How to Write a Descriptive Essay Outline
Descriptive essays are mainly used to help readers have a vivid idea or image of the object, place, or person being reviewed. Writers, therefore, try to engage the audience’s senses by creating a near perfect description. Readers, or the audience, need to feel like they have already visited a place or met a person after reading a descriptive essay. Writers must employ their mastery of language to make sure that their final piece creates an emotional connection with the readers.
Descriptive Essay Structure
Understanding the structure of an essay is a key to writing a perfect essay. An essay’s structure mainly contains the segments or sections that need to be included within an essay. Writers should, therefore, understand how an essay is structured before embarking on the writing process. The structure of a descriptive essay is simple and mainly includes three sections which are:
- an introduction,
- the body section,
- and the conclusion.
These three must be included in an essay if a student is to score high marks.
Tips Concerning Introduction Writing
An introduction provides a writer with the opportunity of making the first impression and impressing the readers. It is, therefore, essential that a writer sets off on the right footing. Additionally, it is in the introduction where the writer shapes their essay and either impresses the readers to the point where they want to read the entire essay or scares them off. When given this chance, it is essential that writers make the best out of it and deliver their best. Writers should build their essays from the introduction and make it easy for their readers to comprehend whatever information they will share in the essay. A majority of readers make the decision to continue reading an essay after the introduction. Therefore, writers should strive to make them interesting and captivating enough.
Here are some tips to help you write a good introduction:
- Start the introduction with a hook. Capture the reader’s attention with an interesting first sentence. You can make use of fun facts about a city or use a phrase.
- Be brief and direct in your introduction. Be mean with the information you share in the introduction, however, you should include enough to entice the readers to read the entire essay.
- Include a thesis statement. Have your main argument stand out and make sure your audience understands it.
Tips on Thesis Writing
A thesis statement mainly contains the writer’s main argument or the idea that will be prominent in the entire essay. Writers often use it to make their audience understand the purpose of their essay as well as reveal the scope of the subject under discussion.
When writing the thesis statement, consider the following:
- Define your scope and make it narrow.
- Avoid using clichés for example, “The focus of this article will be…”
- Make the thesis statement intriguing.
Tips on Body Paragraphs
Descriptive essay writing is not a challenging task, but some students often find themselves struggling to support their thesis statement. The body of an essay should develop or offer support to the thesis statement. Writers should, therefore, express their points in a way that builds on the introduction.
Here are some tips concerning the development of the body paragraphs:
- Use topic sentences. The main arguments should be the first sentences in the subsequent paragraphs after the introduction.
- Use transition words. For example, firstly, secondly, additionally, subsequently, etc. These help the readers to follow an essay systematically.
- The number of the paragraphs differs and depends on the instructions provided. However, the length of each paragraph should be five to six sentences.
Tips on Conclusion Writing
The conclusion in a descriptive essay represents the last opportunity for the writer to impress the readers. Writers should ensure that their conclusions leave the readers with a lasting impression and in a way affects their thinking.
To write a good conclusion, consider the following tips:
- Restate the essay’s thesis statement.
- Provide a summary of the essay’s points.
- Leave the readers with something intriguing. Make sure they think about the essay beyond the assignment.
Example of an Outline
A descriptive essay outline simply details the main points the writer will discuss in the essay. When writing an outline for a descriptive essay, it is essential to first of all, understand what the essay`s structure is. The above is important because the writer needs to focus on the points they will include in each of the sections. Descriptive essay outline writing is, therefore, essential and will help you decide on the scope of an essay while also developing points for the essay.
Below is an example of a descriptive essay outline:
My Best Friend
- Start with a funny memory about your friend or a phrase that they often say.
- Provide basic information about your friend. (Name, Age, School, Work, etc.)
- Provide a small history of your friendship. For example, when you first met.
- Thesis statement (focus on what makes them a great friend, what values they uphold, their favorite programs, their most radical views about an issue such as abortion or divorce).
- Physical attributes (short/tall, blonde/brunette/black/Asian/Latino).
- Favorite TV programs and movies.
- Most important Christian values.
- Views on marriage and divorce.
- What views or policies they feel contradict their faith.
- Their stance on the current issues, for example, their view on President Trump’s immigration policy etc.
- Restate the thesis statement.
- Provide a summary of the main points. Try to emphasize on their greatest qualities or their most intriguing quality. These tend to remain in the memory of the readers long after they have read the essay.
Though not always necessary, outlines can help guide you in your writing. How? They act like a map of where you’ve been and where you need to go. An outline provides a skeleton upon which you can hang the meat of your essay. Consider it this way: without the skeleton, the paper won’t hold up but will be like a slug slithering on the ground. Which would you prefer your essay to be? A slug—or a roaring lion? We’re guessing you’d prefer your essay to be a roaring lion! That’s why we’re showing you how to create a descriptive essay outline.
What You Need
So what do you need to know to construct a solid descriptive essay outline? [See below for the basic outline of a 5 paragraph descriptive essay.] Not all essays need be five paragraphs—some can be longer. We’ll use the 5 paragraph outline because it gives an idea of how to lay out a successful paper. Following the outline, we’ll show you how to use the outline and apply it in your writing process.
A good way to prepare an outline is to create an idea map. An idea map starts with a central idea. Say you want to describe your favorite restaurant. In the center of your idea map, draw a circle and write the main purpose of your descriptive essay—describing your experience at a restaurant. Off of this main idea should branch multiple supporting ideas—such as what you see when you enter the restaurant, what you hear, where you sit, what you order, how it tastes, etc. Purdue OWL gives some brainstorming tips on how to create an idea map like the one below. Their example has GOALS as the main idea. Branching off of the main idea are the objectives the individual would like to achieve, and branching off of those objectives are the methods for how they can be met.
