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How to Make Your Writing Feel More Personal

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You have a tale to share with the world. You know that your experiences will make for an engaging novel — or at least an entertaining blog post.

However critical and compelling your message is, few people will read it if your writing style makes them feel like they’re wading through a swamp of literary muck. Plus, you need to strike a delicate balance between giving your audience a glimpse into your life and making them unwilling hostages to your biography. How can you make your writing feel more personal without baring your naked brain — or making readers yawn?

Making Impersonal Pieces Feel More Personal

Let’s start with the type of writing many people perform at their job every day. Maybe you need to write a report for your boss on suggested ways to boost productivity without breaking the budget. Perhaps they want an email on the subject — the primary issue remains the same.

You do your research, and you identify implementing a flextime policy as a cost-effective means to boost productivity without spending much overhead. Since it’s better to show than tell, compare these three examples:

Example one: Since we spoke earlier this week — thanks again for the coffee — I worked hard on the assignment you gave me. I thought it would be nice if we could try a flextime policy to see if that might help? You see, Barb in accounting just had her third baby, and she’s having a lot of trouble juggling telecommuting and childrearing. She gets interrupted all the time during her typical nine-to-five, but she thinks a more flexible schedule could help. She told me that she could be more productive if she could attend conference calls when she puts her baby down for a nap. DeShaun over in tech support has a similar situation, and you know Felicity is always running to one doctor’s appointment or another.

Example two: Flextime policies can increase productivity, according to this highly respected HR journal. Competitor Corporation implemented such a plan last year and increased revenue by 5%. Employees who work for firms with such programs generally report higher job satisfaction and improved work-life balance.

Example three: A method many top firms have successfully implemented to boost productivity inexpensively is a flextime policy. According to my research, many firms that embrace such arrangements increase productivity and enjoy increased revenues. The cost to establish such a system is less than $1,000 per year, and folks like Barb in accounting and DeShaun in tech support feel enthusiastic about the idea, as do I. Could we explore this option together in more detail?

The first one is way too personal for a professional setting. It is inappropriate to gossip about other employees’ lives. Plus, the tone is too informal. The second example swings too far to the opposite extreme. It’s entirely appropriate — but it doesn’t inspire the reader to take action, either.

Example number three, though, much like Baby Bear’s chair and porridge, is just right. It conveys the pertinent facts, but warmly. The writer adds a personal touch by including who is onboard with the idea without going into unnecessary details. Most importantly, it inspires the reader to act — which is the whole purpose of the communication.

Making Your Personal Writing Less Self-Indulgent

“ That’s fine for work, ” you might be thinking, “ but it hardly helps me to pen my memoir. ” Fair enough. How can you strike a balance between utterly baring your soul and keeping the reader entertained?

Let’s say you’re writing a 750-word personal essay piece about how you successfully overcame an addiction. You want to describe your lowest point — perhaps so dark you considered ending your life:

Example one: “I thought back to my formative years.” From here, you go on a stream-of-consciousness journey straight out of Joyce. This approach works if you’re a literary master, and your objective is creating art for art’s sake. However, for most blog writers, it will put you way over word count. Worse, you risk alienating your reader when their eyes get tired.

Example two: “It was so bad, I thought about ending it all.” I’m sorry that you felt that way, but I’m not feeling the kind of emotional connection that makes me want to read further.

Example three: “I stood on the edge — not the proverbial one, but an outcropping overlooking a 200-foot drop. I used to cliff-dive, and I remember thinking, just close your eyes, and pretend it’s the ocean.”

Once again, Baby Bear for the win. Why? You form a connection with the reader by including specific details and emotions attached to the experience. You paint a vivid picture of the exact moment you contemplated the worst — but you never mention suicide directly, either. You let the reader draw that inference. From there, you can go on to spread a positive message of hope and recovery. You conveyed the essential information — all without making the reader feel depressed themselves.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Personalizing Your Writing

Hopefully, these brief examples give you an idea of how to make your writing more personal while remaining professional and avoiding self-indulgence. Whenever you want to connect with your reader without implicitly treating them like your therapist, ask yourself the following questions.

1. What Is Your Purpose?

At the core of all written communication is the desire to connect, so consider if the information you share will help you build that bridge. It doesn’t matter if your subject matter is as seemingly dry as to how to use SQL to improve website traffic. How can you make the topic meaningful to your reader? For example, if your tweaks increased the click-through rate of one of your sites considerably, that’s relevant information to share.

2. Who Is Your Audience?

If nobody reads what you write, you haven’t communicated effectively. Keep your audience paramount in your mind. Before sharing anything personal, ask yourself, “Do they need to know this? If so, why?” For example, if you’re writing a piece on survival in the wild, your audience needs to know how you managed to start a fire with damp wood. They don’t, however, need a play-by-play of every shiver and teeth-chatter you felt while you tried to get it going.

3. How Can I Say It Succinctly?

Many writers get caught up in a keyboard frenzy when inspiration strikes — yours truly is no exception. However, ask yourself, “How can I say this in as few words as possible?” Read your final draft out loud and see what you can delete without losing meaning. Do you need to say, “During my high school years, when many young bodies are in peak athletic form, I decided to dedicate my life and lungs to track,” when a simple, “I ran track in high school” will do?

Make Your Writing Personal, Yet Professional

Effective writing is much like walking a tightrope. You need to maintain a steady balance between what you want to say and what the reader needs to know. Keep these tips and examples in mind as you polish your magnum opus.

About the Author

Kate Harveston is a journalist from Pennsylvania. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing and her work has been featured on sites like Medium and Yahoo News.

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how to make an essay more personal

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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Mastering the Art of Personal Essay Writing: Tips and Techniques

Mastering the Art of Personal Essay Writing: Tips and Techniques

Writing a personal essay is an art that requires the mastery of words, emotions, and storytelling. It is a form of writing that allows the author to express their thoughts, experiences, and ideas in a way that captivates readers and leaves a lasting impression. Whether you are an aspiring writer or a seasoned blogger, the art of personal essay writing is something that can be learned and perfected.

One of the first things to keep in mind when writing a personal essay is that it should be personal. This means that it should reflect your own experiences, emotions, and point of view. You should aim to create a personalessay that tells a story about yourself and evokes a strong emotional response from your readers. This can be achieved by using descriptive language, vivid imagery, and powerful storytelling techniques.

Another important aspect of personal essay writing is organizing your thoughts and ideas. Your essay should have a clear and logical structure, with a beginning, middle, and end. Each paragraph should focus on a specific theme or idea, and should be connected to the previous and next paragraphs. This will help your readers follow the flow of your essay and understand your thoughts and emotions.

When writing a personal essay, it is also important to find your own voice and style. Don’t feel pressured to write in a certain way or follow a specific guide. Instead, let your own unique voice shine through your writing. Write in the first-person, use your own words, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and honest. It is your personal essay, after all.

