How to Write

How to Write a Personal Essay and Keep Readers Hooked Throughout

Personal Essays
Eric Stelee
Last updated:
May 13, 2024
Sep 13, 2023

People craft personal essays for various purposes. Whether you're vying for a job or a program slot, your personal essay can showcase your qualifications and underscore why you're the perfect fit. High schoolers often write them for college applications, while writers use them to share personal tales. Our narrative essay writing service will guide you through crafting a compelling story and structuring your essay effectively!

What Is a Personal Essay?

A personal essay is often born from personal experiences that have left a lasting impact. Unlike formal writing, its purpose isn't to argue a specific point but rather to share insights and reflections.

Employers and admissions offices often request personal essays because they offer deep insights into a person's character, perspective, and motivations, revealing how specific life events have shaped them. Comprising an introduction, body, and conclusion, a personal essay differs from a formal essay in length, tone, and purpose.

In a personal essay, the narrative might revolve around a unique event, but the underlying theme touches on universal truths that resonate with everyone. Your goal is to vividly depict the sensory details and emotions of your experience, allowing your reader to see, feel, and understand what you went through. Staying focused on concrete details is key to achieving this.

Personal Essay Structure

In a good personal essay, you're weaving a story about your own experiences, using the same elements found in fictional narratives. Let's break down how each section plays out:

Introduction: You might introduce the main characters (which could include yourself and others involved in the experience), establish the setting (the time and place where the events occurred), and perhaps hint at the conflict or central theme you'll be exploring.

Plot: The plot of your personal narrative revolves around the sequence of events that make up your story. This could include a series of actions, reactions, and decisions that lead to a particular outcome or realization. Pay attention to pacing and structure to keep your reader engaged.

Characters: In a personal essay, the characters are often real people, including yourself and others who played a significant role in the events you're describing. Make sure to flesh out these characters, giving them depth and complexity to make your story more compelling.

Setting: This could be a physical location, such as a childhood home or a memorable vacation spot, or it could be more abstract, like the cultural or emotional atmosphere surrounding the events.

Conflict: Every good story needs conflict, and your personal narrative is no exception. This could be an external conflict, such as a disagreement with a friend or a challenging situation you faced, or it could be an internal conflict, such as a decision you had to make or a personal struggle you experienced.

Argument and Thesis: While personal essays are often more focused on storytelling than persuasion, there's still an underlying argument or thesis that you're presenting to your reader. This could be a reflection on the meaning of the events you're describing, an insight you gained from the experience, or a lesson you learned along the way.

Conclusion: Finally, your personal narrative essay should have a conclusion that brings everything full circle. This is where you reflect on the significance of your story, tie up any loose ends, and leave your reader with a sense of closure or insight.

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How to Write a Personal Essay?

Share Your Story

The first step in writing a personal essay is to share your story. This means identifying a significant experience or moment in your life that you want to explore in your essay. It could be a moment of triumph, a period of struggle, a memorable encounter, or a profound realization.

Once you've chosen your story, take some time to reflect on it. Consider why it's important to you, what it reveals about who you are as a person, and what insights or lessons you've gained from the experience.

Then, begin to sketch out the key details of your story. Think about the setting, the characters involved (including yourself and others), the sequence of events, and any emotions or thoughts you experienced along the way. Don't worry about organizing everything perfectly at this stage—just focus on capturing the essence of your story.

How to Write a Personal Essay

Think Outside the Box

Once you've identified your story and its key elements, consider how you can present it in a unique and compelling way. This might involve experimenting with different narrative techniques, such as using flashbacks or foreshadowing, playing with structure or perspective, or incorporating elements of humor or suspense.

Don't be afraid to get creative and push the boundaries of traditional storytelling. Remember, the goal of a personal essay is to engage your readers and offer them a fresh perspective on your experiences. So, take risks and try out new ideas.

Connect with Everyone's Feelings

While your personal story is unique to you, the emotions it evokes are universal. Aim to tap into those shared emotions to create a deeper connection with your readers.

Let's say you're a nursing essay writer, then think about the feelings you experienced during the events of your story—whether it was the joy of seeing a patient recover, the sadness of witnessing suffering, or the fear of facing a medical challenge. Then, find ways to convey those emotions through your writing. Use vivid descriptions, sensory details, and evocative language to bring your experiences to life on the page.

Remember, the goal is to make your readers feel what you felt—to transport them into your world and let them experience your story firsthand.

Paint a Clear Picture

Think about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the moments you're describing. Use sensory language to evoke these sensations and bring your story to life. Describe the setting in detail, allowing your readers to visualize the scene as if they were there themselves.

