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DESCRIPTIVEESSAY

Dr.SharonGerald,EnglishCompositionI

Photos by
Sharon Gerald

DescriptiveEssayAssignment
Writeadescriptiveessayaboutaplacethatismeaningfultoyou.Theessayshouldbeatleast5
paragraphsandatleast600words.
SampleTopics

Aroominthehouseyou
grewupin
Aroominyour
grandparentshouse
Afavoritehangout
A6ishingspot
Ahuntingspot
Acampingspot
Aplayground
Acasino
Anightclub
Achildsclubhouse
Apark
Atraindepot
Anairport

A6leamarket
Afair
Astadium
Afarmersmarket
Afamilygarden
Anaturepreserve
Anaturetrail
Alibraryorbookstore
Aworkshop
Achurch
Aclassroom
ALittleLeaguepark
Aneighborhoodstreet
Atownsquareormain
strip

Ananimalshelter
Astormshelter
Adisasterzone
Abeautyshop
Acoffeeshop
Alaundromat
Afoodcourt
Arestaurant
Abeach
Thelobbyofadorm
Anartgallery
Amuseum
Afarm
Anantiquestoreor
secondhandshop

TipsforDescriptiveWriting
youwroteonthemwithaSharpieasachild?
Appealtothesenses.Whatarethesights,
smells,sounds,tastes,textures,shapes,and
Doesyourgrandmotherstillgettheplacemats
colorsinthesettingyouaredescribing?People
outthatyoumadeforherwhenyouwerein
experiencelifethroughthesenses,andtheywill kindergarten?HowabouttheSantaClausthat
getamuchclearerandmuchmorememorable
youmadeoutofatoiletpaperrollandred
picturefromyourwritingifitispackedfullof
constructionpaper?Doesanyofthisembarrass
sensoryinformation.Dontjustsay,Mymother
you?Ifso,itisexactlywhatyouneedto
alwaysservedchocolatecakeonSundays.
describeinyouressay.Uniqueismemorable,
Instead,say,MymothersstandardSunday
andyouwantpeopletorememberwhatyou
cakesweresorichlychocolateandsomoistthat havetosay.
IfeltlikeIwasdrinkingpureHersheyssyrup
Usesimileandmetaphor.Simileand
witheverybite.
metaphoraretypesof6igurativelanguagein
whichonethingiscomparedtoanotherand/or
Payattentiontodetail.Themorespeci6icyou
makeyourdescriptions,thebetter.Dontjust
onethingisusedtorepresentanother.Thiscan
say,Thechurchchoirsang.Instead,say,The
becrucialtodescribingthingsthatmightnotbe
churchchoirswayedbackandforthintheir
familiartoyouraudience.Forexample,ifyou
darkgreenrobesandraisedtheirhandsabove
wanttodescribeacampusbelltowerto
theirheadsastheynearlyblewtheroofoffthe
someonewhohasntseenit,youmightsay,
sanctuarywiththeirthunderousrenditionofI
Thebelltowershootsintotheskylikethe
SingBecauseImHappy.Dontjustsay,Iate
tallesttreeinaforestofonlytheonelonely
anM&Mcookie.Instead,say,ThecookieIate
tree.Thebelltowermightnotliterallylooklike
foranafternoonsnackwasthesizeofthepalm
atree,butthesimilehelpsthereaderto
ofmyhandandthecolorofmyskinin
imaginetheheightofthetower.Thisisntan
midsummer.Icounted6iveM&Msinit,two
exactmeasurement,ofcourse,anddifferent
brown,onegreen,onered,andoneyellow.
readersmightimaginedifferentheights,butit
stillcreatesapictureandmakesanimpression.
Emphasizetheunique.Whatsdifferentabout
thesceneyouaredescribing?Whatmakesthis
Being6igurativeratherthanliteralisoften
placedifferentfromanyother?Aretherestill
calledforindescriptivewriting.
marksonthebricksaroundthe6ireplacewhere

TipsforDescriptiveWriting(continuedfrompreviouspage)

Usehyperbole.Hyperboleisanothertypeof
6igurativelanguageinwhichthesizeor
signi6icanceofsomethingisblownoutof

proportion.Forexample,Ijustatea
hamburgerthesizeofTexasishyperbole.We
allknownooneliterallyateahamburgerthe
sizeofanystate,butthehyperboleprovidesa
moreimagisticandthereforemorememorable
wayofsayingitwasbig.Neversimplysayit
wasbigwhenitcouldbethesizeofthe
EmpireStateBuildingordeepenoughto
maketheGrandCanyonlookshallow.
Usepersoni@ication.Istheskysad?Isthe
kitchenlonely?Isthecarhopeful?Istheroad
restless?Theseareallexamplesof

