You have the scores, the stats, the resume, the experience and the
drive. Your personal statement is thorough; it is teeming with
impressive qualifications, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It
feels a bit sterile. Unremarkable. Dry.
Do not look to the literal to remedy this problem. Awaken your tired
essay with your new best friend: figurative language! Take heed: we do
not advocate a foray into unnecessarily flowery prose, or dealings in
poetics ill-suited for the rather buttoned-up forum that is 'the
admissions essay.' You must always maintain your sense of clarity,
direction and formality. That said, draw upon evocative images and
personal anecdotes to add luster and drive home your point(s).
Figurative language describes something by comparing it to something
else. Like shadows and light delineating never before seen angles of a
familiar face (that, by the way, was a simile), figurative language
can sharpen and illuminate your writing, giving your prose depth and
complexity. The following are some examples of figurative language
devices you might employ:
Imagery: Language that appeals to the senses. Descriptions of places,
people, objects expressed in terms of senses.
Metaphor: An implied comparison between two relatively dissimilar
things using a form of the verb, "to be." The comparison need not be
accompanied by a preposition.
Simile: A type of metaphor. A comparison (of two dissimilar things)
using "like" or "as."
Irony: Here we are talking about verbal irony -- as distinct from its
cousins dramatic irony (which you might find in Greek tragedies) and
situational irony (which you might find in your favorite Alanis
Morrissette tune). Verbal irony is an implied discrepancy between what
is said and what is meant. The simplest example? "Oh great!" ...after
something awful happens.
Sarcasm: A type of irony that leans toward the hostile or critical.
Alliteration: Repeated consonant sounds occurring at the beginning of
words or within words. Alliteration is used to create melody,
establish mood, call attention to important words, and point out
similarities and contrasts.
Personification: This figure of speech gives the qualities of a
person to an animal, an object, or an idea. It is a comparison used to
show something in an entirely new light, to communicate a certain
feeling or attitude towards it and to control the way a reader
Onomatopoeia: The use of words that mimic sounds. They appeal to our
sense of hearing and they help bring a description to life. A string
of syllables the author has made up to represent the way a sound
really sounds. Think: Rice Krispies commercial.
Hyperbole: An exaggerated statement used to heighten effect. It is
not used to mislead the reader, but to emphasize a point. As in, "I've
told you a million times not to put recyclables in the trash!"
Idioms: Language specific expressions. Be careful that your idioms
are not clichés! Always steer clear of clichés in admissions essays.
Find some great idiom lists at
Wishing you puns, oxymorons and happy writing,
Ivy Eyes Editing