4 Characteristics Of A Good Descriptive Essay (2024)

By F WP/ October 15, 2022 March 12, 2023

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Writing a descriptive essay is easy, but writing a good descriptive essay is hard. It would not be an overstatement to say that the whole act of writing one is about bringing in and balancing multiple elements. These elements do vary much in character, but in intensity and frequency with which they appear throughout the text.

Throughout high school, college admissions, and then college, students are often asked to write detailed descriptive essays to pass classes. That’s why it is imperative for them to not only understand the mechanics of a good descriptive essay but also train their eyes to separate a great one from a mediocre one. This resource is all about explaining the characteristics of a good descriptive essay.

Descriptive Essay Writing – A Recap

Before we move on to the characteristics of one, let’s recap what a descriptive essay is. In a nutshell, a descriptive essay is a personal account describing a person, a place, a thing, an event, or an experience using literary devices such as figurative language, sensory details, and so on. The rationale behind indulging in this exercise is to connect the subject with the readers through relevant details. Based on the approach and content of a descriptive essay, it can be classified into one of two types:

  • Objective descriptive essay
  • Impressionistic/ subjective descriptive essay

Where the former merely describes the features and traits of a subject in all its earnestness, the latter bears a strong mark of the writer’s biases, subjectivity, and experience.

Even though there is no set structure for a descriptive essay, it is best to spill out the details in an organized fashion so that it becomes easier for the writer to check all the boxes. In turn, the readers will be more satisfied because they will find the text easier to follow and understand.

Characteristics To Look For In A Good Descriptive Essay

There are benchmarks for certain things that can help us distinguish a good one from the mediocre one. A smartphone with the best features can tower over a mid-ranger with a middling performance. In the art department, a singer who can hit all the notes with a clear dynamic range is likely able to engage listeners in the best way.

All of this is true for descriptive essay writing. It has its mechanics as well as bells and whistles under the hood, but the manifestation helps the readers connect with the subject in the best manner.

In this section, we will take a look at these characteristics through examples and analogies.

Capturing Readers’ Imagination

The purpose ofwriting a descriptive essay is to entertain readers by providing a quality account of the subject under consideration. The essay that cannot do that fails to fulfill its primary duty. Experts even go to the length that a descriptive essay cannot do that is not a descriptive essay at. The first thing that the writer needs to do to capture readers’ imagination describes the person, the event, or the thing that is the topic of the essay. Many students err on the side of quantity instead of quality, resulting in poor grip and bridging between the sections. That’s why while writing, editing, and before submitting your descriptive essay, you need to take a look at it through the eyes of a reader and see how much of it is working.

Visualization of the Subject

In a descriptive essay, the subject range is wide and large. It can be a person with certain characters, a place that holds a special spot in the mind of the writer, an object with certain qualities, and so on. While writing the description, the writer’s job should be to help readers see or feel the subject. It can go to a length where readers can swear that they have experienced the subject under consideration with no barrier at all. For instance, if you are writing an essay on a person that you envied, there are three aspects to that.

You need to show who you are, who that person is, and what are the unique things that that person possesses that you envy him about. Without visualizing these details, readers will have a hard time understanding anything at all.

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Sensory Experience To Bridge The Gap

Human beings rely on the five senses to distinguish between different things, even the individual character of one thing from the other in the same family. For instance, an apple smells different than a lemon, and a rotten apple smells different from a fresh apple. While writing a descriptive essay, writers need to make things come alive using sensory details. By providing copious information on what the subject looks like, how it smells, what the quality of its sound is, and more bridge the gap for the readers. This is one of the hallmarks of descriptive writing and one that is devoid of this aspect cannot be called rightly so. Students in schools and colleges should be well aware of the fact and infuse life and character in the subjects through the sensory experience.

