How to write a descriptive essay

A descriptive essay gives a clear and detailed definition of a topic. Similar to narrative essays, a descriptive essay needs to be vivid and creative.

This type of essay tests your ability to write and paint the topic with your own words. Generally, you’ll be asked to write descriptive essays in high school or university.

About descriptive essays

A descriptive paper may describe a person, event, process, or object. The author should give a clear description of the topic instead of a metaphorical approach.

Before moving into detailed steps to how to write a descriptive paper,  let’s start with analyzing a really one. 

A short descriptive essay example

On weekend afternoons, I love to play League of Legends in my study room. The game is online, addictive, and enjoyable, but I usually have a good time when I play with my friends. Introductory sentences: Introduce the thing you’ll describe in a subtle way by including it in your introductory sentence. I am in my own space without work and daily stress. I feel the competitive environment resulted from this game’s nature. Impression: Include a personal opinion or experience to add a personal touch.

Usually, we play a 5v5 ranked game, and we always start with a rush to enemy resources. As usual, I follow my support player as my champion is an attack damage carrier and extremely vulnerable. The rest of the team positions themselves to get kills and, of course, enemy resources. Description: Expand on the description of the subject by detailing the scene in the introduction.

Meanwhile, I need to position myself to damage enemy tanks, which are hard to combat. I save my leap for their engagement and press it when they rush on me. While my support tries to protect me, I damage enemy champions and try not to die soon. Because without me, my team wouldn’t be able to win the fight. But, whenever I use my leap, I have no choice but to die. Analogy: Define and tell your feelings and experiences when you do the thing you’re describing in your essay.

Waiting in the base to respawn, I feel hopeless and pray for my friends to win the fight without me. However, I still have high hopes of winning the game as there are many combats to fight. After all, I lost the first fight, but why not try another? Conclusion: Conclude your essay by highlighting the author’s feelings and insights on the subject.

Finding a descriptive essay topic

Your instructor may give you a topic in instructions when writing a descriptive paper. These prompts will often ask you to focus on your own experience. After all, finding a topic shouldn’t be hard as the aim is simply describing something.

Decriptive essay topic examples

These are personal topic examples, but you may be assigned to something outside your own experience. Then, you’ll need to make use of your imagination. You need to paint the scenario with your words.

Imaginative descriptive essay topics

Rarely, you’ll be asked to concentrate on feelings or emotions in general. These are called conceptual descriptive essays.

Conceptual descriptive essay topics

Approaches to descriptive essays

Descriptive essays are usually seen under two main approaches; these are personal and formal descriptive essays. Let’s see their differences and example topics.

Personal descriptive essay

In this type, what matters is your responses and feelings to create empathy among readers. Your essay structure may become random and disorganized as long as you convey your emotions to readers.

As you see from the example below, the focus is to fully communicate with your feelings and create a piece of personal feelings and emotions. Your reader needs to picture your situation.

Personal descriptive essay excerpt

My First Relationship

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I can still remember the fluttering feeling in my chest and the excitement that coursed through my veins when I first laid eyes on him. He was tall, with a mop of curly brown hair and deep brown eyes that seemed to gaze right into my soul. We met in high school, during a class project, and I was immediately drawn to his wit and charm....
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Formal descriptive essay

This one is similar to an argumentative essay. By following an organized and clear essay structure, you aim to describe a set of crucial points about your topic.

Instead of describing your personal approach, follow a more general and broader perspective.

However, although it is a formal paper, don’t overuse formal language and bore your reader. You can still smarten your paper up with elaborative words and phrases, verb tenses, or a nice title.

Formal descriptive essay excerpt

My First Relationship

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The EU's political structure also includes several other bodies, including the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. The European Court of Justice is responsible for ensuring that EU law is applied correctly in all member states, while the European Central Bank manages the EU's monetary policy.
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Descriptive essay best practices

We’ve listed down several best practices along with a few writing tips. Follow these steps and write yourself a properly structured and intriguing descriptive essay.

