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How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph

Five Parts: Sample Paragraphs Preparing to Write Structuring Your Paragraph Incorporating Sensory Detail Adding Style to Your Paragraph Community Q&A

Descriptive paragraphs include details that appeal to the 5 senses in order to give the best possible description to the reader. They are often used in fiction and non-fiction writing to help immerse readers in the author’s world. Though there are no specific rules for how these paragraphs should be structured, there are several strategies, such as relying on sensory detail and figurative language, that you can use to write an immersive descriptive paragraph.

Steps

Sample Paragraphs

Part 1

Preparing to Write

  1. Image titled Write Alliteration Poems Step 6

    1
    Figure out what you want to describe. Before you begin your paragraph, you have to pinpoint what you want to describe. Think especially about the function of your description — the messages or ideas that you want your reader to take away from your description. [1]

    Functions of Description in Writing
    Contextualization: One of the most common reasons to include description is to help your reader understand basic elements of the situation you’re describing. Description helps to set the scene.
    Characterization: If you’re describing a person, your description can tell your reader important things about that person, making it easier to understand them as a character.
    Significance: Devoting attention to describing an object, person, or place indicates importance, flagging to your reader that they should pay special attention to the thing that you’re describing.
  2. 2
    Identify the parts of your description that are the most meaningful. Descriptions can also convey a

    message or feeling

    about the thing you are trying to describe. Descriptions of places or objects that are meaningful to you or to a character in your story are likely to be more powerful. [2]

    • For example, in the opening pages of The Catcher in the Rye, protagonist Holden Caulfield describes a baseball mitt. The mitt itself is not that remarkable, but he describes it in a way that fills it with meaning because it used to belong to his deceased brother. Though not every object you describe needs an elaborate backstory, if it has some meaning behind it, this can help the description carry weight.
  3. 3
    Make a chart to help you organize sensory details. Draw a chart with 5 columns, and label each one with one of the 5 senses (touch, smell, sound, taste, and sight). In each column, write elements of the object, person, or scene that you’re trying to describe that would appeal to the corresponding sense. [3]

    • This pre-writing exercise is meant to help you get ideas flowing for your paragraph. For example, if you want to write a description of your grandmother, in the “sight” column you could include her floral blouses and her frizzy gray hair. In the “smell” column, you could mention her sweet-smelling perfume or the warm smell of the cookies she makes when you come over.

Part 2

Structuring Your Paragraph

  1. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 2

    1
    Begin by introducing the person, place, or thing you are describing. If you want to get the reader’s attention, then you should let him or her know what you’re describing

    as soon as possible

    instead of leaving them guessing. Not being immediately clear about what you are describing can be confusing and frustrating for your reader. [4]

    Paragraph Opening Example
    Natasha’s basement was our sanctuary. I return to it in my best dreams and wake up feeling like I could die happy.

    These opening sentences quickly introduce the subject that is being described — the basement of the narrator’s friend. They also establish early-on that this basement is one of the narrator’s favorite places.

  2. 2
    Use spatial order to organize your description. Create a mental image of the thing you are trying to describe and pick a logical starting point for your description. From there, progress your descriptions through space in a natural way to make the reader feel like they are actually looking at or experiencing what you are describing. [5]

    • For example, if you are writing a description of someone who is waiting nervously in a doctor’s waiting room, start by mentioning the worried look in their eyes. From there, move on to describe the way that their hands are grasped tightly together in their lap. You can also bring in the sterile, sickly sweet smell of the waiting room to appeal to your reader’s sense of smell. Finally, end with a description of the nervous tapping of this person’s foot to complete this portrait of anxiety and fear.
  3. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 9

    3
    End your paragraph by giving readers a key takeaway. Though you don’t need to have a neat concluding sentence for this creative paragraph, you’ll need to end the paragraph in a way that reminds readers of what you wanted them to take away from this description. If the person, place, or object that you’re focusing on is important, ask yourself why. [6]

    Ending Example
    And that was exactly why 3 extra toothbrushes made their way to the downstairs bathroom. All of us could have lived and died there.

    The second to last line, while it doesn’t say that the other girls used to spend all of their time there explicitly, uses the images of the extra toothbrushes to show that the basement being described in this paragraph was once a sanctuary for the young girls, which reminds the reader of the first sentence. These sentences show that the basement was incredibly important to the girls who “grew up” there without explicitly saying so.

