Core 101 – Personal Essay Assignment

For this assignment, you will use various writing processes to develop an essay on a personal topic. You will be given an opportunity to explore the topic in rough form, but the final version of the essay will be in standard written English.

The project is designed to help you meet several objectives that are important for a successful writer. It will help you to

  • explore a focused topic in writing,
  • demonstrate awareness of an audience and purpose through language and style choices,
  • use topic sentences and appropriate transitions, and
  • use standard written English when appropriate.

Objective I. Explore a focused topic in writing.

For writers, developing a clear focus is an essential part of the writing process. For readers, a clear focus is essential for their understanding of a writer’s message and purpose. The following section of the Handbook will introduce you to the factors that are important for creating a piece of writing with a clear focus.

Specifically, this section will offer answers to these questions:

  1. What is an essay?
  2. How do I focus my ideas?
  3. What is a thesis statement?
  4. Does a personal essay have to have a thesis statement?
  5. Where should I place my thesis statement?
  6. How do I use my thesis statement to talk to other people?
  7. How is a thesis statement like a claim?

1. What is an essay?

An essay is a relatively short piece of nonfiction prose that explores an idea or topic. Essays are written for many reasons. For example, an essay may recount an event, develop a position on an issue, or describe a person, place, or thing.

Notice that this description does not specify a format. (Even length is left vague.)  The organization, the length, the style, the tone—often these are determined not by any template but by an author making choices in response to purpose, context, and audience.

In the past, one choice may have been made for you. In grades K-12, some instructors assign the five-paragraph theme: introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, concluding paragraph. That organization may have worked as a school exercise, but going forward you cannot always rely upon that template. In reality, essays have as many paragraphs as they need to have. If you are exploring a complex issue, five paragraphs may not be enough. On the other hand, under some circumstances even fewer than five paragraphs may be appropriate. Always keep in mind that your instructors will provide specific guidance on the appropriate length and format for particular writing assignments.

2. How do I focus my ideas?

Initially, you may be unsure about what you want to say, and you may have to do some preliminary writing to begin to develop your viewpoint. But even before that, you may need to write a bit to make certain that the subject is narrow enough to be manageable. This writing in order to establish a focus is something that you do for yourself, without being concerned about how it will come across to an audience. As you write informally (even a bulleted list can help), react to your own writing. If you are writing about a broad subject, notice the topics within the subject. Consider zeroing in on one of them. Ask yourself what interests you about this new subject and how it is important to you or other people. Think of yourself as going through a writing funnel—broad at the top, narrow at the bottom—and repeat the process until you settle upon something doable within the space, time, and resources available to you.

3. What is a thesis statement?

The thesis statement is “in charge” of an essay. It identifies the subject, indicates your viewpoint, and often forecasts the essay’s organization. While drafting, return repeatedly to the thesis statement to make certain that it is still in charge of the essay. If a passage does not explain or illustrate the thesis, then you have three options: eliminate the passage, revise it so that it is relevant, or consider changing the thesis statement. Authors continually develop their ideas as they write, so revising (even replacing) a thesis statement is not a sign that the writing process is going badly; instead, it is a reminder that writing is thinking.

Example of a thesis statement:

I admired my cousin’s decision to enlist because she had to withstand criticism from people who thought women shouldn’t be in the army and because in basic training she had to stand up to physical and mental challenges that I don’t think I could face.

This thesis statement provides quite a lot of guidance for both writing and reading the essay. Writer and reader are equally able to see what the subject of the essay is and what is being stated about the subject, and both writer and reader can see how the essay should be organized.

Subject: cousin’s decision to enlist.

Statement about subject: writer admires cousin’s decision.

Organization: No matter how many body paragraphs there are, they will be divided into two sections. One section will group together the paragraphs on this topic:  cousin “had to withstand criticism from people who thought women shouldn’t be in the army.” Another section will group together the paragraphs on this second topic: “in basic training she had to stand up to physical and mental challenges.”

The thesis also suggests a further subdivision under “in basic training she had to stand up to physical and mental challenges.” In this section of the essay, paragraphs could be divided into ones devoted to ‘physical challenges’ and ones devoted to ‘mental challenges’.

4.     Does a personal essay have to have a thesis statement?

 While many personal essays include a direct statement of the thesis, in some personal essays the thesis may be implied rather than stated outright.

