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Personal Essay Tips: What Has Changed You

Writing a personal essay can be hard because you have your entire life to choose from. What should you write about? If your teacher has given any specific instructions, make sure to take that into consideration first. Other than that, you could write about anything you want, but not every anecdote or experience makes for a good personal essay. Yes, it’s supposed to be about your life, but there should also be some kind of moral, argument, or point to be had from it.


Outlining a Personal Essay

Outlines are your best friends. Making one for your personal essay will make things so much easier. Once you have a topic, you can save yourself time by organizing everything you need ahead of time. Let’s assume you want to write about big life events that have changed you. Think of a few ideas such as a friend’s death, a vacation, a wedding, a child, a parent’s death, a letter, a new job, a new romance, or smaller things that made a big difference in your life. Pick one or two to focus on.

Personal essays should follow a format, but that format can be different from teacher to teacher, or even within a class. Consult your instructions for formatting guidelines, and ask your teacher about anything that isn’t quite clear. It never hurts to ask too many questions and know what you’re getting into before doing the bulk of your work.


Writing a Personal Essay

Now all you need to do is get the first draft out. Think of your life changing event. What details related to senses can you remember: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste? If you can, travel to a place or talk to a person related to that memory to remind yourself of other details. When you’re writing the essay, you’ll need all the help you can get in painting a realistic picture of how this changed you and its effect on your life. Making it feel real is one of the tools for a great personal essay.

Another is to compare unique or not commonly known facts to other things most people might know. For example, the smell of creosote or looking down from the top of the Eiffel tower might be things not everyone can relate to. If you aren’t sure, ask some trusted friends to read over your personal essay who don’t know the story already and see if they get confused or need some more clarification.

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