Use figurative expressions

Metaphors and other linguistic twists are among the elements of figurative language. You better focus on figurative language to make your essay unique and creative.

Let’s see an example where the first is a literal  and the second is a figurative descriptive of the word “school.”

Here, I have used figurative language to describe the “students” as “the future of such a small county”. This sentence is more memorable as your reader doesn’t expect such a figurative and creative approach to describing a schoolyard. 

Below you’ll see an extensive example of using a figurative language in descriptive essays. 

Using figurative expressions in writing

The sun slowly sank behind the horizon, casting a warm orange glow across the sky. The world was still, except for the occasional chirping of crickets and the distant hooting of an owl. It was as if nature had created a perfect symphony, with each note blending harmoniously to create a serene melody that soothed the soul. In that moment, it was easy to forget...

Make use of the senses

Giving sensory details of your composition is also essential. Instead of describing how something looks like, you need to describe how they taste, smell, taste, and touch.

Although not every sense is applicable in every setting, try to use them as much as possible. When writing an abstract sentence, you may find it easier to use your senses metaphorically.

Making use of senses in writing

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, mixing with the scent of warm, buttery croissants. The soft hum of chatter and clinking of cutlery filled the cozy cafe, while the gentle warmth of the sun poured through the windows, casting a golden glow across the tables. The barista carefully poured steamed milk into a latte, creating a delicate white design atop, the rich, velvety foam...

Cheat sheet

5-Paragraph Descriptive Essay Example

On this 5-paragraph example, simply hover over with your mouse to see the role of each sentence in the descriptive essay structure. 

The Haunted Mansion: A Spooky and Eerie Place


Nestled in the heart of the dense forest, stood a decrepit old mansion, dilapidated and forgotten, it exuded an eerie presence. Hook sentence The air around it was thick with an unnatural silence, almost as if the very trees whispered hushed warnings to passers-by. The mansion had long been abandoned, left to the mercy of the elements and the ghosts that resided within.Description of the place It was a haunted place that sent shivers down the spine of anyone who dared to venture near it. Thesis statement: Your main argument

Body paragraphs

As one approached the mansion, the chill in the air intensified, and a pervasive sense of dread filled the air. The doors and windows were boarded up, and the paint on the walls was faded and peeling, giving the mansion a sinister appearance. The gardens surrounding it were overgrown with weeds and the once-manicured hedges had grown wild and unkempt.Description of the mansion's appearance It was as if the very land was repulsed by the dark energy emanating from the mansion. How you felt

Entering the mansion was like stepping into a time capsule frozen in time. The furniture was coated in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs hung from the ceiling. The air was damp and musty, and the only sound was the creaking of the old floorboards. Description of the interior The walls were adorned with portraits of long-dead ancestors, their eyes following anyone who entered the room, as if they were silently judging them. In the corners of the room, the shadows seemed to move of their own accord, and whispers echoed through the halls. Describing the feeling

As one explored the mansion, the feeling of being watched grew stronger, and the air grew heavier. The spirits of those who once inhabited the mansion seemed to be still lurking in the shadows, haunting every corner of the building. The sound of doors creaking and footsteps echoed through the halls, even though no one else was present. It was as if the ghosts were still living out their final moments, reliving their traumas over and over again.


After all, the haunted mansion was a place of dark energy and eerie silence. The mansion was abandoned, but the ghosts of those who once lived there still seemed to haunt the place. The feeling of being watched, the creaking of the floorboards, and the shadows lurking in the corners made it a spooky and chilling place. Summarize the essay The feeling of being watched, the creaking of the floorboards, and the shadows lurking in the corners made it a spooky and chilling place. It was a place that sent shivers down the spine of anyone who dared to venture near it.Restatement of the thesis statement The haunted mansion was a testament to the fact that sometimes, the most haunted places are the ones we least expect.Closing sentence

Key takeaways

Now that you’ve seen the steps and examples of writing a descriptive paper, you’re good to go. 

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Osman Sirin
Founder @Tamara Research, Linguistics major and full time digital marketeer, loves dogs, sports, and nature