Content of this article
- Writing a personal essay
- List of topics for writing
- Tips for good writing
- Do/don`t for writing
- Examples of writing
1. Writing a personal essay
Colleges and universities require personal essays that reveal more about an individual, their thoughts, experiences, perspective and personality. Ideally, one should include examples and specific details in the personal essay that relate to who a person is. Through highlighting elements of individuality and creativity, a writer is able to show things that have significantly influenced their life. In writing the personal essay it is necessary to be oneself rather than trying too much to impress by creating too much falsehoods as one will appear inauthentic. At the same time, one has to address the topic if it has been identified while considering the requirements. This paper will highlight the top topics for personal essays, the personal essay structure, how to reference and tips for effective personal essay.
2. Topics for personal essay writing
When selecting a personal essay topic it is necessary to consider the topics that are personal and not impersonal, as the readers seek to know more about the author/writer. The supporting evidence provided what strengthens the claims made and ideas, without repeating the information. There are also personal essay prompts providing general topics to choose from, while they also encourage self-reflection. The personal essay titles are included as they include relevant information. Good personal essay topics are easy to follow, and choosing a bad topic is potentially problematic as such writing is less likely to be reader friendly. Additionally, the choice of a topic influence the writing and when the writers choose an interesting topic that they are comfortable with, they are more likely to use creativity to highlight their personal strengths.
- What have you learned from failure?
- Describe an event that has changed you?
- An experience that has shaped your life.
- How have you overcome fear in your life?
- How has your transition from childhood to adulthood been?
- What memories do you cherish from your early childhood?
- Does power change people, or reveal who they are?
- What is your most memorable holiday?
- What animal best represents you?
- Who do you think is the greatest person to have ever live?
- A lesson to remember.
- What have you done to succeed?
- How have you changed compared to 5 years ago?
- What is the place of ethics and morality?
- How do you describe yourself?
- What experience has changed your perspective on life?
- Does your bedroom represent your personality?
- What would you like to change about your neighborhood?
- How do you relate with neighbors?
- Which famous person would you like to meet and why?
- What is your motivation in life?
3. Personal essay structure
There are various strategies on how to start a personal essay, but the key is to make the opening paragraph memorable with vivid description. Readers have expectations based on the introduction and how the essay unfolds, as this part frames the story. When deciding how to end a personal essay, it is necessary to consider what has already been highlighted and link the conclusion with the introduction. Even when the last paragraph has many related points and material in other sections, few or no information is introduced unless it addressed what had already been discussed.
Like other essays, the personal essay structure contains the personal essay introduction, body and conclusion. The personal essay definition is one in which the writer uses creativity to focus on a personal experience, opinion event or perspective in a way that the reader can understand. In the introduction section the writer sets the stage for the personal essay with emphasis on a hook that gets the attention of the readers. This is closely tied to the scene, where the writer highlights the important information that connects the introduction to the body and conclusion. The personal essay thesis statement in the introduction section ties the main ideas of the essay and guides the writing as the statement summarizes the main points, and the readers then understand what the writing is about.
In the body paragraphs, the writer should emphasize more including details and descriptions rather than simply telling. Writers are best understood when their writing can connect with the readers, and adding details is one such strategy to engage the readers. Additionally, the narrative is supported with evidence that support the main ideas and thesis of the personal essay. The body contains the biggest portion of the writing, and the writer then needs to highlight the significance of the events, experiences or perspectives of the essay. The body paragraph also has the beginning, middle and end action, with details and proper transition.
3.1 Writing a thesis statement
- Important to note that the thesis statement should be framed in such a way that it is an argument or rather in a manner that suggests that it is debatable;
- It should be framed in such a way that it is clear to readers;
- A thesis statement should be placed in place where it is visible, at the end of the introduction;
- It should be relevant to what the essay is discussing;
- Thesis statements should always be interesting;
- It should be specific;
- It should be brief.
After deciding or choosing the topic, it s necessary to write the rough draft. The case for this is to address the main ideas and general theme, where the principal points and supporting evidence are made. In the first draft of the personal essay, the concluding paragraph also summarizes the main ideas. After this is the need for reviewing the rough draft, there are corrections and revisions to rewrite the first draft, and submitting the reading to another person helps improves the writing when they provide unbiased opinions. In the second draft, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all considered when reviewing and writing a personal essay.
