Personal Essay Writing

Updated: Nov 3, 2016

A personal essay is a kind of narrative essay where the author tells about a certain life incident or something that has had a significant impact on him or her.

A personal essay is a kind of narrative essay where the author tells about a certain life incident or something that has had a significant impact on him or her. It may also speak of a lesson learned, or simply express a point of view on some issue, which was of vital importance to the author. The personal essay appears to be one of the richest and most vibrant of all literary forms. The personal essay is also one of the most popular forms of creative nonfiction.

Here are some of the other names that are used to refer to a personal essay: Narrative essay, Profile Essay on Person, Essay about Yourself, Narration Essay, Personal Biography Essay, Reflective Essay, Personal Experience Essay, Personal Statement, and College Application Essay.

Personal essays are really ‘personal’ as the name suggests, they are quite chatty, friendly and reader-oriented. It generally comes in a form of a monolog addressed to the reader. It may concern everything like the death of a cat or a beautiful sight from your window.

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Personal Essay Structure

The simplest structure of a personal essay has three parts: an introduction, body of information and a conclusion.

The Introduction

You can begin your personal essay with a captivating or interesting sentence that incredibly hooks your readers. Always remember that you want them to read more. Are you out of topic ideas? The truth is that some days you will brim over with countless topics to write about. On other days, you will have such a difficult time to even create a single idea. When you lack topic ideas, write stream of consciousness - open a blank document and pen down whatever comes into your mind without stopping until you have three pages. Yes, it is a mind dump! Repeat this technique every time you are blank and discover the magic.

The Body

The body of your personal essay comprises of 1-3 paragraphs that inform your readers about the topic you introduced. To ensure your thoughts are organized, an outline can be more than helpful before starting. Remember to put your paragraphs in the same structure as your entire essay. Start with sentences that introduce the point and draws a reader in. The middle sentences of a paragraph should offer information about a point. Have a concluding sentence that drives your views home and leads a reader to the next point.

Every new idea should be a signal to begin a new paragraph. Every paragraph ought to be a logical progression from a previous idea and lead to the following idea. It can also lead to the conclusion. Ensure your paragraphs are relatively short. Ten lines are always magical. There is no doubt that if you write concisely, you can say loads in ten lines.

The Conclusion

In your conclusion, close your personal essay with a final paragraph that perfectly summarizes the points, which you have made, and states your final opinion. Your conclusion provides you the opportunity to offer the lessons or insights learned. You can also choose to share how you will be or were changed due to your approach to the topic. The rule of thumb is that incredible conclusions are always tied to your opening paragraph.

Personal Essay Writing Tips

Show and tell. The main difference between a piece of creative short fiction and a personal essay is that in the first one you must show but not tell, and in a personal essay, you must both show and tell. You need to turn on readers' imagination giving them useful information.

Use your personal point of view. In a short story, you write about a situation and characters that create it. In a personal essay, you are expected to give your own comments and express your opinion. A reader needs to feel that both the situation and its participants concern you very much.

Ideas. Ideas should be taken from your life. Everything that inspires you and makes you want to write will make an ideal subject for an essay. Some little things or extremely important issues may inspire you, so get ready to keep your diary with you and write down all the details!

The hook (humor and quotes). Remember that the reader is not obliged to read your article so you have less than 10 seconds to attract reader's attention. It is recommended to start the first sentence or a paragraph with a bang and get the reader’s interest immediately. Some writers use humor or serious quotes to get the reader’s attention.

Use the first-person active voice. You are the narrator and so you must speak for yourself. Try to avoid informal language. The style of your personal essay should be more conversational than in other literary papers, but don’t make it too easy and boring.

Be concise. Different publications require different format but one thing is consistent: concise writing will always make a good personal essay. When editing, cut the fluff, be specific, and make each word matter.

Connect. The personal essay is personal, but the main idea should be recognizable to your readers if you want to make a connection with them. The wider your audience, the higher your chances for publication.

What Makes an Exciting Personal Essay?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ essay topic; one of the winning essay topics is something related to people. The broader the audience your subject relates to, the more successful your essay. It makes no difference whether you are discussing some philosophical issues or you are posting about the laundry detergent you have recently bought. If your reader came across the same problem and it was important for them, then you have reached them.

Top 20 Winning Topics and Ideas for Writing a Good Personal Essay

  • Words that stung.
  • My favorite time with family.
  • The proudest moment of my life.
  • A book that has changed my life.
  • The greatest movie moment.
  • If I lived 100 years ago.
  • A museum I’d like to visit.
  • My most fortunate day.
  • My secret love.
  • A secret place.
  • If I could invent something.
  • If my cat or dog could talk.
  • The animal I would like to be.
  • If I could live anywhere.
  • The greatest discovery.
  • My secret talent.
  • Words that prompted hope.
  • A special morning.
  • My favorite gift.
  • How I would use power if I had it.

Where Are Personal Essays Used?

From college, and media to blogs, personal essays are used in an array of fields and industries. A personal essay gives you the opportunity to exceed all the limits of a standard essay. With this piece, you are able to utilize dialogues, conversational tone, characterizations, and settings. Plunging into your inner world is very important before starting to piece together your work. Know yourself from the inside first and perfectly gain the understanding of self. Remember that anytime you write your personal essay, the intention ought to be to vent your ideas, interests, and thoughts to others. Therefore, always allow your personal essay to let you drive towards self-disclosure, candor, and honesty with yourself.

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