In addition to describing the physical surroundings, don't forget to also capture the emotional landscape of your personal story. If you're finding this tough, reach out to us, saying, do my thesis for me. We'll help convey your feelings in a way that lets your readers really connect with your perspective.

Listen to Yourself

As you revisit your story and reflect on your experiences, take note of the thoughts and emotions that arise within you. These inner reflections can serve as valuable insights into the deeper meaning of your story and the messages you want to convey.

Be open to exploring new ideas and directions as you write, and don't be afraid to let your thoughts and feelings guide you. Remember, your personal essay is a reflection of your own unique perspective, so it's important to stay true to yourself and your own voice.

At the same time, be willing to listen to feedback from others, whether it's from friends, family, or trusted mentors. While ultimately, the decisions about your essay are yours to make, the perspectives of others can offer valuable insights and help you refine your writing.

Match Tone to Topic

Consider the mood and message of your personal story, and adjust your writing style accordingly to effectively convey them.

For example, if your essay explores a serious or introspective theme, you might choose a more reflective or contemplative tone. Use thoughtful language and nuanced descriptions to delve into the deeper layers of your experiences.

On the other hand, if your story is lighthearted or humorous, you can adopt a more playful or witty tone. Incorporate humor and wit into your writing to engage your readers and bring levity to your narrative.

Find Your Own Style

Explore various approaches to storytelling, from straightforward narration to lyrical prose or even experimental formats. Pay attention to the rhythm and flow of your writing, as well as the overall tone and mood you want to convey.

Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through in your writing. Embrace your quirks, idiosyncrasies, and unique perspectives—they're what make your voice distinct and memorable.

As you write, reflect on the writers who inspire you and the elements of their essay genre that resonate with you. Borrow ideas and techniques from them, but don't be afraid to put your own spin on them to make them your own.

Keep It Short

While it's tempting to include every detail of your experience, remember you're not crafting a philosophical paper example. Brevity can be more impactful as a personal essay is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive.

Focus on the most essential elements of your story—the moments, emotions, and insights that are most meaningful and relevant to your theme. Cut out any unnecessary or repetitive information that doesn't contribute to the overall narrative.

Be concise in your writing, choosing words carefully to convey your message with clarity and precision. Aim to keep your sentences and paragraphs succinct, avoiding unnecessary elaboration or tangents.

Begin and Finish Powerfully

By beginning and ending your personal essay powerfully, you can bookend your narrative with memorable moments. The opening sets the tone for your entire piece, so grab your reader's attention with a compelling hook—a thought-provoking question, an intriguing anecdote, or a bold statement that sparks curiosity. For more guidance, check out our dedicated article on how to write a killer thesis statement.

In the introduction, establish the context of your story and introduce the main themes or ideas you'll be exploring. Engage your readers from the very first sentence and draw them into your narrative.

Similarly, end your personal essay with a strong and memorable conclusion. Reinforce the main points of your story and leave your reader with a sense of closure or insight. Reflect on the significance of your experiences and offer a final thought or takeaway that lingers in the reader's mind.

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6 Tips for Writing a Personal Essay

Finally, although everyone approaches writing differently, there are some key principles to consider when crafting your essay:

Tips for Writing a Personal Essay
  1. Choosing a Compelling Topic: Think about what really matters to you. Your personal essay will be stronger if you write about something that has impacted you deeply, like a challenge you've faced or a moment that changed your perspective. It's about finding a topic that you can explore fully, and that reflects who you are.
  2. Being Honest and Authentic: It's important to be real in your writing. Don't make stuff up or exaggerate to make your story sound more exciting. People connect with honesty, so share your genuine thoughts, feelings, and experiences. That's what will make your personal essay stand out.
  3. Finding a Unique Angle: Look at your topic from a different angle. How can you tell your story in a way that hasn't been done before? Maybe there's a particular moment or detail that others might overlook, but it is really important to you. Find that unique perspective and run with it.
  4. Reflecting and Analyzing: Take a step back and think about what your experiences mean to you. How have they shaped who you are today? Sharing your insights and reflections adds depth to your personal essay and helps your readers understand you better.
  5. Crafting a Compelling Narrative Arc: Treat your personal essay like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Start by setting the scene, then build up to the main events or conflicts, and finally, wrap it up with a resolution or reflection. Keep your readers hooked by creating tension and resolving conflicts along the way.
  6. Editing and Revising: Don't expect your personal essay to be perfect on the first try. Writing is a process, so take the time to revise and polish your work. Cut out anything that doesn't add to your story, refine your language to make it flow better, and make sure your essay is clear and coherent from start to finish.
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