Review Essay

Follow this checklist to review essay for grammar and style.

    • Read your essay out loud to make sure it flows well and sounds conversational. In fact, have someone else read it out loud to you if possible.

    • Is your opening paragraph interesting? Does it grab the reader’s attention? Is it either personal or intriguing,  or does it have action or imagery?
    • Is your writing friendly and personal? Or does it sound uptight and stiff?

    • Have you used an active voice? 

    • Does your essay SHOW rather than TELL?

    • Did you support your points with examples and specifics? Or is your essay full of generalities?

    • Does each paragraph follow the thought you introduced in the first sentence of the paragraph?
    • If you’re using dialogue, is it free flowing? Check your essay to see if it sounds stiff. If it does, rewrite your dialogue lines and make sure you’re using contractions.

    • Check that you haven’t abused the use of adverbs and adjectives. Also, make sure you haven’t used any words that you would not normally use in a conversation. Remember, you don’t want your essay to look like your wrote it right from a thesaurus.
    • Are you making every word and every sentence count? Don’t write just to fill up space. Check your essay to make sure every sentence moves your story forward, by describing a person, a place, a situation, or by letting us "hear" your voice.
    • Is your essay full of clichés?

    • Does your essay sound interesting or is it boring? Remember, if it feels boring to you it’ll probably feel boring to the reader.

    • Does your essay end on an upbeat tone? Does it accentuate your strengths? By the end of the essay will the reader have a favorable opinion of you and like you?

    • Proofread your essay. Check your essay to make sure it’s impeccable in form and style. It would be a shame to have the application essay you worked so hard on rejected simply because it’s full of grammatical errors, when it might have otherwise been an exceptional paper.

      • Do the subjects agree in number with the verbs?
      • If you used dialog, did you place periods, commas, exclamation points and questions marks inside the quotations?
      • Did you use capitalization correctly?

Final Thoughts

Avoid trying to summarize your entire essay with your last paragraph. Remember, an application essay is not a term paper, nor is it a like delivering a speech. (In a typical speech, there is a three-part standard format: first the speaker tells the audience what he’s going to be talking about; then he talks about it; then he summarizes everything he said.) If you find your essay headed in this direction, then rewrite the conclusion. Don’t expect to have the perfect essay after only your first draft. In case you’re not aware, whether you’re writing a college application essay or the great American novel, there are three rules all writers must abide by:  Revise, Revise, and Revise!


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