College Essay – Be Original
Jun23

College Essay – Be Original

When writing a college essay, you need to be original and stand out — but in a good way. Try these tips.

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Fewer Words, Better Writing
Sep13

Fewer Words, Better Writing

 Ed Weathers These days, most colleges ask that your application essay be no more than 500 words. To say something meaningful in just 500 words isn’t easy, but it can be done. First, you need to fit your subject to the size of the essay. For more on how to choose a subject, see What to put in your College Application Essay. After you’ve chosen your subject and written a draft or two, it’s time to get rid of the fat. As a writing teacher and professional writer, I’ve learned a few tricks about how to say more with fewer words—a basic virtue of all good writing. The following suggestions apply, not just to your college essay, but also to your freshman composition papers, your senior thesis, your first corporate report, and everything else you will ever write. Here is how to make the most of every 500 words you write for the rest of your life: 1. Remove implied redundancies. Wordy: “The young girl screamed loudly as she sat on the soft fluffy dog in the white snow.” Better: “The girl screamed as she sat on the fluffy dog in the snow.” When you take out “young,” “loudly,” “soft,” and “white,” you’ve lost no information. A girl is by implication young. A scream is by implication loud. (If it’s a soft scream, then the adjective “soft” should be added.) Can a fluffy dog be anything else but soft? No. Is all snow white? No. But if you simply say “snow,” the reader will see white.   2. When possible, replace adverbial words and phrases by using one well-chosen base word. Wordy: “walked with great confidence” Better: “strode” or “marched” Wordy: “extremely large” Better: “huge” or “enormous” or “gigantic” Wordy: “spoke under her breath” Better: “whispered” or “mumbled” or “murmured”   3. Most of the time, use active-voice verbs. Wordy: “The words were spoken by my uncle.” Better: “My uncle spoke the words.”   Wordy: “The ducks were shot by Norm.” Better: “Norm shot the ducks.” (Note: The passive voice has its place. For more on the passive voice, see this link: The Coward’s Cop-Out: Abuse of the passive voice.)   4. Avoid noun-based phrases where a single strong verb will do. Wordy: “I have hopes that I will pass the test,” Better: “I hope I will pass the test.”   Wordy: “We made a decision to climb the mountain” Better: “We decided to climb the mountain.”   Wordy: “She came to the conclusion that she would apply only to state schools” Better: “She opted to apply only to state schools.”   5. Avoid most intensifiers. These include words like...

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