ESSAY TRICKS

THESE TECHNIQUES WILL HELP YOU MAKE YOUR ESSAY MORE LIVELY AND EASIER TO READ.  BEAR IN MIND, ADMISSIONS OFFICERS WILL NOT NECESSARILY PUT IN THE  TIME AND EFFORT TO WADE THROUGH DULL WRITING OR PUZZLE OUT WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY. 

1

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 into a dripping heap of green sequins.

2

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.  

3

UPGRADE YOUR VERBS TO SUGGEST MORE VIGOROUS ACTION. 

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

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

4

USE QUOTES. (IT'S OKAY TO APPROXIMATE WHAT WAS SAID IF YOU CAN'T RECALL WORD FOR WORD).

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

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

5

AVOID REPEATING WORDS PHRASES.

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. 

6

THE BEST SENTENCES ARE SHORT ONES.

Long sentences increase the likelihood of grammatical errors. Also, short sentences make for easier reading.

Before: In my junior year I started a club to advocate for a local law that would ban plastic grocery bags when I read about a dead whale that washed up on a California beach with 300 pounds of bags in its stomach.

After: In my junior year I started a club to advocate for a local law that would ban plastic grocery bags. I was moved  to action by a news story about a dead whale that washed up on a California beach. It had 300 pounds of bags in its stomach.

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

Web design & photo credit: Anna-Elyse Schwabacher