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Important Essentials to Writing a Descriptive Essay

by Michael Mason

The goal of a descriptive essay is to provide the reader with a vivid image of the topic being described. By including some essential elements, a writer can more easily convey the visual image desired. These elements prompt the writer to include more specific descriptors which can assist the reader in understanding the topic.

Brainstorm

There are a multitude of methods for brainstorming. Purdue University recommends jotting down words that come to mind as soon as the prompts are given. Another brainstorming idea is a thought-web, recommended by the University of Texas, in which a writer take the list of brainstormed words and brainstorms each of those words individually. In essence, the writer is creating an informal outline that will only need to be converted into complete sentences and pieced together into a recognizable format.

The Senses

We experience the world through our senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. When a writer attempts to describe something, he should use as many of those sensory details as possible to solidify the object in the reader's mind. One possible method of organizing a narrative would be by senses. Writers could ask themselves, could the reader describe the sound, the smell, the taste, the sight, and the feel of the object after reading the essay?

Emotions

Sometimes it's helpful to not only describe using the five senses from above, but to also use emotions. While a writer might be able to describe how dark, secluded, and overgrown a forest may be, it would add to the reader's mental image if he could also include adjectives such as ominous or foreboding.

Concise Language

A lot can be said with few words. The greater a writer's skill with vocabulary, the more vivid of a picture he can paint. Words that have very similar denotations can often have very different connotations. Saying that a boy loves a girl has a different connotation that saying that the boy lusts after a girl. Or that he is in puppy-love. Is the ex-boyfriend mad, or is he furious? Or is he livid? Words that have strong connotations can be extremely effective in a descriptive essay.

About the Author

Michael Mason has a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Education in education. He has taught high school language arts and adult-level GED classes. He currently teaches adult basic education classes in a medium security detention facility. Prior to his career in education, he was a manager for a successful hotel company and a 911 dispatcher.

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