to Write an Expressive or Descriptive Essay:
expressive essay is normally not subject to
the strict rules governing
some other forms of college writing—for example, contractions and
informal language might be allowable where they would not be permitted in
informative writing. However, even though an expressive essay ordinarily
uses a less formal style than other kinds of academic writing, you still
must follow rules of grammar, spelling and word usage!
For example, do not call a person “that,” and make sure your
sentence structure is correct.
expressive essay is about you, your thoughts, feelings, experiences,
memories, and emotions. An expressive essay is written in the first person
(I, me, and sometimes, we and us). Use
of the 2nd person (you, yours) is not
appropriate in this kind
It is customary in an expressive essay to use dialogue. English almost
always requires joining-words for dialogue or quotes.
expressive and descriptive writing, use descriptive language—that is,
describe people, places, things and ideas that you make reference to, and
do not simply name them. Think
in terms of the five senses:
A. Sight—Paint a word picture of what you are describing.
Try to do this well enough that if your audience reads your words and
later encounters the same scene for the first time, they will have an
“Aha!” moment of recognition,
B. Sounds—If appropriate,
describe what you heard or hear in the situation you are writing about.
C. Touch, smell and taste—If appropriate, describe these sensations
In expressive essays,
describe your feelings. Use
feeling words like: love, happiness (joy), sadness, pain (hurt), anger
(fury), fear, pleasure, loneliness, excitement, comfort (safety, relaxation,
contentment), shock, pride, scorn (contempt), shame (guilt, regret, modesty,
shyness), boredom, fatigue (exhaustion, feeling tired, sleepiness), jealousy
(envy, greed, ambition) and interest (curiosity, desire), or verbs
describing these feelings. As
you write, own your feelings. Do
not write “there was some anger in the air about this betrayal,”
Write “I became angry because they betrayed me.”
However, do not write anything too personal to be shared with the
Let your words carry the load, and
do not rely on exclamation points. Even if
the situation you describe is very exciting or emotional, avoid exclamations
"Damn!" "Oh God!"
or the like.
And, never USE ALL CAPITALS to emphasize an exclamation.
This points you out as a childish writer.
fat. When you use adjectives be sure they are colorful and
descriptive, and that each one pulls its own weight. Avoid “fat,” which in
this type of writing means extra adjectives that add bulk without really
describing anything. For
instance, to describe a slice of fruit pie as “tart and steaming, topped
with a dollop of sweet, white whipped cream slowly melting down the sides of
the pie” is both descriptive and appetizing. To describe the same pie as
“deliciously prepared, attractively sliced, beautifully topped and elegantly
served” is not descriptive—it is simply verbal fat, and thus bad writing.. In. expressive writing,
whenever possible prefer active verbs. Active verbs
include almost every English verb except the “verb to be” (am, is, are,
will be), the verb “to go” (go, going, went) and the verbs “to have“
or “to get.” Experts suggest
that writers should look for nouns ending in “-ment” or “-tion” and
transform them into verbs. E.g.,
change “I had a conversation with the professor” to “I conversed with
the professor.” Replace “She
had an abortion” with “She chose to abort her pregnancy.” However, do
not strain for this—to write “the pie had a dollop of sweet, white whipped
cream on top” is descriptive. “The
pie was gloriously crowned with a fluffy, gleaming cloud of exquisitely sweet,
snowy white whipped cream” is just silly and phony, and sounds more like the
writing of the 1800’s than that of the 21st century. Nobody
writes like that any more except for English class. Think of your audience and
do them a favor: spare them from word-games.
Avoid stringing more than three adjectives
To describe the pie as “tart, juicy, steaming, sweet, hot and
delicious” strains the limits of what is allowable in today’s English,
even though each adjective by itself is descriptive. If you must do this,
there are other techniques to use that will work better, such as placing
“and” between every other adjective.
Long strings of adjectives make the text look as though you are
straining to stretch it, or make you look like a bad, wordy writer showing off
your English vocabulary knowledge.
Avoid poofy, general
not write “She quickly drove away,” or “Many of us went to the party.”
Instead, write “She jumped into her Porsche and burned rubber to get
away,” or “At least a dozen of us attended the party.” Your descriptions
should be as specific as possible without becoming scientific-sounding.
Numbers are the great lie-detector, but be sure you have information to back
up each number you use. Never
write “he was three quarters
drunk,” unless you administered a breathalyzer test on him to verify such a precise
Avoid adverbs unless absolutely necessary for description.
In contemporary English, adverbs are “fattier” than adjectives, and
must be used with more care, even in expressive writing.
Never string two or more adverbs together with one verb, and never try
to go back and insert extra adverbs where they are not needed—let your
action verbs do the work instead. [Hint: Most adverbs end in –“ly,” like
“greatly,” “quickly,” “gravely” or “absolutely.”]
or descriptive essay must have conscious arrangement just like any other kind
of serious writing. The most common tactic seems to be to organize an
expressive essay chronologically (what happened first, what happened
afterwards). If your paper is describing a static scene (like a painting or a
snapshot), first describe the main figures or objects in the scene, then the
background, then your reaction and the feelings it provokes in you.
Other arrangements also work well, including
problem-solution-resolution, cause and effect, and order of importance.
An expressive essay does not ordinarily involve research, and should not
require a Works Cited page or in-text citations unless you were the author or
subject of the works cited.
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