How the Idea Map Translates into an Outline
Once the idea map is created, you can easily proceed to constructing your own descriptive essay outline. The main idea in the center will be your thesis and will be stated in your opening paragraph. The supporting ideas will be your body paragraphs, each idea having a paragraph and each paragraph containing the supporting statements (the methods for how the individual goals will be met). Then all that is left is a concluding paragraph that summarizes the paper. Let’s look at how an idea map might be created for a descriptive essay about visiting your favorite restaurant.
An idea map need not look as neat as this one: you can sketch it out quickly on a loose leaf sheet of paper. The purpose is just to see your options in print. You can sketch down as many as come to you and just select the three or four best ones that you feel will really help you deliver the greatest details of your experience. Let’s look at the idea map above.
You can see that the main idea of the paper will be to describe going to a restaurant called Baba’s for lunch. The idea map shows that several points can be described in this essay: what’s on the menu, what the environment is like (music, people), and what you end up ordering. This is just an idea map—so it doesn’t have to be full of details. Those are what you will put into your paper when you write it. This is just to help you get started on structuring your outline, which we can now examine below. Let’s take a look!
Format & Example
I. Introduction: Opening Paragraph
A. Provide a Hook
1. It should grab the audience and hold their attention
2. It should also introduce the topic or be relevant to the subject you will describe
B. Give some Background
C. Close with a Thesis Statement
1. This should let the reader know what it is you will do in the paper
2. It should also tell them how you will do it
A. First Paragraph
1. The first body paragraph should introduce the first topic that you will describe—for example, if the subject of your essay is a restaurant, the first paragraph can be about what you see and hear when you walk in.
2. The paragraph should have a topic sentence that lets the reader know what you plan on describing in that paragraph.
3. The following sentences should all be related to the topic and should support it in some way with various descriptions.
i. Remember—if a sentence does not relate in some way to the main topic of the paragraph, cut it out.
ii. The paragraph should be at minimum three sentences long.
B. Second Paragraph
1. The second body paragraph should follow in the same manner as the first.
2. It should begin with a transition word or phrase, so that the reader can easily move from the first body paragraph to the second. You can find a good list of transition phrases here.
3. Because it is a new paragraph, it should cover a new topic—a different aspect of the subject you are describing. If we are using the example of the restaurant, you can describe the options available to you on the menu in this paragraph.
C. Third Paragraph
1. The third body paragraph will cover the last aspect of the subject that you want to describe.
2. Use another transition word or phrase to begin the paragraph and to introduce your topic sentence.
III. Conclusion: Closing Paragraph
A. Restate the main purpose of your essay.
B. Reiterate the main points of the paper.
C. Provide a closing statement that summarizes what you have described—in this case, your overall feelings towards the restaurant.
Now that we have our outline, let’s take a look at what we’ve constructed. So far this is set up to be a five-paragraph descriptive essay with an introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and three body paragraphs giving supporting details. How do we take this outline and turn it into an essay? Easy. Follow it point by point and step by step.
Applying the Outline
First, begin to write your introduction. You already know your subject—going to a restaurant named Baba’s for lunch. All you need is a “hook” to get your reader interested. Think of how commercials hook viewers by using a snappy one-liner: you could write something like, “If you’re ever hungry and in the neighborhood of Oakley, there’s no better place to eat than Baba’s Indian Restaurant. Their aromatically-inviting, authentic Indian cuisine makes my mouth water just thinking about it.” This is a good example of a hook because it identifies the subject and uses vivid language to express several senses—taste, touch, smell, sight. Now all you need to do is follow this up with a statement of what you will do in your essay and how you will do it—something like: “In this essay, I will describe my experience going to Baba’s for lunch by showing what it’s like when you first enter the restaurant, what there is to eat, and what I always get to satisfy my hungry belly.”
With your introductory paragraph complete, you can move to the body. Here you just designate one paragraph to describing three aspects of going to Baba’s. In the first body paragraph, you will describe what you see and hear and smell when you enter into the restaurant. You finish this first paragraph up with a description of where you sit.
Your second body paragraph will tell about the options you have to choose from for lunch. You can describe the meals and what they taste like to give your reader a deeper sense of the experience. Finish this paragraph with a statement of what you settle upon for lunch.
Your third body paragraph will describe your food and how well you enjoy it. This paragraph can be used to really drive home the point that Baba’s is a savory place for dining. Use a lot of descriptive words that evoke each of the five senses.
To close out your essay, write your final paragraph—a conclusion that covers the main point of your essay and offers a summary of your experience. Come up with a creative way to send off your reader so that Baba’s is all they can think about. The more effective you are in convincing your reader that Baba’s is where they should eat next, the more your essay will be successful.
Once you’re finished, you can always go back and revise your essay. Give it a read-over and see what you can do to make it even more powerful and evocative. Be sure to use language that shows rather than tells—i.e., don’t just list information about the restaurant but express it in vivid terms that bring the place to life.
In conclusion, a descriptive essay outline is easy to draft and helps you focus your essay. You can use it as a way to gather your thoughts and guide you through the process of writing. The best way to get started is to create a quick and easy idea map. Draw the main points that you will focus on in your essay from this map and use it to develop your outline. Then all you have to do is follow your outline step by step!
Now that you have the outline figured out, make sure you check out our descriptive essay example to see the actual structure of the paper.