The Twelve Dos and Don’ts of Essay Writing

By Ryan Hickey + updated on December 21st, 2012

This December has been a big month for the number 12. To continue in the spirit of 12/12/12 and even that beloved (or possibly, vehemently hated) holiday tune, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” today EssayEdge presents to you, ” The Twelve Dos and Don’ts of Essay Writing.” Enjoy!

12. DO give yourself time. Two weeks is ideal, but twelve days would work too. Even if you’re only a day or two away from your deadline, starting now is always better than starting later.

11. DON’T plagiarize. Using someone else’s work will kill your chance of admission.

10. DO be honest. Trying to make a four-week internship that you spent mainly answering phones sound like you were the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm for a year won’t improve your standing in the eyes of the admissions committee.

9. DON’T exceed the length limit. Admissions officers have heard every excuse in the book for why a particular applicant desperately needs 700 words when the maximum specified was 500. The simple fact is that there is never a good reason to go over, and doing so will reflect poorly on you.

8. DO be descriptive. The easiest way to do this is by using active verbs and dynamic nouns. “The red car stopped directly in front of my friend,” is nothing compared to, “The Ferrari squealed to a halt inches from Steve’s face,” and both use the exact same number of words.

7. DON’T write a resume in essay form. If your essay or statement reads like a narrative listing of your various courses, clubs, jobs, and accomplishments over the past several years, it isn’t serving its intended purpose.

6. DO respond to the prompt. It’s amazing how many applicants write essays that, while generally solid, aren’t actually relevant to the prompt at hand. If the prompt asks a specific question (or several), make sure your essay provides an answer.

5. DON’T use cliches or overuse idioms. This one should be a piece of cake, like taking candy from a baby.

4. DO take breaks. Writing comes in fits and starts. If you feel like you’re making good progress, then by all means continue. If you’re stuck with a nasty case of writer’s block, though, the best cure is often a nap, some exercise, a movie, or anything else that takes your mind off the essay for a while.

3. DON’T rely on spell check. Automatic functions in programs like Microsoft Word are helpful tools, but they’re not infallible. Mistakes can make it though unchecked. See?

2. DO have someone else review your work. Whether a close friend, parent, teacher, counselor, or professional, having someone else read through your essay will give you valuable feedback. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to spot problem areas that you would otherwise miss.

1. DON’T completely stress out. Yes, this is important, and yes, it takes a lot of work, but it’s not the end of the world. Make sure you still find time for relaxation and the things that are important in your life.

Share this post:
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Ping.fm
  • RSS
  • Yahoo! Buzz
The following two tabs change content below.

Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

Latest posts by Ryan Hickey (see all)

3 Responses to “The Twelve Dos and Don’ts of Essay Writing”

  1. Nice and informative post! Probably will help out a lot of readers! Really appreciate the efforts you have put in to research these facts. Cheers!

  2. I concur in your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates

  3. Very good Blog! Congratulations, It’s really an useful and great.. I had been looking for this kind of links for last couple of months. I hope to improve myself learning much more from the resources given here. Wish your success! Thanks..

Leave a Reply