Essays That Describe A Person

Welcome to week 3 of this semester and your second writing assignment..

I hope you all enjoyed writing and reading the last assignment. If you did not get your text corrected by someone please let me know. No texts should go uncorrected!

This week we will tturn our attention to another useful device used in both fiction and non-fiction, the descriptive technique. As we learned, narrative paragraphs describe a sequence of events or tell a story. The logical arrangement of ideas and sentences in a narrative paragraph is chronological - according to time order. But what if you were asked to describe how something looks - a place, a thing, or a person? How should you arrange your ideas and sentences in the paragraph? Obviously, time order would not be logical. When you are describing the way something looks - its physical appearance - it is not time but space that is important. Therefore, you should arrange your sentences and details according to where the objects being described are located. This type of organization is called spatial organization. In a descriptive paragraph, you must make the location of the objects being described very clear.

As literary students you may be asked to relate the role a character plays in a novel or as design students you may be asked to relate the role a person plays in a successful design, as a designer for instance. But how would you describe a person and their role? Depending on the subject or assignment, you could describe the person's physical appearance, behaviour, inner thoughts or the influence the person had on you or others.

A person's appearance can be described in many ways. It is possible to tell about the person's style of clothing, manner of walking, colour and style of hair, facial appearance, body shape, and expression or even the person's way of talking. Just what a writer selects to describe depends on the writer's chosen topic and purpose. No matter what the topic, however, the writer is a painter with words, so the description must be vivid but also coherent - logically arranged - so that the reader can clearly envision who is being described. The following paragraph describes a person's face with a spatial organizationt. Look at the following description and see if you can get a good image of what Mary looks like:

Mary is as beautiful as a Hollywood star. Her thick, wavy, long black hair gracefully falls down to her shoulders and encircles her diamond-shaped face. A golden suntan usually brings out her smooth, clear complexion and high cheek bones. Her slightly arched chestnut brown eyebrows highlight her emotions by moving up and down as she reacts to her world around her. Her large deep blue eyes, remind me of a lake on a stormy day. Her curved nose gives her a little girl look that makes me want to smile when she talks. And her mouth is a small mouth outlined by puffy lips that she often accentuates with glossy pink lipstick. When she smiles, which is often, her well formed and even, white teeth brighten up her whole face. I guess you can tell that I am head over heals in love with Mary.

In this paragraph the reader can not only tell what Mary looks like but also what the author's attitude about her outer appearance is. Last week I mentioned topic sentences: a topic sentence summarizes the entire idea of the paragraph a writer is relating in one short sentence. In narratives a topic sentence often comes at the very end in order to build up suspense for the reader. Generally speaking, however, in most academic writing, the topic sentence is the first sentence in the paragraph and summarizes the ideas that will follow. A good/clear topic sentence not only states the topic (in this case Mary) but also supplies a strong controlling idea which states "how the writer feels about the topic".

More often though than simply describing a person's out appearance because one loves the person, there is a deeper reason. The following paragraph by a former OWC student describes a person but the descriptions are only a support for an underlying political standpoint the author wants to make.

    Jane Goodall had long been an idol of mine before I had the opportunity to meet her personally. I have been a member of one of her international Jane-Goodall-Institutes (JGI) for a couple of years now. I have read some of her books and like her idea of teaching children all over the world about environmental conservation and wild animal care so much that I hope to do it personally one day, too. As the greatest and most popular scientist of chimpanzees in the world and today also an active member of the UN Security Council and close friend of Kofi Anan, she is very busy and always travelling, so the chance to see her is quite rare.

It was two years ago, that Jane Goodall came to the German JG-Institute in Munich to give a lecture, and so I took a flight to Munich to see her. She did not look like what I had expected a popular world-renowned scientist would look like. In spite of having been born in Britain in April 1934, she had nothing of a typical British behaviour about her. She wore blue jeans, trainers and a cotton blouse. She looked like a normal and modest woman, one that you would meet in a supermarket. And she did not even look like a woman over 50, though her long hair tied in a ponytail was grey. Her face was smooth and in a very mysterious way looked carefree like a child ´s face does.

There was a very lively as well as wise expression in her eyes, but most impressible was the deep love and peace they transmitted to everybody when she spoke to the audience. She had lived over 30 years next to chimpanzees in the rainforest, studying and learning from them as she said. You could see the marks of that life, as her whole body seemed to talk with peace and wisdom and was as fit as that of a young woman in her mid-twenties. And even though she has been back to the civilized world for many years now, where she has taught at many universities and fought battles against politicians, businesses and other strong opponents to get protection for chimpanzees and other apes, she must have done this with those very calm gestures that are more convincing than any powerful and eloquent talk. I guess that has made her so successful, because when you watch her you cannot help but agree with her. And her most important message to us was that the love of creatures can be more powerful than all the weapons in the world, if we will just let it.

Judith Burgdorfer

Now it is your turn to think of a person you admire and to describe the influence he/she had on you or the world. Try to use very descriptive adjectives and possibly look up some in either a dictionary or translator to add them to your active vocabulary. Students from KISD should describe a famous designer. Try to write at least four-hundred words this time. If you want to describe your person from two perspectives, such as outer and inner, then you should be sure and separate your text into different paragraphs with different topic sentences.

Make sure though that your paragraphs actually look like paragraphs with one topic sentence. Academic writing is much more structured than e-mails or letters, so that everything that belongs together stays together. In other words, your paragraph should look like a box when you are finished and not like lots of little paragraphs.

Have fun!

P.S. You don't have to be as sappy as the author of "Mary" was but you can be, of course!

Describe a person – your best friend
example answer

I usually make friends easily, so I have a lot of friends – schoolmates, neighbours, relatives. I can’t imagine my life without them. But there is one, who will always be in the first place in my heart. Her name is Anna and she is my closest friend. 

Anna is a very beautiful and charming girl and always attracts males’ attention. She is taller than me and has straight brown hair and deep chestnut brown eyes. Like most teenagers she pays a lot of attention to her appearance and likes dressing in the latest and most extravagant fashion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a T- shirt or jeans. 

By nature Anna is communicative and outgoing and the thing she likes best is being the centre of attention. Her biggest dream is to become a singer and I truly believe that one day she’ll make her wish come true. Anna has won many prizes and has taken part in many concerts, because she sings really incredibly. 

As a normal human being, however, Anna also has her shortcomings. She never goes on time to her dates. Sometimes she is absent-minded and inconsiderate and that makes people think she never takes things seriously. But this is not true. She has a strong sense of responsibility and you can always rely on her. 

Another characteristic she has is that she’s gregarious, sensitive and emotional. She also gets confused easily and doesn’t forget those who have caused her harm. 

The thing I admire most about Anna is that she is protective and likes to look after people. Believe it or not, once she ever saved my life! I’ll never forget that day. We went swimming in a pool. Suddenly, my left leg went dead I couldn’t go on swimming. I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes I found myself lying and Anna holding my hands. She, herself had pulled me out of the water. That was a real narrow escape from the death, and if she weren’t there, I would have drowned. 

For me, friendship is the most important thing in the world. I am proud to say that I have such loyal and helpful friend – one in a million.

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