Drafting & Revising

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Drafting, Revising and Proofreading Your Personal Statement

Drafting and Revising

A draft is a work in progress. A good essay undergoes several revisions--don't assume that your first draft is your best draft! Composing often involves going back and forth among planning the essay, generating ideas, organizing the contents, and editing the results. Drafting allow you to get the most out of these composing stages.

Through the brainstorming and gathering information stages, you have generated the raw material to compose effectively. Now you will begin the process of creating your essay.

Your First Draft

In a first draft, you are attempting to capture your essay's meaning and get it down on paper. In this way, you are attempting to draw out the essay's concept.

Use your first draft to:

•formulate a working introduction

•organize your ideas

A first draft is often the skeleton of the paper; it contains the overall structure, but may lack a clear theme, vivid language, fully developed paragraphs, and strong transition words and phrases.

Revising Your Draft

The key to revising your essay is to determine how it seems not just to you, but to your reader. So--think like an admissions officer! Remember that readers need a sense of your essay's structure and a clear idea of why they should read your essay in the first place. To revise your essay:

Step One: Concentrate on the whole by examining your essay's frame: the introduction, the conclusion, and a sentence in each that states your main theme. Ask the following questions

Will my reader know where my introduction ends and where the body of my essay begins?

Will my reader know where the body of my essay ends and where my conclusion begins?

Will my reader know which sentence is the main sentence in my introduction, and which is the main sentence in my conclusion?

Step Two: Examine your essay for continuity

Make sure that your points work together conceptually--that is, that key points are unified by your essay's theme.

One strategy is to OUTLINE your draft. Create an outline of your draft after you've finished writing. Your outline should include:

I. Your theme as it is stated in your introduction

II. Topic sentence from the first body paragraph

i. example used in first body paragraph that supports the theme

III. Topic sentence from the second body paragraph

i. example used in second body paragraph that supports the theme

and so on.

Examine the outline (which is actually an abbreviated version of your draft): does the organization make sense? Do the topic sentence indicate a conceptual progression of ideas? Does each paragraph's topic sentence FOCUS your theme, and does each example ILLUSTRATE your main idea?

Step Three: Revise for focus, clarity and depth. Make sure that the skeleton of your personal statement is fleshed out with sufficient examples, fully developed paragraphs, and meaningful prose.

Style Tips

Examine the personal statement for word accuracy; whenever possible, use a simpler word in place of a longer or more obscure word.
Make sure that every word you use means what you think it means.
Be yourself!
Avoid empty words and phrases like "basically,: "really," "goals and dreams."
Use active verbs whenever possible. Go through your essay and circle every form of "to be" that you find ("is", "are", "were", etc). Substitute more active verbs. For example:
Instead of: My love of science was fostered by my second grade teacher
Write: My second grade teacher fostered my love of science
Avoid predictable (and stereotypical college essay phrases) such as "I learned a lot," "I learned to work with others," "It was a fun and challenging experience" "I learned that everyone is different," etc.
Avoid using clichés and proverbs, or other over-used phrases from literary sources. They detract from the freshness of your essay.
Use a normal, 10-12 point font to type your essay. Don't type in all italics, or in bold, or in an unusual font size. Standard fonts that look nice are Times, Palatino, New York, and Courier. Avoid fancy font types--they are difficult to read.

Proofreading

 

Leave plenty of time to proofread. If you can, put your essay aside for a few days, and then come back and look at it with fresh eyes.

Some proofreading tips:

•Try reading your essay backwards (last sentence first) to catch fragments or other glaring errors.

•Have another pair of eyes read it as well to catch errors in spelling and grammar--your eyes, because they are used to the words on the page, can easily miss errors that another reader will easily spot.

Avoid these common errors

Fragments

Run-on sentences (comma splices)

Redundancy ("The reason...is because")

Spelling errors

Slang or colloquial language