Descriptive writing is vivid, colorful, and detailed. Follow these examples and try to draw readers deep into your world.
With a deep sigh, Helen sits down at her desk.
Today is her writing day.
Helen is a marketing coach, and she tells herself she must, at last, write her coaching page. How else can she attract more clients?
She sips her Jasmine tea, and mutters to herself that she must stop procrastinating and start writing.
But she feels sooooo uninspired.
She performs a quick Google search for inspiration. Ouch. A search for “marketing coach” generates 462,000 results.
Helen feels scared about competing with thousands of coaches for the same clients. But she understands how she should compete:
She has to describe her service with personality so she can attract her favorite clients. And when she does her best work, clients will rave about her, and her reputation will spread naturally.
The theory sounds good. But Helen feels stuck. How does she describe her coaching offer with more flair?
Shall I explain?
I recently read the thriller “The Quality of Silence” by Rosamund Lupton. From a writing perspective, the numerous descriptions of the coldness caught my attention.
Think about it for a sec … How would you describe a cold day? Extremely cold? Freezing? Ice-cold? It’s so cold you can’t stop shivering?
In the book, Yasmin arrives in Alaska with her deaf daughter Ruby. They drive in 24-hour darkness through the frozen wilderness searching for Ruby’s lost father.
10-year old Ruby’s description of the cold air is full of personality:
It’s FREEZING cold; like the air is made of broken glass. Our English cold is all roly-poly snowmen and ‘woo-hoo! it’s a snow day!’ a hey-there friendly kind of cold. But this cold is mean.
The main storyteller’s voice is grownup, and it describes the cold differently:
Yasmin put on her Arctic parka and face mask and mittens before getting out of the truck. Even so, the cold shocked her; it was like plunging into a lake, not air.
And Yasmin wonders what the color of cold is:
She’d thought the color of cold was white, like snow, or blue perhaps, like on a cold tap, but cold like this was conceived in a place without daylight and was black, the absence of all light and color.
Later in the book, the cold gets worse. Yasmin and Ruby get stuck in a truck in the middle of a snowstorm, without heating:
It’s getting so hard to breathe, my lungs are filling up with ants and there isn’t room for air any more. There’s a monster made of cold, hard as the edge of a pavement, coming towards us in the dark and it’s cutting through the windscreen and doors and windows and the only weapon against it is heat, but we don’t have any heat.
To write descriptions that ooze personality, go beyond the obvious. Think a little harder to find strong imagery to fully engage your reader. This works for anything, whether it’s the scenery in a fiction book, a product description on an ecommerce site, or the service page on your website.
Follow the three steps below to describe anything with oodles of personality …
Writing with personality starts with being more descriptive. Pay attention to details.
Note how many details are in this description of the cold:
She’d seen cold as a predator, made of the dark, as if it were alive. But she felt it now as vastly, cruelly impersonal; a frozen darkness absorbing you into itself. She felt it filling her hollow spaces, embedding itself as icy marrow in her bones and then consciousness seeped away from her into the Arctic blackness.
And here’s how Vitamix applies the same technique, describing precisely why their mixers are durable:
A key to long motor life is preventing it from overheating. In addition to the overload protection that’s built into every blender, Vitamix engineers have been working for decades to perfect airflow circulation around the motor, precisely channeling a controlled amount of air to the places that need it most. The result is a quieter, more reliable motor that will serve you for years to come.
And studio Neomam describes exactly how they develop link-worthy content for their clients. One of the steps they describe is how they test their content:
Before we hit up journalists we test your content with a real audience of at least 1,000 people using Reddit.
We make adjustments based on audience feedback, so we’re confident about the success of your content even before we start pitching.
No matter what service you supply, it’s easy to think your clients know what you do.
But do they really? Probably not.
So, take a potential client by the hand and show her, step by step, what you do for her and how you make her life better. Don’t skimp on the details.
Have you considered what cold smells like?
She smelled the cold and then realized that it was an absence of all odors. She wondered if it was because her airways were not functioning properly – she could feel the little hairs in her nose freezing – or if it was that in this degree of cold no molecules could permeate the air.
When you appeal to the senses, readers experience your content as if they can really see, feel, hear, smell or taste it.
