Especially for students entering 9th grade now (although actually for any high school students), this week my ebook HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE will be 99 cents on Kindle.
(If you do not have a Kindle, you can get free Kindle apps for almost any electronic device at http://budurl.com/freekindleapp and there is also a paperback version of this book available on Amazon.)
In my opinion one of the most important skills to learn during high school is how to write a good essay. And this is vital whether a high school student plans to apply to college or go out into the world after high school and be able to communicate in writing with others.
The August 24-25 Wall Street Journal carried the article “Writing the Right College-Entrance Essay“ by Lacy Crawford. The advice is very good, although not as specific as I think it needs to be.
In my book I give specific advice, and I add a bonus at the end of the ebook that I will share here:
How to Use Dynamic Language on a College Application Essay
Following a few basic recommendations helps the language of your essay sound dynamic rather than weak.
Some people mistakenly think that dynamic language in a college application essay means using those big words you memorized for the standardized tests. Actually, the opposite is true. Unfamiliar words interrupt a reader’s thought process and can make him/her lose the train of thought.
What you want to do is use familiar words in a dynamic way that keeps the reader moving along at a good reading pace. Follow the rules below to increase the dynamic flow of your essay. (You are not expected to do all the following on a first or second draft. Do these steps for the stage we will call “the polish.“)
Rule #1: Get rid of words that are unfamiliar to most readers. For example, do NOT say: She wrapped a scarf around her florid face. Instead say: She wrapped a scarf around her ruddy face. The word “florid,“ which is used less often than “ruddy,“ could interrupt a reader’s thoughts.
Rule #2: Get rid of forms of the verb “to be.“ For example, do NOT say: I am hoping to see my brother in his orchestra recital. Instead say: I hope to see my brother in his orchestra recital. Notice how much more energy appears in the words “I hope“ as opposed to the words “I am hoping.“ And, yes, sometimes following this rule will require an entire sentence be rewritten in order to get rid of a form of the verb “to be.“
Rule #3: Get rid of all adverbs. For example, do NOT say: I walked quickly towards the airport exit gate. Instead say: I strode towards the airport exit gate. Go through your entire essay and eliminate the adverbs. Then choose stronger verbs that include the concept of the adverbs you eliminated.
Rule #4: Use descriptive adjectives rather than generic adjectives. For example, do NOT say: She wore a nice dress. Instead say: She wore a knee-length navy wool dress.
Rule #5: Limit your use of the pronoun I. Yes, a college application essay is about you. Yet dynamic language calls for reducing the number of times a writer uses the personal pronoun. For example, do NOT say: I wanted to proofread the essay that I had written before I had to pick up my sister at her ballet lesson. Instead say: Before picking up my sister at her ballet lesson, I wanted to proofread my essay.
Rule #6: Vary your sentence length and structure. Be careful to avoid monotonous sentence structure that can lull a reader to sleep. Use some short and some long sentences.
Rule #7: Shorter paragraphs are easier on a reader’s eyes. And you want the college admissions essay reader to actually read your essay. If you have a long block of text, break it in two or more paragraphs. Just be sure that each paragraph can stand on its own. Sometimes a better editing choice would be to remove a sentence or two in a long paragraph. Many paragraphs of four or five sentences can have one sentence removed without losing any of the paragraph’s meaning.
And, remember, every time you make changes to your essay, you must run spell check and then read the essay aloud to check for incorrect words, missing words, extra words, or other errors that spell check might not catch.
Now through August 29 get the entire book of advice for 99 cents on Kindle at http://amzn.to/PdupDP and please share this link with others who can benefit from the advice.
© 2013 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET YOUR BOOK IN THE AGE OF AMAZON and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY.