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Teacher Tips and Answers

Editing College-Entrance Essays

If you were interviewing with a college-entrance officer, you wouldn't want your clothes to be rumpled and stained, your hair to be standing on end, and a bit of something to be hanging between your teeth. No, you'd use a mirror, a brush, a toothbrush, an iron—whatever it takes to make a good impression. In the same way, you want your college-entrance essay to be free of distracting and embarrassing errors before you submit it. These activities will help.

Editing to Fix Sentence Shifts

For the most part, you should stick to a specific tense (past or present) and a specific person (first or third) in your essay. Unnecessary shifts can be distracting or even confusing:

Shifting Tense and Person

Now, I had a choice. I can quit and rappel to the rocks below or keep climbing and reach the top. My friend Big Jake, who'd caught me in my trust fall on Day One, is at the bottom of the cliff as my anchor. Karl and Josiah were climbing next to me. Counselor Jones waits at the summit. The climber looked for handholds and footholds in stone, pauses to set a carabiner and thread a safety line, grabs a shoulder of rock, and pulls himself higher. Then I squeezed the brake and sat in the harness, trusting Big Jake with my weight while Karl and Josiah rose beside me. The three climbers nod. No reason to talk. All of them had plenty of work ahead. With muscle and grit and courage, we head to the top.

Consistent Tense and Person

Now, I had a choice. I could quit and rappel to the rocks below, or I could keep climbing and reach the top. My friend Big Jake, who'd caught me in my trust fall on Day One, was at the bottom of the cliff as my anchor. Karl and Josiah were climbing next to me. Counselor Jones waited at the summit. I looked for handholds and footholds in stone, paused to set a carabiner and thread a safety line, grabbed a shoulder of rock, and pulled myself higher. Then I squeezed the brake and sat in the harness, trusting Big Jake with my weight while Karl and Josiah rose beside me. We nodded. No reason to talk. All of us had plenty of work ahead. With muscle and grit and courage, we would get to the top.

This lesson is a part of the Writing College-Entrance Essays unit.

Click the title to view more information about this unit and a full list of lessons that are included.

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