In order to master the art of personal essay writing, you need to read. Read essays by other writers, both established and emerging. Read nonfiction books and poetry. Look for inspiration in the words of others. This will not only help you find your own style, but also give you a better understanding of what makes a great personal essay.

Another tip for writing a personal essay is to write about something that you are passionate about. Choose a topic that excites you and that you have a lot to say about. This will make the writing process easier and more enjoyable. Your passion will shine through in your words and will captivate your readers.

Finally, don’t be afraid to edit and revise your personal essay. Writing is a process, and your first draft is unlikely to be perfect. Reread your essay, check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and make sure that your ideas are clear and well-organized. You may even want to ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and provide feedback.

Mastering the Art of Personal Essay Writing

When writing a personal essay, it is important to find your own writing style and voice. This includes proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Remember that this is a representation of your thoughts and ideas, so make sure to proofread and edit your work before finalizing it.

In personal essays, it is common to use the first-person perspective. This allows the readers to connect with you on a more personal level. You can share your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings, making your essay more relatable.

Furthermore, personal essays are not confined to a specific structure or format. You have the freedom to be creative and experiment with different writing techniques. You can include quotes, specific prompts, or even incorporate elements of poetry or photography to enhance your narrative.

One important aspect to keep in mind is to stay on point and focused. Make sure that every paragraph and sentence in your essay is relevant to the main theme and serves a purpose. Avoid going off-topic or including unnecessary information.

Another key feature of a well-crafted personal essay is the inclusion of cultural and social references. This adds depth and context to your writing and shows that you are well-informed and in touch with the world around you.

As you write your personal essay, think about your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of language and tone would resonate with them? Understanding your readers’ needs and preferences will help you tailor your writing to their interests.

Finally, remember to have fun with your personal essay. Let your creativity and imagination run wild. Think of it as a form of self-expression, a way to express your thoughts and ideas in a unique and captivating manner. Embrace your inner writer and let your personal essay be a confection of words that inspires and engages your readers.

So, whether you are a seasoned writer or a beginner, mastering the art of personal essay writing is an exciting journey. Take the time to explore different writing techniques, find your own voice, and create memorable moments through your words. With practice and dedication, you can become a master of the personal essay.

Tips and Techniques

When it comes to writing personal essays, there are several tips and techniques that can help you master the art. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, these strategies will enhance your skills and engage your readers.

1. Find your unique perspective: To stand out in the crowded world of personal essays, you need to find your own voice and perspective. Think about what sets you apart and write from that place.

3. Structure your essay properly: A well-structured essay will make it easier for your readers to follow along and understand your main points. Use paragraphs and subheadings to organize your thoughts.

4. Use creative and lyrical language: Personal essays are an opportunity to showcase your writing skills. Use vivid descriptions, metaphors, and poetic language to make your essay more engaging and memorable.

5. Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply stating your opinions or experiences, try to show them through anecdotes and vivid storytelling. This will make your essay more engaging and relatable.

6. Write in the first-person point of view: Personal essays are typically written in the first-person perspective, as it allows for a more intimate and personal connection with the reader. Use “I” and “me” to make your essay more personal.

7. Don’t be afraid to get personal: Personal essays are meant to be personal, so don’t shy away from sharing your emotions and vulnerabilities. Be honest and open with your readers.

8. Edit and proofread your essay: Before you publish your essay, make sure to thoroughly edit and proofread it. Check for spelling and grammar errors, and ensure that your ideas are clear and concise.

9. Choose a creative title: A catchy and intriguing title can draw your readers in and make them curious about your essay. Take some time to brainstorm and come up with a title that reflects the essence of your essay.

10. Share your work: Once your personal essay is complete, consider sharing it with others. You can submit it to a literary magazine, self-publish it online, or even start a blog where you share your essays with your audience.

By following these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to write personal essays that captivate your readers and leave a lasting impression. Remember, personal essay writing is a creative process, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own style!

Understanding the Structure

The body paragraphs of a personal essay are where the writer explores their ideas and experiences in more detail. Each paragraph should focus on a different aspect or topic related to the overall theme of the essay. The writer can use specific examples, anecdotes, or quotes to support their ideas and make their writing more engaging. It’s important to use clear and concise sentences that flow well and connect the paragraphs together.

One way to structure the body paragraphs is to use a topical format. Each paragraph can represent a different topic or sub-topic related to the main theme of the essay. Another option is to use a narrative format, where the writer tells a story or recounts specific moments and experiences that are relevant to the overall theme. Whichever format is chosen, it should be consistent and easy to follow for the reader.

Overall, understanding the structure of a personal essay is crucial for writing a compelling and well-organized piece. By following these tips and techniques, anyone can master the art of personal essay writing and become a more creative and effective writer.

Developing Powerful Ideas

First, it’s important to tap into your own experiences and emotions. Personal essays are a place for you to express yourself and share your unique perspective. Think about moments in your life that have had a profound effect on you, whether they be traumatic events or moments of joy.

Another way to develop powerful ideas is to draw inspiration from the world around you. Read books, articles, and essays that tackle the issues you’re passionate about. Follow top bloggers and digital magazines that cover topics you’re interested in. This will not only help you stay informed, but it will also give you a sense of what other writers are exploring.

Once you have a topic in mind, you can begin to brainstorm ideas using writing prompts or through freewriting exercises. Write short paragraphs or bullet points that capture the essence of what you want to explore in your essay. Don’t worry about proper grammar or form at this stage – just let your creative mind roam free.

From these initial ideas, you can start to craft a powerful essay. Remember to develop a clear thesis statement, which should be both specific and debatable. This will guide your writing process and ensure that your essay stays focused.

When it comes to writing your essay, consider using the first-person point of view. A personal essay is about your experiences and your perspective, so it makes sense to write in a personal voice.

One of the most important aspects of developing powerful ideas is to show, not just tell. Use vivid descriptions and concrete details to bring your experiences to life. This will help your readers connect with your story on a deeper level.

Lastly, don’t forget to edit and revise your essay. This includes checking for grammar and spelling errors, as well as ensuring that your essay flows smoothly and logically. You may also want to ask others to read your essay and provide feedback. This can help you see any blind spots or areas where your essay may need improvement.

Engaging the Reader

Remember, the goal is to engage the reader right from the start and keep their attention throughout the essay. By using these techniques, you can create an engaging and memorable personal essay that will leave a lasting impression.

Inspirational Quote of the Day

Starting your day with an inspirational quote can set the tone for a positive mindset. The quote above, by the iconic actress Audrey Hepburn, reminds us that anything is possible if we believe in ourselves.

Why Quotes Matter

Adding quotes to your personal essay.

When incorporating quotes into your personal essay, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Choose quotes that align with your essay’s theme: Select quotes that reflect the main ideas or themes you’re exploring in your essay. This helps create a cohesive narrative and adds depth to your writing.

