The Descriptive Essay

Active Image

Dig Deep with Descriptive Essays

If your wish is to describe a particular subject in a compelling and organized manner, then consider the descriptive essay. This form of writing is an effective tool to portray vividly a person, place, thing, idea, or animal to your reading audience. With descriptive essays, you paint a picture with words to bring your topic to life. When done properly, your reader can see the subject of your essay in their mind’s eye as clearly as you do.

A descriptive essay conveys to the reader important characteristics needed to understand  thoroughly whatever is being described. It does so by going beyond the general to the specific. With an essay of this type, you give your reader a well-rounded view of your subject. For example, you may wish to write a descriptive essay about your favourite beach. Your job, as a writer, is to explain to the reader essential information so they feel they are walking the sand themselves.

One way to get them almost feeling the salty spray of the surf itself is to use vibrant and vivid language. This should include words that describe the feel of salt on the lips – such as sharp, stinging, tickling, electric, and more. You may use comparison, likening the salty feel to the taste of salt that rims an exotic cocktail.

You may want to give specific examples about this special beach. This may be your memories concerning your favorite hot dog stand on this particular beachfront – the aroma of grilled onions wafting over the sand and aiming for your nose. It may be describing the surfing atmosphere in its entire colorful array that can give one a “feel” of what this beach is like. This is where you will describe those banana yellow bandanas, snow pea green eyes, royal blue beach towels, and searing red surfboards that make the beach come to life. Your goal is to give your reader the details in as descriptive a way as possible.

The key is to have your reader feel they are experiencing what you previously experienced. Take our beach example again – a broad scope essay on why beaches in general are enjoyable may garner some interest from your reader. However, a well-focused piece concentrating on a specific beach in all its uniqueness will resonate better with your audience. They can then extrapolate this specific description on one beach to their own view of beaches in general.

The smaller subject – one beach – will speak to the larger subject – all beaches, in a compelling way. At the end of your descriptive essay, your audience will know your favorite beach intimately, and have a new appreciation for ‘beaches” as a whole.

Another approach to take when writing the descriptive essay is to delve deep into your subject. Consider the essay on your favorite beach once again. You will want to talk about the basic features of this beach – its clean water, fine sand, cool shore breeze. That’s all fine; the next step though is to talk about the nuances that make the beach different from others.

It may be the general topography of the area, its coves, bays, inlets, rolling dunes that contribute to the character of your favourite beach. Maybe the vegetation, wind patterns, water currents, and creepy crawlies are unique at this location. They all contribute to this beach’s particular atmosphere. It may even be the “locals”, the people, and businesses who reside in the area. All together, they may make the locale truly different.

That’s what makes the descriptive essay exciting for readers. This type of essay is one that best benefits from using all five senses in your writing. To convey the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your subject, write in terms of smell, touch, hearing, tasting, and seeing. Let your words appeal to the five senses and your writing will be appealing to your audience. Your words will come to life and the reader will feel they’re walking that beach side by side with you.

Writing essays of any kind requires time spent understanding your topic before you write. This is especially true when it comes to the descriptive essay. You cannot effectively describe to others what you do not know, or at least understand somewhat yourself. That’s why it’s important to learn about and experience your topic. Once you do, spend the time necessary to come up with the words and phrases that do more than scratch the surface of your topic.

Take that beach one more time. When you have felt, tasted, smelt, seen, and heard all that makes up that conglomeration of sea, sand, and sun, you can then describe it with pizzazz to the audience that’s waiting eagerly for an enjoyable and captivating reading experience.