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Descriptive Essay


"Descriptive essays rely on the effective use of language to enable the reader to visualize a scene."

Of all essay types, the descriptive essay is the one which requires most creative writing ability as it is based on the ability of the writer to facilitate the visualization of a scene, evoking sensory reactions and responses. Much of the writing will be adjectival but the use of other semantic fields, such as adverbial, will also be employed.

Before beginning to write a descriptive essay, the writer should consider the audience for which it is intended as clearly this will influence choices made regarding language, syntax and level of sensory perception. For example, you would not describe a beach in the same way to an adult reader as you would to a child: the first would be likely to emphasise the beauty of the beach, its peacefulness or romantic qualities; the second would be likely to stress the fun of building sandcastles, playing in the sea etc. Of course, there would be a degree of overlap as, for example, with water sports which would appeal to all ages.

The writer should also determine the purpose of the writing i.e. is it primarily to entertain or is the evocation of the scene almost like a ‘painting in words’? In either case, the essay will be likely to employ linguistic devices such as similes and metaphors to aid the description.

The continuing and final focus of a descriptive essay should be to create a scene in the mind of the reader. Often, examination candidates will be asked to write a descriptive essay as part of the process of assessment. The descriptions can range from ‘describe your ideal holiday destination’ to ‘describe the room you are sitting in’. Clearly, the descriptive essay must contain more than pictorial stimulation and also contain descriptions of feelings and emotions.

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