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Directions for Writing a Descriptive Essay in Middle School

by Karen LoBello

A descriptive essay paints a vivid picture in the reader's mind. It requires meticulous observation and recollection. When you write a descriptive essay, you create a detailed image of a person, place, object, experience, memory or situation. Choose a topic that means something to you and utilize powerful, colorful language to create an effective description that brings your subject to life for readers.

Prewrite

Prewriting is an important step in writing description. It helps you get your initial thoughts about a subject on paper. Spend time brainstorming. Make a list of the important points or qualities that you'll focus on in your essay. Jot down any words related to those points. If you're describing your best friend, you might brainstorm words such as personality, quirks and physical appearance and then write a variety of related words and phrases in each category. You could orally describe your subject to a friend and then, while it's still fresh in your mind, write down words and phrases you used in your description.

Organize

A methodical essay leads the reader from one point to the next in a fluid manner. Develop a strong introductory paragraph that tells the reader what to expect. Include three or four well-detailed body paragraphs that include different aspects of your description. If you're writing about your bedroom, your body paragraphs might detail the furniture, the memorabilia you display and the flooring. Include all pertinent details and don't add unnecessary tidbits that aren't vital to the description and might confuse the reader. Your concluding paragraph should briefly review what you've described.

Use Colorful Language

You need to “show” readers rather than “tell” them about your subject. If you say, “It was a hot day,” you're telling. Embellish that idea and show your readers how hot it was: “Beads of sweat trickled from my forehead, and I could feel the sun scorching my body.” Draw your readers in with specific, relevant vocabulary. The reader has an idea what blue eyes look like; however, aquamarine eyes are more precise. If a person is funny, you can more effectively describe her as hilarious or witty. Your friend isn't just nice, she's personable or outgoing. Figurative language, such as similes and metaphors, add depth to a descriptive essay. For example, perhaps the boy jumped in the air like a kangaroo in an open field.

Tap the Senses

Sensory details tell the reader how something smells, tastes, looks, sounds and feels. Use only the senses that make sense -- don't force it. Instead of saying the taco was hot, you might say, “The spicy, crimson sauce made me break out in a sweat and run for the nearest water fountain.” The reader should have vivid pictures in her mind. She should taste the sponge cake melting in her mouth, feel the fluffy, velvety coat of the dog and hear the clanging of the church bell. When you add your own sensory reactions in relation to the topic, it takes your reader to a deeper level.

Make a Clear Impression

Your reader will appreciate the significance of your subject when you write an enticing description of it. He'll walk away from your essay craving the cake you described, wanting to meet your mother or making plans to visit your favorite spot. A descriptive essay should deeply involve the reader, making it a vivid experience for him.

About the Author

Karen LoBello is coauthor of “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” She began writing in 2009, following a career as a Nevada teacher. LoBello holds a bachelor's degree in K-8 education, a secondary degree in early childhood education and a master's degree in computer education.

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