Author: Ian McAllister
How to Write Exciting Descriptive Essays
Descriptive essays will be vitally important for the rest of your life, unless you have no ambition.
What? You don’t believe it? Once you have been promoted to being in charge of a few people you are going to have to write reports on meetings and exhibitions that you attend. You will have to write your recommendations for promotions (or for dismissals). You will have to write descriptions of your pet projects if you want to get them implemented. If you are a technician in a small company, you will have to write workshop manuals and user manuals. All these are just descriptive essays in disguise. Click here for a free book about how to write.
A larger company employs freelance technical writers, and pays them a lot more than they pay the technicians. If you can become a technical writer you will have a good career writing books that are just enormous descriptive essays. You may even be lucky enough to be asked to write something in the “complete idiot” series of books. That will bring you in an ongoing income .
If you become a salesperson, you will probably want to write descriptive essays to guide what you say to your prospects, or to include in sales letters.
If you want to start up your own business you are going to have to write to persuade the bank manager to invest in your business. It won’t be called a descriptive essay, but that is what it will be.
Make money now from descriptive essays
I don’t want you to get the idea that you have to wait till you have passed all your exams before you can make money from your descriptive essays. One fifteen year old schoolgirl put up a website describing the place where she went on holiday.
She is already making thousands of dollars from the website, and expects to pay her way through University. Isn’t that better than selling fried chicken for some extra money?
You can read her essay about her success. Sorry, it’s not on my website so I can’t control any address changes made there. If you are lucky, my link will take you to the right place to click to read her article. Otherwise just do a find (Hold down Ctrl and press F) on NORI, which is the name of the schoolgirl. Her success story just one of many on this page.
Now Nori’s younger sister is longing to learn to write descriptive essays well enough for her father to let her start a business of her own on the web. What an incentive to learn!
Imagine yourself when you finish university (by using my book to pass your exams). The talent scouts from the big businesses are all waiting to snap up the best students. You are offered $50 000 as a starting wage. You say “I suppose if it was interesting enough I could do it as a hobby, for that wage. My website earned me $200 000 last year and I expect it to bring me in half a million dollars this year, so I would have to think hard about working for a measly tenth of that.”
Types of descriptive essays
As you will have noticed from the above, a description can cover a concrete object such as a machine, a process such as the use of the machine, an event such as a conference, a situation, such as growing your own business (fictitious unless you can read the future) among others.
Purpose and dominant impression
Decide what impression you want the reader to get from your descriptive essay. If you are writing a report about a convention that you attended, the aim is to show that you gained enough from the convention to make it worth the money that your employer paid for your trip.
If your aim is to persuade a wholesaler to buy large quantities of indigenous art, your writing must leave the reader with an overwhelming impression of beauty. This is difficult, so you should practice your skills at writing descriptive essays as much as possible.
Arts or Science Exam
A descriptive essay in a science exam is easy if you know your facts. Your job is to describe the facts clearly enough for an ignorant apprentice to work from your description. If you are describing Fasciola hepatica, you should explain what it is near the start of your essay, then you can assume that the reader knows what you mean and shorten it to F. hepatica for future use.
English essays don’t care about the facts in a descriptive essay. I personally would avoid writing descriptive essays in an exam if I had a choice. Descriptive essays need a lot of skill, and a large vocabulary and a lot of luck.
It has been said that a speech always has three versions
- the one you intended to give,
- the one you gave, and
- the one you wish you had given.
If you are writing a descriptive essay for an English language project taking a week to complete, by all means go for it. But in an exam, the best expressions will be on the tip of your tongue, but will only come to you when you are thinking of version 3, the one that you wish you had written!
You have decided on the main impression that you want to leave readers of your descriptive essay. A secondary purpose in English descriptive essays is to demonstrate your literary skills, so try something different if you have a poor vocabulary. Now you want to gather facts, if you don’t already have enough. Research your subject in the usual ways.
Now brainstorm the subject and prepare either a bird nested listing, or a brain map version of your ideas.
Number the ideas in your brain map to show the order in which you will address them.
