Write a 500-750 word essay using description as the chief method of development. Choose one of the following topics:
- A coffee shop, bus shelter, newsstand, or some other small place
- A favorite food
- A favorite item of clothing
- A person
- An ordeal or challenge you experienced
(If you would like to write about a different topic, send me a message describing this other topic. I must approve the topic before you write about it because some topics might not be good for this type of essay.)
Description focuses on developing an idea about something or someone. Description focuses on the following elements:
- Physical sensory description (how it sounds, smells, tastes, feels, or looks)
- Emotional description (how it makes you or others feel)
- Intellectual description (why it is important to something)
Choose a subject (a person, a place, an object, etc.) that you know well, for you will need to include many specific details and this can be difficult with a subject with which you are largely unfamiliar. It also helps to choose a subject for which you feel something (positive or negative) as it is difficult to write with interest (or to inspire interest in your readers) about a subject for which you feel nothing.
Give your description a sense of life by using multi-sensory details. Description must appeal to the senses: taste, touch sound, sight, and smell. While you need not appeal to every sense in your essay, be sure to give the reader enough description so that he/she can be a part of your topic’s development.
Sight is the easiest of the five senses to use; perhaps because the other senses are used less frequently by us in real life, they have a stronger impact when these senses are used to describe. The more senses you appeal to in your description, the stronger your description will be and the more completely your reader will understand your subject. Imagine you are describing the subject to a blind person—in some ways you are! In your essay, you show your readers a subject with which they are unfamiliar and in all likelihood unable to ever see.
Begin by listing as many details about your subject as you can think of. From there, you can choose the strongest details and discard the rest; if your list is complete enough, you will have too many details to fit into one essay. Then, group the details into logical (themed) sub-groups that you can turn into paragraphs.
For example, an essay describing a cat might be organized like this:
Body Paragraph 1: Physical Characteristics
- Small, fine-boned
- Grey, with a white strip from her nose, running down her chin and then down her belly
- Medium-length hair
Body Paragraph 2: Personality
- Alternately playful, cuddly, and anti-social
- Frequently prefers to be near, but not with, a person
- Does not like to be alone
- When she thinks she is alone, she will cuddle a while with the first person she sees
- Loves to attack people’s hands and shoes
Body Paragraph 3: Habits
- Is definitely a creature of habit
- To signal that she wishes to be taken outside or that she is not finished playing, she pounces on a person’s calf
- Once something occurs in one place, it must occur only in that place from now on
- Because she was once played with underneath the living room table, she will run under the table when she sees someone take out one of her toys
- Has one specific spot in the living room in which she likes to have her belly rubbed; outside of that spot, she will bite the hand of a person who tries to rub her belly
Your thesis will identify the subject of your description and should make some statement about that subject. What is the single main idea that you want your reader to remember about the thing or person you are describing? That’s your thesis statement!
A thesis might be a lesson you learned from your subject or a strong emotional reaction to your subject. For example, if your description is about your well-beloved car, you might say that this car represents your desire to have the best things in life. Writing about an animal, you might say that owning a dog taught you responsibility. Possibilities abound. Considering why you chose to write about your subject and what importance that subject has to you will guide you to a thesis statement.
In your conclusion, refer back to your thesis, indicating again what significance your subject holds for you. The conclusion is your opportunity to talk about why this subject is important.
What should you avoid doing?
- Avoid conversational words and phrases. Do not begin sentences with “Well,…” as in, “Well, I was sure wrong about how long the hike would take”. Such an opening is informal and wrong for an academic essay—even when that essay is a less formal description.
- Avoid talking directly to readers (“As you might have guessed, I was tired and sore by the end of the hike”).
- Avoid clichés, such as “she was as radiant as the sun.” When adding details or figurative language (similes or metaphors), use your own words rather than commonly-used phrases. Such phrases, because they are neither unique nor original, lack life. It is much better to consider exactly what you mean by them, and then to say that.
Ultimately, the assignment calls for a little creativity as you bring to life a subject for your reader. Try to have a little fun with it!
- The body of the essay is 500-750 words. The word count includes those words from the first word of the introduction paragraph to the last word of the conclusion paragraph (not the heading or outline words). Choose a topic that can be discussed in depth and detail within this requirement. This is a test of your ability to narrow or broaden a topic appropriately for the purpose!
- Include an outline as the last page of the essay. This is different than MLA style, which requires the outline to be the first page of the essay, but putting the outline last makes page numbering easier because you do not need to switch between i, ii, iii… numbering and can use only 1, 2, 3… numbering. The first page should be page 1 and the outline should be the last page number.
- Do not use research.
- Use MLA Style to format the essay. Specifically, remember to include a heading on the first page, a header with your last name and page number on each page, and double spacing. See the MLA Style Resources for an example essay formatted according to MLA Style!
- Submit the completed essay by the due date using the link provided beneath this assignment description. (The due date is on the Syllabus.)
- Five points are deducted for each day late. (The due date is on the Syllabus.)
- The essay must be submitted in MS Word (.doc) or Rich Text Format (.rtf). See the instructions in the Syllabus and an announcement early in the course for instructions on how to save in Rich Text Format if you do not use MS Word.
Post your rough draft (1 point) and complete a peer review for at least one other person in the class (4 points). Completing a peer review online requires several steps:
- Post a message to the Peer Review Discussion Board and attach a complete draft (500-750 words) of your essay to this message by the date indicated on the Syllabus for that essay.
- Review at least ONE other person’s paper (but you may do more).
- Answer EACH of the following questions. Be as detailed as possible, and use specific examples to explain your comments.
1. Content Development
3. Language and Mechanics
- Post a reply message to the Peer Reviews Discussion Board and include your completed peer review feedback by the date indicated on the Syllabus.
- Review the comments others provide for your research paper, and consider using these comments to revise your paper before submitting it for a grade.
Of course, submit your revised essay to me for grading and commenting by the due date indicated on the Syllabus.
- You MUST use the above steps to complete a peer review for each essay. Pay close attention to the due dates!
- Review the requirements, guidelines, and grading rubric for each essay. Make suggestions to help your peer meet these requirements, use these guidelines, and achieve the highest grade possible.