Although all components of a law school application are important, the most important one is the personal statement. To that end, this series explains some of the pivotal points you should keep in mind as you prepare to write your law school application personal statement. This is a 10-part series that will help get you from starting to finishing your personal statement.
Once you have your first draft and a break under your belt, it’s time to edit. Typically, you’ll follow this write, step away, edit process a few times through a few drafts until you’re fully content with your essay. Saying you’re going to edit your essay is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out exactly how to edit and what you should be looking for. In Part 7 of the “Writing Your Personal Statement” series, we’re going to go through the seven areas you should pay attention to.
Spellcheck is your best friend and an absolute life saver! But don’t rely solely on it. While it does catch errors like “recieve” and “exept,” it won’t catch errors like “to” instead of “too” or “butt” instead of “but.” Start by carefully proofreading your sentences for spelling. Do this before you even get to any other type of revisions. If you’re not 100% confident on how to spell a word or if you’re unsure the spelling/usage is correct, don’t be afraid to double-check! Dictionary.com is a wonderful and quick resource.
A very important note! “Your” and “you’re” are not the same thing. Neither are “its” and “it’s,” or “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” Learn the differences between them and/or brush up on them now. Nothing brings down an essay faster than the misuse of these different words.
The construction of a sentence is critical to how your essay will read. This is where grammar comes in. Keep in mind that you’re not writing a creative essay, so you must keep your sentence structures as traditional as possible. Here are some quick guidelines to keep in mind when editing for grammar.
- Your sentences must have a subject and a verb, and the relationship between them must be clear.
- Pronouns must have0a clear antecedent.
- Adding an apostrophe and an “s” (‘s) does not make a word plural.
- Contractions (aren’t, don’t, can’t, etc.) tend to make writing sound informal, so you may want to avoid them if you’re looking to keep your writing more elevated.
- Avoid/look out for run-on sentences, comma splices, and sentence fragments. Use punctuation to help you fix and keep these types of sentences in check.
Speaking of punctuation… Using punctuation judiciously and correctly will go a long way to making your essay look and sound polished and professional. Here are a few of the errors I encounter most often, and how to fix them.
For example: I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer it’s something that I have dreamed of since I was very young. Fix it with a period or semicolon between the two concepts within that sentence. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. It’s something that I’ve always dreams of since I was very young. Or, I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer; it’s something I have dreamed of since I was very young.
This is what happens when you use a comma instead of a period to separate two sentences. For example, I always knew I wanted to become a lawyer, it’s something that I have dreamed of since I was very young. Replace that comma with a period or semi-colon.
This is when a semi-colon is used in place of a comma, or when it’s not used appropriately. For example: When I walked into the classroom I knew the material; and I knew I would do well on the test. Or: When I walked into the classroom I knew the material; my dog needs to be walked when I get home. The fix is to know how to use semi-colons. The semicolon is used to connect two related sentences that are already correctly punctuated independently. Our first wrong example can be fixed by removing “and.” Our second example can be fixed by replacing the completely unrelated second sentence with one that pertains to the content of the first half of the sentence.
Repetitive use, lack of use, or incorrect use of transitions can be very detrimental to how your essay reads. Make sure to embrace variety in your use of transitions. Start by becoming familiar with what they are and how to use them. Then, make sure they are saying exactly what you want them to say. Finally, ensure you use different ones to avoid repetitiveness; even if you use transitions and transitional phrases correctly, repeating the same one constantly will make your essay sound odd and amateurish.
We always tell applicants to pick a single theme and develop a story around it. Choose two or three anecdotes that bolster this theme. If you decide to address multiple themes and try to tell stories for each of these themes, you run the risk of sounding disjointed at best. At worst, you’ll merely scratch the surface of the different themes you’re trying to present, and your essay will read thin and unbalanced. Your aim should be for seamless flow from one idea to the next, with each sentence feeding, informing, and expanding the one before it and after it.
When reading a book, are you ever left with the feeling that something important took place but you don’t know why it took place? That’s a plot hole. Plot holes often rear their ugly heads in admissions essays because of the amount of information these essays try to cover and the limited space they have in which to cover it. When writing, you may find yourself leaving out information that you don’t deem important in favor of that which you deem indispensable. However, some of this deleted information may be essential for the uninformed reader that isn’t familiar with your story, to have. You may have a hard time spotting plot holes, which is why having others read your essay is so important. We will discuss why you should have others read your essay and what they should be looking for in greater detail in the next part in this series.
Finally, once you have carefully edited your essay for spelling, punctuation, grammar, transitions, cohesiveness, and plot holes, your job is now to re-read it and make sure it is clear. Ask yourself, after reading every sentence, “What did I mean to convey with that sentence?” and, after that, “Did the sentence actually convey what I wanted it to convey?” Every single sentence in your essay is prime real estate–make sure it adds to your essay, doesn’t repeat anything already said elsewhere, and is stated as clearly as possible.
Read More in This Series
- Take Your Time
- Plan It Out
- Get Personal
- Get Specific
- Embrace Variety
- Step Away
- Edit (You Are Here)
- Involve Others
- Don’t Be Afraid
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