Writing “Right”

Okay, I’m Ready To Write. How To Write, “Right.”

Inside PerspectiveA good piece of writing is a good piece of writing; it has unity, force, and coherence. It communicates clearly and persuasively

Good writing takes time. Personal statements should be developed over time with great care. What follows are some suggestions for both process and content.


  • Content and Organization
  • Summary

Some Suggestions For Content And Organization

There are no right and wrong ways to write a personal statement. The following are some suggested things to do:

  • Begin with a strong first sentence. You can make an instant good impression. You have a greater chance of catching the attention of a bored reader. For example:

“A wise man (my grade 8 teacher) once gave me the following advice: “try as many different jobs as possible while you are young because it will be of great help in determining what you want to do in life.”

“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.”

  • Tell who you are by telling your story. This will focus the personal statement on you. Write about the best thing that ever happened to you, the worst or the most unusual. Write about your greatest failure or accomplishment. It will make you come alive as a person and make the personal statement more interesting. For example:

“Although my grades were satisfactory they did not reflect my abilities. As a result, I decided to work for the summer and travel Japan, Korea and Thailand from September 1994 to December 1994 in the hopes of “finding myself” To my dismay I found myself out of money and suffering from mononucleosis in early November.”

  • Use simple language and short concise sentences. Avoid legalese or abstract language. Here is an example of what to AVOID:

“My rigorous domicile in Russia was the result of a hard fight to obtain a highly coveted work visa which entitled me to enter Russia as one of the few official working residents sanctioned each year by the Russian government.”

  • Ensure that there are no typos or grammatical errors.

When listing accomplishments or achievements explain why they are important to you. What role did they play in the development of your personality or your interest in law school?

“I got involved in rowing in high school. Rowing is an extremely tough sport requiring intense dedication. This sport taught me how to organize my day and use each hour efficiently.”

  • Work with a plan or outline. Ensure that there is a main idea or theme that you wish to communicate. Pretend the personal statement is a thirty minute interview in which you must make main points.
  • If you have been out of school for some time, explain how your interest in law developed through jobs or other activities. For example, a police officer could justify an interest in criminal law because of interaction with the legal system.
  • If your interest in law developed as a result of a significant life experience, then describe how that experience contributed to your interest in law. For example, an accident victim could justify an interest in law through interaction with the legal system.

The following are some suggested don’ts:

  • Don’t write about the law. The audience knows about the law.
  • Don’t write a resume in prose.
  • Don’t dwell on negatives.
  • Don’t draw conclusions. Simply provide facts that will support the conclusions that you want the reader to draw.

The Reader Is A Human Being -Avoid Upsetting The Reader!

Admissions directors are overworked and read many more personal statements than they would like. ft is human nature to experience positive or negative feelings about personal statements and to experience these feelings quickly!

Inside Perspective – The first 40 personal statements that are read are tolerable. But after the first couple of hundred start to lose interest and read them very quickly. They had better have something interesting to say!


And Finally

The personal statement is about you. Make sure that everything in the personal statement is for the purpose of making you come to life as a real, breathing, feeling, interesting person who the reader would like to meet! Use concrete examples and facts. In order to accomplish this you must do some thinking about yourself.

In Summary

A personal statement should

  • 1. be about you
  • 2. ensure that general statements are backed up by specific facts or experiences
  • 3. show that you are a competent, well-rounded, positive and motivated person
  • 4. explain how significant events contributed to the development of your personality
  • 5. be interesting and tell a story
  • 6. explain why you are interested in that specific school
  • 7. be responsive to the precise question asked, the specific requirements of the school and the personality of the school
  • 8. have a theme or organizing principle
  • 9. explain jobs, activities and awards
  • 10. describe facts from which the reader will infer that you have certain qualities or attributes
  • 11. have a strong opening
  • 12. be well written
  • 13. use simple language
  • 14. have no typos or grammatical errors
  • 15. not be too long and respect the directions concerning length

The above has been reproduced and/or adapted from Mastering The Personal Statement by John Richardson. Copyright remains with the author.

Copyright © 1998, John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.