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Make each word count

Use your toolkit

This is

a way to approach editing and polishing language using the tools we’ve shared with you. You won’t finish your essay, but you’ll come very, very close!

Do this because

you want to submit a well-written, easy-to-read essay that communicates your message to the admissions officer (who’s reading at a crazy-fast pace).

Now, do this

Don’t worry about openings and ending lines or transitions just yet.
We haven’t shared our magic tricks for how to grab your reader’s attention, make smoooooth transitions, or end like a pro. As you work here, keep your placeholders. You’ll make it flow start-to-finish in the next section.


Focus on one section at a time.

Even if you haven’t thought about it this way, your essay is broken up into sections. You can think of a section as a chunk of content separated by a placeholder. For example, your opening may be a couple of very short paragraphs, and the second section might shift to giving important context or information.

You can also think of a section as a chunk of text that has a transition before or after it – you may already have placeholders that mark off your sections.

We think it’s easier to focus on a section of your essay at a time.

If you get stuck or frustrated or notice that you’re banging your head against a table, stop. Take a break! Sometimes you need to let the language sit and process in the background before you can find a way to make it the way you want it to be.

button: see the page on using your brain all smart and stuff


    Know what tools you already have.

    You come to this with writing tools you learned in school: grammar, spelling, sentence structure etc.

    But, we also expanded your toolkit. Here they are all in one place: 

    [[[list the tools with links to the pages]]]

    There’s no right or wrong way to use these, or order to use them in. 


    Use your scratchpad.

    That’s one of our favorite tools.

    We showed you how to shrink sentences a couple of words at a time in your scratchpad; you can always do that. And, it’s good for so much more!

    When a sentence or paragraph is misbehaving, put it in a scratchpad. Mess around with it there, isolated from the rest of the essay. When you have what you like, copy it back in. Remember to make sure it matches what comes before and after!


    Use version history.

    Afraid you’ll lose something good? With Google Docs and Word, they’ve got you covered!

    If you’re using Google Docs, you can see every saved version of your document – sometimes in 10 second increments.

    Go to file>>version history>>see version history. If you edit out good language, you can always go back to an earlier version.

    If you’re using Word, the Autosave feature works differently depending on the version and operating system.


    Keep your scraps.

    Another nifty writing trick is to keep scraps you may want to use at the bottom of your working document. 

    It’s simple — just type SCRAPS at the bottom of the page, and put anything you take out of your essay that you want to keep close under that.



    Self-review your work.

    As you work, do an occasional self-review to make sure you didn’t gob something up or take out something important.

    Put yourself in the mindset of someone who knows nothing about you or what you’re writing about.

    Some questions you can ask yourself:

    • Does the language flow?
    • Is it clear and easy to read?
    • Have you kept the tone you intended?
    • Is there anything that will cause the reader to stop to say Huh? What? I’m confused?

    We like using a text=to-speech reader. It will help you find glitches in your language and writing. A few good ones are:

    [[[insert text to speech reader links]]]

      You're ready to move on when

      • You have polished and refined your language for your whole essay (even if you still have placeholders).
      • Your word count is no more than 10% above the word limit.
      • You have done a self-review and are confident that you have an almost-finished, well-written, engaging, authentic short story that shows who you are (including your intentions!!).
      If you don’t have the perfect opening, transitions, and ending, that’s ok. In the next step we’ll give you our last bag of tricks.