that makes you feel magical or historical energy
- Describe an object of traditional or religious fascination
Descriptive Essay Topics about Experience
Ah, personal life experiences. Takes you right back, doesn't it? There are many examples of descriptive essay topics about the experience, and the best ones are focused on your own personal stories, ups and downs laughs, and frowns:
- Your first experience with falling in love
- The experience that made you who you are today
- The time you endured the cold winds of winter
- A quintessential summer experience from your life
- The first time you made your own decision that had an impact on your life
- An experience with loyalty and friendship
- An experience of betrayal
- An adventure that you've had that you want to share
- The experience you've had during a scary movie
- An amusement park ride that you won't forget
- Describe an extraterrestrial experience or encounter
- Describe a magical experience or encounter
Essential Descriptive Essay Topics for College Students
College is a fascinating time of your life, and living it starts in high school. Applying for college can be intriguing and nerve-wracking at the same time. Descriptive essay topics for college often focus on these experiences. As it's a time of change and growth in your life, college life can propose many topics for a descriptive essay:
- The process of applying to college
- The feeling when you've first arrived to your college
- The first experience you've had with your roommates
- A night at the library
- The best party in college
- Describe the room that you live in
- Describe the essentials of college life from your perspective
- A professor that you've admired
- A valuable lesson that you've learned in college
- Describe the experience you initially expected from college
- Describe what your college looks like
- Describe your roommate
Best Descriptive Essay Topics for High School Students
Don't expect your teacher to go hard on you when you're picking descriptive essay topics for grade 7. Shooting back to the high school years can create a pool of fun and nostalgic topics. Here are some descriptive essay examples for high school:
- Entering high school: describe your freshman year
- Talk about an extracurricular activity that you enjoyed doing
- We all daydream: what did you daydream about?
- Describe the time you've skipped a class or a day at school
- Describe the most glorious, or happiest moment at school
- Describe the most embarrassing moment you've had at school
- We all did drama class: what was your memorable experience from it?
- The time you got caught doing something naughty
- Describe what your favorite book was you read in high school
- Describe a good or a bad teacher that you've had in high school
- Describe the best thing about high school
Those are the tips on writing a descriptive essay that we can offer you for now. For further reference, read some Edgar Allen Poe or Charles Dickens if Poe's phantasmagorical mood doesn't strum a chord with you.