Imagine, for example, that in your personal essay you decide to write about the way someone influenced you. The influential individual could be a relative, a friend or classmate, an employer or a teacher. As you shape your essay, you would not simply assemble a collection of miscellaneous observations about the person; instead, you would be selective and focus on details about this person that show his or her impact upon you.

Let us say that the person who influenced you is a grandparent. You may know a lot about this individual: personality traits, family and marital history, medical history, educational background, work experience, military experience, political and religious beliefs, hobbies, tastes in music, etc. But as you shape your essay about how this individual affected you, you wouldn’t try to catalog all that you know. Instead, you would try to create a dominant impression by including details that guide your reader toward the idea that is central to the essay. For example, if you developed certain habits and attitudes as you and your grandparent worked together on a project, that experience might provide the focus for the essay. If you chose details consistent with that focus, then you wouldn’t need to state that this was the point of the essay. Your readers would understand that that was the governing idea based on the details you had so carefully chosen.

Whether the thesis is stated outright or implied, then, the personal essay will have a governing idea—an idea that is “in charge” of what you decide to include in the essay in terms of content, vocabulary, sentence structure, and tone. In short, the personal essay may not have a thesis statement, but it will have a thesis.

5.     Where should I place my thesis statement?

In shorter essays, the thesis statement tends to be found in the first paragraph, often in the last sentence of that paragraph. In longer essays it may take longer to lay the groundwork for the statement. In some cases, the thesis is in fact stated in the final paragraph: the essay may open with a question and work through answers and state the thesis as a conclusion. Wherever the thesis appears in the essay, keep in mind that sometimes it takes more than one sentence to adequately convey a thesis.

6. How do I use my thesis statement to talk to other people?

Your readers will need to be able to grasp what the essay is about, what your viewpoint is, and how the essay will be structured. Without this information, your audience may not always know what to make of the information you are providing. For example, you may describe something, but your audience may wonder what point you are trying to illustrate if they don’t know what the essay is about, don’t have of sense of your viewpoint, and don’t know where the essay is heading.

At the outset, a thesis statement provides the initial “instructions” that your audience needs in order to follow your reasoning. After the opening, the thesis statement continues to play a role when language from it reappears as the audience advances through the essay. Each time the thesis statement is echoed, readers are reminded of the subject and of your point of view.

Example of reinforcement of thesis statement:

Thesis: I admired my cousin’s decision to enlist because she had to withstand criticism from people who thought women shouldn’t be in the army and because in basic training she had to stand up to physical and mental challenges that I don’t think I could face.

Echo as topic sentence of body paragraph: After my cousin made the decision to enlist, she had to break the news to her parents, who expected her to remain near home and to get a job locally.

7.     How is a thesis statement like a claim?

In everyday speech, when we say that someone has “claimed” something to be true, often we are implying that we will not believe a statement unless the speaker provides support for it. In that sense, a thesis statement is like a claim. Through your thesis statement, you have expressed your viewpoint on a subject, but your audience may not accept your viewpoint unless you explain your reasoning and provide evidence.

In persuasive writing and speaking, one way in which the two terms are similar is that both state something that can be argued. The statement “President George W. Bush was the forty-third president of the United States” is not arguable and is therefore neither a thesis nor a claim. The statement that “The Veterans Administration should be exempt from budget cuts in order to serve veterans of the Iraq war” is arguable and is therefore a claim or thesis.

In a personal essay, you may not think of your thesis as “arguable” in the same way as a claim in a persuasive essay would be arguable, but in fact you can think of it as something that should need to be demonstrated—backed up through explanations and illustrations.

If the thesis does not need to be demonstrated, then there may not be much purpose in writing the essay. For, example, like the statement that George W. Bush was the forty-third president, the statement that “Senior proms are exciting” would not be considered arguable by most people and likely would not spark a reader’s interest and make her want to keep reading.

On the other hand, the thesis statements below would need to be explained and illustrated. In that sense, these Personal Essay thesis statements are equivalent to claims that are “arguable.”

  • The evening was nearly ruined because parents acting as dress-code vigilantes threw several people out of the prom.
  • My team spent hours planning the prom and managed to head off a repeat of the after-prom drinking that caused some parents to question whether the prom should be held this year.
  • Everyone was able to attend the prom proudly because our prom committee got several stores to loan outfits to make certain everyone would feel like they fit in.
  • I opted to attend an alternative prom because the principal refused to allow a same-sex couple to attend.
  • Although some parents objected to allowing a same-sex couple to attend, the prom was a great success because we felt like everyone was respected so we were really a class—all of us together.

