A short essay is often more difficult to write than a longer one. If in longer essays you have enough room to explain and clarify all your thoughts, in shorter essays you may feel that you do not have enough room for strong arguments. The key to writing a short essay is to include only the most relevant information needed to express your thoughts.
There are two things to consider when writing a short essay: placement and complexity. The shorter your essay, the earlier your dissertation should appear. If you are writing a 3-4 paragraph essay, your dissertation should be one of the first three sentences. If you are writing an essay with 1-2 paragraphs, your dissertation should be in the first sentence and also act as an actor’s hook. The dissertation should be both interesting and comprehensive. The shorter your essay, the less time you spend on nonsense, and the more you need to get down to business.
It is also important to be aware of the complexity of your topic. Pick topics that you have enough room to develop above. Don’t cite three or four supporting evidence in a carefully crafted thesis if you are only allowed 500 words. If you only have a few paragraphs to write an essay, you will most likely only have room for one main point of supporting evidence. Keep your thesis short and limit the number of arguments to support it, as you always need to set aside enough space in your essay for introspection.
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2) Topic Sentences
It is important to outline all of your reasoning at the very beginning of the paragraph. You want your message to be as accessible as possible, so make it instant! Don’t wait until the end of a paragraph – and certainly not until the end of an essay – to present your argument. Present, support, and introspection.
3) Supporting Evidence
Try to limit the number of proposals for supporting evidence. If possible, use one sentence rather than two quotes: a story, anecdote, or an example. This may sound difficult, but it is important to provide only the details that are necessary to understand the main idea of your essay. If you can’t find a way to fit supporting evidence into a sentence or two, use a completely different example. There are certain topics that require a lot of space to explain, so be careful not to choose a topic for your essay that requires too much evidence to back up.
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Whether your essay is 200 words or 5,000 words long, introspection will always be the most important aspect of your college application essay. Only by examining how you reflect on your qualities can college admissions officers gain an understanding of how well you think critically and how well you can present an argument. It is not your stories that get you into college, but how they have affected your character and your thinking. You should strive to portray yourself in the best possible light and keep your essay focused on answering the prompt.
While we always recommend not getting sidetracked in a 5-6 paragraph essay, it is even more crucial that you do not allow yourself to stray away from the point in a short essay. Any sentence that is not directly relevant to your thesis not only weakens your argument but also takes up valuable space.
The strongest way to end a short college essay is to include a brief summary of your main argument and a statement that includes the implications of your thesis on your future. This will depict you as a goal-oriented and forward-thinking person without veering you too far from the main idea of your essay.
Limit your conclusion to no more than three sentences. Conclusions are important, but you do not waste time and space rehashing points that were already made.
Get out the highlighter
If your essay is significantly longer than the suggested word count, read through it and highlight everything that is most important—this includes important points of introspection and supporting evidence. Have a peer or parent do the same.
Read through your writing and make sure that every sentence has a specific and unique contribution to the essay. If two sentences convey two only slightly differing ideas, try to find a way to combine them. Use semi-colons, em dashes, or compound sentences if necessary. Check for wordiness as well. For example, do you have any sentences that start with, “It is” or “It seems that”? These are extraneous words that can be taken out without altering the sentence’s meaning.
The Necessity Test
If you are stuck and cannot find a way to shorten your essay, try the necessity test. Take out every sentence in your essay to test whether your point has become weaker without it. If there is no noticeable difference in your essay after removing the sentence, then the sentence is not integral to the rest of the essay, and it can be removed.
Simplify the Argument
If there is no way to cut down your essay without keeping your argument clear and strong, you must simplify your argument. In short essays, it is often better to have a broader thesis that you can support one or two specific examples. This way, readers can infer implications from your thesis that you did not explicitly state.
These points should prove useful in guiding you through composing a short essay. Here are a few dos and don’ts in the summary of this article.
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