Help With Descriptive Essays About People

Essays are the most widely spread assignment for modern students. And Canadian educational establishments are not an exception. There are different types of essays to be written by students and tutors, and professors choose this type of assignment very often for this purpose. This type of paper may describe different things, events, atmosphere, etc. But a descriptive essay about a person remains one of the most often assigned tasks.

It can be offered to students of any department as a number of people to describe is incredibly big: these might be relatives, friends, group mates, popular celebrities, scientists, writers, rulers, book or movie characters, etc. Consequently, it is of great importance to know about the main features of a descriptive essay on a person to create an efficient and custom paper.

What is a Personal Descriptive Essay?

Known also as “character sketches,” descriptive essays about a person refer to rather difficult tasks, as students cannot read examples of them rather often. Some character descriptions are met in fiction books. But not all of them can be used as an example for an essay. The main objective of this essay is to make the details you feel about the person look vivid with the help of the text. The task of the student is to provide a reader with a detailed description of the person as well as writer's own considerations about him or her.

What other nuances of this task to keep in mind? Apart from mentioning physical features of the character, better if it is done indirectly, the writer should focus on several personality traits shown with the examples of the person’s actions and behavior rather than just mentioned.

Before you start writing a descriptive essay about a person or before you decide to pay for essays writing, it is necessary to read several templates of well-structured papers. This will be useful to understand how it should look like. It will give a boost and provide a writer with the ideas how to present character's identity right and prolifically. That may also become an inspiration for the writer and a good example to consider.

What is the Structure of the Descriptive Essay about a Person?

As well as any other college paper, the one about a human being has a standard structure; good work consists of three parts:

  1. Introduction. It is a part where the writer represents reasons why he or she describes this individual. It must have a strong opening to grab the attention of the reader and a thesis statement at the end.
  2. The main body that can include several paragraphs. A standard essay has three paragraphs in the main body. The first one is used for giving a vivid portrait of the human, observation of details and his representation; the second one is aimed at the description of the environment he or she is living in; the third one involves sensual and emotional description, etc.
  3. Conclusion. The goal of this part is to conclude and show the significance of your work.

Most Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Descriptive Essay about a Person

Writing an essay, students usually make rough mistakes. Some of them appear to be common for most of the students. If you want to avoid them, you should be aware of them. Here are some common mistakes met in such type of papers:

  • Inability to show and present readers the character you describe;
  • Simple listing of character traits;
  • Use of long adjective strings;
  • Avoidance of metaphors and similes;
  • Poor structure of an essay;
  • Skipping draft writing etc.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay about a Person: Useful Tips

A key to success of every student is in being knowledgeable in the subject. How to write descriptive essay about a person? Take into account the following tips and each your paper will be worth an A grade:

  1. Choose the subject properly.
  2. Select the most powerful words to use.
  3. Do a research and find as much information related to the topic as possible.
  4. Accentuate the explanations provided by the author if there are any, also, you can write down any dialogues, interpretations or explanations that might be supportive.
  5. Make observation of as many character aspects as possible.
  6. Think of the audience you are writing for.
  7. Select a dominant impression to make an accent on.

What is the most important for a good paper? When you were assigned to write a paper that describes a human, it is very important to engage a reader with the alive representation of the individual you would like to describe. As a result, it is of great importance to use not only words but also five main senses if you desire to create an effective paper.

In The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain paints a word picture of King Henry VIII using descriptive language:

Before him, at a little distance, reclined a very large and very fat man, with a wide, pulpy face, and a stern expression. His large head was very grey; and his whiskers, which he wore only around his face, like a frame, were grey also. His clothing was of rich stuff, but old, and slightly frayed in places. One of his swollen legs had a pillow under it, and was wrapped in bandages. This stern-countenanced invalid was the dread Henry VIII.

And in The Bronze Bow[aff. link], Elizabeth George Speare describes a young Roman soldier:

When he straightened again, the Roman was pulling off his helmet, revealing crisp fair hair. He wiped the back of his hand across his wet forehead where the metal had left an uncomfortable-looking crease. With a shock, Daniel saw that he was very young… The beardless cheeks and chin scarcely needed a razor. His skin was white, mottled and peeling from exposure to the sun, so that he could not have seen service long under the Galilean skies. The eyes that stared back at Daniel were a clear bright blue. He looked as though he might be about to speak.