Objective II. Demonstrate awareness of purpose and audience through language and style choices.

Audience awareness is one of the defining characteristics of college-level writing and speaking. Your audience will be the reader, viewer, or listener who encounters and interprets your work.

The following sections will help you to understand why you should consider your audience carefully. It also will suggest ways for tailoring written or oral communication to suit your audience and your purpose or goals.

Specifically, this section will offer answers to these questions:

  1. Why should I care about my audience?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. How do I show that I have considered my audience?
  4. How do I write for an audience that includes my instructor?
  5. What do I want to accomplish through my communication?
  6. How can I use language appropriately and effectively to accomplish my writing goals?

1. Why should I care about my audience?

You need to make writing choices based on an audience just as you will need to make choices based on your purpose or your subject matter. Members of your audience may have certain expectations, and if you violate those expectations, you may lose their interest and possibly even their respect. Those expectations may include

  • length,
  • format,
  • style,
  • tone, and
  • content.

Even if your audience has no strong expectations, you need to consider that certain choices of language, arguments, and examples may be more successful for one audience as opposed to another audience. You have been making such choices for nearly as long as you have been communicating, both in speech and in writing. You only have to think about the difference between text messages you send to friends and the high school reports you have written to recognize that you already understand that it is important to consider your audience when choosing what to say and write.

2. Who is my audience?

There are two types of audiences: an ideal and an actual one. The ideal audience is made up of the types of people you hope will read, view, or listen to your work. They may be members of a scholarly field, like physics or history, or they may be everyday people with shared experiences, beliefs, or values. Your audience might have a particular relationship with you and might encounter your text under particular circumstances, such as in a town hall meeting, classroom presentation, or local newspaper.

You imagine an ideal audience as you create your text, but in the end your actual audience might turn out to be very different, with experiences, beliefs or values that don’t match those of the audience you were imagining. In addition, your actual audience might encounter your work outside of its intended context. For example, you may write an editorial for The Tartan or Whim, thinking that only members of the Radford University community will read it. In fact, your editorial could be read by family members in other states or complete strangers from other countries. If your actual audience knows nothing about you, it will form an impression of you based solely on your paper, speech, or video. Given these uncertainties, it can be tempting to simply forget about any audience, ideal or imagined. However, doing so would be a grave mistake because the effectiveness of your work is a direct result of your careful consideration of how an audience, either ideal or actual, may react to it.

3. How do I show that I have considered my audience?

To show that you have considered your audience, you must present ideas in ways that the audience is accustomed to seeing. For example, a paper for an English course might rely on an analysis of specific words and phrases from a poem, play, or novel. The paper might also show that its ideas respond in some way to a discussion that was started by experts on the literary text. A presentation in a sociology course, on the other hand, might rely on evidence obtained through controlled experiments and direct observations of people’s behaviors. It may also explain how these observations compare with observations made by experts on that particular subject.

You need to consider non-academic audiences with similar care. For example, the audience of The New York Times tends to be less politically, fiscally, and socially conservative than that of The Wall Street Journal. Knowing this, a writer would tailor her communication accordingly. Similarly, a speaker might address a group of small business owners much differently from how she would address a Parent-Teacher Association. Each audience values different ideas and would be receptive to different arguments, and a speaker is unlikely to succeed if she does not consider them beforehand.

4. How do I write for an audience that includes my instructor?

In cases where an instructor is your audience, it certainly is appropriate to think of him or her as someone who will grade your work. It is also, however, very helpful to think of an instructor as a representative of a scholarly discipline. In other words, your instructors—whether in English, psychology, chemistry, or criminal justice—read essays and books that present arguments and evidence in a manner that is convincing to experts in their fields. What constitutes “evidence,” or “clear writing” varies greatly from one discipline to another. Therefore, the key to writing successfully for audiences in different disciplines is to learn what constitutes effective communication in each field.

5. What do I want to accomplish through my communication?

Every text—whether it is written, oral, visual—is trying to do something. In other words, every text has a purpose or goal. Its purpose might be very clear and straightforward. For example, the purpose of an advertisement is very obvious: an advertisement is trying to get the viewer to buy a product. On the other hand, the purpose of a creative short story might be more difficult to describe: it might be an attempt to understand one’s experience, to share one’s thoughts, to surprise or challenge the reader, to critique social practices, and so on. A literary analysis often tries to get the reader to consider a new interpretation of a text like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, while a classroom presentation might communicate the various ways in which labor practices in China affect prices at big box stores in the United States. Notice that all of the above “purposes” are verbs rather than nouns.  In other words, to have a purpose when speaking or writing is to take action, to try to “do” something: to argue, investigate, persuade, or explain.

