Last-minute writing tips

(photo artist credit Instagram @joey_bearbower)

This week my students fit neatly into two categories: ones who submitted their applications due November 1st weeks ago and ones who clearly thrive under the pressure of a looming deadline. The additional supplemental questions — which range in length from 100 to 400 words — slow many of my high school seniors down. Here are a few last-minute tips for writing effective short answer responses:

Write What You Know – Write about an event, activity, or interest that you know about and the words will tumble onto the page. If you describe a moment, the details will come naturally if you were there. Don’t make stuff up to try to impress a reader.

This and That – Write clearly. Review your draft for instances where you use “this” and ask yourself if you can specify with more descriptive language. Also find where you use the word “that” and consider deleting it.

Use Strong Verbs – The power of your sentence is in the verb. Instead of writing I walked down the hall to my math classroom write I trudged down the hall to my math classroom or I traipsed down the hall to my math classroom or I skipped down the hall to my math classroom. Be careful about relying too heavily on the forms of the “to be” verb and the passive voice. For more about passive voice vs active voice refer to:

Something, Everything, Things – To avoid vagueness, replace all forms of “thing” with a more specific word or phrase. For example, Everything in the room overwhelmed me can be changed to The stacks of books and the irritating hum of the ceiling fan in the room overwhelmed me.

Happy writing!

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