If you are using a computer, start with the body of your descriptive essays and write the introduction and conclusion afterwards. Of course, if you are handwriting an answer in an exam, that option isn’t open to you.
Make a mental plan to keep your descriptive essays orderly. You can write a description of past or future events in chronological order. You might prefer to describe a concrete object from one end to another. Describing the psychology of consumers could involve both time and a logical progression through the mind.
It is usually a good idea to start with a generalization, then move to finer details as you progress through your descriptive essay.
You have 6 senses so use them
You may think you only have five senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch but we all have a kinaesthetic sense, which tells us about what muscles have moved and what position we are in at the time. If there is a power failure just as you are going to walk through a room with furniture in it, you can manage quite a few steps from memory before you have to start feeling in front of you. Your feedback will be mostly from your kinaesthetic sense. A blind person would rely on sound, smell, touch and kinesthesis
Why does this matter? The more senses you can include in your descriptive essays, the more they will touch your readers. Some people’s minds work almost entirely in the visual field, but others are more affected by sounds.
In fact, it is a good idea to make a checklist of your senses, and go through your composition when you finish, placing tally marks opposite each sense that your description affects. Add more description if one of the senses has few tally marks.
English descriptive essays are meant to be described as you yourself see things, so try to form a bridge between the way you see it and your reader’s mind.
Figures of speech
This is the main reason why I would avoid descriptive essays in an English exam. The best figures of speech will always occur to you after the exam. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t think of any good figures of speech. Some of the best writers in the past wrote such bad descriptions that the reader was expected to skim past them to get on with the story. Sir Walter Scott even mentions in his writing that he expects his readers to skim. You will already have been taught all about figures of speech before you are asked to write descriptive essays.
If you must write descriptive essays in an English exam, try to think of unusual figures of speech that are highly appropriate, to avoid boring the examiner.
For instance, if you want a simile for blunt you could use
- blunt as a hammer
- blunt as a bank manager about your overdraft
but it is unlikely that these would fit your particular essays
You may sometimes be able to bring humor into your work by using unexpected similes, or hyperbole (exaggeration)
If you are not writing for an exam, then you can spend lots of time polishing and re-polishing your figures of speech. An advertising agency can spend several weeks choosing a title for an essay, because every single word matters. Write your descriptive essays, then put them away for a few days before reading and improving them.
You will find places where there is a sharp change of pace in your writing. Change them so that everything flows smoothly. You could read what you have written before going to bed, and write down all the new figures of speech the following morning when you wake up.
Don’t tell them that something is large. If you do, their natural reaction is “I’ll be the judge of that – large is the smallest size at the supermarket!” So tell them that it is the size of three soccer stadiums rolled into one. Make your descriptive essays build pictures in their minds.
Examples are very useful in almost any type of descriptive essays. They will probably even be useful in technical essays, to help your readers to understand your descriptions.
They will definitely be useful in English essays, whether for examples of successful people, or examples of the use of a spanner.
You may sometimes usher in other aspects of your description with examples. If you are describing your attempts to drive a tractor, you might compare it to your experiences with a radio-controlled racing car. Of course, you might find it hard to make the connection in that example, but only you have studied your brain map. It is up to you to make a logical connection from one part of your descriptive essays to another.
So you have a boring subject? Compare it with something more exciting.
Do you have to describe roads? Compare them with the canals (and stink) of Venice, the network of sewers under the City of London, secret passages in castles and navigation channels with references to wreckers making a profit by moving the channel markers. Perhaps you could compare the quality of the road-kill in the city with that of the country. OK who cares if you give the examiner nightmares, at least he won’t be bored with your essay.
Remember the kinaesthetic sense? Try to bring that into your description, but also appeal to the visual aspect of movement. The more you can involve your reader the better.
Don’t be hidebound by a standard close. A close is important, because it carries the message that will stay with your reader, so don’t be boring. The conventional way to close is to refer back to the idea with which you opened your essay. Another way is to project your description to the future.
Descriptive essays are fun to write but you really need more time than you will get in an English exam, so avoid them in exams if possible. If you must write one in an English exam, remember that the other candidates have the same time limit.