Like other articles and writing texts, the writer focuses on one subject, while the events and story are written chronologically if the personal essay is to make sense. Even in cases when there is no time element, organization and order are considered through the use of transition words is a top priority to support the logical flow of information. When the paragraph change to focus on subtopics of the main ideas, the transition words are used to connect the paragraphs. Similar to other essays, the main points are first covered and other points then highlighted in each of the paragraphs.
In the personal essay conclusion, the personal essay summarizes the ideas covered and may also highlight the way forward. Since the conclusion sums up the overall ideas, the last paragraph ought to reinforce the thesis. Other than reiterating the main ideas, the conclusion highlights the value of the ideas discussed in the personal essay. Ideally, the conclusion should not include new ideas, but the section may connect the essay within a larger context.
4. How to reference
When citing a source either through using the APA or MLA format there are few differences in the in-text citation and referencing. The general format of the APA referencing style is Author, First Initial, Middle Name initial (Year). Title of article/ website/book.
Gonchar, M. (2014, Nov 13). 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing. The Learning Network- The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2016, from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/500-prompts-for-narrative-and-personal-writing/?_r=0
Moore, D. W. (2010). Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction. Cincinnati: F+W Media.
In the case of MLA referencing a book this is Last name, First name. Title. City: Publisher, Year, and for a website it is Last name, First name. Title page. Web. Date Accessed.
Gonchar, Michael. “500 Prompts for Narrative And Personal Writing”. The Learning Network.- The New York Times N.p., 2014. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.
5. Tips for effective personal essay
One of the most important aspects in the personal essay writing is choosing the topic, since the essay reflects the topic. Even when the topics have already been picked, it is necessary to focus on the unique features or the writer’s own perspectives. Even as people may have similar experiences they hold different perspective, and when there are unexpected perspectives this sets a writer apart from the others. On the other hand, if one were to choose a boring topic, the essay will also be boring and any attempt to reveal about oneself will not be fascinating to the readers.
After picking the topic it is necessary to prepare a personal essay outline that map out the ideas to be covered in the personal essay. The case for this is that it allows the writer to connect the ideas, linking those that support these ideas with evidence, and preparing the outline is also necessary to organize the essays without repeating the ideas. Even as brainstorming can yield useful results, it may be necessary to seek personal essay help to identify and connect the ideas. Additionally, outlining the ideas focuses on the overall picture making it easier to eliminate the irrelevant parts as the personal essay will then flow more smoothly.
Providing details in personal writing is necessary to remove the vague and abstract references makes it easier for the readers to pay attention to the essay as they can easily understand the anecdotes and their relations to the essay. The anecdotes illustrate the meaning of the details in the personal essay. In shaping the experiences that identify the unique writing, the concrete details are necessary to achieve this. Nonetheless, care is exercised when using the descriptive material and concrete material to avoid melodrama, since the aim is to present the essay in a way that is easily understood by the readers.
Connecting the personal essay within the context and larger meaning helps in developing the writing and connect with the readers. Even as the writing the personal essay focuses on the personal elements in life, the written essay has meaning within certain contexts. The theme of the personal essay goes beyond the essay’s specific details, where the author gives meaning. When the readers come across the personal essay they are left thinking about the meaning of such essays. Since the personal essays reveals and highlights more details about the other, the ability to use anecdotes is necessary to make connection of the ideas.
6. Things “to do” and “not do” during personal essay writing
- Do focus on personal aspects and not the impersonal ones;
- Do tell the truth to be authentic;
- Do focus on the positives;
- Do pick topics that interest the readers;
- Be specific and detailed;
- Do not repeat the same information;
- Do not choose topics simply because other people have picked this;
- Do not use outside sources without acknowledging this.
7. Examples of a personal essay
7.1 Common personal essay
7.2 Personal essay on leadership
7.3 Personal essay on education
The following Graduation Writing Proficiency Examination essays were written by HSU students during a regularly scheduled GWPE. Except for the elimination of cross-outs, the essays are reproduced here exactly as written. Insofar as possible, the essays were chosen to represent the entire range of possible scores. (No essay received a score of One on Essay Topic I.) The majors represented by the authors of these essays are, in alphabetical order, Art, Biology, Business Administration, Environmental Resources Engineering, Fisheries, Geography, Geology, Industrial Arts, and Resource Planning and Interpretation.
Personal-Experience Essay Prompt
You have 45 minutes to write on the following topic.
A distinguished essayist once wrote: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
Write an essay in which you:
- Describe a book that has strongly affected you.
