Sunday 14th February 2016,
Skyo Blog

College Writing Skills: Writing a College Essay Like a Pro


As a college student, you will likely have to write more than one college essay before you graduate. I suppose there are programs which don’t require formal “papers” – you know, cover page, bibliography, all that jazz. Nonetheless, you will likely have to produce something written even if no papers are required. You must learn how to do it right. Luckily, you can!

You are probably familiar with George Orwell, author of 1984. However, Orwell didn’t just write 1984; he was a brilliant essayist. One of his most brilliant essays, published in 1946, is entitled “Politics and the English Language.” In the essay, Orwell states, “Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.” For the sake of your college writing skills, you should read the entire essay. Even the dated references to “Marxist” remain relevant given the state of polemical political discussion on the internet and in the media. Orwell illustrates a lot of what is wrong with academic writing, and shows how to fix it.

But, if you are not inclined to read the entire essay (really, it’s short), you should nonetheless use the six rules that Orwell states in the essay. They will help you with writing a college essay.

Tips for Writing a Successful College Essay

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These are simple and elegant rules, the use of which will help you write a better college essay. I know these rules work because I used them to become a better writer (and before you accuse me of breaking these rules in this very essay, take another look at rule vi, my favorite rule). As a student, you must perfect your college writing skills. Therefore, I will address these rules in detail in future blog posts.

If you’d like to read an earlier, much funnier analysis of bad writing, check out Mark Twain’s essay, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences.”

Image: Imagery Majestic

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About The Author

Jay Pike entered this world when a disco ball fell and exploded on a dance floor. He's a Chicago-based artist and writer, Skyo's social extraordinaire, and last year read 178 books because that's how he rolls. He is a connoisseur of the animated GIF. He's also a canonized saint, the chupacabra, an octopus, and a level 13 chaotic neutral Half-Elf Thief with a +8 DEX bonus.

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