WRITING A DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY
The aim of description is to make sensory details vividly present to the reader. Although it may be only in school that you are asked to write a specifically descriptive essay, description is an important element in many kinds of writing. Description embedded in an argument paper, for example, may be intended to make a position more persuasive. However, in this TIP Sheet we will discuss the descriptive essay as it is commonly assigned by instructors as an exercise in organizing sensory information and choosing vivid details.
Showing vs. telling
Sensory details are details of smell, taste, texture, and sound as well as sight. If you choose "showing" words, those that supply vivid sensory details appropriate to your subject and purpose, you will succeed in showing rather than telling. "Telling" words are usually vague or ambiguous; they can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The following first example mostly makes statements about what is lacking in the room, whereas the second example describes the sights, textures, smells, and sounds of the empty room:
The empty room smelled stale and was devoid of furniture or floor covering; the single window lacked curtains or blinds of any kind.
The apartment smelled of old cooking odors, cabbage, and mildew; our sneakers squeaked sharply against the scuffed wood floors, which reflected a haze of dusty sunlight from the one cobwebbed, gritty window.
"Showing" uses very specific details: cabbage and mildew, scuffed and dusty floors, unwashed windows. Though the writer of the second example does not actually use the word "empty," she nevertheless suggests emptiness and disuse. The suggestion of emptiness in the second example is more vivid than the statement of emptiness in the first. If you don't think the first example is vague, look at another possible interpretation of that empty room:
The sharp odor of fresh paint cut through the smell of newsprint. Four stacked cartons of inkjet printer paper sat squarely in the middle of a concrete floor, illuminated by a shaft of morning light from a sparkling chrome-framed window on the opposite wall.
Do not mistake explanation for description. Explanation is a kind of telling that interjects background material that does not contain sensory details or contribute to the overall effect–a character's motives or history, for example:
The tenants had moved out a week earlier because the house was being sold to a developer. No one had bothered to dust or clean because they assumed the apartment was going to be knocked down and replaced with single-family homes like those built just a block away.
When description devolves into explanation (telling rather than showing), it becomes boring.
Once you are ready to abandon the attempt to explain or to tell about, evaluate your subject in terms of visual, auditory, and other sensory details. Think in concrete terms. The more you are interested in and connected to the subject, the easier it will be to interest your reader, so if you describe a person, choose a person whose characteristics stand out to you. If you describe a place or a thing, choose one that is meaningful to you.
You are painting a picture that must be as clear and real as possible, so observe carefully and, preferably, in person. Note what sets this subject apart from others like it. If the subject is a person, include physical characteristics and mannerisms. Describe abstractions such as personality traits only insofar as you can observe them. For example, do not tell the reader your biology instructor is a neat, meticulous person; show your reader the instructor's "dust-free computer monitor and stacks of papers with corners precisely aligned, each stack sitting exactly three thumb-widths from the edge of the desk." How a subject interacts with others is fair game for description if you can observe the interaction. On the other hand, a subject's life history and world perspective may not be, unless you can infer them, for example, from the photos on his walls or the books on his bookshelf.
Similarly, if the subject of your description is an object or a place, you may include not only its physical appearance but also its geographic, historical, or emotional relevance-as long as you show or suggest it using sensory details, and avoid explaining.
Deciding on a purpose
Even description for description's sake should have a purpose. Is there an important overall impression you wish to convey? A central theme or general point? This is your thesis; organize your essay around it. For example, you might describe your car as your home away from home, full of snack foods, changes of clothing, old issues of the Chico News & Review, textbooks, and your favorite music. Or, you might describe your car as an immaculate, beautiful, pampered woman on whom you lavish attention and money. Just don't describe your car in cold, clinical detail, front to back (or bottom to top, or inside to outside) without having in mind the purpose, the overall impression you want to create. To achieve this impression, you should not necessarily include all details; use only those that suit your purpose.
Avoid telling a story unless it is of central importance to the description or an understanding of it. Keep background information to an absolute minimum or avoid it altogether.
