How to Write a Descriptive Essay That Educates Your Reader

Ever since you were little, you’ve been learning how to describe objects, experiences, and even your own feelings in more and more detail. From the color, shape, texture, scent, and taste of your favorite dessert to what happened over the weekend and how it made you feel, descriptions are a big part of communicating with others. And learning how to accurately describe things is a skill that will come in useful throughout your lifetime.

Just think what it would be like if you were trying to tell a story and you couldn’t think of a single adjective to describe the person, place, thing, or idea you were trying to share with others. It wouldn’t take long before you became frustrated and your audience lost interest in what you had to say.

Descriptions are important. And the more practice you get with describing things the better—which is why you’ve now been asked to write a descriptive essay in school.

What is a Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay is a style of writing in which you provide the reader with a detailed description of something such as an object, subject, location, event, thought, or feeling. The purpose of writing a descriptive essay is that it’s the perfect medium for sharing your personal experience with others in a written format.

For example, you can elaborate on your favorite hiking trail or relay information about an event you witnessed in person. In either case, you are educating the reader about something they, themselves, may not have experienced firsthand.

Descriptive essays are a genre of essay writing like many others. But they differ in that you’re not trying to convince the reader of anything or persuade them to do something. Instead, you’re simply providing them with a vivid illustration of something in your own words.

Requirements for a Descriptive Essay

Following the essay rubric provided by your teacher is a sure way to receive a top grade. As you meet each requirement on your rubric, check it off so that you can keep track of what you’ve already accomplished and what parts of your essay still need to be worked on.

Once you’re sure that all of the requirements for a descriptive essay in your class have been met, ask to review the rubric and your essay with your teacher. They can identify any areas of your descriptive essay that may be weak and need additional work before you turn in your final draft.

If your teacher is currently busy with other students, checking in with a classmate for a peer review can help you strengthen your writing. Oftentimes, your peers can tell you which parts of your essay they really liked and which parts of your essay they didn’t care for so you can reword those sections and add extra detail.

Lastly, use the following checklist which identifies common requirements for descriptive essays:

  • I have chosen a clear topic on one person, place, thing, or idea
  • I have written an introductory paragraph that informs the reader about the topic I have chosen
  • I have included a topic sentence at the beginning of my introductory paragraph that hooks the reader
  • I have included a thesis statement at the end of my introductory paragraph that clearly states the thing being described in the essay and why I’ve chosen to describe it
  • I have provided vivid detail in each body paragraph that paints a picture for the reader
  • I have written a concluding paragraph that wraps the essay up and gives the reader closure
  • I have ensured that all spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors have been corrected

By checking the rubric, meeting with your teacher and a peer, and using the checklist above, you will have met all of the descriptive essay requirements in no time.

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Topics for a Descriptive Essay

Want to come up with a list of essay topics that never ends? If so, you can easily do that with descriptive essays because literally anything in the world can be described in written format. And that includes any object that you can touch or even abstract ideas that you can think about.

Of course, the never-ending possibilities make it easier for some students to know what they want to write about, while others feel overwhelmed by all of their options. No matter which type of student you are, finding the right topic for your descriptive essay is important.

Here are 10 topics for a descriptive essay that you may want to write about:

    • Your favorite comic book/book/movie/song

    • A dream vacation you’d like to take

    • The earliest memory you have from childhood

    • How your parent’s divorce affected you

    • What it was like losing a family member

    • The career you would like to have someday

    • A trip to the amusement park of your choice

    • What your typical weekend looks like

    • How you want to decorate your bedroom at home

  • The best/worst food you’ve ever tasted

While considering all of your options, remember to choose a descriptive essay topic that you can go into detail about at length. You don’t want to be in the middle of writing and realize that you don’t have much left to say.


Descriptive Essay Structure

When writing your descriptive essay in class, you’ll want to format it in the basic descriptive essay structure. Similar to other types of essays you’re already familiar with, descriptive essays are typically a minimum of five paragraphs.

And the five paragraphs you’ll be expected to write are in the following order:

  • An introductory paragraph that serves as a presentation to the reader on what the essay is going to be about.
  • A body paragraph with a set topic and plenty of detail.
  • A second body paragraph with a set topic and plenty of detail.
  • A third body paragraph with a set topic and plenty of detail.
  • A concluding paragraph that briefly summarizes the essay and brings it to an end.

Your teacher requires you to follow the basic descriptive essay structure because it helps you keep your thoughts organized in a logical way. Plus, it allows your audience to know what to expect from your essay as they read through it.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

Ready to get started on writing your descriptive essay but don’t know where to start?

Discovering how to write a descriptive essay that wows your teacher and earns you a top grade begins with understanding that there are several steps in the writing process. Skipping any of these steps may save you a small amount of time and effort, but it will reflect in your grade.

The first step is to review what is being asked of you. Read the rubric several times, ask questions, and complete the checklist provided above. Then, read some descriptive essay examples to see how others have tackled this assignment.

The second step is to start the planning process. Creating an outline and/or completing a graphic organizer is a great way to get your thoughts organized and show you any gaps that may need to be addressed.

The third step is to start writing. Using your notes as a guide, write the first draft. Make note of any sections you may need to revisit later.

The fourth step is to read your first draft in its entirety. Review the rubric, conduct a peer review, and ask your teacher for advice.

The fifth, and final, step is to revise your first draft. Take into account any advice others have given you. And use digital tools to correct your spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.

By looking at your assignment as a series of important steps, you will feel less overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Plus, you will craft a more effective essay.


Descriptive Essay Examples

No one is born knowing how to write automatically. Writing is an art form. And the best way to become a proficient writer is to learn more about the process of writing then get as much practice writing on your own as possible.

But just like with any other skill, you can’t keep doing the same old thing over and over again and expect to become better at it. Watching others perform the same skill shows you where your own strengths and weaknesses lie.

And when it comes to writing, you have two options to perfect your skill: watch as your teacher demonstrates the art of writing in front of you and read descriptive essay examples from various writers.

So, here are some descriptive essay examples you can use as a new learning experience for you:


Do you know how to write a descriptive essay in school? Sure you do! With this helpful guide and years of practice describing a variety of things under your belt, you can write a descriptive essay that educates your reader on any topic of your choice.

All it takes is thinking deeply about what you want to describe and how you want to describe it then putting those thoughts down on the page. If you can describe something out loud, you can describe it in words just as easily. Try it. You might be surprised at just how good you are at describing the world around you.

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