Part 3

Incorporating Sensory Detail

  1. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 3

    1
    Engage your reader’s sense of sight. Include details that you want the reader to visualize .

    Use strong adjectives

    to illustrate your scene, moment, experience, or item to the reader. However, keep in mind that, while adjectives can be helpful, overusing them can lead to boring, overwrought writing — be selective! [7]

    Visual Description Example
    Even today I could paint a perfect picture of it, right up to the last piece of neglected pizza crust festering under the ping-pong table.

    Immediately, the reader is given a visual description of some items in the basement: old pizza crust and a ping-pong table. The reader is given a sense of a messy, chaotic place.

  2. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 4

    2
    Describe smells and tastes if applicable. It can be more difficult to describe smells and tastes for some subjects, but do your best to be creative and include distinct details that appeal to these senses. For example, “It tastes good” is a weak description. However, “It tastes like Grandma’s apple pie when it’s fresh and still bubbling around the edges – crunchy, flavorful and sweet” is strong.

    Smell Description Example
    The spilled root beer and duck sauce shining over the nappy brown carpet indicated nights of giggles and prank calls, times when we were far too occupied to consider the absurd possibility of cleaning up. Popcorn got crushed into the carpet and was never quite cleaned up. You could smell this mixture of sweetness and butter even when you stood on the front porch.
  3. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 6

    3
    Describe how your subject sounds. Ask yourself: what can you hear in this scene? Sound can work to provide information about activities or events that commonly occur in a place. It can also function to characterize, as the sound or tone of a person’s voice can affect how the reader feels toward them.

    Sound Example
    The television in the basement was always on, but no one ever seemed to watch it. We were too busy laughing over our latest stupid game of Rummikub, prank calling our crushes, or listening for the doorbell that told us the pizza was here.

    Here, the narrator uses the sounds in the basement to help give a sense of what it was like to actually be there, and to indirectly tell the reader what was commonly done there.

  4. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 5

    4
    Try to capture how the moment or item feels. Put yourself in the shoes of the narrator (if you’re writing fiction) and

    imagine how they would react to the thing you are describing,

    both physically and emotionally. Rely on adjectives to capture how they feel.

    Avoid using general statements

    like “it feels nice,” and instead opt for specific, definitive examples that relay the feeling of something to the reader.

    Describing Feelings Example
    Nothing ever got erased, either. It was like memory. With enough time and will power, you could find almost anything down there. Katie had once recovered her third grade Tamagotchi from the storage closet. Another time, Nora had unearthed a disposable camera with undeveloped pictures I had taken during our fourth grade trip to Ellis Island.

    Note that, in the above sentences, the narrator is showing that the basement that is being described was never cleaned up, while also using these details to show that the basement is important to her because it serves as a time capsule of her childhood. This is both conveying the feeling of being in the basement and also uses figurative language to add a deeper meaning to the place.

Part 4

Adding Style to Your Paragraph

  1. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 8

    1
    Weave in some figurative language to engage your reader. Figurative language is language that brings new meaning to the subject of your description and is not meant to be interpreted literally. It is often used to compare or connect your subject with other things or ideas. There are many different types of figurative language, but some of the most common are similes, metaphors, and allusions. [8]

    Figurative Language Example
    As it was, with a net-less ping-pong table and a set of bare mattresses facing the TV, the basement looked more like Fiona Apple’s music video for “Criminal” than a place to raise your children.

    This sentence uses simile to compare the basement to a well-known music video, adding an extra layer of meaning.

  2. Image titled Write a Descriptive Paragraph Step 7

    2
    Make unique observations to surprise your reader. When you’re describing something,

    give your readers an image, feeling, smell, or sight that they wouldn’t normally expect.

    If you’re describing a lawyer, for example, don’t just tell the readers things that they would expect to hear about them, like that they wear a suit and work too much; tell your readers about their secret love for their pet iguanas. Keeping your descriptions sounding fresh and original will better engage your reader.

    Unique Observation Example
    The silver Christmas garland around the banisters was pretty much a permanent fixture; the same birthday steamers celebrated 3 shoe-sizes of birthdays, eventually lost their color, and seemed to peel off the walls on their own accord.

    These observations are statements that can only apply to this specific basement, which makes them strong.