- Explain how your reading of this book changed your outlook.
- Tell why you think this book had such a profound effect on you.
Sample Essay Score: Six
During my third year of college I became acutely aware of the Womens Rights Issue. I made an attempt to re-examine many of the cultural norms that I had previously accepted as just being "the natural order of things." One of the paths I took to expand my awareness of the female psyche involved women's literature. That is why I spent one weekend of my life in bed--crying, laughing, feeling sometimes confused, and often, incredibly angry and distraught. On that rainy Humboldt Friday night I had decided to read "The Women's Room."
The author, Marilyn Fridey, describes the lives of several women from the 1950's to present. These women are nothing out of the ordinary. They either go to college and then get married, or they get married without bothering about the pretense of college--after all, they know that college is only a way to find more economically promising husbands. Myra, the main character whose life is traced throughout the book vaguely wonders why she is not content cooking pot roast, scraping shit from the baby's diapers, and picking up her husband's dry cleaning. Her only solace is the neighborhood of women who share concerns over coffee in the afternoons.
They wonder why Katherine, a Catholic woman who has 9 children and an alcoholic husband, committed suicide. "She had a normal life, they thought, she just should have talked her husband into using birth control." As for the rest of the women, including Myra, their lives, fears, disappointments and yearnings, were much more subtle, yet equally suicidal in their quiet desperation.
Many years down the road, Myra's life finally changes. Her husband has "made it", the kids have grown, and life is easy economically. Myra has a nervous breakdown. Once recovered, she divorces, and becomes a graduate student at Yale. Though painful and difficult, it is here that she comes to terms with herself, realizes her potential, and learns to live with herself--not necessarily happily--but at least honestly.
After I finished the story of Myras world that Sunday evening, I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably from a terrible nightmare. Though I couldn't remember the dream, I came to a profound realization. Myra's life was my mothers.
Most of my life I had revered, respected and admired my father for going to college, being intelligent and worldly, having power and control. In short for being a man.
My mother always seemed too "wishy-washy", easily trodden upon, overly dependent because she had chosen the role of HOUSEWIFE, MOTHER. I rebelled against the tradition, and feared wearing those chains someday. Consequently, I strove to be like my father.
Until this book, I never realized how much more courage it took for a person to live within a stifled role, and find contentment by living through other people. During that night of crying I understood my mother for the first time--I respected her inner strength, compassion, gentleness.
Ever since then, my relationship with my mother has evolved, and we are very close. I will probably never adopt the role in life that she chose to take, but I now respect her for her life, and understand the reasons why she made those choices. Reading of Myra's evolution as a female changed the way I feel towards myself, my feelings and compassion for my mother, and provided me with a much more sensitive view towards the lives of many women in our society today.
Comment:Clearly a well-written, superior essay. Each of the three parts of the topic is covered and well developed, with considerable detail provided. Despite an occasional lapse in the use of the possessive and a few other matters, the paper is strong in mechanics. Sentence structure is sophisticated and effective.
Sample Essay Score: 5
Through the ages of 8-15 I was an avid reader of pleasure books. The majority of the books were mysteries such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. Books about animals were avoided because they usually had a very sentimental theme, and I was very emotional when it came to animal suffering.
When I was approximately 10 years old I read a book titled Misty & Chatlenaque. This book was about a young horse that was stranded on an island. It had been on a horse-trading ship when the ship wrecked on the rocks. Misty went through several adventures where wild dogs tried to kill her, horse traders tried to capture her (and beat her in the process), and the sea tried to swallow her.
A little girl who lived on the Island found Misty and tried to protect her from the wild dogs and horse traders. The story was told from the horse's point view, and the agony and terror Misty went through passed on to me. I felt as if it were me who was being chased and beat.
A girl at the age of ten is influenced by the things she sees and reads. Years after reading the book I had the notion that horse ranches were terrible to horses. I also felt that horses were very human in the sense that they could think, feel, understand, and have emotions.
Whenever I passed by a horse who was behind a fence I had to stop and feed it, talk to it, pet it, and feel sorry for it. Every horse had that "Misty" look in its eyes, and I felt it was "crying out to me".
After reading Misty and Chatlenaque, horses became more than just an animal to me. They became something I could relate to and sympathize with. I myself was a lonely child who felt neglected (even though I wasn't) and "penned". While reading the book I felt the horse and I were one. Years later I felt like horses and I had something in common and could relate to each other.
