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Descriptive writing is a literary device in which the author uses details to paint a picture with
their words. The primary purpose of descriptive writing is to describe a person, place or thing in such a
way that a picture is formed in the reader's mind. Capturing an event through descriptive writing
involves paying close attention to the details by using all of your five senses.


1. Pick a topic

The first step to writing a descriptive essay is obviously selecting a topic; if you’ve not been
assigned a specific topic. The topic doesn’t necessarily have to be unique as long as you can paint a
vivid picture of it and give it life.

2. Plan

Once you’ve settled on the general topic, you need to think about what characteristics/aspects
you want to include in the essay. Brainstorm on all the details about the subject, its surroundings,
and emotions it invokes. Not all of the ideas you come up with here will end up in the essay but just
include them. You will filter out the unnecessary ones later as you continue to plan the essay and
create an outline.

3. Draft the essay

Guided by the outline you developed in the first step, write the essay describing the subject and
structure it accordingly. It is where you begin to compile all of the details into cohesive, flowing

4. Revise

Once you are done creating the draft, you should go through the essay again, reorganizing and
modifying it as you deem necessary to ensure that the entire essay has a logical flow. As you do
these, you need to keep a few things in mind:

 The paragraphs should describe the subject and unfold in such a way that allows easy
reading and appreciation of the subject.
 It should not confuse the reader.
 The language and word choice should involve the five senses and portray emotion and
 The details provided should be enough to give readers a clear, comprehensive picture.
 Will the reader identify with the conclusion?
5. Edit
Go through the essay removing grammatical mistakes and errors in mechanics, clichés, and
overuse of adjectives and adverbs. Another pair of eyes can help you weed out these issues. Once
done with this step, you should have a good, error-free descriptive essay ready for submission.


 Appeal to the senses

When writing a descriptive essay, you need to embellish it with senses. Sight, touch, smell,
hearing, and taste are key sense to include in your essay. If, for instance, you are describing the new
eatery you just visited, talk about what it looked like, but also includes what the place smelt like (e.g.
was there a sweet aroma of food or was the air smoke-filled and stuffy?). You could also talk about
the sounds that you heard while there, e.g. was there soft music or were the trucks passing outside
the only thing that you could hear?

 Tap into your reservoir

A connection with the reader of your essay can only be effectively established if you are able to
adequately describe the emotions. Therefore, when writing the descriptive essay, think about what
you felt for instance if you are describing an experience. Tap into the feelings of joy, loss, or
complacency to write descriptively and effectively create the image you want in the readers’ minds.

 Don’t just tell, show

As the descriptive essay definition indicates, the aim is to paint a picture using words. You can
achieve this by using vivid language which will help you show the reader what you are talking about.
Choose your words carefully when writing the essay. There are a lot of good descriptive words that you
can use to make the picture you want to create clear. These include adverbs such as angrily, quickly, and
lazily; adjectives such as smart, brave, grim, mellow, luxurious, and agreeable, and gerunds such as
running, walking, and grazing. Similes and metaphors will also feature in a good descriptive essay. Just
remember that the descriptive words you use should flow freely.

 Be clear and concise

A key requirement for writing a good descriptive essay is being concise. The level of
conciseness is not as high as that of other essays since you have the freedom to add descriptive words.
However, that freedom doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Most importantly, the details included
in the essay should be relevant to the subject of the essay. Descriptive doesn’t mean that you should go
on and on describing a single thing or something that is not crucial to the topic.

 Be organized
A great descriptive essay idea can be turned into a boring, impossible-to-read piece of
writing when it lacks organization. As you write your descriptive essay, be careful not to rumble
incoherently. This is an easy trap to fall into and should be avoided at all costs. Furnish your
essay with logical, organized description that will give the reader a clear picture of what you are
trying to describe.


Some examples of descriptive text include:
 The sunset filled the entire sky with the deep color of rubies, setting the clouds ablaze.
 The waves crashed and danced along the shore, moving up and down in a graceful and gentle
rhythm like they were dancing.
 The painting was a field of flowers, with deep and rich blues and yellows atop vibrant green
stems that seemed to beckon you to reach right in and pick them.
Some popular descriptive books include:
 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
 A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) by George R.R. Martin
 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Example of a descriptive essay: