Make it Yours

Developing a Sense of Style

The professional narrative, of course, is not merely a statement of strategically chosen values and competencies delivered in proficient prose. Such things only take on substance and meaning through action and details and style and a deep sense of character. Here are some ways to bring your story to life: 

  • Character—reveal growth and quirks, not habits and faults. Make sure the self you put forward is multi-dimensional, earnest, and richly human.
  • Action—give yourself something to do. Don’t say you’re passionate; show yourself doing something about which you are passionate.  Your readers will always trust your experience over even your most earnest abstractions. Your essay should be active rather than passive: it should be about things you’ve made happen, not just things that have happened to you.
  • Framing—Come up with an opening that situates the reader in the midst of an engaging thought or action suggesting the narrative's grounding values. At the end of narrative, you might return to or echo these opening moves to create a graceful sense of closure.
  • Details—help your audience connect to your story by offering rich sensory details that helps your reader smell, hear, think, feel, taste, see, and laugh. 
  • Sentence Patterns and Flair—Include at least two sophisticated sentence structures—a sentence that you wouldn't normally write, one that might even seem smarter than you are--and flair if you dare. 

Next: Final Thoughts, Additional Tools