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Descriptive Essays

The purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe a person, place, or thing in such vivid detail that the reader can easily form a precise mental picture of what is being written about. The author may accomplish this by using imaginative language, interesting comparisons, and images that appeal to the senses.

Read this sample descriptive essay, and then read the notes below.

  1. The subject of the sample essay is fairly ordinary—a ride on a Ferris wheel. The author makes it interesting, however, by comparing the Ferris wheel to a monstrous creature.

  2. The author makes good use of fresh and varied vocabulary. For example, in the first paragraph alone, she uses verbs that create excitement like "fascinate," "amaze," and "terrify." In the second paragraph she uses a variety of terms to describe the machine such as "monstrosity," "mythical beast," "amazing dinosaur," "fire-breathing dragon."

  3. The author uses her senses to describe the scene—how the ride looks, sounds, smells, and feels. The ride is "huge, smoky, noisy" and its engines "drone" like the roar of a dragon. On the ride, she gets a "rush of adrenaline" and a "lump in her throat," she feels immobile and then weightless.

  4. The essay is well organized. The introduction begins with a general statement, "I have always been fascinated by carnival rides," and ends with a more specific statement of what the essay will be about, "the thrill and excitement of a carnival ride keeps me coming back for more." The body of the essay is composed of several paragraphs that describe the Ferris wheel, the way it seems from the ground and the way it feels to ride on one. The conclusion restates the main idea of the essay, that the author continues to find carnival rides thrilling and exciting.
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