The copywriters at Innocent know this, and they turn drinking a smoothie with pineapples, bananas and coconut into a sunny, sensory experience:
(…) this drink tastes of sunshine. Not that watery stuff that you get in the UK for five or six days of the year, but the great, clear, life-affirming rays that you’ll only find where these fruits are grown. So even if you’ve used up your holiday allowance on lots of mini-breaks to Prague and Oslo, you can still find a little bit of the tropics in this recipe. Just close your eyes, whack on the factor 16 and have a mouthful. Il fait soleil.
Sound difficult for a service?
Chris Conner gets pretty close in his description of my business blogging course:
Imagine sitting on a sunny sidewalk at a café …
As you are writing in your journal, your teacher occasionally strolls by to look over your shoulder and help with your work. Henneke’s Enchanting Business Blogging course is as close as you will get to that without buying a plane ticket.
If you struggle to describe your product or service, ask your clients. What was their experience like? Can they provide a detailed description? What experience can they compare your service with?
What impact does the cold have on your body?
She took a breath and the freezing air went into her lungs and she felt them going into spasm. She gasped and more cold air went into her lungs and it was as if she were drowning.
When you read such a vivid description, you can almost feel the cold air and the spasms of your lungs.
The copywriters at Purple use the same writing technique. Here’s how they explain what a comfortable mattress means for you:
The Purple Smart Comfort Grid™ effortlessly isolates motion, so you don’t feel your partner, posterity, or pets when they wiggle about.
The only mattress that intelligently adapts to the human body for mind-blowing, personalized comfort. Translation: Wake up every morning with your happy face on.
When you think about the impact of your service on clients, it’s often best to ask clients to explain it to you. Here’s how Irina Bengtson describes one of my courses:
I loved waking up in the mornings during this class. I knew something exciting was waiting for me—a next lesson, a new assignment or a new comment.
And Louise Rasmussen said it like this:
Henneke’s Enchanting Business Blogging course is like fentanyl for chronic writing pain. For me this course undid 20+ years of misguided writing habits.
Writing your own service description can feel hard. But you don’t have to do it alone. Ask your clients for their input, and use their testimonials throughout your page.
You might think that writing with personality should come naturally.
But writing often doesn’t work like that.
You have to work a little harder to inject personality into your writing. So, follow the three steps. 1. Write with piercing precision. 2. Appeal to the senses and use strong imagery. 3. Let readers feel the personal impact.
That’s how you engage your readers with power and pizzazz.
Let your personality shine.
And discover your writing genius.
Learn how to use precision, sensory details and impact to make descriptive writing more vivid and filled with personality. This tutorial features examples from .
More than many other types of essays, descriptive essays strive to create a deeply involved and vivid experience for the reader. Great descriptive essays achieve this affect not through facts and statistics but by using detailed observations and descriptions.
What do you want to describe?
As you get started on your descriptive essay, it's important for you to identify exactly what you want to describe. Often, a descriptive essay will focus on portraying one of the following:
Ultimately, whatever you can perceive or experience can be the focus of your descriptive writing.
Why are you writing your descriptive essay?
It's a great creative exercise to sit down and simply describe what you observe. However, when writing a descriptive essay, you often have a particular reason for writing your description. Getting in touch with this reason can help you focus your description and imbue your language with a particular perspective or emotion.
Example: Imagine that you want to write a descriptive essay about your grandfather. You've chosen to write about your grandfather's physical appearance and the way that he interacts with people. However, rather than providing a general description of these aspects, you want to convey your admiration for his strength and kindness. This is your reason for writing the descriptive essay. To achieve this, you might focus one of your paragraphs on describing the roughness of his hands, roughness resulting from the labor of his work throughout his life, but you might also describe how he would hold your hands so gently with his rough hands when having a conversation with you or when taking a walk.
How should you write your description?
If there's one thing you should remember as you write your descriptive essay, it's the famous saying: show don't tell. But what's the difference between showing and telling?
Consider these two simple examples:
- I grew tired after dinner.
- As I leaned back and rested my head against the top of the chair, my eyelids began to feel heavy, and the edges of the empty plate in front of me blurred with the white tablecloth.
The first sentence tells readers that you grew tired after dinner. The second sentence shows readers that you grew tired. The most effective descriptive essays are loaded with such showing because they enable readers to imagine or experience something for themselves.
As you write your descriptive essay, the best way to create a vivid experience for your readers is to focus on the five senses.
When you focus your descriptions on the senses, you provide vivid and specific details that show your readers rather than tell your readers what you are describing.