6. How can I use language appropriately and effectively to accomplish my writing goals? 

In order to use language effectively, you need to evaluate your text’s purpose and audience, along with the context of its presentation.

Some things to consider: 

  • Where and how will your text be published and/or circulated?
  • Will you be presenting your work orally or in written form?
  • What time or space limits might you face?
  • What is your relationship to your audience?  Are you strangers? Friends?  Relatives?  Are you social or professional equals?
  • Will formal or informal language be more effective in addressing your audience?
  • Will an appeal based on reason and evidence be effective with your audience?
  • Will an appeal based on emotion or shared values be effective with your audience?
  •  Will an appeal based on your credibility or the credibility of your sources be effective with this audience?
  • To what degree might anecdotes, jokes, and so on, be appropriate or inappropriate for your audience and purpose?
  • What kinds of grammatical structures and/or language practices does your audience use? How much do you want to conform to or challenge the way your audience uses language?
  • How much will communication conventions or spelling matter to your audience?

Objective III. Use topic sentences and appropriate transitions.

Topic sentences and transitions provide the framework for an essay or speech. They help you as you work to develop your ideas in an organized fashion, and they guide your audience members as they work to follow your reasoning and see how your explanations and examples fit into an overall picture.

The following sections will help you to understand how to create and use topic sentences and transitions, as well as how to create an introduction and a conclusion for your personal essay.

Specifically, this section will offer answers to these questions:

  1. How do I begin a personal essay?
  2. What is a topic sentence?
  3. What is the purpose of a body paragraph in a personal essay?
  4. How do I structure a body paragraph in a personal essay?
  5. What is an illustration?
  6. What is a transition?
  7. How can I make an effective transition?
  8. How do I conclude a personal essay?

1. How do I begin a personal essay?

The first paragraph (sometimes the second as well) is the reader’s introduction to the essay. However, the introduction to the final draft of your essay may not be the introduction that you wrote for the first draft of the essay. As you shape and reshape your essay, you may find your ideas evolving so that the paragraph you wrote as a way to get started no longer works as the opening for the finished essay. Finding that you have to replace the essay’s introduction does not indicate that you have done something wrong. Instead, it indicates that you have done something right: you have used the writing process to develop your ideas. In fact, many writers find that the last thing they finish is the introduction—when they have completed sorting out what it is they want to say.

When you craft the introduction for the finished essay, you may use it to signal the subject of the essay and to indicate your viewpoint. You may state your thesis in the introduction, and you may use it to forecast the essay’s organization.

The above type of information can be helpful to a reader. However, there is one more way in which you can use the introduction: to capture the interest of your reader. A clear thesis, a careful organization—these will be lost on a reader who decides to put down your essay and pick up something else to read instead. When you develop your introduction, try to hook your reader. One way to do so is to describe a memorable individual, scene, or event. Make your description vivid and detailed. Seize the reader’s interest by showing her that this is not a run-of-the-mill person, place, or incident.

Some writers include a quotation or a question in the introduction. This strategy can work, but be careful not to seem to be following a worn-out formula. Some quotations have been trotted out again and again until they come across as platitudes—stale statements that are unlikely to excite the reader. For example, “Love conquers all” was first written (in Latin) by the Roman poet Virgil more than two thousand years ago. After being repeated for two thousand years, the statement may not seem to be a novel or exciting way to introduce an essay.

2. What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence states the main point, or key idea, of a paragraph. For example, in this excerpt from “Is social media making us socially awkward?” by Janie Maitland (2013), the first sentence is the topic sentence:

Keeping up with friends from your past is also easy with social media. Not that it’s incredibly hard to call your best friend from fifth grade from time to time, but with social media you can keep up with not only your long-lost BFF, but your entire fifth grade class.

Topic sentences not only serve to guide your paragraph structure, they are also there to further your thesis, or main claim. Compare the thesis below with examples of topic sentences. Notice how each topic sentence reinforces an idea that can be traced back to an element of the thesis.


I admired my cousin’s decision to enlist because she had to withstand criticism from people who thought women shouldn’t be in the army and because in basic training she had to stand up to physical and mental challenges that I don’t think I could face.

