Tag Archives: college essay

Get to the Point: Using Digital Sources to Learn to Write Succinctly

Why is it so important to write clearly and concisely?  When you choose your words deliberately, manage each paragraph strategically, and orient your writing to a particular purpose, you make the greatest impact.  Let’s look at many different digital sources to help us understand why concise writing is best way to meet goals as a writer.

  • You can tell a whole story with very few words when you use compressed language.  A paragraph of compressed language may, actually, accomplish more than an entire 5-paragraph narrative. Check out these 10 Techniques for More Precise Language to help you develop strategies for writing with compressed language.

    Image credit: Ragan Public Relations

  • Succinct prose is like poetry: every phrase carried with it a visual image.  These images connect your reader to your ideas and experiences. Here is an article from a self-published author with suggestions how to adapt the conventions of poetry to prose.
  • When you write succinctly, you can accomplish several purposes instead of just one purpose.  Honestly, when we write for only one purpose, we often end us using lots of filler words and terms. Here is an overview of the four writing modes to give you an idea of how you can accomplish a lot with multiple purposes in mind.
  • Since many readers have short attention spans, you keep your readers’ attentions with compressed language.  Otherwise, your readers probably won’t finish reading your narrative.

    Image credit: reDESIGN

  • Your reader comes to understand your main point in a limited amount of time. That’s important when you want to capture and hold the reader’s attention.  Here are Five Features of Effective Writing to help you reach your reader.
  • In the age of soundbites, your audience expects succinct messaging. Read Keeping the Purple Out of Your Prose for ideas.
  • You say the most with the least amount of words. Here are 15 Ways to Write Tight to help you get to the point quickly and well.
  • You are able to make multiple points when you write succinctly; thus, you support your argument well. If you’d like to investigate ways to use evidence to support your main idea, read The Language of an Argument for many examples.
  • Compressed language is efficient, descriptive, and sophisticated.  Writers who compose with compressed language demonstrate expertise about a topic. How to Write a Sophisticated, Dynamic Scholarly Article has lots of very sophisticated suggestions!
  • Image credit: Xlibris Publishing

    Compressed language is a signifier of authenticity.  When your language is compressed, you are able to persuade others through a series of embedded meanings and messages. This blog post from the Huffington Post offers writers lots of methods to infuse your own original voice into your writing.

Yes, concise writing takes time for revision. But the power of your final product will be worth it.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information for your school or non-profit organization about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.


What’s the purpose of the college essay, anyway?

So, you’re an incoming high school senior, and the time has come to write your college application essay.  Where do you begin?

You’ve probably already heard of the Common Application.  Founded in 1975, the Common App streamlines undergraduate college applications to 500+ colleges in the U.S. and abroad through a “holistic admission” process.  Applicants submit information that includes essays, recommendations, class rank, and standardized testing. 

The application process takes considerable time and planning since it involves multiple steps.  The college essay is generally the most time-consuming part of the Common App process. According to Kimberly Houston of The Essay Mentor, there are four purposes for a college essay:

  • Evidence of your writing abilities. Yes, it is important to demonstrate excellent standard English conventions, which include commonly accepted ways to capitalize, spell, use parts of speech, and design sentences.  But is also means choosing words accurately and effectively.  Remember Hunter. S. Thompson’s advice: “Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”
  • Evidence of reasonable goals and expectations.  Colleges are communities of like-minded individuals who will use academic and social opportunities to gain skills and strategies. So, your college essay should include an explicit vision of what you want to study and why. In fact, in a USA Today interview, Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions and financial aid at Kenyon College, Ohio, suggests it’s important to convey how you will contribute to the greater good. 
  • What you can bring to a college campus. The college essay allows you to introduce yourself as an individual.  The topic you choose is an invitation for the college application panel to get to know your character and personality.  According to Peterson’s Guide staff, colleges want you to tell them who you are as a person, what you care about, and how you imagine your future in college and beyond. Your writing, both direct and implied, will tell a lot about your current qualifications, your potential, and your willingness to learn.
  • Your worldviews: When you write a college essay, you should reveal how you interact with others, what your personal philosophy is, and issues that you feel are important in the world in which we live.  Ron Leiber, in a New York Times article, suggests that students who talk about issues that are “emotionally complex and often taboo,” who take “brave and counterintuitive positions,” demonstrate “an appetite for risk” that separates them from other candidates.

As you begin to brainstorm topics for your college essay, try to be the person who stands out in the four categories above.  Be the person whom a professor would want in a class.