Quick Tips for Writing Your Descriptive Essay
Writing a descriptive essay can be a rich and rewarding experience, but it can also feel a bit complicated. It's helpful, therefore, to keep a quick checklist of the essential questions to keep in mind as you plan, draft, and revise your essay.
A good descriptive paragraph is like a window into another world. Through the use of careful examples or details, an author can conjure a scene that vividly describes a person, place, or thing. The best descriptive writing appeals to multiple senses at once―smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing―and is found in both fiction and nonfiction.
In their own way, each of the following writers (three of them students, two of them professional authors) have selected a belonging or a place that holds special meaning to them. After identifying that subject in a clear topic sentence, they proceed to describe it in detail while explaining its personal significance.
On one corner of my dresser sits a smiling toy clown on a tiny unicycle―a gift I received last Christmas from a close friend. The clown's short yellow hair, made of yarn, covers its ears but is parted above the eyes. The blue eyes are outlined in black with thin, dark lashes flowing from the brows. It has cherry-red cheeks, nose, and lips, and its broad grin disappears into the wide, white ruffle around its neck. The clown wears a fluffy, two-tone nylon costume. The left side of the outfit is light blue, and the right side is red. The two colors merge in a dark line that runs down the center of the small outfit. Surrounding its ankles and disguising its long black shoes are big pink bows. The white spokes on the wheels of the unicycle gather in the center and expand to the black tire so that the wheel somewhat resembles the inner half of a grapefruit. The clown and unicycle together stand about a foot high. As a cherished gift from my good friend Tran, this colorful figure greets me with a smile every time I enter my room.
Observe how the writer moves clearly from a description of the head of the clown to the body to the unicycle underneath. There aren't just sensory details for the eyes but also touch, in the description that the hair is made of yarn and the suit of nylon. Certain colors are specific, as in cherry-red cheeks and light blue, and descriptions help to visualize the object: the parted hair, the color line on the suit, and the grapefruit analogy. Dimensions overall help to provide the reader with the item's scale, and the descriptions of the size of the ruffle and bows on the shoes in comparison to what's nearby provide telling detail. The concluding sentence helps to tie the paragraph together by emphasizing the personal value of this gift.
My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped blond guitar―the first instrument I taught myself how to play. It's nothing fancy, just a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and fingerprinted. At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key. The strings are stretched down a long, slim neck, its frets tarnished, the wood worn by years of fingers pressing chords and picking notes. The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that was slightly damaged in shipping. The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago. No, it's not a beautiful instrument, but it still lets me make music, and for that I will always treasure it.
He emphasizes its condition by the number of different descriptions of the wear on the guitar, such as noting its slight warp; distinguishing between scuffs and scratches; describing the effect that fingers have had on the instrument by wearing down its neck, tarnishing frets, and leaving prints on the body; listing both its chips and gouges and even noting their effects on the color of the instrument. The author even describes the remnants of missing pieces. After all that, he plainly states his affection for it.
Gregory is my beautiful gray Persian cat. He walks with pride and grace, performing a dance of disdain as he slowly lifts and lowers each paw with the delicacy of a ballet dancer. His pride, however, does not extend to his appearance, for he spends most of his time indoors watching television and growing fat. He enjoys TV commercials, especially those for Meow Mix and 9 Lives. His familiarity with cat food commercials has led him to reject generic brands of cat food in favor of only the most expensive brands. Gregory is as finicky about visitors as he is about what he eats, befriending some and repelling others. He may snuggle up against your ankle, begging to be petted, or he may imitate a skunk and stain your favorite trousers. Gregory does not do this to establish his territory, as many cat experts think, but to humiliate me because he is jealous of my friends. After my guests have fled, I look at the old fleabag snoozing and smiling to himself in front of the television set, and I have to forgive him for his obnoxious, but endearing, habits.
The writer here focuses less on the physical appearance of her pet than on the cat's habits and actions. Notice how many different descriptors go into just the sentence about how the cat walks: emotions of pride and disdain and the extended metaphor of the dancer, including the phrases the "dance of disdain," "grace," and "ballet dancer." When you want to portray something through the use of a metaphor, make sure you are consistent, that all the descriptors make sense with that one metaphor. Don't use two different metaphors to describe the same thing, because that makes the image you're trying to portray awkward and convoluted. The consistency adds emphasis and depth to the description.
