Students generally look for any opportunity to break the rules, without the consequences of course. Well, the College Application Essay is the perfect way to do just that - academically, that is. Since the tone of the college application essay is much more casual and looser than the typical academic essay, general "tone" rules can be bent somewhat. If there is consistency with the voice throughout the essay, and it sounds professional with a casual twist, then go for it!
To put it simply, write the way you talk!
Here are 6 tips to keeping the right tone and voice throughout your college application essay:
1 - Use sentence fragments and phrases. This is done to emphasize a feeling or emotion. For example, "I was amazed. In utter disbelief. I was at a total loss for words."
2 - Make use of works like "and" or "but" to start a sentence. Of course, this goes against all rules for typical formal writing styles, but it's fine to do this with an informal paper, as long as it is done sparingly and for emphasis purposes only. For example, "I was completely exhausted. And famished."
3 - Use contractions only if the context calls for it. The use of contraction is ok if it makes sense with the message you're trying to convey. For example, saying "I couldn't bring myself to look at her" instead of, "I could not bring myself to look at her" is perfectly acceptable.
4 - Use slang or dialect if it is appropriate. If you are quoting a speaker and are trying to stay true to their voice, it's fine to use specific slang. For example, if you're quoting a New Yorker, it sounds ok if they say, "The guy was actin' like a loose cannon."
5 - Sprinkle your essay with onomatopoeia. Those are animated words that sound exactly like what they are, like "bam", "whoosh", or, "splash".
6 - Don't be afraid to end a sentence with a preposition. Sticking to the same idea as mentioned above, make sure it's appropriate for the context. For example, it's fine to say, "These are important things to think about", instead of, "We need to think about these important things."
Don't forget that this gentle "rule-breaking" is fine to use only if it makes sense within the context, and if not over-done. Good luck!