What Good Writing Looks Like

As a teacher and an editor, I’ve seen a lot of misconceptions about writing. Some students seem to believe that personal statements should be complicated, long, formal, and full of big words. In fact, good personal statements are…

1. Clear

Don’t be afraid to use straightforward language. Pick the word that best conveys your meaning, not the one that sounds fanciest. The only reason you should consult a thesaurus is to look for a simpler word.

Remember that it’s harder to say something simply than it is to say it in a circuitous way. If you can’t figure out how to say something simply, you probably haven’t figured out what you’re really trying to say.

See Writing 101: Clarity and Simplicity for more.

2. Concise

If you can say something with fewer words, do so: your essay will be more potent. Remember that every extra word makes an added demand on your readers’ time.

Never add filler to meet a page requirement.

See Writing 101: Clutter for more.

3. Not Stuffy

You don’t have to put on your big-boy essay pants. You shouldn’t reach for words or phrases that you wouldn’t normally use. You should channel your own voice.

4. Sincere

Make sure you mean what you say. Do not exaggerate.

5. Completely free of errors.

If you write “loose” instead of “lose” or “your” instead of “you’re,” you look stupid, full stop. Admissions officers are looking for reasons to say no, and a small mistake like this can earn you a big fat demerit.

See How to Proofread and Common Mistakes for more.

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