Using Descriptive Writing Tools

Can your high schoolers describe a person using vivid vocabulary like the above examples? Without good observation skills or an arsenal of strong words, this can be a challenging task!

Can they describe their subject in detail without turning it into a narrative or story? When I was teaching writing classes, this was a hard concept for my students to grasp. Even with careful guidelines, many still ended up focusing on what the person was doing instead of how they looked.

Use the following tips as teaching tools in one of two ways:

  1. Discuss the many ways to describe a person before letting students loose to brainstorm; OR
  2. Once the rough draft has been written and edited, give this list of ideas to stimulate creativity and to help them write a meatier revision.

Either way, whether you work on better brainstorming or focus on more polished revisions, improved description will result.

How to Describe a Person

It’s good to let your kids struggle with the initial writing process. As they wrestle with ideas and words, it will remind them of the importance of thorough and effective brainstorming. The following ideas will help them improve their descriptive paragraphs as they think of more concrete ways to describe a person’s appearance.

TIP: Students shouldn’t be expected include every descriptive element listed below. Rather, a few well-chosen details will go a long way toward bringing their subject to life.

Face Shape

  • Square
  • Oval
  • Round
  • Triangular
  • Heart-shaped
  • Thin
  • Wide
  • Chiseled

Skin and Complexion

Complexion is the natural appearance and color of the skin, especially of the face. For example, “Mary has a soft, creamy complexion.”

  • Wrinkled:covered with lines or loose folds of skin; often associated with age 
  • Freckled: sprinkled or covered with light brown spots 
  • Ruddy: skin that has a reddish tint; may have the appearance of sunburn 
  • Sallow: skin that has a yellowish tint; may be associated with illness
  • Tanned: skin with a warm, golden-brown tint
  • Rosy or fresh-faced: pink-cheeked, fair complexion that glows with a hint of pink 
  • Other skin-related adjectives: pale, fair, spotless, silky, smooth, creamy, dewy, baby-soft, peaches-and-cream, glowing, paper-thin or translucent (as with a very old person), sunburned, peeling, rough, callused, weathered, weatherbeaten, craggy, leathery, mottled, dry, brown, dark

Eyes

TIP: Pay attention to the eyes, as they often reveal much about a person.

  • Shape, size, and appearance: large, small, almond-shaped, round, squinty, crinkly, bulging, heavy-lidded, hooded, deep-set, close-set, hollow, tear-filled
  • Eye color:black, brown, hazel, green, blue, violet, gray, amber
  • Eye expressions: piercing, mesmerizing, sad, sorrowful, haunted, gentle, sympathetic, warm, compassionate, expressive, bright, twinkling, lively, dancing, laughing, shifty, sly, distrusting, sleepy
  • Other: brown-eyed boy, bright-eyed sister, wide-eyed child, gold-flecked eyes

Mouth and Lips

  • Lip shape and size: thin, full, pouting, rosebud (baby’s lips, often), pursed (puckered up, as when concentrating)
  • Mouth expressions: laugh, smile, beam, grin, frown, grimace, scowl, sneer, curl, pout
  • Adjectives describing the mouth or mouth expressions: toothy, toothless, gap-toothed, kind, sweet, dimpled, relaxed, firm, serious, cruel, snarling

Hair

  • Hair color: black, brunette, brown, chestnut-brown, blond, honey-blond, golden-blond, ash-blond, fair, cornsilk, auburn, red, strawberry-blond, gray, silver, white, salt-and-pepper
  • Texture or appearance: wispy, fuzzy, wavy, curly, kinky, frizzy, wild, untamed, unmanageable, straight, spiky, stiff, buzzed, shaved, parted, neatly-combed, tamed, cascading, long, short, cropped, dull, shiny
  • Hair styles: braids, ponytail, pigtails, bun, messy bun, twist, bob, ringlets, flip, cornrows, extensions, bangs, buzz, layered, feathered, chopped, gelled, spiked, slicked down
  • Lots of hair: thick, full, lustrous, bushy, coarse, wiry, stiff
  • Little hair: thin, scraggly, fine, baby-fine, downy, wispy, limp, flat, balding, bald, bald spot, receding (gradual loss of hair at the front of the head)
  • Treated hair: permed, dyed, bleached, highlighted, weaved, streaked, colored