2. Give credit where credit is due: Always attribute the quote to the original author. This not only demonstrates respect for their work but also adds credibility to your own writing.

3. Connect the quote to your own thoughts: After including a quote, take a moment to explain why it resonates with you or how it relates to your personal experience. This adds your unique perspective to the quote and helps establish a deeper connection with your reader.

Remember, quotes are not meant to replace your own original thoughts and ideas. Instead, they should complement and enhance your personal essay, providing additional insights and perspectives.

So, next time you sit down to write a personal essay, consider incorporating an inspirational quote to motivate both yourself and your readers. It could be the spark that ignites your creativity and helps you craft a truly memorable piece.

What is personal essay writing?

Personal essay writing is a form of writing that allows the author to share their personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings with readers. It is a genre of nonfiction writing that often explores the author’s unique perspective on a particular topic.

Can you provide an example of a personal essay topic?

Sure! Here is an example of a personal essay topic: “The Moment That Changed My Life Forever: Overcoming Fear and Pursuing My Passions”. This topic allows the author to share a personal experience of facing and overcoming a significant fear or obstacle and how it impacted their life and choices.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

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how to make an essay more personal

15 Tips for Writing a College Essay About Yourself

What’s covered:.

  • What is the Purpose of the College Essay?
  • How to Stand Out Without Showing Off
  • 15 Tips for Writing an Essay About Yourself
  • Where to Get Free Feedback on Your Essay

Most students who apply to top-tier colleges have exceptional grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities. How do admissions officers decide which applicants to choose among all these stellar students? One way is on the strength of their college essay .

This personal statement, along with other qualitative factors like teacher recommendations, helps the admissions committee see who you really are—the person behind the transcript. So, it’s obviously important to write a great one.

What Is the Purpose of the College Essay? 

Your college essay helps you stand out in a pool of qualified candidates. If effective, it will also show the admissions committee more of your personality and allow them to get a sense of how you’ll fit in with and contribute to the student body and institution. Additionally, it will show the school that you can express yourself persuasively and clearly in writing, which is an important part of most careers, no matter where you end up. 

Typically, students must submit a personal statement (usually the Common App essay ) along with school-specific supplements. Some students are surprised to learn that essays typically count for around 25% of your entire application at the top 250 schools. That’s an enormous chunk, especially considering that, unlike your transcript and extracurriculars, it isn’t an assessment of your entire high school career.  

The purpose of the college essay is to paint a complete picture of yourself, showing admissions committees the person behind the grades and test scores. A strong college essay shows your unique experiences, personality, perspective, interests, and values—ultimately, what makes you unique. After all, people attend college, not their grades or test scores. The college essay also provides students with a considerable amount of agency in their application, empowering them to share their own stories.

How to Stand Out Without Showing Off 

It’s important to strike a balance between exploring your achievements and demonstrating humility. Your aim should be to focus on the meaning behind the experience and how it changed your outlook, not the accomplishment itself. 

Confidence without cockiness is the key here. Don’t simply catalog your achievements, there are other areas on your application to share them. Rather, mention your achievements when they’re critical to the story you’re telling. It’s helpful to think of achievements as compliments, not highlights, of your college essay.  

Take this essay excerpt , for example:

My parents’ separation allowed me the space to explore my own strengths and interests as each of them became individually busier. As early as middle school, I was riding the light rail train by myself, reading maps to get myself home, and applying to special academic programs without urging from my parents. Even as I took more initiatives on my own, my parents both continued to see me as somewhat immature. All of that changed three years ago, when I applied and was accepted to the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco. I would be studying Arabic and learning my way around the city of Marrakesh. Although I think my parents were a little surprised when I told them my news, the addition of a fully-funded scholarship convinced them to let me go. 

Instead of saying “ I received this scholarship and participated in this prestigious program, ” the author tells a story, demonstrating their growth and initiative through specific actions (riding the train alone, applying academic programs on her own, etc.)—effectively showing rather than telling.

15 Tips for Writing an Essay About Yourself 

1. start early .

Leave yourself plenty of time to write your college essay—it’s stressful enough to compose a compelling essay without putting yourself under a deadline. Starting early on your essay also leaves you time to edit and refine your work, have others read your work (for example, your parents or a teacher), and carefully proofread.

2. Choose a topic that’s meaningful to you 

The foundation of a great essay is selecting a topic that has real meaning for you. If you’re passionate about the subject, the reader will feel it. Alternatively, choosing a topic you think the admissions committee is looking for, but isn’t all that important to you, won’t make for a compelling essay; it will be obvious that you’re not very invested in it.

3. Show your personality 

One of the main points of your college essay is to convey your personality. Admissions officers will see your transcript and read about the awards you’ve won, but the essay will help them get to know you as a person. Make sure your personality is evident in each part—if you are a jokester, incorporate some humor. Your friends should be able to pick your essay from an anonymous pile, read it, and recognize it as yours. In that same vein, someone who doesn’t know you at all should feel like they understand your personality after reading your essay. 

4. Write in your own voice 

In order to bring authenticity to your essay, you’ll need to write in your own voice. Don’t be overly formal (but don’t be too casual, either). Remember: you want the reader to get to know the real you, not a version of you that comes across as overly stiff or stilted. You should feel free to use contractions, incorporate dialogue, and employ vocabulary that comes naturally to you. 

5. Use specific examples 

Real, concrete stories and examples will help your essay come to life. They’ll add color to your narrative and make it more compelling for the reader. The goal, after all, is to engage your audience—the admissions committee. 

For example, instead of stating that you care about animals, you should tell us a story about how you took care of an injured stray cat. 

Consider this side-by-side comparison:

Example 1: I care deeply about animals and even once rescued a stray cat. The cat had an injured leg, and I helped nurse it back to health.

Example 2: I lost many nights of sleep trying to nurse the stray cat back to health. Its leg infection was extremely painful, and it meowed in distress up until the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t mind it though; what mattered was that the cat regained its strength. So, I stayed awake to administer its medicine and soothe it with loving ear rubs.

The second example helps us visualize this situation and is more illustrative of the writer’s personality. Because she stayed awake to care for the cat, we can infer that she is a compassionate person who cares about animals. We don’t get the same depth with the first example. 

6. Don’t be afraid to show off… 

You should always put your best foot forward—the whole point of your essay is to market yourself to colleges. This isn’t the time to be shy about your accomplishments, skills, or qualities. 

7. …While also maintaining humility 

But don’t brag. Demonstrate humility when discussing your achievements. In the example above, for instance, the author discusses her accomplishments while noting that her parents thought of her as immature. This is a great way to show humility while still highlighting that she was able to prove her parents wrong.