Topic sentences:

After my cousin made the decision to enlist, she had to break the news to her parents, who expected her to remain near home and to get a job locally.

She also had to put up criticism from the people she went to school with who were raised to expect women to marry and start families at a young age.

Even her employer opposed her decision because although he was a veteran, in his day women only joined auxiliary services.

3. What is the purpose of a body paragraph in a personal essay?

Body paragraphs should serve to strengthen and develop the ideas that you laid out in your introduction and/or via your thesis or main claim. Your body paragraphs also should help to guide the reader through your points, so they should be clear and focused.

Notice that each example topic sentence in What is a topic sentence? identifies a point that would be developed into a body paragraph.

4. How do I structure a body paragraph in a personal essay?

In an argument essay, writers often use the PIE (Point, Illustration, Explanation) format: state the point (topic or key idea), illustrate the point, explain the point. In a personal essay, sometimes the explanation may be omitted. What is vital for a body paragraph in a personal essay is that (1) it include a single point (a topic sentence or key idea) that furthers the thesis and (2) that the point be fully developed via  an illustration or example of some sort. Each body paragraph also should contain some sort of transition from the paragraphs that follows it.

5. What is an illustration?

Illustrations generally are examples or pieces of evidence to show the reader what your points are telling them. For example, in her article “Is social media making us socially awkward?”, Janie Maitland (2013) tells her audience that “Without social media, it’d be impossible…to keep up with all of” the people she’s met as a result of moving around a lot. She follows up by showing:

When I reunited with my best friend from Florida…reconnecting was so easy because…She already had a list of my friends that she had seen on my Facebook page that she had wanted to meet, and I already knew what kind of topics interested her…

While her audience might very well believe her when she “tells” them that social media has helped her to stay connected to important people in her life, the illustration serves to make it much clearer and much more unique to her experience.

6. What is a transition?

A transition is a signal to readers that you are moving from one point or idea to another point or idea. This signal shows your audience that a new sentence or paragraph has some connection to the previous sentence or paragraph.

Transitions often remind readers of what was covered in the previous sentence or paragraph. When the transition reminds readers of a previous idea while introducing a new one, the new idea exists within a context. As a result, readers see that the new sentence or paragraph is a link in a chain of sentences or paragraphs.

Without transitions, it may be hard follow the logic of an essay because readers may not be able to tell why the new sentence or paragraph is being introduced. In extreme cases, poor or missing transitions may make an essay seem too much like a loose collection of sentences or paragraphs rather than a focused piece of writing.

7. How can I make an effective transition?

At the sentence level—usually within a paragraph—a transitional word or phrase might be sufficient. Common transitional words or phrases include also, another, furthermore, in addition to, and so on. Between paragraphs, however, it’s generally a good idea to show how the idea you are leaving behind is related to the one you are starting.

One way to show how the idea you are leaving behind is related to the one you are starting is to begin a paragraph with a sentence that has two parts to it: one part referring back to an idea from the previous paragraph and another part introducing the idea that the new paragraph will focus on.


 Although I knew I would have to walk the dogs morning and evening, I had not counted on having to get up in the middle of the night to let them in to my room every time it thundered—and it thundered a lot that summer.

Careful repetition of language from the previous paragraph in the beginning of the new paragraph can help create a transition that reminds readers of an old idea while introducing a new one. The example below illustrates how this kind of transition works, with the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph echoing a phrase in a preceding sentence.


In this case, it’s a good idea to repeat a key word or phrase from the last sentence of one body paragraph in the first sentence of the next.

Repeating a key word or phrase will make it easier for your reader to see how you got from point A to point B. If at any time you find it difficult to create a transition from one paragraph or idea to the next, you may need to re-order your paragraphs to create a more logical progression.

Be careful to place the transitional sentence at the beginning of the new paragraph. Do not attach it to the end of the old paragraph. Even though the transition sentence may recap language or ideas from the old paragraph, as soon as the new idea is stated, the essay has moved on to new territory.

8. How do I conclude a personal essay?

Your task in concluding is to remind the reader of where the essay has taken them and why its message matters. There is no need to construct a dramatic sitcom-style conclusion; nor does the conclusion need to state the obvious by using the phrase “in conclusion.”  Also avoid the pitfall of bringing up new issues that you did not cover in the body of the essay. Above all, the conclusion should not feel forced, so don’t tack on a “moral” or a “lesson” that might come across as an afterthought.