Extended description that lacks organization has a confusing, surreal quality and easily loses readers' interest, so choose an organizational plan. Use whatever progression seems logical–left to right, inside to outside, top to bottom-and stick to it. For example, it does not make sense to describe a person's facial features and hair, then his sonorous voice and impressive vocabulary, and then return to details about his eyebrows and glasses.
A quote from your subject or a brief anecdote about him or her may provide an interesting introduction (or conclusion); dialogue can be a great way to add interest to a descriptive essay. In your introduction, you might be permitted to make general, abstract statements (tell about) your subject or supply background information, as long as you demonstrate these points concretely later in the body of your essay.
Use vivid nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and appropriate metaphors, similes, comparisons, and contrasts. Avoid clichés.
Like the introduction, the conclusion is another place you can get away with reflecting about your subject: Why did you write this description? What is its significance to you? To your reader? If you have achieved your purpose, your conclusion should only confirm in the reader's mind what you have already shown him by your use of selected sensory details.
Writing a descriptive essay is a very useful, interesting and at the same time easy thing. If you do not imagine what means in writing an essay about favorite food - let us show you how to manage with this task. People write papers about things, places, memories, people and other objects. During the process the writer thinks only about his topic.
His main purpose is to make the reader feel the same he feels. When the goal is reached - the job can be considered to be well-done.
Writing an Essay about Favorite Food - it's Easy
In our case, you have to write a favorite food essay. It is very easy as it is a general topic and food is present in every person's life. Descriptive writing on favorite dishes is a kind of self-expression, when you can focus on something, gather your thoughts and display your feelings using only your pen and a list of paper. In educational writing, it is really helpful occupation.
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The result on your paper will be an expression of your individuality, it will be personal - but available for your readers, because you have decided to let other people see what you see, hear what you hear, smell what you smell and feel what you feel.
We would even say the descriptive essay is closely connected to the persuasive one, but in more tricky way - you do not persuade people think as you think, you just let them feel your emotions. Of course, if you know how to write the descriptive essay in right way.
If We Are Still Talking about Tricks
The favorite dish - is a key point you must start from beginning to create and describe your favorite food. Remember the taste and smell of the dish you adore and be amiable to share your feelings connected with it with other people - with your readers.
- Feel free when choosing the subject when you need to describe in paper your favorite food. Forget about a proverb «You are what you eat» and remember the most delicious food you have ever tasted, even if it was a caloric burger or fried steak with unbelievably yummy sauce. However, do not hesitate to write about spinach pie or ginger tea if you really like it.
- In the main body, writing only about physical characteristics can be the most common mistake when creating a descriptive essay about favorite food. If you just describe the dish - good for you, but you have already known details about your favorite dish. Share your feelings about the dish, write about memories associated with it. It is a good idea to show people a picture in your head, even if it just a list of paper with an outline.
- To conclude, speaking about the food - you will always be more inspired to write when are a little hungry. It doesn’t mean you must starve a whole day to create a masterpiece. But try to start your essay few hours before your lunch or dinner. Who knows, maybe your imagination will be broader.
It Is Not a Higher Mathematics
When writing about your favorite pie - let your reader taste this pie and describe his or her emotions about this experience. For example, if the task to write a descriptive essay about my favorite food was mine - I would write my essayabout Lasagna Bolognese.
Beginning from the story when I tried the dish the first time and emotions I felt some years ago to the pretty detailed receipt and my personal advices on cooking it. I will describe this rich tomatoes in Bolognese sauce, appetizing fresh pasta, this stunning taste of béchamel sauce and Italian Parmesan, which completes the incredible taste of my favorite dish. If my reader runs to the store to buy all ingredients needed for Lasagna or order it in the restaurant after reading the article - I will consider that I have coped with the task. Frankly speaking, I have already become hungry when completing the advices for you.
Give the reader the complete picture, do not lose your focus and read your paper after finishing it. Show how good is an idea to taste your favorite dish with your parents and friends behind your family favorite movie.
Remember that there isn't a writer in the world who doesn't cares about reader's opinion and who isn't worried about a feedback he will receive from the auditory. Descriptive writing about my favorite delicious food is a good chance to test yourself, in particular - your imagination, ability to describe and let the people feel your idea.