8. Be vulnerable 

Vulnerability goes hand in hand with humility and authenticity. Don’t shy away from exploring how your experience affected you and the feelings you experienced. This, too, will help your story come to life. 

Here’s an excerpt from a Common App essay that demonstrates vulnerability and allows us to connect with the writer:  

“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain. 

Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.

In this essay, the writer isn’t afraid to share his insecurities and feelings with us. He states that he had been “ appallingly ignorant ” of his brother’s pain, that he “ often felt out of step ” compared to his brother, and that he had felt “ more and more alone ” over time. These are all emotions that you may not necessarily share with someone you just met, but it’s exactly this vulnerability that makes the essay more raw and relatable. 

9. Don’t lie or hyperbolize 

This essay is about the authentic you. Lying or hyperbolizing to make yourself sound better will not only make your essay—and entire application—less genuine, but it will also weaken it. More than likely, it will be obvious that you’re exaggerating. Plus, if colleges later find out that you haven’t been truthful in any part of your application, it’s grounds for revoking your acceptance or even expulsion if you’ve already matriculated. 

10. Avoid cliches 

How the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life. A sports victory as a metaphor for your journey. How a pet death altered your entire outlook. Admissions officers have seen more essays on these topics than they can possibly count. Unless you have a truly unique angle, then it’s in your best interest to avoid them. Learn which topics are cliche and how to fix them . 

11. Proofread 

This is a critical step. Even a small error can break your essay, however amazing it is otherwise. Make sure you read it over carefully, and get another set of eyes (or two or three other sets of eyes), just in case.

12. Abstain from using AI

There are a handful of good reasons to avoid using artificial intelligence (AI) to write your college essay. Most importantly, it’s dishonest and likely to be not very good; AI-generated essays are generally formulaic, generic, and boring—everything you’re trying to avoid being.   The purpose of the college essay is to share what makes you unique and highlight your personal experiences and perspectives, something that AI can’t capture.

13. Use parents as advisors, not editors

The voice of an adult is different from that of a high schooler and admissions committees are experts at spotting the writing of parents. Parents can play a valuable role in creating your college essay—advising, proofreading, and providing encouragement during those stressful moments. However, they should not write or edit your college essay with their words.

14. Have a hook

Admissions committees have a lot of essays to read and getting their attention is essential for standing out among a crowded field of applicants. A great hook captures your reader’s imagination and encourages them to keep reading your essay. Start strong, first impressions are everything!

15. Give them something to remember

The ending of your college essay is just as important as the beginning. Give your reader something to remember by composing an engaging and punchy paragraph or line—called a kicker in journalism—that ties everything you’ve written above together.

Where to Get Free Feedback on Your College Essay 

Before you send off your application, make sure you get feedback from a trusted source on your essay. CollegeVine’s free peer essay review will give you the support you need to ensure you’ve effectively presented your personality and accomplishments. Our expert essay review pairs you with an advisor to help you refine your writing, submit your best work, and boost your chances of getting into your dream school. Find the right advisor for you and get started on honing a winning essay.

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how to make an essay more personal

Guide How to Write a Personal Essay for a High Score

  • Essay Writing Guides

How to Write a Personal Essay

Writing a personal essay is a meeting with readers where you need to share your thoughts and feelings. In such a document, you become the main character of your story and talk about your life experiences. However, before you begin creating your story, you must familiarize yourself with some rules on how to write a personal essay. When writing a personal essay, you must invite readers into your inner world and give them a chance to understand you more deeply.

You can tell one or several life situations that significantly influenced your worldview and changed your view of various things. You must use every word in your document to describe your feelings, thoughts, and meaningful moments. In this article, we will review the basic steps of writing a personal essay, outline the structure, and provide a high-quality example to help you create a successful thesis for a personal essay.

Practical Tips on How to Write a Personal Essay

Having received a written assignment from a teacher, many students wonder how to write a personal essay. Writing a document is much more straightforward than it might seem. To do this, you need to familiarize yourself with some tips from experienced specialists and move on to creating a masterpiece:

  • Choose a suitable topic. First of all, you need to choose a topic that is truly interesting and important to you.
  • Be as sincere as possible. Readers often appreciate honesty, so don’t be afraid to share your feelings, even if they seem vulnerable.
  • Create an essay structure. One of the most important parts is the structure. Be sure to break your essay into an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Be specific. Remember that detail brings life to your essay and provides readers with a clear understanding of your topic.
  • Give preference to visualization. An excellent option to improve your essay is to show your feelings through dialogues, descriptions, and experiences instead of just talking about them.
  • Edit and proofread. If, during the process of creating a personal reflective essay, you notice that the text contains errors or typos, be sure to remove redundant words, check the grammar, and try to make each sentence as clear and expressive as possible.

With these tips, you can create a high-quality personal essay that will be interesting and understandable to readers. Read each prompt carefully and think about each step before moving on to the writing process.

What Is Personal Essay and Why to Write It?

Before you start writing, you must find out what is personal essay. The personal essay is a unique form of expression that allows students to share their thoughts, emotions, and life experiences with readers. The primary purpose of the personal essay is to connect with the audience on a deeper and more personal level. This writing serves as a vehicle for students to communicate their perspectives, life lessons, and unique journeys.

Thanks to this, readers are introduced to personal essays to better understand the author’s inner world, where they can resonate with their life situations. At its core, a personal narrative essay is a piece of literature that helps students talk about their lives, allowing readers to witness personal growth, challenges, and triumphs.

How to Create a Clear Structure of a Personal Essay

To create a high-quality essay of any type, you must adhere to a clear plan to help structure your thoughts and make the text more understandable for readers. Creating a clear structure of a personal essay is necessary to convey your story and attract audience understanding effectively. Below, we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you create a well-organized and consistent structure:

  • Introduction. The key is to hook the reader, which can be done by starting with a compelling anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a relevant quote to grab attention.
  • Thesis. Next, clearly state the central theme or message you want to convey in your essay, which will help set the tone for the entire work.
  • A summary of the essence. Once you have created a strong thesis statement, you need to provide the background or context of the story briefly.
  • Chronology. Try to organize your events and thoughts in a logical sequence.
  • Visualization. Make your story strong by including dialogue, sensory details, and descriptions. Try to engage the reader’s senses to immerse them in your experiences.
  • Description of your thoughts. While writing a personal essay, you need to pause to share thoughts, emotions, and ideas related to the experience you are talking about.
  • Culmination. It is necessary to create some tension to make a personal essay as emotional as possible.
  • Conclusion. This section should summarize the results and name the main points.

Following these steps, you can create a well-structured personal essay that effectively tells your story and resonates with your audience. Be sure to take every step into account, and you will likely be able to write a compelling story that will succeed.