personi6ication,orgivinghuman
characteristics,motivations,orfeelingsto
inanimateobjects.Personi6icationisanother
6igurativewaytohelpthereaderpicturethe
sceneyouaredescribing.
Avoidclichs.Douse6igurativelanguage,but
trytomakeityourown.Avoidusingthe
standard6iguresofspeech,likeoldasthehills
orlikea6ishtowateroradiamondinthe
rough.Playwiththelanguageandcomeup
withyourowncomparisons.
Paintapicturewithyourwords.Regardless
ofwhattechniquesyouuseindescription,the
ultimategoalistohelppeoplepicturewhatyou
wantthemtopictureusingonlywords.Usethe
wordsthatputothersrightthereatthescene,

seeingwhatyouareseeing,smellingwhatyou
aresmelling,andfeelingwhatyouarefeeling.
Followalogicalorder.Narrativeessaysoften
followachronologicalorder,butunless
descriptiveessaysareaboutevents,theywill
mostlikelybeorganizedspatially.Theymight
movefromlefttorightacrossthescene.They
mightmovefrombigtolittleorviceversa.They
mightmovefromobvioustosubtle.Another
techniquemightbetodescribesomething
sensebysensethesightsandthenthesounds
andthenthesmells,andsoon.Regardlessof
whichoptionyouchoose,pickaplanfor
orderingyourdescriptions.Understandwhy
youhavepickedthatplan.Thensticktoit.Dont
jumparoundorjustramble.Helpthereader
understandwhyyouaredrawingattentionto
6irstonedetailandthenanother.
Attachemotionalsigni@icancetothe
descriptions.Yourdescriptionsneedtobe
meaningful,andonegoodwaytomakethem
meaningfulistousethemtoevokeemotions.
Thatcoffeecanthatwasalwaysfullofbacon
greaseonyourgrandmotherskitchencounter
isjustacoffeecanuntilweunderstandthatit
remindsyouofsimplerandhappiertimesand
peopleyouwishyouhadappreciatedmore
whileyouhadtheminyourlife.Dontjusttell
ustherewasacoffeecan.Telluswhythecoffee
canmatters.
Makeyourpurposeclear.Ifyouwantpeople
to6indyourdescriptionsuseful,youneedto
knowwhyyouarewritingthem.Whatsthe
pointoftellingothersaboutthesandbaratthe
creekwhereyourdogcaughtasnake,andyou
gotsunburnsobaditwasonthetopofyour
feetandthetopofyourscalptoo?Maybeitisa
precautionarytaleaboutsunblock,ormaybeit
ismakingapointthatwearentaspreparedas
weshouldbeforforaysintotheforestbecause
ourdaytodaylivesaretoodisconnectedfrom
nature.Whateverthepointis,makeitclear.
Whoareyourdescriptionsfor?Whydoesthis
audienceneedtoreadthem?
Havefun!Yourreaderisalotmorelikelyto
enjoyyourwritingifyouenjoyittoo.Play
around.Amuseyourself.Impressyourself.
Writewhatyouwanttoread.

OrganizingtheEssay
Adescriptiveessayshouldbe
organizedjustlikeanyessay,
withanintroduction,abody,
andaconclusion.Forthis
assignment,youwillbe
requiredtohaveatleastthree
bodyparagraphs.
Followtheseguidelinesforeach
paragraph:
Introduction(Paragraph1):
Theintroductionshouldstart
withahookoranattention
grabber.Itshouldestablisha
senseofaudienceandpurpose,
anditshouldhaveathesis
statementthatsetsupamain
point.
Startbytellingalittlebitofback
storyordescribingavery
particularitemthatdrawsus
intothescene.Letusknowwhy
weshouldbeinterested.Tellus
themainideathatyouwantto
getacross.

isfocusedongettingacrossa
particularideainadditionto
particulardescriptions,butgo
easyontheexplanationsand
savemostofyourwordsforthe
descriptions.Giveussensory
detail.Makeusfeellikeweare
there.

surethatyoudohaveaplanfor
groupinglikedescriptions
togetherinyourbody
paragraphs.

Conclusion(Paragraph5):The
conclusionshouldreiteratethe
thesisinnewwords.Itshould
remindusofthepurposeofthe
Body(Paragraphs24):The
Youcanmoveinaspatialorder essay.Itshouldalsoleaveus
bodyparagraphswillcontain
inthebodyparagraphs,oryou withsomethingtothinkabout
thebulkofyourdescriptions.
candividethemupsenseby
andwithonelastimageto
Makesureeachbodyparagraph senseorideabyidea.Justmake remember.

Whenisdescriptive
writingusedinreallife?
Descriptivewritingisusedin
manyreallifeandonthejob
contextsaswellasmany
academiccontexts.Herearejust
afewexamples:

Aspartofnarrative
writingandstorytelling
Forreportingonevents
Forreportingonand
promotingproducts
Forpreserving
memories
Forpreservinghistory
Forrecordingscienti6ic
observations

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