Descriptive writing for college students

The aim of description is to make sensory details vividly present to the reader. Although it may be only in school that you are asked to write a specifically descriptive essay, description is an important element in many kinds of writing. Description embedded in an argument paper, for example, may be intended to make a position more persuasive.

100 Topics For a Descriptive Essay

However, in this TIP Sheet we will discuss the descriptive essay as it is commonly assigned by instructors as an exercise in organizing sensory information and choosing vivid details. Showing vs. If you choose "showing" words, those that supply vivid sensory details appropriate to your subject and purpose, you will succeed in showing rather than telling. The following first example mostly makes statements about what is lacking in the room, whereas the second example describes the sights, textures, smells, and sounds of the empty room:.

Telling: The empty room smelled stale and was devoid of furniture or floor covering; the single window lacked curtains or blinds of any kind. Showing: The apartment smelled of old cooking odors, cabbage, and mildew; our sneakers squeaked sharply against the scuffed wood floors, which reflected a haze of dusty sunlight from the one cobwebbed, gritty window.

Though the writer of the second example does not actually use the word "empty," she nevertheless suggests emptiness and disuse. The suggestion of emptiness in the second example is more vivid than the statement of emptiness in the first. If you don't think the first example is vague, look at another possible interpretation of that empty room:. Showing: The sharp odor of fresh paint cut through the smell of newsprint.

Four stacked cartons of inkjet printer paper sat squarely in the middle of a concrete floor, illuminated by a shaft of morning light from a sparkling chrome-framed window on the opposite wall. Do not mistake explanation for description. Explanation is a kind of telling that interjects background material that does not contain sensory details or contribute to the overall effect—a character's motives or history, for example:.

Explanation: The tenants had moved out a week earlier because the house was being sold to a developer.

No one had bothered to dust or clean because they assumed the apartment was going to be knocked down and replaced with single-family homes like those built just a block away. Observing details Once you are ready to abandon the attempt to explain or to tell about , evaluate your subject in terms of visual, auditory, and other sensory details. Think in concrete terms.

The more you are interested in and connected to the subject, the easier it will be to interest your reader, so if you describe a person, choose a person whose characteristics stand out to you. If you describe a place or a thing, choose one that is meaningful to you. You are painting a picture that must be as clear and real as possible, so observe carefully and, preferably, in person.

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Descriptive Essays // Purdue Writing Lab

Note what sets this subject apart from others like it. If the subject is a person, include physical characteristics and mannerisms. Describe abstractions such as personality traits only insofar as you can observe them. An important aspect of good descriptive essay writing is how the essay is structured since it makes it easier for the reader to read and understand the essay.

The standard descriptive essay outline thus consists of:. In this section, the main topic of the descriptive essay is introduced to the reader together with the reason why the description is being written. It should start with a strong opening sentence or quote that will catch attention. At the end of the introductory paragraph, a thesis statement should be presented.


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This section is concerned with giving the readers a general idea of what the essay is about. The introduction section is followed by the body of the essay. In the body section, you need to provide details about your topic.

What Is a Descriptive Essay? Answers, Writing Tips, and 100 Examples of Topics

This part is presented in an artistic way with vivid language rich in adverbs and adjectives. This section is organized into paragraphs as follows. The first paragraph vividly describes the object, person, or the event itself; providing the necessary details. For instance, if you are writing a descriptive essay about a place, you will describe the place here. For instance, when writing a descriptive essay about the beach, begin by describing the beach itself.

Tell your readers about the waves and the appearance of the water and the sand. Tell them what you smelt on the beach, how the sand felt on your feet, and the sounds made by the water; remembering to use good descriptive words. The second paragraph will discuss the surroundings of the subject of the essay.

For the beach scenario, you could talk about the sun, birds, clouds, people and their activities, and other objects of interest in the surrounding. In the third paragraph, you bring the essay to life with a sensual description using your senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound to paint a vivid picture.

What makes an effective anecdote?

The main focus here will be on the emotions the subject invokes. In both the description of the surrounding and the emotion, similes and metaphors are often used. In the conclusion, summarize the main points, including your physical and emotional attitude and views on the topic of your descriptive essay.

This section is based largely on your imagination and an analysis of the essay topic.

The descriptive essay thesis statement is also reframed. Now that you know how to structure the essay, the next thing we are going to look at is how to go about writing your descriptive essay. The problem is that many times students find it difficult to pick a topic. As with any essay, you need to pick a subject that is not too narrow. Doing so will make it difficult for you to meet the required essay length.

You may also need to consider a number of descriptive essay topics before you finally settle on one. Here are some descriptive essay topics to help you figure out what to write about. The subject of your descriptive essay can be your favorite person such as a family member. It can also be a friend, a neighbor, or a famous person. You could also describe yourself. Whichever person you write about should be someone that you know well. As you write the essay, remember to describe other aspects in addition to the physical characteristics. Include personality traits in your description in a creative way.

You will probably have to pick just a few traits to talk about in the body paragraphs.

Steps to Writing a Descriptive Essay

It is also possible for a student to struggle with how to make a conclusion paragraph for this category of essays effective. For the conclusion, summarize those traits to explain how complex or interesting the person is. Use it to explain your experience and sentiments about interacting or living with that person. Places are a common subject for descriptive essays. You could describe a place you love, your bedroom, your favorite classroom, or your favorite store. You could also go against the tide and choose less common places to write about.

Cemeteries, construction sites, hospitals, or amusement parks are not commonly selected as descriptive essay topics. The places are not limited to these so feel free to consider more. It could be a real or imagined place. You can base your essay on a vivid memory that you have. This can be the most embarrassing moment, your saddest or happiest memories, a memorable trip or concert you attended and so on.

25 Descriptive Essay Topics for College Students – secret of writing a successful essay help

Search you memories and find one that you can vividly describe in your essay. Descriptive essays can be written about common experiences such as graduation. You can however select other descriptive essay topics such as a frightening experience you had and provide descriptive details about what happened, where, when and how you felt. You can also write about your first day in class regarding aspects such as the classroom, the people, and how you felt during the experience.


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  • For this type of descriptive essay, any object can be the topic. You can write about your couch if you believe you can portray the couch in a fascinating way and make the essay interesting. Unfortunately, that would be a mean feat for many.

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