What Is the Dominant Impression in Descriptive Writing?

How would someone describe you? Descriptive writing can be tricky to accomplish because without the proper preparation, you may be hard-pressed to maintain a descriptions of an object or person for the length of the essay. If you use a concept called the dominant impression in your description, you may find that the essay comes together with less struggle. The University of West Florida's Online Writing Lab, defines a dominant impression as "the feeling you are trying to convey condensed into a single word or phrase."

The Descriptive Essay

The purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe an object, place or person in detail so the reader gets a clear sense of the essay's subject. Descriptive essays are often assigned in classes, particularly in college writing classes. If the assignment is to describe a person, you might describe the person's appearance, demeanor and habits.

Why Use a Dominant Impression

Much like a thesis statement, the dominant impression unifies and organizes the essay by acting as a foundation of what characteristics will be provided in the story. It informs the reader of the author's angle and creates a lens through which the reader sees the rest of the essay. For example, if the essay is a description of your kid sister, you might make the dominant impression be about how resilient and strong you thought your sister was as she competed in sports. The reader will keep this in mind as you describe those sporting events and her competitive spirit. Describing your sister with the singular word "sporty" is one way to help give the dominant impression defining perceptions of her for story's duration.

Differences Between Descriptive Essays and Other Essays

A descriptive essay follows the same format that other types of essays (such as the persuasive essay and the narrative essay) follow. The only difference is that the descriptive essay has a dominant impression in place of the typical thesis statement. While other types of essays may contain a descriptive section (for example, a persuasive essay may describe the way things should be), descriptive essays use the space of the entire essay to describe the subject.

Tips For Writing a Descriptive Essay

The most important element of your descriptive essay will be the dominant impression. Reflect on what strikes you most readily about your subject and turn it into a sentence that includes your subject, such as, "My younger sister Emily is remarkably resilient and strong-willed." Choose three aspects of your subject that support your dominant impression and turn each into a body paragraph. Examine the descriptions you've provided and make sure each one is concrete and detailed instead of abstract. Also make sure each description supports your dominant impression.