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How to Write a Personal Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

20 Jun 2019

Personal essay aims to combine both narrative and descriptive writing with unique twist of an author. The most challenging part is choosing a good topic that would speak of something that would interest target audience even if it is something well-known or already discussed like in case with a news report. This is where creativity and focus on details is important because audience always expects to see special information or something presented from an unusual angle.

Knowing how to write a personal essay starts from accurate structure and inclusion of key elements that instantly capture reader’s attention. Since most college students in the United States had to write admission essays at a certain point, it should give basic idea of how important it is to turn personal into something unique!

How to Write a Personal Essay

Personal Essay Structure & Format

In most cases, unless specified otherwise, personal essay writing structure consists of three crucial elements, which remind of classic academic paper format, including:

  • Intro & Thesis Statement - successful introduction paragraph should start with an idea that inspires the writer first, patiently chosen among available personal essay topics. Once primary idea or intention is clarified, next step is powerful hook sentence, which can be an anecdote, powerful life story, unusual subject detail or information aimed to make readers think differently.
    Middle part of first paragraph should contain descriptive information with vivid, sensory details that set the scene. Help readers proceed to strong thesis statement, which must conclude a primary paragraph. Thesis statement should reflect main idea or thoughts that speak of certain experience, event or an idea. If talk goes of an opinion, make an assumption or provide sufficient arguments that reflect own vision. It does not have to explain why exactly you think so because it is what body paragraphs are for. In thesis statement, students should make reader question why particular statement has been made.
  • Body Paragraphs - this is where author should do his or her best to explain and support thesis statement by providing sufficient information, evidence or additional details that help justify actions or opinions. Making it personal, it is important to get smaller ideas connected with larger topics like friendship, care for others, professional goals, charity, challenges, sports, music, arts, etc. Clever structuring allows inclusion of dialogues, temporal details or even quotes, if applicable.
    When writing letters of intent or application assignments, body paragraph is where students should speak of personal achievements. However, it should be done differently with literary touch, telling how it happened, what made it possible or what lessons have been learned. This is reflective narration that asks for creativity, a conversation that reflects personality, experiences, skills, and knowledge.
  • Conclusion - final part is as important as introduction because it is what usually remains in reader’s memory after closure. Wrap up important information with thesis statement, explaining anything that may have sounded unclear in simple terms. Call to action, make people think, share important lessons learnt. When writing a personal statement essay, remember to thank admission committee for attention.  

How to Write Your Personal Essay

Thinking on how to write a personal essay for college, most students get stuck with list of things to include. Since most students are already familiar with research paper outline, American university professors recommend same approach as person would take when writing classic research assignment. Conduct research, explore, brainstorm as paper is composed!

Personal essay format does not have specific requirements other than what can be limited by narrator’s imagination. First of all, compelling topic should be found, which instantly reflects primary ideas. If it is Nursing, explain why it is important or what made you choose it. If it is reflective writing assignment on a recent event, explain why it moved you or what lessons have been carried out. Ask yourself why it matters, what questions you would have seen answered. Think of such homework as if it is a news article where author intends to inspire and impress readers. Be emotional, choose clever references, use reliable sources!

Just like sentence hook necessity, which often confuses writers who calculate how to start a personal essay, it is also important to narrow down writing focus and avoid scattering ideas all over paper. Keep writing structured, starting from general templates by supporting them with details or explanations as applicable. Paragraphs should be logically connected, always providing closure to previous event or time passage.

Most Popular Mistakes in Personal Essays

When writing an essay, students are not safe from common mistakes, most of which happen with good intentions, meaning no harm. Nevertheless, there are several points that should be checked for when student only plans to write or already has working draft ready. Firstly, even though personal facts can be included, it does not mean that sensitive information or complaints should be implemented in painful details about things experienced. As an example, when writing about famous person who inspires you, do not turn entire essay into mini biography of that person. It has to be about you!

In order to see what is a personal essay that achieves success, it is much better to see things that should be checked upon:

  • Absence of Organization - if structure with presentation of ideas is vague with past and present mixed in unclear way, readers will feel confused, not really knowing where an author is coming from. Keep ideas organized by order of importance, connecting them with statement made in main thesis.
  • Bleak, Uninspiring Topic - subject should be relevant, motivational, inspiring for the author in the first place because if student chooses something boring or too complex, it will not sound confident. Intended written assignments should keep audience motivated, sounding convincing. If you know something well, make it appear in priorities list as topic idea is brainstormed.
  • Weak Structure - especially when describing particular event, do not turn it into summary where already available or well-known information is paraphrased. In those cases when something should be referenced, remember to support facts with reliable information. Use accurate citation, remaining within standard writing formats rules. Keep arguments structured, always reminding how they relate to your personality.
  • Inappropriate Lexis - keep language within academic writing guidelines. Only if it is professional or appropriate, do not use specific lexis or special terms. Avoid using colloquial language.
  • Fake information - there is no need for fiction writing in any case because all information provided should be real. Do not be like famous Google employee who provided fake education details only to let head office find it out later. Be yourself, remain sincere, honest, clearly stating both strong and weak sides. Make people interested to continue reading!  
  • Unreliable Facts - from participation in college projects, education, charity services to unique life details, it is crucial to avoid unreliable facts, which may seriously damage future academic career.
  • Editing Flaws - there is a reason why most American students use college essay editing services. Professional proofreading, like what EduBirdie provides, ensures grammar check, accurate citation, punctuation, wordiness, style tips, and much more. Always edit paper at each stage, making sure that only important information makes it to final assignment.

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Personal Essay Questions and Answers

What should a personal essay include?

When writing a personal essay, structure-wise, it should include intro with a powerful hook, 3-5 body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion that makes audience think or calls to action. In terms of contents, it should be thoughtful, but not too pressing without inclusion of overly personal details.  Always include your own voice and style.

What makes a good personal essay?

Good chosen topic and careful editing. Most American students underestimate role of proofreading as they turn to personal narration. Read it aloud and see whether it makes sense and inspires you first. Good essay writing makes people think and supports provided ideas with strong details, depth, and evidence, if necessary.

How do you write a personal essay outline?

Regardless of intention, personal narrative outline should include strong hook, introduction of topic idea that sets the scene, followed by powerful thesis statement. Even if talk goes of personal statement writing or state of purpose, good thesis is still necessary to help convince admission committee regarding chosen professional goals.  

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How do you write a good introduction for a personal essay?

Good introduction always starts with a hook sentences that captures reader by forcing one to read further. It should be something that target audience does not already know. Introduce existing ideas, yet do it differently with due emotion, details, and thought. Include personal experiences, talk of what motivates you regarding particular subject.

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