How to Write a Descriptive Essay Outline

A descriptive essay, along with a narrative essay, is considered to be the most creative essay type. The key difference between the two, though, is that a narrative essay requires a storyline, while the descriptive type focuses exclusively on the depiction of a subject.

Writing a descriptive essay may only sound easy. In reality, it requires good imagination, attention to detail, and the ability to convey one’s feelings and emotions in the most effective way. Take a look at the following article to know how to write a descriptive essay outline and where to find some of the best descriptive essay examples.

Descriptive Essay writing

What Is a Descriptive Essay?

A descriptive essay stipulates the writer to describe something: an object, scene, place, person, event, feeling, concept, etc. The goal is to depict the subject in bright and vivid colors, almost like a painter describing a scene with brush and paint. There are no restrictions to the author’s creativity and imagination in a descriptive essay. One can use only visual depiction, while others may imply all five human senses.

A descriptive essay is a common college task. Students of humanity, art, and some social sciences studies are frequently asked to submit a descriptive essay in their class. At the same time, good descriptive essay examples are hard to find, but if you know where to search, you will succeed. Look for reputable writing agencies online and see if they offer databases of essay samples, and whether a descriptive essay is included.

Why Bother Making an Outline for a Descriptive Essay?

Using our analogy with a painter, let’s see how outlining works. If the goal is to paint a scene, the initial outline will be a sketch of the elements in that scene – the objects, the boundaries, the sky, the sun, and the horizon. Without outlining, it would take multiple tries to start a decent scene painting.

Likewise, if the goal is to paint a complex object (e.g. a house) – the outline will include the necessary measurements, like width, length, depth, etc. The same is with a person’s portrait.

An outline in a descriptive essay helps the author to pave the road ahead – it is basically a plan of the entire work. The outlines in some of the best descriptive essay examples include objects, characters, events, and emotions, along with some traditional elements like introduction, thesis statement, the main body, and conclusion.

Think of an outline as a useful mapping tool to save your time and boost your motivation, as a great outline is a powerful motivator in itself.

Popular Outlining Techniques

After checking some of the best descriptive essay examples, we have found that they all follow a sound structure. They would surely have a captivating intro, a killer thesis statement, and a powerful hook, along with a creative main part and a memorable conclusion.

There are several effective techniques used by writers to make outlines. Here, we would like to share the three most popular ones perfectly suitable for descriptive essays:

  • Tree-like Structure
  • Scene Cards
  • Mind Mapping

Tree-like Structure. This outlining technique employs drawing a tree of your future essay: starting with the topic as the central trunk, and going sideways with the key elements to describe, starting with the most important ones. It is a powerful yet simple visualization tool to literally make a drawing plan of your paper. Each branch can represent a separate group of elements, such as the interaction between characters in a given scene, a group of features in a described object, the author’s emotions at a particular moment in time, etc.

Scene Cards. If you are familiar with stick-it notes and how to use them in your class, then understanding the scene cards will not be a problem for you. This technique stipulates breaking the described object (event, place, etc.) into separate scenes. Each scene can be briefly described on a stick-it note and put on a whiteboard or using appropriate functionality in a computer application. Notes can form a structure, a tree, or even be placed in the order of importance and appearance. Some of the best descriptive essay examples were made using scene cards.

Mind Mapping. Indisputably, the most natural of all, mind mapping closely resembles how our brain works – in a massively parallel and non-linear fashion. Mind mapping is about placing all your ideas, thoughts, structures (as in outlining), and elements into a single big picture. It might look messy at first sight, indeed. Nevertheless, its advantages are worth it – one can capture everything on a single picture/chart, and visualize connections between elements.

Tips for Writing a Perfect Descriptive Essay

  • Be natural. A huge mistake that students make when trying to compose the best essay is writing in a dry and academic fashion. The key to a great essay is listening to yourself, knowing your talents and gifts, and showing them in writing. It is always a pleasure to read a piece of academic text where the author has applied a unique style and expressed a part of his personality.
  • Use all senses. Some of the best descriptive essay examples would show off as many human senses as possible. When writing, describe your topic not just visually but using smell, touch, taste, and sound. The more of these are present in your text, the better.
  • Use rich figurative language. A professor who reads dozens if not hundreds of descriptive essays daily would have a hard time grading your work higher than others if you use dry and simple language. Powerful figurative elements, such as metaphors, similes, allegories, and synonyms can make your essay text stand out from the rest. 
  • Learn from the best cases. In just about any activity, people need icons, gurus, or examples to follow if they want to become successful. The same goes for descriptive essay writing. If you want to write a perfect paper, you should find some (ideally about a dozen) of the best descriptive essay examples and analyze them.

Ask yourself – what makes this essay outstanding? How did the author structure the text? What kind of outline could have helped them to create such a remarkable piece of academic paper? Finding answers to these questions will help you write your own best descriptive essay.