Descriptive Essay by Shmoop

By: Shmoop

Descriptive Essay, a la Shmoop. A Descriptive Essay is exactly what it sounds like...'s a piece of writing about a person, place, memory, situation, or... cat, that you describe in detail.

The process of reading your never-ending prose can be an agonizing experience for the reader if the descriptions are predictable ... For example: My cat is fluffy. He likes tuna. I love him very much. Still awake? This description tells the reader nothing new or special or memorable. There is nothing that differentiates this cat from the millions of other pet cats in the world. The key to a good description is to surprise the reader. No jumping out of closets, please. But you will need to get their attention by providing unique and memorable details.

For example: My cat, Pirate, has one eye and three legs. He gets into a lot of bar fights. He shows his affection by puking hairballs onto my sheets while I'm asleep. Sometimes he grooms me by licking my arms with his rough tongue, leaving behind streaks of slimy saliva that smell strongly of rotten fish. Okay, so this could still describe just about any cat in the world. With the exception of the "one eye, three legs" bit. But at least it's more descriptive. One of the key things to remember when you write your descriptions is that you need to engage your readers' five senses: Touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. If they've got a sixth sense, try to engage them on that level, too.

Maybe get some of the dead people to help. Make your readers live your experience by filling in all the details they'll need in order to inhabit your memories. It's okay—there's plenty of room in there, and company's welcome. Pay close attention to your language; you don't want a line to sit dully on the page when a different word choice could really make a sentence pop. A popular way to liven up descriptions is to use similes and metaphors, or to compare one thing to another.

Descriptive Essay by Shmoop

Like apples and oranges. Peas and carrots. Anchovies and ice cream. Hey, don't judge. Maybe we just have a really sophisticated palate. This comparison can be made briefly, within a particular description... ..

or the thread of comparison can run throughout the entire paper. Which is a great way to fit in your cardio for the day. Your standards for your comparisons don't have to be sky high. If you succeed in entertaining your reader, then your essay is a success. Another important thing to remember as you write the Descriptive Essay is to keep it focused.

It's easy to meander and lose your way once you start describing something. And your GPS won't help you here. To guard against this pitfall, it's a good idea to describe in a line or so your purpose for writing the essay. Dig deeper.

Is it to convince the reader that your grandma's chili is the best in the world? Or that the swamps of Florida are an awesome place to wrestle crocodiles? Then let all of the descriptions and details grow out of this sentence. Okay, now it's time for you to do some describing on your own. May the adjectives be with you.

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