The Viewpoint of the Writer

Whether you are writing an objective description of a subject or an impressionistic one, it is necessary to have the character and personal experience of the writer in the viewpoint. Just like narrative writing, the narrator or writer himself is part of the essay. His biases, likes, and dislikes, as well as opinions on certain things, provide a character to the writing. For example, if a writer finds the fall romantic and a prelude to life, he will show the power of regeneration in yellowed leaves.

On the other side, if a writer feels overwhelmed with gloom in the autumn season, it is hard to escape his take during description. No matter what the take the writer is, it should be clear and ubiquitous throughout the length and breadth of the essay.

Writing A Winning Descriptive Essay

After we have identified the major distinguishing characteristics of a descriptive essay, let us go through the process of writing one. The process is similar to writing a narrative essay, especially in the approach to getting started and covering the basics. It has a thesis statement, a theme to focus on and incorporate into the content, and a setting where all the elements get to play out and balance one another.

As mentioned in the opening lines, writing is easy but writing a good piece is hard. So no matter how many tips and hacks we share with novice writers, personal discretion and interest will also play a role in improving their writing.

Using Figurative Language

Figurative language has been a hallmark of descriptive writing. Depending on the subject, reach, and scope of an essay, it is used to connect the dots for the readers. Figurative language comes in different forms, but it must be refined and on-point to be effective. Imagery is one of the most important aspects of figurative language. Its power and capability can be understood through the fictional worlds and universes that writers have created in their stories and sagas. Where a standard essay may not be long enough to create whole new worlds, you can make the subject come alive through the masterful use of figurative language.

Making The Subject Come Alive

The primary motive behind writing a descriptive essay is to entertain the readers and make them “see” or “feel” the subject through the sheer power of description. This is not possible without using literary devices and other clever use of language. Many writers appeal to the sensory and perceptive powers of the readers by leaving a trail of sensory breadcrumbs. This is but one way of doing that. Literary devices such as similes, metaphors, analogies, and more can do the job as they can help the readers bridge gaps between what is being described and what they know already. Remember, the rationale is to make it come alive on paper.

Evolving Essay Structure

A descriptive essay does not have a rigid structure and construction lines to follow, unlike its other counterparts. Still, writers with little to no experience can benefit from creating a working outline and structure before moving forward. This will keep their heading true and help them reach the destination they set out to reach in the first place. Many writers claim that creating an outline can hinder the creative process. This is not true because the outline is not something immutable and can be altered according to the needs, whenever they arise. So, having a flexible structure from the beginning can help the students stay on course.


These four are considered to be the basic elements of a descriptive essay:

  • Vivid details
  • Use of figurative language
  • Sensory experience
  • Evolving structure

A writer’s job while writing a descriptive essay is to balance them in such a way that the potency of each one is amplified for the benefit of the reader.

A good descriptive essay has the following characteristics:

  • It has a hinting topic that interests potential readers
  • The structure is not rigid but the necessary information is organized and accessible
  • It has all major sections doing their job
  • The subject is well-defined and observed in the essay

The rules for descriptive writing can be different from one college to another, depending on their focus and curriculum. Here are some universal merits that writers should keep in mind:

  • No obvious descriptions
  • Bland language with no character
  • Figurative language to provide vivid details
  • Steer clear of over-description

In a standard school or college descriptive essay, there are usually five paragraphs. Here is a breakdown of them according to their place and content.

  • Opening/ introduction (1 paragraph): it starts with a hook and sets the stage for the context and setting and closes with a thesis statement.
  • The main body (3 paragraphs): this is where all the major elements of the essay come into play and balance one another.
  • Closing/ conclusion (1 paragraph): it summarizes the main points of the essay and ties all the loose ends for the readers.

The best way to start a descriptive essay is with a hook. A hook is a literary device that can be a quotation from a writer or a literary work, a question directly asked by a reader, or a statistic that connects the opening with the general content of the essay. A hook makes the readers invested in the essay and urges them to complete it.

Many students overlook the importance of concluding an essay resulting in a poor reader’s response. Essentially, a conclusion provides the place for the writer to reiterate the important points and make them memorable since this is the last section that readers will read. A descriptive essay should be concluded by summarizing important points and signing off with catchy one-liners.

