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The Key Elements Of A Descriptive Essay: A Writing Guide


A descriptive essay requires you to paint a beautiful picture using words. How do you do this? How do you get the reader to experience the thing you are describing, so they can see, hear, smell and feel it? Mostly it’s in the choice of words. You want to provide the reader with a lot of description yet at the same time give them opportunity to fill in some of the blanks.

Your tools to accomplish this task are words, appeal to the senses, spatial order, and how you make an impression. We use our senses to take in information about the world around us. Therefore, it makes sense to give impressions using the senses to help create a vivid picture in a sense. Of course, you can only use words to accomplish this task.

Appealing to the senses involves the following

  • Sight – visual images are intense and long-lasting. You can’t use pictures to accomplish this, but you can certainly use descriptive writing so that your reader can paint their own picture in their mind with the help of your words.
  • Hearing – have you ever been startled by the sudden honking of a horn, or deafened by the sound of a passing train? Hearing is important to use in appealing to your reader’s senses.
  • Smell – the fragrant sweet smell of freshly opened peach blossoms is enough to make your mouth water. Let your reader really feel what it must have been like to smell the object you are describing.
  • Touch – since infancy most people have a hard time overcoming the urge to want to touch everything they see. Touch can serve as a foundation for all the sense experiences. Do you feel the warm sunlight kissing your skin? Or do you shiver in the chill of the wind? This sets a backdrop to add descriptions of other senses into to make the experience complete.
  • Taste – this is usually incorporated when the subject matter involves food, and in that case it can really add spice to your paper. Otherwise, this sense is used sparingly or not at all. You could however, sneak it in for certain circumstances. For example, she licked the flavor of the salty sea from her parched lips.

The senses are your paints and paint brushes to make a picture for your readers. While you will fill in most detail, sometimes give your reader the opportunity to fill in the blanks.

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