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Can I use contractions like 'don't' in a college essay, or is that too informal?

Quick query for y'all: Are contractions like 'don't' and 'won't' a big no-no in a college essay, or are they okay to use? I want my essay to sound conversational, but I'm worried about coming across as unprofessional.

8 months ago

Hey there! Your question is something many students ponder over while writing their essays. The use of contractions in college essays isn’t a strict taboo. In fact, if contractions will make your essay sound more natural and conversational, they can actually be a plus. While the college essay is a formal piece of writing, you don't want it to sound too academic, as that may make admissions officers lose focus. The key is to ensure your tone matches the message you’re trying to convey.

If you’re sharing a personal story, contractions are entirely appropriate. For instance, if you're writing about a casual conversation with a friend that led to an epiphany, using contractions would match the tone of that experience. However, if you’re discussing a more formal or serious topic, like your work nursing animal back to health during your volunteer work at an animal shelter, it might be better to avoid them.

A good rule of thumb is to read your essay out loud. Does it sound like you? If there are any places where you stumble, there's probably a wrinkle there that needs to be ironed out—you shouldn't be tripping over your own story! Your essay is a chance to showcase your authentic self, so your voice should be naturally yours. So, as long as you feel you're telling the story in the way that feels natural to you, don't agonize over how many or how few contractions you use.

If you're wondering how your essay will come across to other readers, you can check out CollegeVine's free peer essay review service, or submit your essay for a paid review by an expert advisor. Asking friends or teachers to read it over can also be a good idea, but having someone who doesn't already know you take a look can help give you a clearer sense of how admissions officers will read it.

Best of luck with your writing!

8 months ago

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