Personification is an effective literary device for giving lifelike detail to an inanimate object or an animal, and Carter uses it to great effect. Look at how much time she spends on the discussions of what the cat takes pride in (or doesn't) and how it comes across in his attitude, with being finicky and jealous, acting to humiliate by spraying, and just overall behaving obnoxiously. Still, she conveys her clear affection for the cat, something to which many readers can relate.
Once in a long while, four times so far for me, my mother brings out the metal tube that holds her medical diploma. On the tube are gold circles crossed with seven red lines each―"joy" ideographs in abstract. There are also little flowers that look like gears for a gold machine. According to the scraps of labels with Chinese and American addresses, stamps, and postmarks, the family airmailed the can from Hong Kong in 1950. It got crushed in the middle, and whoever tried to peel the labels off stopped because the red and gold paint came off too, leaving silver scratches that rust. Somebody tried to pry the end off before discovering that the tube falls apart. When I open it, the smell of China flies out, a thousand-year-old bat flying heavy-headed out of the Chinese caverns where bats are as white as dust, a smell that comes from long ago, far back in the brain.
This paragraph opens the third chapter of Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts," a lyrical account of a Chinese-American girl growing up in California. Notice how Kingston integrates informative and descriptive details in this account of "the metal tube" that holds her mother's diploma from medical school. She uses color, shape, texture (rust, missing paint, pry marks, and scratches), and smell, where she has a particularly strong metaphor that surprises the reader with its distinctness. The last sentence in the paragraph (not reproduced here) is more about the smell; closing the paragraph with this aspect adds emphasis to it. The order of the description is also logical, as the first response to the closed object is how it looks rather than how it smells when opened.
Inside, the school smelled smartly of varnish and wood smoke from the potbellied stove. On gloomy days, not unknown in upstate New York in this region south of Lake Ontario and east of Lake Erie, the windows emitted a vague, gauzy light, not much reinforced by ceiling lights. We squinted at the blackboard, that seemed far away since it was on a small platform, where Mrs. Dietz's desk was also positioned, at the front, left of the room. We sat in rows of seats, smallest at the front, largest at the rear, attached at their bases by metal runners, like a toboggan; the wood of these desks seemed beautiful to me, smooth and of the red-burnished hue of horse chestnuts. The floor was bare wooden planks. An American flag hung limply at the far left of the blackboard and above the blackboard, running across the front of the room, designed to draw our eyes to it avidly, worshipfully, were paper squares showing that beautifully shaped script known as Parker Penmanship.
In this paragraph (originally published in "Washington Post Book World" and reprinted in "Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art,") Joyce Carol Oates affectionately describes the one-room schoolhouse she attended from first through fifth grades. Notice how she appeals to our sense of smell before moving on to describe the layout and contents of the room. When you walk into a place, its overall smell hits you immediately, if it's pungent, even before you've taken in the whole area with your eyes. Thus this choice of chronology for this descriptive paragraph is also a logical order of narration, even though it differs from the Hong Kingston paragraph. It allows the reader to imagine the room just as if he or she was walking into it.
The positioning of items in relation to other items is on full display in this paragraph, to give people a clear vision of the layout of the place as a whole. For the objects inside, she uses many descriptors of what materials they are made from. Note the imagery portrayed by the use of the phrases "gauzy light," "toboggan," and "horse chestnuts." You can imagine the emphasis placed on penmanship study by the description of their quantity, the deliberate location of the paper squares, and the desired effect upon the students brought about by this location.
Oates, Joyce Carol. "The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art." Kindle Edition, Reprint edition, HarperCollins e-books, March 17, 2009.
Would you like to minimize your academic writing problems? Learn how to write an excellent descriptive essay in 6 easy steps along with stunning.
Universitas Kristen Indonesia
Descriptive paragraphs are often used to describe what a place or an object person looks like, or what a person looks and acts like. Therefore, a good descriptive paragraph provides the reader with an accurate mental picture of the topic of the paragraph whether it is a person, a place or an object.
Read the following paragraphs and pay attention to the numerous descriptive words employed in it.
