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A personal essay is a type of writing that expresses your thoughts and feelings about a certain topic. Unlike a research paper or a scholarly essay, typically written in an impersonal voice, a personal essay is written mostly in the first-person point of view. This means that you, the writer, are speaking directly to the reader about your personal story experiences and thoughts on the topic at hand.

Common Topics for Personal Essays

Personal essays are typically written about any topic that provides ample opportunity to express thoughts and feelings. Common topics include:

  • Your personal experiences with a particular topic or subject
  • How a particular event, experience, or person has affected you
  • An issue or problem that is important to you and your thoughts about it
  • A memory or moment that is particularly meaningful to you
  • What something means to you spiritually or emotionally

How to choose personal essay topics.

When choosing a topic for your essay, it is important to find one that will allow you to explore your thoughts and feelings in depth. It can be helpful to brainstorm a list of potential topics and then choose the one that feels most interesting or important to you. You may also want to consider the following factors when choosing a topic:

  • How familiar you are with the subject

A good topic should be something you know well and feel comfortable writing about, and knowing a topic in-depth will allow you to write about it with more authority and clarity.

  • The scope of the topic

A good topic should be broad enough to allow for various perspectives but not so broad that you cannot provide a focused essay. For example, if you choose to write about your personal experiences with a particular subject, you must narrow the topic to a specific instance or moment.

  • Your interest in the topic.

If you are not interested in the topic, it won’t be easy to sustain your focus and write a compelling essay. However, if you are passionate about the topic, you will have no trouble writing engaging prose.

  • Your audience

It is often helpful to think about your audience and how you might reach them. For example, if you wrote a personal essay for an English class in which your instructor did not assign the topic, it would be wise to choose one that will interest or connect with your classmates.

  • The length of the essay

A good personal essay should allow you to explore your topic fully and should not exceed three double-spaced pages.

How to write a personal essay.

When writing a personal essay, it is important to remember that this type of paper allows you the opportunity to express yourself openly and honestly. Hence, there are no strict rules about structure or format. However, if you are looking for some general guidelines on how to write a personal essay, including what information to include and where here are some useful tips:

Choose the right topic- It is important that you choose an interesting or meaningful topic so your audience will be motivated to read your paper. If you don’t feel passionate about the subject, it will not be reflected in your writing.

Start with a strong introduction- The opening of your essay is important because it will either capture your reader’s attention or lose them right away. Make sure to introduce your topic in an interesting way and include some background information if necessary.

Make your points clear- In a personal essay, you are allowed more freedom with structure than in a research paper or other formal essay. However, it is still important to make your points clear and support them with evidence.

Write in a personal voice- Use first-person pronouns (I, me, my) and talk about your experiences and thoughts on the topic. This will help connect your reader with your essay.

End with a strong conclusion- The conclusion of your essay is just as important as the introduction. Make sure to summarize your main points and leave your reader with something thoughtful or inspiring to think about.

Personal essay outline.

The outline of a personal essay is relatively simple and follows the same general structure as most other essays. The structure has five paragraphs, starting with the introduction, and ending with a conclusion paragraph. However, since a personal essay allows for more freedom in terms of content and structure, feel free to adapt this example of a personal essay format.

Introduction paragraph

The first paragraph of your essay should include a strong introduction that captures the reader’s attention. You could start with a quote, question, or anecdote related to the topic and then transition into what you plan on writing about.

3 part body paragraphs

In this section of your paper, you will develop your story, providing examples from personal experiences or illustrating ideas in more detail through your own writing. You might want to consider using an effective quote or statement from one of your sources for this section if it is relevant to the topic.

Conclusion paragraph

The final paragraph should be a strong conclusion that leaves your reader with something meaningful after they have finished reading your paper. It’s important not to introduce any new information in the conclusion, so make sure to summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression.

The elements of a personal essay.

A personal essay is a type of writing that allows you to express your unique voice and connect with the reader on an emotional level. The elements of a personal essay include:

  • Character description

Personal essays include character descriptions of those included in the narration. However, the descriptions are not meant to be very detailed or extensive because they can detract from the main points you are trying to make.

  • Setting description

The setting description helps the writer visualize the place the event took place and the time period. Since character and setting are closely related, it is important to describe both in a personal essay because they contribute to the emotional aspect of the piece.

  • Dialogue

Dialogue is another important element of a personal essay because it allows you to connect the reader with your story or character through your writing. Make sure that any dialogue included in an essay contributes to either characterization, setting description, or plot development. Remember not to overuse dialogue and only to include the necessary dialogue.

  • Logical sequence

Personal essay writing needs to be clear and follow a logical sequence, just like any other essay. However, you are allowed more freedom in terms of structure and content. Make sure to organize your thoughts into cohesive paragraphs and develop a creative nonfiction story that is interesting.

Tips for writing a compelling personal essay.

When writing a personal essay, it is important to keep in mind that you are telling a story. This means that your essay should be well-organized and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. In addition, the following tips can help you write a personal essay that is both interesting and engaging:

  • Use an active voice.

Using an active voice will make your writing more engaging and keep the reader’s attention. An active voice is more direct and dynamic than a passive voice because it involves the subject of your sentence doing something rather than being acted upon.

  • Use transitional words to connect paragraphs.

Transitional words guide readers from one idea or paragraph to another. They help keep the flow of ideas consistent throughout your essay to avoid losing your reader in the midst of your essay.

  • Be yourself

When writing about personal experiences, it is important to be honest, and authentic. This is your story, and it should be told in a way that reflects who you are as an individual. If necessary, use first-person pronouns (e.g., I or me) so that the reader knows exactly whose story they are reading about.

  • Support ideas with evidence

Include relevant examples from personal experiences and any other sources you used to develop your essay. This will help strengthen your argument and make it easier for the reader to follow what you are saying in your paper.

  • Connect with the audience emotionally.

A personal essay should inform or explain and engage the reader emotionally. Aim for an emotional response so that the reader can relate to your story or experience. Try describing an event in detail so that you generate a strong emotional response from the audience.

  • Show, don’t tell

Like in a descriptive essay, instead of telling the reader what happened, try showing them through your words. This will create a more vivid image in the reader’s mind and allow them to experience what you experienced.

  • Include a moral lesson

If you can, try to include a moral lesson or message in your personal essay. This will help give your essay a lasting impression and leave the reader thinking about what they have read after finishing your paper.

Difference between a personal essay and a personal statement.

A personal essay is a type of writing that allows you to tell your story. On the other hand, a personal statement is typically used for more formal applications such as university admissions or job applications.

A personal statement is usually shorter and has a specific format that must be followed. It also includes more information about your academic or professional achievements, while a personal essay focuses more on your personal experiences and connecting with the reader at an emotional level.


After writing a personal essay, it is important to read over your paper and make sure everything makes sense. Ask yourself if the events are in chronological order or if they need some tweaking to be more consistent with one another. Also, check for any spelling mistakes before submitting your final draft so you can avoid receiving negative comments about typos.

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