Tips for Writing a Good Personal Essay

Writing a good personal essay requires a combination of storytelling, self-reflection, and practical communication skills. Below, we will provide some tips to help you cope with this task:

  • Choose a topic that is meaningful to you personally.
  • Be sincere and write from the heart.
  • Start with a strong introduction that grabs the readers’ attention.
  • Formulate a clear thesis.
  • Use descriptive language to draw readers into your story as much as possible.
  • Take breaks from the story to reflect on events and share your thoughts.
  • Create your essay with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Add dialogue to your essay to bring your story to life.
  • Provide sufficient detail, but try to be concise.
  • Connect your essay to broader topics that may interest readers.
  • Be sure to review your essay and edit it if necessary.
  • Get feedback from colleagues or friends.
  • Conclude your essay with a firm conclusion that supports your main message.

Using these tips, you can create personal essay formats that tell your story and engage and resonate with your readers.


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Creating Successful Personal Essay Outlines

It is important to remember that creating a successful personal essay outline is critical to organizing your thoughts and delivering a coherent and compelling narrative. Below, you can find a guide to help you create an effective plan:

  • Introduction. This section aims to grab the reader’s attention, provide brief context to set the stage for your narrative, and clearly state the main idea or topic of the essay.
  • Body paragraphs. Here, you need to start with the first event or experience, provide story details, and involve the reader as much as possible. Additionally, in this paragraph, you can talk about several events chronologically.
  • Climax. If your story has a climax or turning point, create tension leading up to that pivotal moment.
  • Conclusion. This is where you need to summarize the key events and thoughts from your essay. Be sure to end with a strong closing statement that will leave a lasting impression.

Remember that your personal essay outline is essential to creating a masterpiece. Feel free to tweak and adapt as you write, leaving room for creativity and spontaneity in the storytelling.

How to Create a Conclusion for a Personal Essay

Creating a compelling conclusion for a personal essay is essential to making a lasting impression on the reader and reinforcing your story’s central idea. Here are the steps to help you write an effective conclusion:

  • Summarize the key points.
  • Restate your thesis.
  • Think about the story that was told.
  • Connect to the introduction.
  • Leave a lasting impression.
  • Connect your narrative to broader themes or universal experiences.
  • Avoid introducing new information.
  • End on a positive note.

It’s important to remember that the conclusion is your last chance to make a lasting impression on the reader. Try to craft this piece thoughtfully, ensuring that it reinforces your essay’s main idea and leaves the reader with a sense of completion and reflection.

High-Quality Example of a Personal Essay

If you received an assignment from a teacher to write personal essays and need help with how to do it correctly, this is not a problem! First, you need to familiarize yourself with the rules and tips that will help you do this successfully, and then read the example of a personal essay to understand how it should look. Below, we will provide a fictitious letter created for illustrative purposes. However, personal essays should be based solely on real stories and experiences.

«Journey Inside»

The sun was setting, casting a warm golden light on the horizon as I stood on the edge of a cliff, contemplating the twists and turns of my life. The wind whispered stories of the past, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the transformative journey that had brought me to this precipice.

My story begins in a small town where the days seemed long and the dreams even longer. I was an ordinary child with an extraordinary imagination, hungry for adventure beyond the familiar streets. Little did I know that the most incredible adventure awaited me deep within my soul.

The turning point came during my freshman year when I was lost in a sea of new faces and challenging coursework. The initial excitement soon gave way to a feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty about my place in this vast and competitive world. Amid academic pressure and societal expectations, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery.

It was a journey marked by late-night conversations with me, diary pages filled with inky confessions, and moments of quiet introspection in the campus garden. I plunged into the labyrinth of my thoughts, facing my fears, acknowledging my insecurities, and embracing the pure beauty of vulnerability.

As the semesters progressed, I engaged in activities aligned with my passions rather than society’s expectations. I discovered the joy of creative expression through writing and art, unlocking a reservoir of untapped potential. Every brush stroke and every written word became a testament to the power of authenticity.

Now, when I stand on this cliff and look at the sun sinking below the horizon, I see an end and a beginning. The journey within has changed me and illuminated the limitless possibilities that lie ahead. I carry lessons of authenticity, resilience, and the unwavering belief that the most authentic adventure is what we undertake to discover for ourselves.

In the twilight of the day, I step forward not with the trepidation of the unknown but with the confidence that comes from accepting my true self. The stars above twinkle approvingly as if acknowledging that the most profound journeys are those that lead us back to ourselves.

After reading this and other personal essay examples, you will be able to understand what it should look like and create an individual and unique letter that will be exciting and successful.

Suppose you have a question about how to write a personal essay. In that case, it is essential to remember that this type of writing is an immersion in your world and an exploration of the uniqueness of your own experience. The key to a successful personal essay is to talk about important moments in your life and what conclusions you draw. Be honest, sincere, and thoughtful, so your words take readers into a personal experience. Remember that your story is a part of you and a response for those ready to walk this fascinating path of self-discovery with you.

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Insider Today

Everyone has a story, but not everyone knows how to tell their story. One place to start is finding the perfect container for your experiences and insights. Enter: the personal essay. 

Well-crafted essays mark the difference between a meandering group of paragraphs and a clear, resonant idea. Almost every occupation can benefit from stronger communication, research, and persuasion skills — all of which can be sharpened from essay writing classes.

Think about the application prompts you've muddled through or the chances for publication you've felt too intimidated to attempt. The confidence to explore a topic, land on a perspective, and express it effectively is universally valuable, whether you're writing a personal statement for college, crafting a cover letter for a new job, or giving a presentation at work. 

The essay writing resources below range from 200-page books to eight-week online courses. Some require submitting original work to receive feedback, while others are prompts meant to inspire new ideas. 

15 essay writing online courses, workshops, and books to strengthen your storytelling skills: 

For the basics.

how to make an essay more personal

How to Write a Personal Essay (CreativeLive)

Joyce Maynard is a celebrated memoirist and personal essayist who knows what it takes to get an essay noticed for publication. In five hours of video instruction, students will learn how to identify ideas that could become pieces, how to build an outline, create an interesting character, and even end an essay to emphasize the final discovery. With a review rating of 100% from former students, this course is the perfect place to start your next essay. 

How to Write an Essay (edX)

This UC Berkeley class hones in on the hidden mechanisms of essays. The five-week course is more academic than creative, but ideal for those hoping to write with immaculate grammar and rigorous self-editing habits. The course (which is free to audit) provides both instructional videos and readings, and students will produce one essay as a takeaway from the class. 

Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself Specialization (Coursera)

Presented by Wesleyan University, this four-month specialization is instructed by four published essayists and memoirists. Through 16 writing assignments across four courses, students develop an approach to their own storytelling skills. And for those looking to take their writing out of the classroom, this course leaves you with a portfolio of work upon completion. 