Instead, reemphasize what you’ve already said, with the conclusion growing out of the step-by-step progression of the essay. One way to conclude is to simply reword and restate the thesis and key ideas. Alternately, you can create a “frame” for the essay by returning to something from the introduction. This strategy creates a sense of closure for the audience by bringing readers full circle, that is, back to the beginning. For example, if you started your essay with a question to draw the reader in, a full-circle conclusion might end by answering that attention grabbing question.

Objective IV. Use standard written English when appropriate.

Your Core courses are intended to help you meet the expectations of both your instructors and your future employers, and both audiences are likely to expect you to communicate in standard written English.

Specifically, this section will offer answers to these questions:

  1. What is grammar?
  2. What is usage?
  3. What is the difference between grammar and usage?
  4. Why should I care about usage?
  5. What counts as “proper” grammar?
  6. What if I don’t use “proper” grammar?

1. What is grammar?

A rough and ready definition of grammar is that it is a set of rules by which a language operates. But defining grammar is a little more complicated than that because for any language there are several different versions of grammar. One of these versions will be a descriptive grammar that covers the way a language is actually used by its speakers. Another version, though, will be a prescriptive grammar that reflects beliefs about how a language should operate. These prescriptive expectations about how a language should work often are held by people in authority, such as teachers and employers. If your audience includes people who embrace a prescriptive grammar, you need to be able to adapt to that set of language rules in order to meet audience expectations.

2.     What is usage?

Usage is a set of writing and speaking conventions—that is, a set of standards that language users have agreed upon for particular contexts. For example, in some types of writing, such as formal reports, contractions may be frowned upon. A writer would be expected to spell out “they are” instead of writing “they’re.” The contraction “they’re” is not ungrammatical, but people who are creating and receiving communications have agreed that contractions are not appropriate within a particular context. In another writing situation, contractions may be perfectly acceptable because of different usage expectations.

3. What is the difference between grammar and usage?

Grammar is a matter of following the rules that allow a language to work, but usage is a matter of convention, a set of standards that language users have agreed upon for a particular context. This distinction is important because a text could be completely free of grammar mistakes but still contain errors of usage.

4. Why should I care about usage?

Your ability to communicate effectively partly depends upon your ability to shape language to fit the demands of particular situations. In certain academic and professional contexts, you will be expected to use what has been called, variously, Well Edited American Prose (WEAP), Standard American English, or Network Standard English. Whatever label you use, this variety of English is linked to the social classes and racial and ethnic class groups that have held political power. It is therefore the variety of language that is most frequently used in the arenas—such as business and academia—that are associated with political power. Your ability to succeed in these academic and professional contexts may be impacted by your ability to utilize WEAP effectively.

5. What counts as “proper” grammar? 

While many of us are trained to think that there are “proper” and “improper” modes of grammar, this approach isn’t necessarily current. Certain types of grammar are more appropriate for certain situations. Thus, in a scientific research paper you might be expected to use the form of language preferred in academic and professional settings that is known as Well Edited American Prose (WEAP), but on Twitter you would be expected to rely on another form of language. Furthermore, conventions of “proper” grammar change over time. Therefore, rather than learning only one “proper” version of grammar, it is important to learn how to choose between types of grammar. Always adopt the register or variety of English that is suitable for the communication situation. Whether you use “who” or “whom”, whether you use “he or she” instead of “they”—these decisions hinge less on what is “proper” grammar than on what is appropriate for the communication situation you find yourself in.

6. What if I don’t use “proper” grammar?

Very few of us naturally speak or write using the grammatical forms that characterize Well Edited American Prose (WEAP) or other types of writing that may be preferred in academic and professional settings. English is characterized by a range of dialects that are often dependent upon geographical region and ethnicity. In addition, there are numerous registers of English—varieties of English suitable for specific social or professional situations—that may depart in some ways from the conventions of Well Edited American Prose (WEAP). The fact that your instructor asks you to write using WEAP doesn’t mean that the other language forms you or others may use are inferior forms of English. Nor does it mean that you have to leave those other forms of English behind. Rather, you are being asked to become accustomed to recognizing the demands of the communication situations in which you find yourself and to evaluating which modes of English are appropriate and effective for those contexts.


References for Personal Essay Section

Maitland, J. (2013, December 9). Is social media making us socially awkward? Whim Internet Magazine, Retrieved from


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