Thanks to Anna Paez, University of Pennsylvania, '19, for working at my picnic table.

Web design & photo credit: Anna-Elyse Schwabacher

WRITE SENTENCES THAT INVITE THE READER TO "SEE" YOUR STORY TAKING PLACE.

Before: The flood ruined my prom dress.

After:  The flood in the basement turned the prom dress I was sewing in to a wet heap of green rayon.

ADD DETAILS TO DRAW THE READER CLOSER TO YOUR EXPERIENCE.

Before: Learning the clarinet was hard and complicated.

After: I struggled to learn the clarinet.  The reed had to be moist, but not wet.  Your tongue had to touch the mouthpiece, not lay on it, and your bottom teeth had to be gently tucked under your lip, not clinched.  

ADD VERBS AND USE BETTER ONES.

Before: For my community service project I collected old encyclopedias and took them to recycling center.

After:  I volunteered to round up old encyclopedias and haul them to a recycling center.

USE QUOTES.

Before: The principal yelled at us to put away our cell phones.

After: The principal yelled, "If I see those phones out during assembly I will smash each one."

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AVOID REPEATING WORDS.

Before: The doctor told me that I cracked a vertebrae when I fell from the balance beam.  My cracked vertebrae would heal in three months. The doctor told me to take Advil for pain.

After: The doctor told me that I cracked a vertebrae when I fell from the balance beam.  My injury would heal in three months.  He said I could take Advil for pain. 

ESSAY TRICKS

THESE TECHNIQUES WILL MAKE YOUR ESSAY MORE ENJOYABLE TO READ, DEMONSTRATE GREATER EFFORT ON YOUR PART, AND HOLD THE ATTENTION OF ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

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THE BEST SENTENCES ARE SHORT ONES.

Long sentences increase your odds of grammatical errors.  Short sentences are easier for overworked admissions officers to read.