"The Situation and The Story" by Vivian Gornick

Drawing on her experience from teaching MFA programs, Vivian Gornick challenges the writer to step back and evaluate their role in relation to the work. Are they the same person as the narrator? What details matter to the story? It's an invitation to look below the surface of life as it unfolds and ask questions of larger significance. The book is short, but explores diverse greats of the genre, from Joan Didion to Oscar Wilde. 

For coming up with ideas

how to make an essay more personal

Creative Writing for All: A 10-Day Journaling Challenge (Skillshare)

Seasoned journalist, novelist, and publisher Emily Gould only wants ten minutes of your time a day. In a 10-day course described as "perfect for writers and enthusiasts eager to rekindle creativity in a personal and artful way," she packs in countless creative prompts and revision tricks. It's great for writers who are crunched for time and looking to discover a new topic right under their nose.

The New York Times' Writing Prompts

This archive of questions inspired by the NYT's own stories is a perfect place to start, since jumping in can often feel like the hardest part. The Learning Network is targeted towards students, but the conversations following each prompt can be helpful for writers of all ages. After all, many essays begin as questions. Why not borrow some from the Times? 

Personal Essay Independent Study: Generating Fresh Ideas for the Personal Essay (Catapult)

Writing from life can make it difficult to be objective. What's interesting? What could become a full length essay? Led by essayist and editor Lilly Dancyger , this independent study is the perfect place to start coming up with fresh ideas. Self-guided, with three separate lessons ranging in topics from perspective to conversation, is an ideal fit for new writers looking to demystify the craft of storytelling via essays.  

"Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg

The best writers are always avid readers and this book is a great start. With over one million copies sold and translations in 12 languages, it's hard to deny the creative jumpstart writers find from "Writing Down the Bones." The tone of the book is conversational and approachable, and it's full of compelling personal narratives and prompts. Goldberg integrates tenets of Zen meditation with writing in order to create what she coins a "Writing Practice." The practice includes self-interrogation, creating a specific space, and carving out time to read. 

For developing style

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Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact (Skillshare)

Let The New York Times bestselling author and revered professor Roxane Gay inspire your writing to ask questions of deep resonance. Her one-hour masterclass is an insightful lesson on transforming your personal essay with cultural context. Learn how to take yourself (and your essay) seriously by expanding your story and connecting with the audience you want to reach. The class comes with a downloadable worksheet and links to additional resources. 

David Sedaris Teaches Humor and Storytelling (MasterClass)

No one writes humor like David Sedaris . With 10 bestselling essay collections under his belt, there's hardly a more qualified teacher. In his MasterClass, he explores how to pull meaning out of the mundane, how humor helps us move through the dark subjects of our stories, and how everything depends on an attention-grabbing opening. Prepare to learn, laugh, and be charmed for over three hours of his beautifully shot video lessons.

Begin with the Body (Skillshare)

Chelsea Hodson's essays have been described as, " anchors for the themes  —  identity, sexuality, loss  —  we so often see reflected back at us ." In under 45 minutes, you'll be inspired to examine a strong starting point for any essay — your own body. Plus, Hodson's demonstration of her editing process in real time and analysis of other creative works leaves you with no excuse but to, as she says, "write without expectation." She also occasionally offers feedback on essays submitted through the class.

For practice and feedback

how to make an essay more personal

8-Week Personal Essay & Memoir Writing (Sackett Street Writers)

For writers with some experience or an essay ready to be workshopped, writing workshops like Sackett Street 's are an excellent option. This particular class is taught by published author Anna Qu , exploring the responsibility of nonfiction writing while learning literary techniques to create a compelling story. On top of Qu's guidance, the comradery with fellow students, even online, can lead to new perspectives and creative inspiration through in-class writing prompts.

"Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott

Few books reign supreme when it comes to authors' favorites "books on books" like "Bird by Bird." Lamott's down-to-earth, homespun advice on life and writing has sold over a million copies. Simultaneously practical and profound, the book leans on the basic tenet that the most important practice is sitting down every day and simply writing. As Lamott writes: "One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around."

Memoir Monday (Substack)

Every Monday, a collection of the best essays published the previous week on sites like Granta, Longreads, and Literary Hub are mailed directly to your inbox. A monthly reading series, plus interviews with notable authors provide a dose of inspiration and a curated look at up and coming work. 

WMFA Podcast hosted by Courtney Balestier

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Telling the Story of Yourself: 6 Steps to Writing Personal Narratives

Jennifer Xue

Jennifer Xue

writing personal narratives

Table of Contents

Why do we write personal narratives, 6 guidelines for writing personal narrative essays, inspiring personal narratives, examples of personal narrative essays, tell your story.

First off, you might be wondering: what is a personal narrative? In short, personal narratives are stories we tell about ourselves that focus on our growth, lessons learned, and reflections on our experiences.

From stories about inspirational figures we heard as children to any essay, article, or exercise where we're asked to express opinions on a situation, thing, or individual—personal narratives are everywhere.

According to Psychology Today, personal narratives allow authors to feel and release pains, while savouring moments of strength and resilience. Such emotions provide an avenue for both authors and readers to connect while supporting healing in the process.

That all sounds great. But when it comes to putting the words down on paper, we often end up with a list of experiences and no real structure to tie them together.

In this article, we'll discuss what a personal narrative essay is further, learn the 6 steps to writing one, and look at some examples of great personal narratives.

As readers, we're fascinated by memoirs, autobiographies, and long-form personal narrative articles, as they provide a glimpse into the authors' thought processes, ideas, and feelings. But you don't have to be writing your whole life story to create a personal narrative.

You might be a student writing an admissions essay , or be trying to tell your professional story in a cover letter. Regardless of your purpose, your narrative will focus on personal growth, reflections, and lessons.

Personal narratives help us connect with other people's stories due to their easy-to-digest format and because humans are empathising creatures.

We can better understand how others feel and think when we were told stories that allow us to see the world from their perspectives. The author's "I think" and "I feel" instantaneously become ours, as the brain doesn't know whether what we read is real or imaginary.

In her best-selling book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron explains that the human brain craves tales as it's hard-wired through evolution to learn what happens next. Since the brain doesn't know whether what you are reading is actual or not, we can register the moral of the story cognitively and affectively.

In academia, a narrative essay tells a story which is experiential, anecdotal, or personal. It allows the author to creatively express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions. Its length can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages.

Outside of academia, personal narratives are known as a form of journalism or non-fiction works called "narrative journalism." Even highly prestigious publications like the New York Times and Time magazine have sections dedicated to personal narratives. The New Yorke is a magazine dedicated solely to this genre.

The New York Times holds personal narrative essay contests. The winners are selected because they:

had a clear narrative arc with a conflict and a main character who changed in some way. They artfully balanced the action of the story with reflection on what it meant to the writer. They took risks, like including dialogue or playing with punctuation, sentence structure and word choice to develop a strong voice. And, perhaps most important, they focused on a specific moment or theme – a conversation, a trip to the mall, a speech tournament, a hospital visit – instead of trying to sum up the writer’s life in 600 words.

