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Descriptive Writing

Updated: Apr 20, 2016
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Writing a Descriptive Essay is similar to painting a picture, only the artist is using words and sentences to recreate a scene, an image, or a picture of something.


It deals with describing a certain image in a visual manner – whether the object is a person or a place – which the reader is supposed to easily visualize as they read.


While a Descriptive Essay may not be the most frequently given writing assignment in higher education, it is one that can be rewarding, especially for those who do it well and take it seriously.


And because it is an exercise in using one’s language – requiring the writer to notice and include just about every element of an image, and name the various objects within an image, describing exactly they are seeing – the Descriptive Essay trains the educated person to excel in the vast number of ways they can use their language, whether spoken or written, as well as the skill of observation, to their benefit.


Writing the Descriptive Essay


Writing a Descriptive Essay begins, of course, with an image – with an image that the writer can see, which is also generally right in front of them. It should be an object they can also clearly understand and describe in relatively simple language.


If the student is to choose an image of a person or of a group of people, they may want to describe a painting at length. Many paintings, such as portraits, illustrate simple scenes with people standing in a room, or in a park, in a garden, or in a subway.


It is best for the student – who is developing their reading and writing skills, who must describe an image that features people – to choose a painting that illustrates something familiar to them, so they can easily identify its elements and objects and find the vocabulary needed to describe it.




See also:


     Descriptive Essay Outline

     Descriptive Essay Sample

     33 Catchy Descriptive Essay Topics




The same goes for the writer describing an image that does not feature or include people, which could then, of course, be a place. In this type of image, the most important feature could be a landscape, for example.


The student should then be able to describe what is happening in the picture: Is it a picture of a young child playing on the beach on a hot summer day? Is it the view from a second-floor balcony of a college library and looking down at several students head-deep in their studies? Is it a painting of a mountain range in fall, the leaves of trees in beautiful, different colors and patterns?


Describing what is happening in the image helps communicate to the reader what exactly they are supposed to be imagining.


Once this is accomplished, the writer can then focus on describing the structuring of the image.


In the scene with the young child playing on the beach, where is the beach exactly? Is it in the right of the image, the sand and beach to the left, with the child playing in the middle? In the library image, how are the students scattered on the first floor? Are they grouped together or split apart? And are the mountains, in the other picture, only showing in the far right of the image? Is a small village to the left?


For the reader to see the image in words, they must be told the placement of the main characteristics and elements of that image.


Finally, the student writing a Descriptive Essay must then focus on the elements of this image. 


Once the reader has a good idea of what is being described to them, the writer can then focus on breaking down the certain elements and specifics of the image. This includes colors, shapes, textures, the physical relationship of people in the image, what they are wearing, the colors of their clothes, the expressions on their face, what it looks like they are doing, thinking, feeling; this includes, for example, the type of desks that the students are sitting at in the library, either plastic or a dark-brown, a wooden color, or if the students seem to be reading large books or from their notes, or taking a glass of water from plastic cup, or nodding off in dark-blue couch.


When the student has completed the Descriptive Essay, a reader should be able to imagine the described image in its entirety.


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