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How to Write a Sense-of-Place Essay

by Jeremy Miller, studioD

When writing a sense-of-place essay, use descriptions to allow your readers to use their imagination. If possible, visit the place to create the best imagery as you witness first-hand the sensory details you want to convey: sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. Depending on the place, you may not need to include all five senses, but include as many as necessary to help readers gain this sense of place.


Visiting the location is best. However, if visiting is not possible, rely on your memory and talk with others who may also remember. Describe this place with vivid wording. Avoid saying "you" in the paper to let the readers experience this sense of place as you may have done so. You also may be informal and use first-person.

Vivid Descriptions

Instead of just telling your location, show it. Allow the reader to feel the environment through your words. For example, saying, "I am now walking in the local town park" is too much of an announcement and lacks descriptions. However, saying, "I walk the trails at the park while enjoying the warm summer air and gentle breeze" creates a sense of place.


In descriptive essays, verbs are stronger than nouns. For example, saying, "I stroll through the park in a care-free manner" sounds stronger than saying, "My stroll through the park is care-free." Notice the differences in the first and second example: the elimination of passive voice (is) as well as changing the noun (stroll) to a verb (stroll). Using active voice instead of passive also makes your writing stronger.


When writing a sense-of-place essay, your descriptions can be positive, negative or a mix of both. Perhaps you encountered a place that causes your senses to react negatively. For example, a writer may talk about a pain-filled hospital visit or a shopping mall with rude customers. Allow your unique experience to show, whether it be a negative or positive one.

Capture Your Readers' Attention

Make sure your essay conveys the actual feelings you encounter when you visited this place. The more authentic the essay remains to your own experiences, the more you will capture your readers' attention. Your intention is to help your readers experience a place they may never have visited before.

About the Author

Jeremy Miller has poetry and stories published in "ALCA-lines, Journal of the Assembly on the Literature and Culture of Appalachia." He received his MS in English from Radford University and has taught as an adjunct English Instructor since 2010 at Wytheville Community College.

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