Jack Collins is the most amazing person I have ever met. He came to my school and talked about his difficult life in prison. He was in prison for 15 years. He made a lot of mistakes when he was young, but now he has changed his life. He saw a lot of violence in prison, so he uses his experience to help secondary school students. Jack is tall and strong. He also looks a little scary because he has some spider tattoos. The thing I remember most is his sensitive personality. He really wants to help young people. I’ve never met anyone like Jack before. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)
To write an effective description, it is not enough to give random pieces of information about the particular object, place, or person, you are describing. You descriptions should create the sense of a dominant or overall impression in your reader. You can achieve this by making each individual sentence you write a part of a picture you would like to show to your reader. For example, when you describe Lake Toba, the dominant impression you want to create could be its beauty or its tranquility. When you describe a person, you might want to present the impression of a diligent, hardworking person. It is a good idea to integrate the dominant impression into the topic sentence. This will help you focus as you write and will leave no doubt in the reader’s mind as to the direction of your thinking. This impression must be supported by all supporting sentences.
My Mother’s Kitchen
My Mother’s Kitchen is not big but it is warm and comfortable. My mother cooks a lot and it smells spicy and sweet. Sometimes she taught my brother and me how to cook. We liked learning new things, working together and making delicious foods. Now I live far away, but I often think of my mother’s kitchen. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)
In order to make vivid descriptions, good writers use sensory images, or details that relate to our five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sentences that make the reader sees an object, hears a sound, touches a surface, smells an odor, or tastes a flavor are very effective in descriptive writing. Such sentence help the reader to pay more attention to what the writer is saying, and thus help them to remember the details of what he has read. For example, if you came across the word book in a sentence, you might or might not pay attention to it. However, if the writer describes that it is an old, brown, and thickbook which is made of ‘lontar’ leaves and creaking when it is opened, to a higher extent you will not forget it. You will keep the book in your mind because the writer uses sensory images.
Bali is probably the most famous island in Indonesia. Also known as the Land of gods, it blends spectacular sheer natural beauty of looming volcanoes, beautiful beaches, lush terraced rice fields that exude peace and serenity, and warm and friendly people. Visitors will be amazed by its dramatic dances, colorful ceremonies, amazing arts and crafts, luxurious beach resorts, and exciting night life. This exotic island also offers world class surfing and diving, and exhilarating treks in the wild. Everywhere intricately carved temples provides inspirational spirituality. For decades this miraculous island has amazed millions of local and international visitors. Why don’t you come and experience it?
In a descriptive writing, supporting details should be arranged according to spatial order so that the items are shown in much the same way as a camera might move across a scene. The items could be ordered from left to right, from outside to inside, from top to bottom, from nearby to farther away, or even around in a circle. In order to give the greatest impact to a certain image, it is put at the last place.
In the following paragraph, observe how the writer moves clearly from a description of the head of the clown (in sentences two, three, and four), to the body (sentences five, six, seven, and eight), to the unicycle underneath (sentence nine). Notice also how the concluding sentence helps to tie the paragraph together by emphasizing the personal value of this gift.
On one corner of my dresser sits a smiling toy clown on a tiny unicycle–a gift I received last Christmas from a close friend. The clown’s short yellow hair, made of yarn, covers its ears but is parted above the eyes. The blue eyes are outlined in black with thin, dark lashes flowing from the brows. It has cherry-red cheeks, nose, and lips, and its broad grin disappears into the wide, white ruffle around its neck. The clown wears a fluffy, two-tone nylon costume. The left side of the outfit is light blue, and the right side is red. The two colors merge in a dark line that runs down the center of the small outfit. Surrounding its ankles and disguising its long black shoes are big pink bows. The white spokes on the wheels of the unicycle gather in the center and expand to the black tire so that the wheel somewhat resembles the inner half of a grapefruit. The clown and unicycle together stand about a foot high. As a cherished gift from my good friend Tran, this colorful figure greets me with a smile every time I enter my room.(from: http://grammar.about.com/od/developingparagraphs/a/samdescpars.htm)
Apache was the name given to the Indian tribes who inhabited the southwestern part of the United States and parts of northern Mexico. They were excellent hunters and raiders who had little trouble to protect their band. In the past, each Apache band was led by its own chief, who was chosen by a tribal council. Most important decisions were made by the council, and all the Apache council members had to agree before an action could be taken. An Apache chief was more like a tribal chairman than a president. Most of his job was mediating between other Apaches. Probably the most famous Apache chief is Geronimo, who led a series of rebellions.
One of the keys to writing a descriptive essay is to create a picture in If you are describing an event, you will need to write your paragraphs in Is it easy to read so that anyone can understand what the topic of the essay is?.