  3. 3
    Write in active voice to simplify your sentences. Active voice is the sentence structure in which the subject comes first and performs the action, whereas passive voice is the structure in which the action comes first and the subject receives the action. Writing in active voice results in more clear, concise sentences and often minimizes confusion for your reader. [9]

    Active vs. Passive Voice Example
    Active voice: I loved the sweet, vaguely-sweaty smell of the basement.
    Passive voice: The sweet, vaguely-sweaty smell of the basement was loved by me.
  4. 4
    Vary your sentence structure to keep it interesting. At the same time, it’s often easy to get trapped in the same basic subject-verb pattern for every sentence. To make your paragraph less boring to read, mix up your sentence structure by adding supplementary descriptive phrases and combining sentences. You can also contrast longer, more complex sentences with short, impactful ones. [10]

    Varying Sentence Structure Example
    Repetitive sentence structure: The card game raged on. Nora slowly drew the next card. She had a fiery look in her eyes.
    Variable sentence structure: The card game raging on, Nora slowly drew the next card with a fiery look in her eyes.

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    How do I start a paragraph about a person?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Describe what she’s doing, like looking out of a window or cleaning the backyard. Start with her name and mix the description of her with what she’s feeling. Is she sad? Is she crazy in love and smiling like a child? We readers want to know about her.
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  • Question
    How can I write about my country?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Write about the things you love about your country or something that you find interesting about your country. Include the things that set your country apart from the rest of the world.
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  • Question
    How do I describe a person in a descriptive paragraph?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Use adjectives to describe physical appearance, personality, or what the person means to you.
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  • Question
    How can I describe a room?
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    Describe the items in the room in detail and think of what sounds or aromas surround you. If it’s a kitchen, describe smells such as bread or overcooked turkey.
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  • Question
    How can I write a descriptive paragraph for a tourist destination I visited?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Write about special memories or things you felt were interesting there. Write about the people, food, culture, houses etc. of the place you visited.
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  • Question
    Can you give me an example on how to write a descriptive paragraph on my community?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Walk around the area and make yourself take a fresh look at it, as if you are seeing it for the first time. What makes an impression on you? What do you see, hear, experience as you follow your path? Then sit down with pen and paper and write about that place so that your reader can experience it through your description. Make them see what you see, hear what you hear, feel what you feel. A great example of description is the chapter of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring where the hobbits arrive in Bree and enter the Prancing Pony Inn. His description is so vividthat you could almost paint a picture of the place just from that.
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  • Question
    How do I write a descriptive essay about waiting for someone?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Describe the person for whom you are waiting, why you are waiting, where and how it feels.
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  • Question
    How do I write a paragraph about my favorite place?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Why do you go there and when? Who goes with you? What do you feel about it? Use your five senses to describe it.
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  • Question
    How can I start writing about a jade pendant?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Try thinking about the most interesting physical qualities of the pendant. Consider the color, the shape, and the way the light reflects off of it. Think about the size, the weight, and the way it feels in the hand. Finally, point out any flaws or special adornments on the pendant.
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  • Question
    How can I write a descriptive essay about an old woman’s room and possessions?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start by describing what type of lady she is and then move on to her possessions. Why is each item special to her? When and where did she get the item? How do the room and items in it indicate various qualities of the woman’s personality and her life?
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    Quick Summary

    To write a descriptive paragraph, start by introducing the person, place, or thing you want to describe in the first sentence so you grab the reader’s attention. Then, use vivid adjectives to describe what’s happening to the reader, which will help them visualize everything. Try to be as specific as possible by describing the way things smell, taste, feel, and sound. You can also include some metaphors or similes to help the reader fully experience what you’re describing.

    Did this summary help you?

    Tips

    • Avoid using adjectives like “nice,” “good,” “pretty,” or “awesome,” as these do not render a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.

    Warnings

    • Don’t overuse descriptive adjectives, as this can become overwhelming for your reader and ultimately ineffective.
    • Avoid cliché (overused) figures of speech as descriptors, such as “green with envy” or “good as gold.” These are phrases that have lost their descriptive power due to overuse. [11]

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    Sources and Citations

    1. http://www.ablongman.com/henry_rh/ch04.pdf
    2. http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/description.shtml
    3. https://www.learnamericanenglishonline.com/Write_in_English/WL11_descriptive_paragraphs.html
    4. http://www.ablongman.com/henry_rh/ch04.pdf
    5. http://www.ablongman.com/henry_rh/ch04.pdf
    6. http://www.ablongman.com/henry_rh/ch04.pdf
    7. http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/description.shtml
    8. https://literarydevices.net/figurative-language/
    9. https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_activevoice.html
    10. https://www.iup.edu/writingcenter/writing-resources/organization-and-structure/descriptive-writing/
    11. http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/cliches.html

