At high school you need to know how to write a descriptive essay. This will show you how.

Descriptive essays describe something – like a scene, a person, or a day. It is like a picture!

Topics can be something like:
My favourite teacher
• My first day at school

Example of a descriptive essay

My granny

My gogo is the oldest person I know. Her face has got lots of lines and crinkles that go even deeper when she smiles. And she smiles a lot. When she smiles you can sometimes see her bright white false teeth, but often you can just see her mouth because her false teeth are sometimes uncomfortable and she puts them in a cup of water. It is funny to see Gogo’s teeth sitting there next to her.

She is a very kind and loving person. My mother is often busy and stressed, and so gets cross quickly. But my gogo, she has time for me and my brother. She tells me long stories about when she was little. When we are frightened in the night she sings to us. And she makes two kinds of biscuits – the ones with condensed milk, which I like, and the other lemon-flavoured ones, because those are my brother’s favourites.

She is also very busy. She is part of a stokvel, and also sings in the church choir. She also used to sew but now her eyesight is getting bad and so she knits while she watches TV. “The devil finds work for idle hands,” she says, and her hands are never still. She is always doing something.

I love my gogo and she loves me. I know she is getting older, and she tells me that she is going to die soon. I don’t like it when she says that. But she will always live in my heart.

Tips for writing good descriptive essays

Use interesting adjectives, verbs and nouns.
(Notice all the small details in the essay about the granny – the false teeth, the lemon biscuits – all this paints a clear word-picture. Look at Tip 8 for more help with this.)

Each paragraph must describe one aspect of the topic.
(Notice how in the essay describing the granny each paragraph focuses on one thing: the first paragraph is about the granny’s appearance, the second about her personality, the third is what she does. Then the conclusion rounds off the essay with the writer describing her feelings.

Give your personal ideas and feelings.
(If you are describing a day, or a person, don’t forget to write about what you thought and felt about it, just like the writer gives you her feelings about her granny.)

Use direct speech if you can, to make your writing come alive.
(Notice how the writer of the essay gave us a little bit of direct speech so we get a sense of what kinds of things the granny says.)

Avoid clichés.
(Cliches are those sayings that have been used so often that they have lost their meaning, like ‘heart of gold’, or ‘he broke my heart’. Try to think of your own original comparisons.)