This post will not focus on the structure of the essay so much as the content of the essay. For the structure, please check out this link. These are some principles that will make your descriptive writing much better. The main principle here is to "show" the reader, not just to "tell" them.
Use Imagery - the 5 senses - What do you touch, taste, feel, hear, or smell? If you can include 2-3 of these senses in each description you are doing a much better job of "showing" the reader something, rather than just telling them.
Bad Example: The car was fast.
Good Example: The bright red Ferrari Testarossa burned its tires and screeched down the road at a blazing speed and left a rubbery odor in the air.
The second example uses colors, sounds, and smells. Also, you can see how much easier it is to write more sentences with description than just "telling" the reader about your situation.
Here is a Video on the 5 senses.
Be specific - Avoid words like good, bad, tall, short, big, small, nice, pretty, etc. Be sure to use a thesaurus to help you find more interesting synonyms that hold more meaning than the overused words that are above.
Bad example: The nice boys did a good job.
Good example: The friendly and jovial children did commendable work.
Here is a video on Being Specific.
Use Figurative Language - Sometimes the best way to describe something is to talk about something else. One way to do this is called figurative language. There are many forms of figurative language, but I will give you just a few example. Simile (comparing using "like" or "as", Metaphor "comparing without "like" or "as", Hyperbole (exaggeration), and Personification
( giving a non-human human-like qualities). Check out my videos on the site for these forms of figurative language.
Bad example: The man was slow.
Good example: The man was like a turtle on a chilly morning.
Tips For Teachers:
- Bring in pictures of different scenes and have students write descriptive about the pictures using the three principles above.
- "Outlaw" boring words like "good, big, small, nice, etc." in student writing.
- Write a "boring" sentence/paragraph using "telling" rather than "showing," then have students rewrite the sentences to "show" much better.
- Create an exercise where students must use only pronouns to describe a target object/person to a partner without the other partner know the object. "It has..," "He is like....", "It smells like..." and have students describe a target object to partner until they guess what it is through the descriptions of partners.
- Have students go to a busy place on campus or in the town your school is and describe in writing the scene around them. (You can also include some grammar points in your assignment here, i.e. present progressive.)
I have found these principles to make writing much more fun and engaging for students overall, and I hope that you do too! Please let me know if you have any more good ideas for description!
To write a narrative essay, you’ll need to tell a story (usually about something that happened to you) in such a way that he audience learns a lesson or gains insight.
To write a descriptive essay, you’ll need to describe a person, object, or event so vividly that the reader feels like he/she could reach out and touch it.
Tips for writing effective narrative and descriptive essays:
- Tell a story about a moment or event that means a lot to you--it will make it easier for you to tell the story in an interesting way!
- Get right to the action! Avoid long introductions and lengthy descriptions--especially at the beginning of your narrative.
- Make sure your story has a point! Describe what you learned from this experience.
- Use all five of your senses to describe the setting, characters, and the plot of your story. Don't be afraid to tell the story in your own voice. Nobody wants to read a story that sounds like a textbook!
How to Write Vivid Descriptions
Having trouble describing a person, object, or event for your narrative or descriptive essay? Try filling out this chart:
What do you smell?
What do you taste?
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What might you touch or feel?
Remember: Avoid simply telling us what something looks like--tell us how it tastes, smells, sounds, or feels!
- Virginia rain smells different from a California drizzle.
- A mountain breeze feels different from a sea breeze.
- We hear different things in one spot, depending on the time of day.
- You can “taste” things you’ve never eaten: how would sunscreen taste?
Using Concrete Details for Narratives
Effective narrative essays allow readers to visualize everything that's happening, in their minds. One way to make sure that this occurs is to use concrete, rather than abstract, details.
…makes the story or image seem clearer and more real to us.
...makes the story or image difficult to visualize.
…gives us information that we can easily grasp and perhaps empathize with.
…leaves your reader feeling empty, disconnected, and possibly confused.
The word “abstract” might remind you of modern art. An abstract painting, for example, does not normally contain recognizable objects. In other words, we can't look at the painting and immediately say "that's a house" or "that's a bowl of fruit." To the untrained eye, abstract art looks a bit like a child's finger-painting--just brightly colored splotches on a canvas.
Avoid abstract language—it won’t help the reader understand what you're trying to say!
Abstract: It was a nice day.
Concrete: The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face.
Abstract: I liked writing poems, not essays.
Concrete: I liked writing short, rhythmic poems and hated rambling on about my thoughts in those four-page essays.
Abstract: Mr. Smith was a great teacher.
Concrete: Mr. Smith really knew how to help us turn our thoughts into good stories and essays.