Writing a powerful personal statement can be a genuine challenge for inexperienced writers. They often pile on unnecessary complexity, use fancier-than-needed words, and try too hard to *dazzle* their reader. Don’t do that. The best writing is simple, clear, and direct. It will also feel more authentic and allow you to connect with your reader on a human level.
There are many summations of the Hemingway Rules, but I like this one from the University of Chicago’s International Association of Business Communicators. 1. USE SHORT SENTENCES Short sentences are easier to digest. They make it easier to follow each point of an argument or story. Your job as a writer — or editor — is to make life easy for your audience. Forcing the reader to navigate through a bunch of long, complex sentences is like forcing him/her to hack through the jungle with a machete. Create a nice, tidy path with plenty of short sentences.
2. USE SHORT FIRST PARAGRAPHS
3. USE VIGOROUS ENGLISH Copywriter David Garfinkel describes it like this: “It’s muscular, forceful (writing). Vigorous English comes from passion, focus and intention.” This rule is really a reminder to do your homework and fully understand what you are writing about. It is impossible to write with “passion, focus and intention” without having a real grasp of the subject. In most cases, if you’ve done your homework, you will write with authority and vigor.
4. BE POSITIVE, NOT NEGATIVE Basically, “be positive” means you should say what something is rather than what it isn’t. — Instead of saying something is “inexpensive,” say it is “affordable.” — Instead of describing something as “unclear,” say it is “confusing.” This might seem like a small point, but it’s actually quite important. Being “positive” makes your writing more direct. Whether they realize it or not, readers are turned off by “roundabout writing.”
So, there you have it: eminently practical writing tips from one of the masters — or more accurately, from the Kansas City Star. “Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing,” Hemingway said in 1940. “I’ve never forgotten them. No man with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the thing he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides with them.”
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