Personal Statement Tip: Vivid Verbs

By - Oct 19, 14:06 PM Comments [0]

Which of the following conjures a more vivid image?

The candle burned all the way down and then went out.


The flame danced and swayed late into the night. Finally, when it could glow no longer it took its last breath and died.

Let's face it – verbs come in a few varieties. There are boring ways to express an action and more exciting, vivid descriptions that don't just help the reader envision what YOU saw, but help the reader envision your description on his or her own.

The key is to use ACTIVE verbs that convey SENSORY MOVEMENTS. Your goal should be to transform the boring, ordinary, pedestrian verbs in your application essays or personal statements into muscular, compelling verbs that convey sounds, smells, images, and experiences.

Here are a few examples of verb transformation:

  • BORING: I ran a marathon.

VIVID: I limped across the finish line, drenched in sweat.

  • BORING: I ran a marathon.

VIVID: Ignoring my aches and blisters, I soared across that finish line, propelled by an adrenaline surge of mammoth proportions.

  • BORING: I tried to complete the project on time.

VIVID: I struggled to complete the project on time.

  • BORING: I tried to complete the project on time.

VIVID: I invested energy and focus that I didn't know I had to complete the project on time.

When editing your personal statement or application essay, take a moment to examine your descriptions. Are they common? Are they boring? Adding interesting adjectives is one way to spice up your language, but to truly get to the root of the problem, you'll want to trade in your overused, boring verbs for ones that will really enliven your writing.

Note: If you decide to use a thesaurus to find new verbs (which is a good place to start), make sure you only choose words that you know the meaning of. Otherwise you run the risk of sounding foolish. ~ Helping You Write Your Best

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