Racking up Style Points: Two Tips for Revising Your College Essay

racking up style points: Two Tips for  Revising Your  College Essay

No, not that kind of style. Writing style. Here's some advice on how to express yourself in an engaging, effective and stylish way.

1. Trim the fat.

Here’s a 40-word sentence. Can you cut it in half without changing the meaning?

Over the course of the six weeks, I became very familiar with playing the cello, the flute, the trumpet, and the marimba in the morning session while I continually learned how to play the acoustic guitar in the afternoon sessions.
 

Wait, actually try cutting this (in your mind) before scrolling down. See how concise you can get it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(No, really.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, here’s one way to revise it:

In six weeks, I learned the cello, flute, trumpet, and marimba in the mornings and acoustic guitar in the afternoons.
 

There. Half the words and retains the meaning.

 



2. Split long sentences with complex ideas into two.

This may sound contrary to the first point but it ain’t. Why? Sometimes we’re just trying to pack too much into the same sentence.

Check this one out:

For an inquisitive student like me, Brown’s liberal program provides a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment, giving me great freedom to tailor my education by pursuing a double concentration in both public health and business, while also being able to tap into other, more unconventional, academic interests, such as ancient history and etymology through the first year seminars.
 

That’s a lot for one sentence, eh?

This sentence is what I’d call “top heavy.” It has a lot of important information in the first half–so much, in fact, that I need a break before I can take in the bits at the end about “ancient history” and “etymology.” Two options for revising this:

Option 1. If you find yourself trying to pack a lot into one sentence, just use two.

Two sentences work just as well, and require no extra words. In the example above, the author could write:

For an inquisitive student like me, Brown’s liberal program provides a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment, giving me great freedom to tailor my education by pursuing a double concentration in both public health and business. I also look forward to pursuing other, more unconventional, academic interests, such as ancient history and etymology through the first year seminars.
 

Option 2: Just trim the first half of the sentence to its essence, or cut most of it.

That might look like this:

At Brown I look forward to pursuing a double concentration in both public health and business, while also tapping into other, more unconventional academic interests, such as ancient history and etymology.
 

And just for the record (for all the counselors who might be wondering), I don’t actually write out these revisions for my students; I ask questions and let them figure it out. In this example, for instance, I highlighted the first half of the sentence and wrote, “Can you make this more concise?” 



WANT HELP NAILING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT?

CHECK OUT THE FREE ONE-HOUR GUIDE BELOW.