I am writing a personal statement for my college application, and I wanted to use particular words in the beginning of each paragraph that resonate with the main content of the paragraph.


Escape-pause-escape. From an apparent distance, I observe the child who chargingly escapes from her mother’s hold. She rushes to the soft-toy aisle. Like any other child, she admiringly watches the gigantic teddy bear for a very long time. Unlike any other child, she holds the black price tag closer to her eyes, moves a step behind, and waves it goodbye. A tiny kid with a large consciousness.

Could you please let me know if this is acceptable? I am open to any suggestion and criticism.

A little note: The personal statement looks for creativity and is not stringently evaluated, but it is safe to be grammatically correct.

Thank you.

  • 1
    "Is it acceptable to ... to create a literary effect?" Yes. (Caveat: I know nothing about the standards for your college personal statement; I'm talking about literary effects more generally). Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 22:04
  • Thank you, @DM_with_secrets! Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 22:27
  • Yes, I love them - but I did so, and my editor tore into them pretty fiercely. Mostly m-dashes. At least half got taken out. So be prepared to have whoever proofs your work take out a lot as improper English.
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 2:30
  • Where-hyphens-connect, you want a break — or. a. pause. But the story is heavier on affect than a personal statement about you. Are you in the story? Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 3:18
  • @YosefBaskin Yes, I am the main character in the essay. I am trying to give the reader a gist of my personality within 650 words. I thought words or effects as such can allow the reader to easily remember little bits of my personality because they have 1000s of essays to read within limited time period. So I intended to do something different, that can help my essay to be memorable. I am aiming for a pause between those words, but I also want to depict that these words are interconnected for the story. I am guessing em-dashes would work here. What's your opinion? Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 6:24

2 Answers 2


These days, this is probably acceptable.
But is it effective? Not for me.

What value do you think it adds?
And how does this relate to you and your personal essay?

If this is a lead-in to something that actually relates to you, then I would focus it and make it tighter.

  • I want to emphasize three words in the beginning of each paragraph because I want these words to serve as a guide for the reader to navigate the personal essay easily. The word limit for the essay is 650 words, so I have to restrict myself from further emphasizing deeper meaning of each word. Instead, I use these words as a small attention-grabbing intro of what they can expect this from the following lines. I thought hyphens would work in this case. But, I am not sure whether the reader would go into the depth of understanding why I used hyphens in the first place. Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 6:28
  • I did not understand whether you directed "make it tighter and less cutesy and rambling," to the paragraph as a whole, or only for the three intro words? If you have any suggestions on how to achieve that, please let me know. This is a genuine question and I'm not being sarcastic or rude. Thank you. Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 6:31

I can't speak to the grading standards of your target college, but I'd assume it's acceptable as a creative choice. If you happen to have any kind of college advisor with your current school, I'd definitely consult them before submitting, just in case. Good luck on your application!

  • 2
    I don't have a college advisor, so online forums are my only go-to. Thank you very much for your advice and good wishes! Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 20:28

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