In a nutshell, a personal narrative can cover any reflective and contemplative subject with a strong voice and a unique perspective, including uncommon private values. It's written in first person and the story encompasses a specific moment in time worthy of a discussion.

Writing a personal narrative essay involves both objectivity and subjectivity. You'll need to be objective enough to recognise the importance of an event or a situation to explore and write about. On the other hand, you must be subjective enough to inject private thoughts and feelings to make your point.

With personal narratives, you are both the muse and the creator – you have control over how your story is told. However, like any other type of writing, it comes with guidelines.

1. Write Your Personal Narrative as a Story

As a story, it must include an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion. Another way to approach it is by structuring it with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should set the tone, while the body should focus on the key point(s) you want to get across. The conclusion can tell the reader what lessons you have learned from the story you've just told.

2. Give Your Personal Narrative a Clear Purpose

Your narrative essay should reflect your unique perspective on life. This is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to establish your perspective, the key things you want your reader to take away, and your tone of voice. It's a good idea to have a set purpose in mind for the narrative before you start writing.

Let's say you want to write about how you manage depression without taking any medicine. This could go in any number of ways, but isolating a purpose will help you focus your writing and choose which stories to tell. Are you advocating for a holistic approach, or do you want to describe your emotional experience for people thinking of trying it?

Having this focus will allow you to put your own unique take on what you did (and didn't do, if applicable), what changed you, and the lessons learned along the way.

3. Show, Don't Tell

It's a narration, so the narrative should show readers what happened, instead of telling them. As well as being a storyteller, the author should take part as one of the characters. Keep this in mind when writing, as the way you shape your perspective can have a big impact on how your reader sees your overarching plot. Don't slip into just explaining everything that happened because it happened to you. Show your reader with action.

dialogue tags

You can check for instances of telling rather than showing with ProWritingAid. For example, instead of:

"You never let me do anything!" I cried disdainfully.
"You never let me do anything!" To this day, my mother swears that the glare I levelled at her as I spat those words out could have soured milk.

Using ProWritingAid will help you find these instances in your manuscript and edit them without spending hours trawling through your work yourself.

4. Use "I," But Don't Overuse It

You, the author, take ownership of the story, so the first person pronoun "I" is used throughout. However, you shouldn't overuse it, as it'd make it sound too self-centred and redundant.

ProWritingAid can also help you here – the Style Report will tell you if you've started too many sentences with "I", and show you how to introduce more variation in your writing.

5. Pay Attention to Tenses

Tense is key to understanding. Personal narratives mostly tell the story of events that happened in the past, so many authors choose to use the past tense. This helps separate out your current, narrating voice and your past self who you are narrating. If you're writing in the present tense, make sure that you keep it consistent throughout.

tenses in narratives

6. Make Your Conclusion Satisfying

Satisfy your readers by giving them an unforgettable closing scene. The body of the narration should build up the plot to climax. This doesn't have to be something incredible or shocking, just something that helps give an interesting take on your story.

The takeaways or the lessons learned should be written without lecturing. Whenever possible, continue to show rather than tell. Don't say what you learned, narrate what you do differently now. This will help the moral of your story shine through without being too preachy.

GoodReads is a great starting point for selecting read-worthy personal narrative books. Here are five of my favourites.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, the author of 386 books, wrote this poetic story about a daughter and her father who went owling. Instead of learning about owls, Yolen invites readers to contemplate the meaning of gentleness and hope.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. This Holocaust memoir has a strong message that such horrific events should never be repeated.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This classic is a must-read by young and old alike. It's a remarkable diary by a 13-year-old Jewish girl who hid inside a secret annexe of an old building during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This is a personal narrative written by a brave author renowned for her clarity, passion, and honesty. Didion shares how in December 2003, she lost her husband of 40 years to a massive heart attack and dealt with the acute illness of her only daughter. She speaks about grief, memories, illness, and hope.

Educated by Tara Westover

Author Tara Westover was raised by survivalist parents. She didn't go to school until 17 years of age, which later took her to Harvard and Cambridge. It's a story about the struggle for quest for knowledge and self-reinvention.

Narrative and personal narrative journalism are gaining more popularity these days. You can find distinguished personal narratives all over the web.

Curating the best of the best of personal narratives and narrative essays from all over the web. Some are award-winning articles.


Long-form writing to celebrate humanity through storytelling. It publishes personal narrative essays written to provoke, inspire, and reflect, touching lesser-known and overlooked subjects.

Narrative Magazine

It publishes non,fiction narratives, poetry, and fiction. Among its contributors is Frank Conroy, the author of Stop-Time , a memoir that has never been out of print since 1967.

Thought Catalog

Aimed at Generation Z, it publishes personal narrative essays on self-improvement, family, friendship, romance, and others.

Personal narratives will continue to be popular as our brains are wired for stories. We love reading about others and telling stories of ourselves, as they bring satisfaction and a better understanding of the world around us.

Personal narratives make us better humans. Enjoy telling yours!

how to make an essay more personal

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Jennifer Xue is an award-winning e-book author with 2,500+ articles and 100+ e-books/reports published under her belt. She also taught 50+ college-level essay and paper writing classes. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire,, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. Her blog is Follow her on Twitter @jenxuewrites].

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  • How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples

How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

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Table of contents

Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.

At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic  and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.

Creating categories

Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.

Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.

Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.

As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.

Order of information

When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.

Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.

Consider these questions to order your material:

  • Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
  • Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
  • Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?

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Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.

In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.

The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  • Thesis statement
  • First piece of evidence
  • Second piece of evidence
  • Summary/synthesis
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement

You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.

Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.

Argumentative essay outline

This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.

  • Importance of the internet
  • Concerns about internet use
  • Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
  • Data exploring this effect
  • Analysis indicating it is overstated
  • Students’ reading levels over time
  • Why this data is questionable
  • Video media
  • Interactive media
  • Speed and simplicity of online research
  • Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
  • Evidence indicating its ubiquity
  • Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
  • Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
  • Argument that it introduces students to citation
  • Summary of key points
  • Value of digital education for students
  • Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet

Expository essay outline

This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.

The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.

  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
  • Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
  • Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
  • Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
  • Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
  • Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
  • Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
  • Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
  • Link to the Reformation.
  • Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
  • Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
  • Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
  • Summarize the history described.
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.

Literary analysis essay outline

The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .

The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 26, 2024, from

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How to make an essay longer and better.

how to make an essay more personal

By Partner Content

Compliance with the length of the assignment is the most important criterion for the quality of a student’s essay. If a student writes an exact number of words and follows all the requirements, it may be a good indicator of the student’s familiarity with the topic. In addition, it also indicates that you have done your best to complete the assignment in a quality manner. Therefore, before submitting your essay, make sure that its length is within the word limit specified in the assignment. If your essay has turned out to be too short, you will need to broaden it. To understand how to do this, read our article and discover helpful tips.