Facial Hair

  • Hair: beard, goatee, mustache, soul patch, sideburns
  • Beard growth: stubble, fuzz, peach fuzz, bristles, five o’clock shadow (describes new beard growth that’s shadowy in appearance. It’s usually more noticeable late in the day on the jaw, chin, or cheek area, but some men purposely grow five o’clock shadows.) 
  • Adjectives: bearded, bushy, stubbly, bristly, scratchy, unshaven, shaggy, whiskered, beardless, clean-shaven, smooth, trimmed, neatly-trimmed, pencil-thin

Body

TIP: Choose strong verbs and adjectives.

  • Build: small, slim, slight, thin, lean, willowy, skinny, angular, bony, fine-boned, chunky, chubby, large, portly, plump, round, stout, pudgy, full-figured, ample, broad-shouldered, burly, solid, muscular
  • Posture: stand, sit, slouch, flop, lean, recline, rest, stretch, sprawl, curl up, roost, squirm, arch, slump, stoop, bend, hunch, scoot, walk, run, race, jog

Clothing

  • Fabric: denim, twill, wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, seersucker, gingham, lace, chiffon, tulle, velvet, velveteen, fleece, flannel, tweed, polyester, jersey, corduroy, spandex, leather
  • Bottoms: jeans, skinny jeans, cargo pants, flat-front pants, pleated pants, slacks, trousers, overalls, sweatpants, crop pants, capris, skirt, shorts, board shorts
  • Tops: sport shirt, dress shirt, polo shirt, button-down shirt, tank top, blouse, tunic, long-sleeve, short-sleeve, sleeveless, collared, T-shirt, V-neck, scoop-neck, turtleneck, sweatshirt, hoodie, pullover, sweater, cardigan, sweater set
  • Other clothing: dress, gown, frock, uniform, coveralls, costume, pajamas, bathrobe, robe, vest, jacket, blazer, coat, apron
  • Footwear: socks, stockings, shoes, slippers, sandals, flip-flops, loafers, heels, pumps, boots, ankle boots, riding boots, slouch boots, athletic shoes, sneakers, tennis shoes, gym shoes, runners
  • Accessories: mittens, gloves, hat, cap, head wrap, bandana, scarf, muffler, necklace, choker, bracelet, ring, earrings, cuffs, cufflinks, purse, clutch, bag, tote, sunglasses, eyeglasses, glasses
  • Adjectives (appearance): stylish, natty, smart, chic, classy, elegant, polished, draped, flowing, sheer, casual, relaxed, carefree, starched, crisp, sharp, dressy, lacy, shiny, shimmering, sparkling, glittery, sloppy, torn, ripped, tattered, disheveled, slovenly, tacky, unkempt, faded, scratchy, worn, frayed, nubby, rough, smooth, pliable, warm, soft, quilted, knit
  • Adjectives (patterns): striped, solid, plaid, checked, floral print, geometric print

Sentence Starters Describing Clothes (Encourage your students to write more maturely by using strong sentence openings.)

  • Smartly dressed in (name of garment), the woman …
  • Casually attired in (name of garment), Chloe …
  • Simply clad in (name of garment), Mark …
  • Uncle Max sported a (name of garment) …
  • Wearing a (name of garment), the detective …

There are so many ways to describe people! What other words would you include?

* * * * *

Do you need help teaching descriptive writing to your middle and high school kids? WriteShop I provides a strong foundation in concrete description, teaching students how to describe an object, animal, person, food, season, and place. Students learn to choose strong words to bring their subjects to life. WriteShop II continues by offering several lessons in advanced descriptive narration, where students weave vivid description into a story or other narrative.

Photo credits: Dave Rosen (street man), Loren Kerns (blue eyes), Paul Arps (Dai boy), Dylan Walters (mountain woman), Connie Liegl (redhead), Spigoo (newborn), courtesy of Creative Commons

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