Personal Essay

Personal essays are like free verse poems.
There may be few rules but there are many important guidelines.

1. Think of a memorable experience, a person you know well or a belief that is important to you.
2. Choose a topic for which you can provide many concrete examples or five senses details.
3. Choose a topic which you think will interest your readers.


1. Have a beginning, a middle and an end.
– Write something to grab the attention of your reader.
– Tell your story. (Click HERE for a nonfiction planning sheet.)
–  Write something memorable at the end.

2. Divide your work into paragraphs.
– Group similar ideas together.
– Use topic sentences or transition sentences.
– Sometimes the topic sentences – all on their own – tell a summary of your story.

3. Use a logical sequence of ideas.
– Don’t jump around all over the place as if you are thinking aloud.
– Use transition words to help your ideas flow smoothly.

4. Show emotion.
– If you sound distant or disengaged, your reader won’t care for your writing.
– Emotions make your writing powerful.
– Smoothly insert quotations to add emphasis and interest. (Click HERE on tips on dialogue.)

5. Use powerful words and concrete details. (Click HERE for tips on powerful writing.)
– Pay close attention to your verbs, adverbs and adjectives.
– Use a dictionary or thesaurus to hep you find more precise words.
– Include many details that help your readers to see, hear and feel your story.

6. Don’t forget that the conventions matter!
– Sloppy grammar, punctuation and spelling show that you don’t care
about your writing. No one else will care, then, either.
– Ask for special tutoring sessions if you need extra help learning the rules of correct English.

Click HERE for quotations and stories about memories.

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