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Application Essay

by Em16


I'm applying to a summer writing camp and the prompt is to write "A 300-word essay that illustrates a particular moment when words have been meaningful to you, to be uploaded with the application form". This is my response.

At first glance, words can appear to be powerless. A string of letters do not have the power to move mountains or flood cities. You cannot eat words, or build houses with words, or use them to build roads. Why, then, does humanity have such a continued obsession with the power of language? An answer came to me two years ago, when I had been going through a rough time emotionally. To cope, I turned to poetry, and at a gathering with a few of my friends, I shared one of the poems I had written. When I finished reading, I saw that one of my friends was silently weeping. I was immediately alarmed, but when I asked what was so upsetting, she said it was my poetry. She had become so overcome by the emotion in my words that she had succumbed to sobs. It was an extraordinary moment for me; I never once considered that I could make someone else cry, simply by stringing together the right words in the right order. But it was also a healing moment. Every tear she shed was one I did not have to, and every embrace I offered her was one I desperately needed myself. By pain was lessened by seeing it reflected in someone else, the burden I shouldered made just a little bit lighter. That was when I learned the true power of words. They break down the barriers of self, and unite us around common feelings. They help de-localize our pain, spread it out farther, so that it no longer becomes so pressing and powerful. From that simple experience, I realized why language is and always will be essential to the state of being human. 


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Mon Jan 18, 2021 2:55 am
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SpiritedWolfe wrote a review...



Hi em!

You've written a solid essay here, and I wish you luck applying to your writing camp! You've answered the prompt, chosen a solid memory to talk about, and then expanded it by reflecting on the experience. I'll start from the beginning and comment as I read.

For starters, I think you have a good idea behind your introduction, but for an essay that you only have 300 words for, it doesn't feel necessary, especially since your audience is likely going to agree with your theme that words are in fact not powerless. In my opinion, your second and third sentence could be condensed into one, leaving you with more room to expand on your moment.

Also, in these types of essays, it can sometimes be more effective (but just as elegant) to condense some of your phrases. This, again, frees up more words for you. Here's an example:

At first glance, words can appear to be powerless.


In this sentence, "can" puts a modifier on on your statement and "to be" is just extra fluff, leaving it weaker than if you just said "At first glance, words appear powerless." And another example:

Why, then, does humanity have such a continued obsession with the power of language?


You can easily replaced the underlined portion with "continue to obsess over" and not lose the meaning and impact of the sentence, while also making your sentence flow easier and more to the point. I bring this up in such detail in the first few lines because I feel like you can easily slash a couple of words from each sentence, ultimately giving yourself more room to breathe and expand upon your ultimate point. I won't be so nitpicky moving forward, as this is your writing after all, but I feel it's a good tool to have.

I was immediately alarmed, but when I asked what was so upsetting, she said it was my poetry.


This sentence stuck out to me, because the wording feels slightly stiff. You've done a good job of maintaining a consistent tone throughout, but the phrase "what was so upsetting" doesn't sound like a question you'd ask a friend, but instead a stranger. It might be stronger to go with something more conversational, to emphasize the friendliness and the connection that was building between you two because of your poem. As well, you could easily turn the phrase "I was immediately alarmed" into a clause before the second part of the sentence, like "Alarmed, I asked what had happened." or something like that.

The conclusion of your essay felt like the strongest part to me, because you phrase the way that you feel about writing in such an eloquent but succinct way. The only thing is I think you may want to reserve the use of the word "powerful" for in the context of the power of words, as you described in the beginning, that way your message doesn't accidentally get muddled. I'm talking about in this line:

They help de-localize our pain, spread it out farther, so that it no longer becomes so pressing and powerful.


Perhaps instead of powerful you could use overbearing? Or suffocating? Then you could easily reuse the word powerful to connect your introduction to your conclusion, like whatcha suggests.

Hopefully this was helpful! I think you develop your ideas very well throughout this, and it feels like a touching piece to read. The main thing that you could work on is simply editing down some of the unnecessary filler words, and then rounding out your conclusion once more so it feels all wrapped up nicely. Great job! Let me know if you have any questions~

Happy writing!
~Wolfe




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Mon Jan 18, 2021 2:17 am
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whatchamacallit wrote a review...



Hi there Em! The title of this work intrigued me so here I am with a short review for you c:

I love the subject of this paragraph, and I think your points are really strong and effective. I love that you're able to tie both reason and personal experiences / emotions into this essay, as together, they make for a very impactful piece of writing! I also enjoyed your use of descriptions (such as how your friend became emotional, and how that impacted you), as they help to draw the reader into the story and keep it engaging.

I don't have any huge critiques, so I'm just going to dive into some more specific comments!

You cannot eat words, or build houses with words, or use them to build roads.
Super minor nitpick here! Since you already used "build" in reference to houses, and you aren't repeating the structure of the thought (as in, you aren't saying "or build roads with words"), I'd suggest eliminating all repetition altogether. All I really mean by that is I think it'd be stronger if you used another verb in place of "build" roads - maybe something like "lay"?

It was an extraordinary moment for me; I never once considered that I could make someone else cry, simply by stringing together the right words in the right order.
<3 This is so true! Stringing words together has the incredible capability to connect people - strangers on the internet, even ;) - over common experiences, emotions, and memories. I really like the point you're making here (and throughout the entire paragraph)!

Every tear she shed was one I did not have to, and every embrace I offered her was one I desperately needed myself. By pain was lessened by seeing it reflected in someone else, the burden I shouldered made just a little bit lighter.
I like your use of repeated structure here; it really drives home the point and is very impactful in conveying your emotions. Just one very little typo here: by -> my.

They help de-localize our pain, spread it out farther, so that it no longer becomes so pressing and powerful.
This is very very true. "De-localizing" is such a good way of putting it! Reading through this sentence, I think a word that would encapsulate what you mean by "spread it farther out" would be "distribute it [among others who are willing to share the burden]". It's totally fine as is, but that's just an even cleaner and more succinct word. And if your brain works anything like me, I think you knew there was a perfect word for that concept but just couldn't recall it? If not totally fine haha but if so, that's probably the word you were looking for :D

From that simple experience, I realized why language is and always will be essential to the state of being human.
Yes! Language and literature are such crucial parts of the human experience.

Since this is a paragraph / essay, I would suggest really obviously tying in your opening thought ("At first glance, words can appear to be powerless") to the ending sentence, to act as a mini intro & conclusion. Even just tagging on "...and are not as meaningless as they appear at first", or something along those lines, would refer back to the opening really nicely.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable read, and a very strong piece of writing! Other than one small typo and a couple wording suggestions, my only real suggestion on how to improve this would be to make sure you clearly have an introductory sentence and a conclusion sentence (so that the paragraph opens and closes on the same thought). Other than that, there's not much I'd change!

I hope this proves helpful, and good luck with the application! <3

Keep writing c:

whatcha





To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.
— Olin Miller