Introduction For your descriptive essay, choose a subject (a person, a place, an object, etc.)…

Introduction For your descriptive essay, choose a subject (a person, a place, an object, etc.)…

  • Introduction

    For your descriptive essay, choose a subject (a person, a place, an object, etc.) that you know well, for you will need to include many specific details and this can be difficult with a subject with which you are largely unfamiliar. It also helps to choose a subject for which you feel something (positive or negative) as it is difficult to write with interest (or to inspire interest in your readers) about a subject for which you feel nothing.

    Give your description a sense of life by using multi-sensory details. Sight is the easiest of the five senses to use; perhaps because they are used less frequently, the other senses can have a stronger impact. The more senses you appeal to in your description, the stronger your description will be and the more completely your reader will understand your subject. Think of describing your subject to a blind person—in some ways you are. In your essay, you will be showing to your reader a subject with which s/he is unfamiliar and in all likelihood unable to ever see.


  • Where Do I Begin?

    Begin by listing as many details about your subject as you can think of. From there, you can choose the strongest details and discard the rest. If your list is complete enough, you will have too many details to fit into one essay. Then group the details into logical (themed) subgroups that you can turn into paragraphs. Were I to describe my cat, I might arrange the details like this:

    Body Paragraph 1: Physical Characteristics

    • Small, fine boned—I remember that she is not still a kitten when I see the tiny bookcase opening into which she used to crawl.
    • Grey, with a white stripe from her nose running down her chin and then down her belly.
    • Medium length hair.

    Body Paragraph 2: Personality

    • Alternately playful, cuddly, and anti-social
    • Frequently prefers to be near, but not with, a person
    • Does not like to be alone
    • When she thinks she is alone, she will cuddle awhile with the first person she sees
    • Loves to attack people’s hands and shoes

    Body Paragraph 3: Habits

    • Is definitely a creature of habit
    • To signal that she wishes to be taken outside or that she is not finished playing, she pounces on a person’s calf.
    • Once something occurs in one place, it must occur only in that place from now on.
      • Because she was once played with underneath the living room table, she will run under the table when she sees someone take out one of her toys.
      • Has one specific spot in the living room where she likes to have her belly rubbed. Outside of that spot, she will bite the hand of a person who tries to rub her belly.

  • Contextual Details

    Possibilities for your introduction paragraph abound. Try to set your subject in context. If you are writing about a vacation to the Grand Canyon, for example, you might tell when you went or with whom you went. You could situate the location, telling where it is and a few geographical or historical details about it. Were I writing about my cat, I might begin with the Pink Panther movies, from which we took the name Kato. As a kitten, she would in similar manner attack on every occasion and without warning. From these contextual details, move into your thesis statement.


  • Thesis Statement

    Your thesis will identify the subject of your description and should make some statement about that subject. Ideas to consider are lessons that you might have learned from your subject or a strong emotional reaction to your subject. For example, if your paper describes your first 30 mile mountain hike, your thesis might say that making this hike taught you the importance of proper preparation or that it showed you qualities that you did not know you possessed. If your description is about your well-beloved car, you might say that this car represents your desire to have the best things in life. Writing about an animal, you might say that owning a dog taught you responsibility. Were I to write about my cat, I might say that owning such a cat requires having a sense of humor. Possibilities abound. Considering why you chose to write about your subject and what importance that subject has to you will guide you to a thesis statement.


  • Conclusion and Tips

    In your conclusion, refer to your thesis, indicating again what significance your subject holds for you. If you are very careful not to move randomly through your essay, you can elect to place your thesis for this assignment at the end of your essay, in your conclusion paragraph, following the context and description paragraphs.

    As you write, be careful to avoid conversational words and phrases. Do not begin sentences with “Well,…” as in, “Well, I was sure wrong about how long the hike would take.” Such an opening is informal and wrong for an academic essay—even when that essay is a less formal description. Also, avoid talking directly to readers (“As you might have guessed, I was tired and sore by the end of the hike”). Be careful also to avoid clichés. When you add in details or figurative language (similes or metaphors), use your own words rather than oft used phrases. Such phrases, because they are neither unique nor original, lack life. It is much better to consider exactly what you mean by them, and then to say that.

    Ultimately, the assignment calls for a little creativity as you bring to life a subject for your reader. Try to have a little fun with it!

Introduction For your descriptive essay, choose a subject (a person, a place, an object, etc.)…

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