    Show more… (8)

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    Español:  escribir un párrafo descriptivo , Italiano:  Scrivere un Paragrafo Descrittivo , Français:  écrire un paragraphe descriptif , Deutsch:  Einen beschreibenden Absatz schreiben , 中文:  写描述性段落 , Português:  Escrever um Parágrafo Descritivo , Nederlands:  Een beschrijvende alinea maken , Bahasa Indonesia:  Menulis Paragraf Deskriptif , Čeština:  Jak napsat popisný text , हिन्दी:  एक वर्णनात्मक पैराग्राफ़ लिखें , ไทย:  เขียนเชิงพรรณนา , Tiếng Việt:  Viết một Đoạn văn Miêu tả , 한국어:  묘사하는 글을 쓰는 법 , العربية:  كتابة فقرة وصفية

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    AA

    Absalom Alano

    Aug 1

    “It shows me some ideas to write a business description.”


    ML

    Maria Levac

    Oct 8, 2017

    “Descriptive paragraphs are challenging to write at any age. I love how you illustrated the 5 senses. This will be a good introduction for my Grade 5 students and I hope it will inspire them to write interesting, descriptive paragraphs.”…” more


    TS

    Titu Shyam

    Jan 18, 2017

    “Wonderful read! I love the 5-dimensional (sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing) descriptive idea. Other ideas that I loved are backstory, moment capture, unique observation, simile or metaphors and keep the story open. “…” more


    RL

    R. L.

    Sep 21, 2017

    “Well, I was assigned to write a descriptive essay about a garden. At first, I had no idea what a description was and how to write it. After I read this text it really helped.”…” more
    Rated this article:


    VJ

    Victoria Jonas

    Jan 13, 2017

    “It helped to learn that to have a description with powerful meaning, I need to blend it with an emotion, a story, something that connects my character with the reader.”…” more


    EP

    Edith Pereyra

    Feb 23, 2017

    “I’ve found this page very useful. The steps are easy to follow, and the sample descriptions contribute to get the whole picture in a clear way.”…” more


    OM

    Ogone Maoto

    Aug 30, 2016

    “Learned which words should I use when describing something ,and how to use them in a manner that the reader wants to read more and more.”…” more


    MA

    Minhaj Auti

    Oct 5, 2016

    “It helps you to understand the concepts of what you want. It also helps to paint a wider picture about what you want.”…” more

    trà viết thu

    Aug 17, 2017

    “Thanks to this article I know that 5 important things should be involved in my description. =)”


    RN

    Rishabh Nair

    Nov 23, 2016

    “It helped me a lot! Was great for learning for the exams. With the samples it even got better.”


    HK

    Humaun Kabir

    Jul 5, 2017

    “This is very helpful to learn how to write descriptive paragraphs. Thanks for those tips.”


    KG

    Kristoph Gavin

    Dec 10, 2016

    “The description of how to create sound in the reader’s mind was especially helpful.”


    LJ

    Liza Jane

    Nov 22, 2016

    “This article helps me in my studies so thanks for so much information.”


    FG

    Fayera Gudeta

    Aug 14, 2017

    “The written descriptive paragraph by taking any title was helpful. ”


    SA

    Saba Ameer

    May 21, 2017

    “I learned how to write a description on my favorite personality. ”


    TR

    Timothy Ragunjan

    Feb 23, 2017

    “This article helped me with my project in English, thanks.”


    KJ

    Kim Juk

    Feb 25, 2017

    “Learned how to write a descriptive paragraph.”


    BG

    B. G.

    Oct 24, 2017

    “This website is great, shout out to wikiHow!”


    JC

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    Nov 5, 2017

    “It helped me for my assignment in writing.”
    Rated this article:


    RA

    Renad Amri

    Nov 12, 2017

    “It helps me to write a good paragraph.”
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    Sep 17, 2017

    “Helped me finish my project on myself.”
    Rated this article:


    AR

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    Jan 11, 2017

    “I learned many conceptual things. ”


    A

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    Jun 7, 2017

    “It helped with my writing exam.”
    Rated this article:

    Dineth Perera

    Jul 21, 2017

    “Very helpful to my paragraph!”
    Rated this article:


    MA

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    Oct 8, 2017

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