Last week, we talked about some effective tips to get started on our Personal Statement. I also included a clear 10-step action plan that anyone can follow through to have a productive brainstorming session that promises at least one good essay prompt.
If you missed out on last week’s issue or haven’t followed through the action plan, I’d highly encourage you to give it another go before you continue reading this week’s issue. You can read the article here.
With that said, let’s jump right into this week’s issue and explore the guidelines I followed while drafting my Personal Statement!
By the end of this week, we want to get the following things done.
- Complete the first draft of our Personal Statement based on the prompt/challenge we chose last week.
- Proof-reading our draft.
- Get general feedback on our first draft.
✒️ Writing Guidelines
Here are 3 writing guidelines that I follow diligently every time I write.
Now, these aren’t just guidelines that are useful for PS writing, I put them to use even when I’m writing my articles and newsletters. These guidelines supercharged my writing and they helped me to produce content that would engage, captivate and leave an impression on my readers.
1. Write music
This is indisputably my single all-time favorite writing tip.
Prior to coming across this life-changing advice, I assumed that complex sentences are essentially better than simple ones. I tried to use commas wherever possible. I strung together a bunch of sentences with this magical thing called conjunctions. In my mind, the more complex the sentence, the more mastery of English it shows.
Isn’t that how all the great classics were written? Well, it is a fact that they are incredibly well-appreciated, even centuries later by people of our era. There must be a good and justified reason for them to do so.
However, I came to realize that this principle doesn’t bode well for modern writing. There’s a reason why literature passages are considered one of the tougher comprehension passages in the SAT 1 Reading component. While these timeless pieces are written with flair and pizzazz, it is also hard to comprehend. More often than not, it leaves the reader feeling drained as it saps one’s mental energy to read passages of this nature.
This does not necessarily mean that you can only use simple sentences. Mix it up. Experiment with sentences of different lengths.
Don’t make it a tiring experience for your readers. Ensure they are 'well-rested' throughout your essay to ensure that they continue reading your essay. It is such a simple yet life-changing tip.
Don’t just take my word for it. Go through the content that I put out and see for yourself whether I apply them to my writings as well. Then, think about how it affects you as a reader. Does it make you want to read more? Do certain parts of my writings make you feel like you want to exit the website/newsletter/thread and do something else? (If there are, please tell me! I’d love to hear some feedback)
Take note of what works for you and what doesn’t before applying them in your PS.
2. Write clearly
Don’t write a brilliant sentence.
Write a clear sentence.
Brilliance strokes your ego.
Clarity helps your audience.
Let’s face it.
Whenever we’re faced with a blank sheet expecting us to write something, we fall into at least 1 of 3 traps:-
- We instinctively write in a different tone, attempting to sound more formal.
- We choose to include words and phrases we don’t regularly use in our daily texts or conversation.
- And of course, we use the thesaurus to search up 'fancier' alternatives to a simple yet perfectly applicable word. (Don't lie.)
The 1st trap is understandable, justified even. We can’t possibly use our conversational slangs in writing or it’ll come off as unprofessional and improper. However, if we overdo this, the flow of our writing will be affected and our work would not present an enjoyable reading experience for our readers. It is all well and fine to sound more formal, but remember to keep your tone in check. PS is your story of self, after all, not a lab report or a corporate letter.
When we fall into the 2nd trap, our writing becomes very inconsistent. There are certain areas where we use bombastic and flamboyant words and others where we use simple vocabulary. (Or god forbid, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors) Reading such a piece of writing is like driving down a road with several sharp turns and multiple speed bumps. Your readers go through a rather bumpy ride, moving between sections of your essay that have stark differences in terms of quality.
The 3rd trap is arguably the most dangerous one to fall into. The risk you run when you use a thesaurus is that you may come across words that you don’t fully comprehend. The thesaurus provides you with an array of suggestions but not every one of them are applicable for your use case. There may be one particular suggestion that looks extra fancy, and you seem to recall having come across that word in some random article. This is where most people choose that word, apply it in their writing and end up using it out of context. Always ensure that the words you choose are applicable in the context you want to place them in.
3. Write with a Hook
This one doesn’t require much explanation as it is quite generic.
Start your essay with a hook. Hook your audience from the get-go. Play to their curiosity and get them intrigued from the very first sentence. Make them want to hear more of what you have to say.
The tricky part is sustaining the momentum and maintaining your audience’s attention. That would be quite easy to achieve once you start with a hook, provided you follow the first 2 guidelines as well!
🛠️ Tools and Tech
Here is a sneak peek into the tools I have under my belt that help me to write better and more consistently. (More of these coming in the website so stay tuned! 😉)
Grammarly - As someone who writes on the regular (at least that’s what I want to think), Grammarly has been incredibly helpful to ensure that my typing mistakes and grammatical errors don’t fall through the crack and I end up embarrassing myself online. I subscribe to Grammarly Premium but the free version is should suffice for your PS writing usage.
Google Docs - This is where I draft most of my writings (although occasionally I just use the Ghost/Substack Editor). Probably irrelevant but I use the timeless Times New Roman font and 12 font size. It just looks quite clean and I’m a fan of making things look nice.
Google Keep - Google Keep is easily one of the best software to store your ideas when they strike you out of the blue. It is hard to start drafting from scratch so I often transfer whatever random inspiration and ideas I have into an external place I can refer to later. (Notebooks work too, I use the Typo A5 Blank Buffalo Journal)
Who should we ask for feedback?
If possible, ask someone who isn’t close to you to proofread and give feedback on your PS.
The problem with asking someone close to you to do so is that they are familiar with your background and personality. This leads to them not noticing certain sections of your essay that may be vague to other readers. If these minute details fall through the cracks, the Admission Officers will have a hard time grasping the full context of your essay, no matter how well you write.
How should I deal with feedback?
Don’t let praises get to your head, don’t let criticism get you on your knees.
Accept what you think is justified and make the necessary changes. Politely reject the rest of the feedback, thank everyone for their time and continue improving on your essay. At the end of the day, it is your Personal Statement and you make the final call.
With that said, I hope that the experience that I’m sharing with you today adds value to your life in some shape, way or form.
Have a great week ahead and see you in the next issue of Sunday Scoop!
- 📹 YouTube video - James Hoffman making coffee is just one of the things that’ll make your day. Couple that with high production value editing, it just makes you twice as likely to brew yourself a nice cup, sit down and get some work done.
- 🎧 Harry Potter Movie Soundtrack - If you’re at all a Potterhead and want to get some writing done this week, I would highly recommend that you give this playlist a listen. You’ll feel like you’re writing magic, and you probably are!
How often do you fall into the 3 traps mentioned above? How do you rectify this?
Tweet of the Week
Here's my take on this.— JiaShing (@JiaShingWee) August 15, 2020
Treat the 'advice' or 'tips' that I put out there more like a recipe book🍙 than an instruction manual.🛠️
Go through everything, find what works for you and experiment with it.
This week’s articles
How to Deal with 'Bad' Grades - In this article, I distil and discuss the main insights I gained from an almost 2-hour long conversation with my college mate who was awarded triple B by the CAIE board. In it, we talk about her experience, how she picked herself back up and her plans moving forward.
If you enjoyed this type of content, consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter, Sunday Scoop🍨 where I share :-
* a short article on a few life lessons I've picked up/productivity method I'm experimenting within the week
* links to the favourite contents I consumed that week
* a question to ponder on for the week (or a challenge if I'm feeling cheeky!)
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