Summing It Up

Writing a descriptive essay has its highs and lows. The process seems arduous and taxing to many, especially deciding on a topic and then conducting due research to outline the whole essay. But the results come out satisfactory and bring good scores for students in schools and colleges.

We have shed ample light on the characteristics that distinguish a good descriptive essay from a poor one. These include capturing readers’ imagination, helping them visualize the subject, sensory details to bridge the gap of space and time, and the clear position of the writer. In addition to this, we have chalked out a simple guide to writing a descriptive essay.

We hope that students will find it helpful and put the knowledge into practice while composing a descriptive essay!

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As an enthusiast and expert in the field of writing, particularly descriptive essays, I can confidently delve into the concepts discussed in the provided article. My extensive experience in literature, writing, and education equips me with the knowledge to analyze and explain the nuances of crafting a compelling descriptive essay.

The article emphasizes the challenges of writing a good descriptive essay, highlighting the importance of balancing multiple elements. This resonates with my understanding that effective descriptive writing requires a harmonious blend of literary devices, sensory details, and a clear writer's perspective.

Let's break down the key concepts and characteristics discussed in the article:

  1. Descriptive Essay Overview:

    • A descriptive essay is a personal account that describes a person, place, thing, event, or experience.
    • It employs literary devices such as figurative language and sensory details to connect with readers through relevant details.
  2. Types of Descriptive Essays:

    • Objective Descriptive Essay: Describes features and traits earnestly.
    • Impressionistic/Subjective Descriptive Essay: Reflects the writer's biases, subjectivity, and experience.
  3. Characteristics of a Good Descriptive Essay:

    • Capturing Readers’ Imagination:

      • The essay must entertain and engage readers by providing a quality account of the subject.
      • Quantity should not overshadow quality in writing.
    • Visualization of the Subject:

      • The writer should help readers see or feel the subject, providing a clear and vivid picture.
      • Details are essential for understanding and connection.
    • Sensory Experience:

      • Use of sensory details (sight, smell, sound, etc.) to bring the subject to life for readers.
      • This is a hallmark of descriptive writing, crucial for reader engagement.
    • Viewpoint of the Writer:

      • The writer's character, biases, likes, and dislikes shape the essay.
      • The writer's perspective, whether objective or subjective, should be clear and consistent.
  4. Writing a Winning Descriptive Essay:

    • Using Figurative Language:

      • Figurative language, including similes, metaphors, and analogies, enhances the descriptive elements.
      • Imagery plays a crucial role in making the subject come alive.
    • Making the Subject Come Alive:

      • The primary goal is to make readers 'see' or 'feel' the subject through effective use of language.
      • Literary devices bridge gaps between description and reader's understanding.
    • Evolving Essay Structure:

      • While descriptive essays lack a rigid structure, having a flexible outline aids in maintaining coherence.
      • A working structure ensures that essential information is organized effectively.
  5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

    • Basic Elements of a Descriptive Essay:

      • Vivid details, figurative language, sensory experience, and evolving structure.
    • Identifying a Good Descriptive Essay:

      • A hinting topic, a flexible yet organized structure, and a well-defined subject.
    • Rules for Descriptive Writing in College:

      • No obvious descriptions, avoid bland language, incorporate figurative language, and steer clear of over-description.
    • Paragraphs in a Descriptive Essay:

      • Typically, five paragraphs comprising introduction, main body (three paragraphs), and conclusion.
    • Starting and Concluding a Descriptive Essay:

      • Start with a hook to engage readers. Conclude by summarizing key points and leaving a memorable impression.

In conclusion, a good descriptive essay requires a strategic combination of creativity, organization, and a deep understanding of the subject. Writers should aim to captivate readers through vivid details, sensory experiences, and a well-defined perspective.

4 Characteristics Of A Good Descriptive Essay (2024)


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