Useful tips that will allow you to increase the length of the essay 

There are a lot of ways you can add to the material. We won’t give you such ridiculous tips as changing the font size or margins. Instead, we will give you constructive information that will be useful to you. 

Give examples 

Reread the ideas you presented in your essay. Answer yourself the question, ‘Are your ideas supported by examples?’ If not, this is a great opportunity to provide them and add useful information to your paper. We recommend adding research that can support the validity of your data. 

Add a Backstory 

Add an interesting backstory to your essay to get the right word count. This will allow you to interest and even intrigue the reader, who will have a desire to read the material until the end. 

Before writing the backstory, consider what will interest your professor or readers. Familiarize the reader with the key nuances and details that influenced your opinion formation. For example, if your essay is related to philosophy, begin by writing about how this or that concept can be useful in your life. Write about what surprised you the most to help readers better understand your thoughts.

Write an extended summary unit of the paper 

When you have finished writing the paper, try to reread it carefully and list the main points presented in the paper, but do not repeat yourself. This will allow readers to see the main thoughts and ideas. If it is difficult for you to write a quality conclusion and you simply don’t have enough words, you can use a reliable assistant – an AI generator. This tool can handle such tasks and add useful information to your text without empty phrases. 

Try to change the phrase construction 

One of the most effective ways to increase the length of your essay is to change the structure of your sentences. Combine simple sentences with more complex ones. This trick will make your material more dynamic and engaging: 

  • Reread your essay and find sentences that are similar in meaning and can be combined. Be sure to use coordinating or subordinating conjunctions; 
  • use parallel structure and coordinating conjunctions to link sentences; 
  • add transitional words like “furthermore,” “moreover,” “by,” and “in general. These are great for linking sentences and paragraphs.

By refining your text in this way, you won’t only be able to increase its length but also strengthen its message. You will create a more persuasive piece of writing that allows you to develop all aspects of your topic fully. 

Supplement your material with quotes 

Quotations can take up some space in your paper. But you shouldn’t use them too much since they can lower the uniqueness of your text. 

Quotation will increase the length of your text and allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of the topic. Make sure you use proper formatting and include links to authoritative resources.

Adding a Reference List

Adding reference lists is another simple and effective way to lengthen your text. Allow 2-3 sentences for each source with citations and 1-2 sentences for a general summary of key nuances and citations in a specific format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

Add paragraphs 

Reread the text and find paragraphs that contain more than one idea. If you have more than one idea in a paragraph, it makes sense to break it up into two different paragraphs. This will force you to refine each paragraph and develop the ideas more fully. It is also helpful to consider some objections your readers might have to the ideas you have presented in your paper. Then, write a paragraph defending your ideas against the possible objections. 

Complex terminology or any other information you have presented in your text should be presented in a separate paragraph that serves as a reference. Provide your readers with an expanded definition of these terms. This will allow your readers to understand all of the material presented better. 

Use professional help

On the Internet, communities of professionals, like , can offer their help to analyze, improve, and broaden your paper. Students usually use such help as inspiration and a learning ground for their writing skills. Most importantly, it requires less time than other methods.

Increasing the length of an essay in practice isn’t as difficult as it may seem in theory. Don’t believe it? You can make sure of it yourself by using our tips! 

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My experience as an emergency patient soured me on Tennessee's Certificate of Need law

State's con laws should be repealed before more people face devastating experiences like i did..

Leslie Huggins is a former first responder and a Murfreesboro resident.

Last January, I was experiencing pain and went to the hospital. During my initial visit, I was triaged and sent back to the treatment area where I waited on a gurney in an open area to be seen. I was sent home and told to reach out to my primary care doctor.

I eventually spoke with my doctor about the medical issue and he advised me to go back to the hospital for admission.

My concern was immediate, as he explained that I would need to go to the emergency room to have any chance of being admitted.  My blood pressure at that time was extremely high.

I checked into the emergency room at around 9 a.m. and then I spent at least 18 hours on a gurney. I spoke to a nurse in the hallway during my wait who informed me that it could be days before the hospital had an open bed. I felt completely helpless.

At one point, an elderly gentleman was admitted who was suffering from difficulty breathing. He needed immediate medical attention, but because there were no rooms, he was treated alongside me and other patients in the hallway. On top of feeling helpless, I was now scared for his well-being and the health of the patients who had now been exposed to his illness. He went into cardiac arrest behind me and the medical staff struggled to find him a bed.

After leaving the hospital, I thought to myself, “there must be something wrong here.”

Eventually, I learned from a friend who works in the health care industry that Tennessee’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws are at least in part to blame for lengthy wait times in hospitals around the state. These laws have been blocking access to affordable, quality health care in Tennessee for decades.

Counterpoint: Tennessee Certificate of Need health care laws can be improved but should not be repealed

Why we need to allow more health care centers to compete

Like so many Tennesseans, I had absolutely no idea what CON laws were before my incident, nor had I even heard the term.

CON laws require hospitals and other health care providers to demonstrate a “need” for their services before they can be granted approval to open a new health care facility or provide new services. While this may sound reasonable at first, the fundamental problem is CON is essentially a government permission slip to provide care. Any health care providers must ask a government board in Nashville for permission to provide essential care to Tennessee communities.

My case is one of many and shows that the CON requirements are preventing access to care for Tennesseans. Existing hospitals and other providers can block another hospital from being built in or near the area they are already operating. This is as disturbing as it sounds. We should not be protecting businesses and their bottom lines at the expense of access to care for patients.

I live in Murfreesboro, and it is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Vanderbilt University Medical Center sought to build a new hospital in our county last year to meet increased demand. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Health Facilities Commission in Nashville denied the CON required for the project to proceed.

State senator is working to chip away at the current law

I am devastated that more Tennesseans will likely have the same experience I did. It’s simple math: as our state’s population continues to grow, we must allow our health care infrastructure to grow unimpeded along with it. Wait times will only continue to worsen.

Tennessee’s state legislature has taken steps in the past to repeal portions of the state’s CON laws, but I have seen firsthand that the regulations remaining today have real life consequences for Tennesseans. 

These bureaucratic laws continue to decrease access to the care we depend on and unnecessarily delay and deny much needed care. I am thankful state Sen. Shane Reeves , R-Murfreesboro, realizes the importance of repealing many of these harmful laws and is supporting legislation to do just that.

I urge the rest of the General Assembly to join him in working to repeal many of Tennessee’s remaining CON laws this legislative session.


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  22. Tennessee Certificate of Need regulations don't make sense right now

    I checked into the emergency room at around 9 a.m. and then I spent at least 18 hours on a gurney. I spoke to a nurse in the hallway during my wait who informed me that it could be days before the ...