Writing Style and Essays

When writing essays, I’ve at times been at odds with my parents on how to “correctly” write. My father in particular believes that essays are not “creative writing pieces,” dislikes the use of stories and anecdotes, and thinks that any kind of “flowery” language does not belong. However, pretty much all essays that I’ve seen that are decent tend to have some of these qualities. I’m worried that my essays are going to turn out very, very dry.

Although I’m sure that there are a huge variety of ways to write for these essays, what type of style is most suitable to use?

It is hard to say without reading a particular essay (and I can PM you for that). I do think that many essays avoid straightforward language and tend toward the “creative” in an effort to be “unique.” I would say that in some cases a student can be encouraged to be a little more straightforward in some parts of their essays or some essay questions that appear to ask for a straight answer.

That said, the way a student uses language is important in any essay, and creativity and interesting details always enhance an essay. The creativity is essential but should not be overdone.

As you can see, it is not a black and white issue!

ps A larger issue might be why your parents are directing your essays! Do you have a teacher to consult?


Make sure your dad sees the prompts. Proof reading something out of context can be hard.

I am not sure how you would answer most of them without stories and anecdotal references from you experience.

Find someone at school to assist you who knows you and your writing style to help you.

In the end you are hitting the submit button.

The worst essays are the ones that no longer sound like you because there have been too many rounds of revisions by others.


100% agree with this.

I would ask your English teacher to review your essay. They’ll have more objective input than a parent.

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There are several effective methods of conveying ideas and insights via written communication including the use of “stories and anecdotes”.

The safest approach to writing is to be direct by presenting your message in a clear and concise manner. This is the best way to ensure that both the writer and readers understand the intended meaning of the communication.

Your parents’ concept of writing is similar to that used by attorneys and is referred to as “legal writing”.

PM’ed you @3SHTA

I’m just trying to grind out my UC essays right now, so I am not having my teacher or anyone else really check these essays. I wouldn’t say that my parents “direct” my essays, but they do like to read and give feedback for most of what I write.

Yes, even when my parents have feedback, I am the one ultimately deciding what goes into my final drafts.

It’s funny that you should mention reading the prompt, as that’s also been a bit of a problem. It’s not that my dad doesn’t understand the prompts I’m writing for (I have them posted verbatim on the top of each of my drafts), but rather that he is really gung-ho about “answering the prompt” - sometimes so much so that he wants my first sentence to be a literal answer to the question being asked :sob::sob:.

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Lol! Yes, that could get boring for the readers if every essay started with a literal answer to the question! You will get there.

I suspect that your dad is a very efficient & effective communicator. Do not ignore his advice.

My daughters both wrote their essays in what I would call a storytelling style. The essays sounded like a 17 year old was given the floor to tell a story to a teacher, or uncle/aunt. Not a peer, but not very formal or trying to impress either.

One daughter’s common app essay did have a few descriptive phrases that painted a vivid scene, but she is intense and tends to talk like that. Her essay also had a moment of self-deprecating humor, which rang true because she does (eventually) have a wry sense of humor about her mistakes.

The other daughter’s essays were written in very simple language, but they still told stories with details that let you picture the scene. If she had read them out loud, it would have sounded polished but natural. They both got into their ED school, so that makes us think this was the right style for them.

Hope that helps and best wishes!

UC makes it clear the PIQs are NOT essays. Go to their website and read their tips.