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LEO: Literacy Education Online
Descriptive Essays


Descriptive writing portrays people, places, things, moments and theories with enough vivid detail to help the reader create a mental picture of what is being written about.

Things to Consider as You Write Your Descriptive Essay

  • Think of an instance that you want to describe.
  • Why is this particular instance important?
  • What were you doing?
  • What other things were happening around you? Is there anything specific that stands out in your mind?
  • Where were objects located in relation to where you were?
  • How did the surroundings remind you of other places you have been?
  • What sights, smells, sounds, and tastes were in the air?
  • Did the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes remind you of anything?
  • What were you feeling at that time?
  • Has there been an instance in which you have felt this way before?
  • What do you want the reader to feel after reading the paper?
  • What types of words and images can convey this feeling?
  • Can you think of another situation that was similar to the one you are writing about? How can it help explain what you are writing about?
  • Is there enough detail in your essayto create a mental image for the reader?

Conventions of Descriptive Essays Illustrated by Sample Paragraphs

  • Appealing-to-the-Senses Description: Let the reader see, smell, hear, taste, and feel what you write in your essay.
  • Spatial-Order Description: Show the reader where things are located from your perspective.
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© 1995, 1996, 1997 The Write Place
LEO: Literacy Education Online
LEO: Literacy Education Online

This handout was written by Heidi Everett and revised for LEO by Judith Kilborn for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University. It may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writers; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.
Last update: 28 September 1997
URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/descriptive.html