Now, I know horses do not understand what I say to them, but I still stop and talk to them as if they were human. I feel that if I had not read that book eleven years ago I wouldn't feel as attached to horses as I do now. To this day, I refuse to read another horse book or watch a horse movie that looks like it might be "emotional" or "sentimental".
Misty & Chatlenaque is still a very prominent book in my mind, and details of it are remembered frequently. It has had the profound effect of altering my view of horses and will probably remain in my memory for life. The book also had the effect of making me not want to read those kinds of books again. Their emotional impact was too great on me so I only read mysteries and school books. To this day I have my reservations about reading an emotional book, especially if it pertains to animals.
Comment:A very competent paper, nearly free of mechanical errors but lacking the coherent development of the superior essay. It is also occasionally repetitious and a bit unfocused at times. (The correct title of this book is Misty of Chincoteaque.)
Sample Essay Score: 4
In the summer of 1981 I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers on the Warm Springs Dam Project. Much to my objections I was to spend the entire summer living alone, without my wife, since she had obligations to keep in Eureka, California.
The project was located 7 miles southwest of Cloverdale, Ca., in an area which is essentially agricultural. Housing in the area was very scarce and the lodging which could be found was either too expensive or unsuitable. By my own preference, I decided it would be nice to camp out in the woods for the entire duration of the summer.
At first the evenings after work were hot but beautifully peaceful. It didn't take long though until I found my self bored to death looking for something to do besides play solitare. How did the people in the early days of our world stand life without television. I was forced to find some other means of entertainment which just happened to be reading.
The only reading material which was at my camp was a book left there by my wife on her last visit entitled "The Stix Complex." This book to most of the world I'm sure has no great literary value, but to me, it was the greatest entertainment I had ever found. I realized that in the reading of a book, ones own imagination can bring out much more detail in a story than television ever could.
I don't feel that it was the specific book that struck me so much that summer, and it probably could have been any book. I realized that we expect to be entertained by television and movies so much that we forget that we can entertain ourselves to a much higher degree. I still watch television, but I now read much more for enjoyment.
Comment:Although this essay addresses all three aspects of the topic, development of them is thin. The writer devotes most of the essay to describing his situation and passes rather quickly over the book itself and its effects on him. Still, despite a few mechanical flaws, this is clearly a competent piece of writing.
Sample Essay Score: 3
I was strongly affected by a book I read called Never Cry Wolf. The book discribes a remote animal behavor study, located in a mountainous region of northern Canada. The purpose of the study was to observe the animal behavior of wolfs in there natural environment. The study was conducted by a wildlife biologist, working for the Canadian goverment.
Up until the time I read the book, I had the impression that wolfs where among the meanest creatures on the planet. I may have received this impression from childhood fairy tales that were told to me. After reading the book severl times, my impression of wolfs had changed. I no longer viewed wolfs as mean creatues, but instead viewed them as primarly passive creatures. Their intent was not to harm, but to survive.
Animal behavior became a primary interest of mine after reading the book, Never Cry Wolf. Although, I am not a wildlife major, I have assisted in a wildlife study on wolfs. I would have never gained this experience if I had not read Never Cry wolf. The knowledge I gained from the book has opened my eyes to nature.
Comment:While no parts of the topic are omitted, treatment of them tends to be superficial. The writer provides very little supporting detail. Considerable repetition is present because of the predominantly simple sentences used. (Note, for example, how the three opening sentences can easily be combined into one: I was strongly affected by a book I read called Never Cry Wolf, which describes the behavior of wolves living in their natural environment in the mountains of northern Canada.) Spelling is also weak.
Sample Essay Score: 2
The purpose of this essay is to describe my personal experience; that of a particular book which has greatly affected me. This book is Sweet Thursday by John Stienbeck. This book has greatly affected my over all outlook on life in general. Sweet Thursdaychanged the way I think about myself and others. Also, it has changed the way I feel about my own career.
The main character of the book was Doc. Doc had a very profound outlook on twards life, which I found quite interesting. He gave his career all of his attention yet still felt an emptyness inside. This was because he was without a meaningful relationship with a women. I too feel this emptyness, but because of Sweet Thursday I am able to understand what it is. This understanding gives me hope when career goals are overwelming.
Comment:Although this essay does not ignore the question, it treats it very poorly. The essay is both thin in content and lacking in development. The writer uses repetitious simple sentences rather than more sophisticated sentence structures which would combine and properly subordinate thoughts and eliminate the repetitions.
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