How would you describe an experience? How would you start? Which experience would you like to recount: a new job, a meal at a restaurant, a party you went to?
Imagine that you want to describe a recent holiday; where would you start?
DESCRIBING AN EXPERIENCE
♠ Step #1:
What do you want to say? Start by asking ‘Wh …‘ questions:
Who … ? Where … ? What … ? When … ? Why … ? Which … ? How … ?
The answers to the ‘Wh … ?’ questions will provide you with a description:
|1. Where did you go?
Where did you stay?
El Gran Hotel, 5 nights
|2. When did you go?||Last month|
|3. Who did you go with?||My girlfriend/boyfriend/family|
|4. Why did you go there?||To see museums and a UNESCO site|
|5. What did you do there?||We visited:
* The ancient pyramids at the ..UNESCO site
* El Museo Frida Kahlo
* El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal
* El Palacio de Bellas Artes
|6. What was the best part of your holiday?||El Museo Frida Kahlo|
|7. Why?||She’s my favourite Mexican artist.|
♠ Step #2:
Use the information above to write some sentences:
Last summer, I went to Mexico City with my girlfriend Josefina.
We stayed at El Gran Hotel for five nights.
We wanted to see some museums and a UNESCO site.
We visited ancient pyramids, El Museo Frida Kahlo, El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal, and El Palacio de Bellas Artes.
I enjoyed El Museo Frida Kahlo the most.
Frida Kahlo is my favourite Mexican artist.
The museum used to be her home. She was born there and died there.
We saw some of her most famous paintings in the museum.
♠ Step #3:
Improve the sentences:
To do this, add information that will engage the reader. Was there anything unusual, impressive, or amusing about your holiday? Make notes* next to your sentences. For example:
We visited … El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal.
(*Our 1.5 hour tour included a margarita on arrival and a tequila & mezcal tasting that included five sample drinks. Josefina was drunk after the margarita!)
The hotel was excellent.
(* The view to the Zocalo is delightful by day and spectacular by night. Friendly staff, in historical centre)
Try to convey how you felt at the various times and places: astonished, appalled, fascinated, enchanted, disappointed, overwhelmed.
We were impressed with the knowledge of the guides at the museums.
We were both fascinated by the pyramids.
(* It was a long drive but it was worth it.)
You could use the gerund form of the above adjectives to describe the places: astonishing, appalling, fascinating, enchanting, disappointing, overwhelming. Other descriptive adjectives include: wonderful, pathetic, dreadful, incredible, remarkable.
We visited Frida Kahlo’s enchanting blue house.
Josefina loved the murals by Diego Rivera in El Palacio de Bellas Artes although I found them overwhelming.
* Avoid using boring, over-used words like: nice, interesting, beautiful, bad, good. If you find it difficult to think of more descriptive words, try using www.thesaurus.com This site provides synonyms (words with a similar meaning) and antonyms (words with an opposite meaning).
You can also see examples of the correct usage of a word when you check it in the thesaurus. This tool needs some improvement but it’s worth a look. (For example, SWAP interesting IN A SENTENCE). Why not have a look now? I typed in ‘interesting’ and just look at what came up: interesting The site also provides pronunciation.
♠ Step #4:
Organise the sentences into paragraphs:
You should have a lot of details to write about now. If you don’t, go to relevant websites and find information. That’s what I did! I researched ‘Mexico City’ to find the above facts for this post. Do you have photos of your holiday? Describe what was happening when the photos were taken.
All you need to do now is to put your sentences into a logical order. For an experience, chronological order is the simplest. Use paragraphs to separate your facts and to help your reader understand what you are talking about.
Your description should have a beginning (introduction), a middle (main body), and an end (conclusion). Use linking words to connect your ideas.
1. First Paragraph – INTRODUCTION: The answers to questions 1-4 will provide all you need for a one paragraph introduction.
2. Next Paragraphs – MAIN BODY: The answers to questions 5-7 will provide all you need. This is the longest part because it contains the main details. It can be as long as you like but start a new paragraph for each topic. If you wish to write about each museum, give each one a separate paragraph. If you just want to list them with minimal description, put them in one paragraph. Then, you could start a new paragraph focusing on the museum/s you enjoyed the most.
Perhaps your holiday was at the seaside; surfing and hiking during the day and eating out and then clubbing at night. You could divide your Main Body into four paragraphs with these four topics: surfing, hiking, eating out, and clubbing.
3. Last Paragraph – CONCLUSION: This is usually a repetition of the sentiments/ideas in the introduction. For a descriptive piece of writing like this, point out that you had a wonderful/terrible/memorable holiday that you would recommend/not recommend. Don’t introduce new ideas.
Formula for a descriptive essay:
|What do you want to write about?||What ..?
|2. MAIN BODY|
At least 2-3.
|Topic 1||Details/Facts||Opinions/Feelings||Anything additional?|
|Repeat ideas in the Introduction;
|No new information!|
Describing an Experience:
My Holiday in New Mexico
Last month, my girlfriend Josefina and I went to New Mexico for a holiday. We stayed at the fabulous El Gran Hotel for five nights.* Our hotel room, the service, and the views were all excellent, but the main attractions were the pyramids at the UNESCO site and the museums.
On the first morning, we set off early for the UNESCO site to see the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan. It was a long drive in a crowded bus but it was worth it. The pyramids were fascinating.We spent the day exploring the site which had hundreds of steps!* We fell asleep on the way back to the hotel.
The next two days were spent visiting as many museums and art galleries as we could. El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal and El Palacio de Bellas Artes were on our must-see list and they didn’t disappoint. Josefina loved the murals by Diego Rivera in El Palacio de Bellas Artes although I found them overwhelming.*At El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal, our 1.5 hour tour included a margarita on arrival and a tequila and mezcal tasting which included five sample drinks.* Josefina was drunk after the margarita!
We kept the best to last. We spent a lot of time at El Museo Frida Kahlo which features some of her most famous paintings. Frida Kahlo is our favourite Mexican artist so it was exciting and inspiring to see the house where she was born, lived and died. Now, her enchanting house is a museum.*
I will never forget our Mexico City holiday. It was all we had hoped for. We saw the UNESCO pyramids and the top museums. We loved everything about Frida Kahlo’s house. If you have a passion for art, culture and history (and tequila), I highly recommend Mexico City.
* You could add more detail in these areas. If, for example, you have a lot to say about the UNESCO site, don’t put it all into one long paragraph. Divide it into what you saw in one paragraph and the historical facts in a second paragraph. If, for example, a tourist was bitten by a snake while you were there, you could present the story in a third paragraph.
Even though all these facts relate to the one place, they all introduce a topic within a topic so consider using more, rather than fewer, paragraphs.
Now, it is your turn! Can you describe an experience following my 4 easy steps? Let me know!