Archive for the ‘Writing Instruction’ Category

Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Admission committees often weigh personal statements as heavily as test scores and grades.  Even if you have terrific scores and a stellar GPA, you can be rejected based an a weak personal statement.  Conversely, if your numbers are borderline but your personal statement paints you as a dynamic, aware, and giving person, the committee may decide you’ll be an asset to their school community.  It all depends on the person they see projected through your statement.

Most personal statement prompts ask similar questions.

  • How have your past experiences led you to apply for our program?
  • What obstacles or difficulties have you overcome?
  • Why do you want to work as a ___________?
  • What are your professional goals?

The committee readers want specifics.  Whatever your answer, it has to present you as a unique individual able to articulate ideas about the significance and and impact your past experiences have had on you and how they have shaped your thinking today.  That means strong personal statements are personal.  Yet they also have to show a balanced person who understands boundaries and is able to cope.  That means strong personal statements are academic/professional.

  • DO tell stories with vivid details both external (what happened) and internal (how you felt, what you thought).
  • DO keep the focus on yourself, rather than on other people who influenced or inspired you.
  • DO edit your work carefully so that it is as concise and well written as possible.
  • DO present an optimistic vision of your goals, particularly how you intend to contribute and help others
  • DO reflect on your own personal assets without letting modesty prevent you, but…



  • DON’T brag or come across as arrogant
  • DON’T rely on clichés or overuse words like “passionate.”
  • DON’T come across as a victim or as seeking pity
  • DON’T praise their school/program to the point where you sound sycophantic.
  • DON’T procrastinate!

Collaborating with an editor or coach is an excellent way to get a second perspective on your statement.  While the content, of course, has to come from you, an editor or coach can help you polish your statement, making it more concise and efficient to paint a better picture of your ideas, as well as eliminating grammatical errors that would otherwise count against you.

Louisa Peck has worked with dozens of applicants to craft successful personal statements that have gotten qualified candidates accepted at the schools of their choice.

She is available either in person in the Seattle area or via Skype or Facetime for those distantly located.  A one to two hour session is usually enough time to revise a solid first draft.

Contact her today for help at

Private Writing Tutor or English Class? Which is a better fit?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

I taught college English classes for many years at several community colleges in the Seattle area.  I can tell you that a classroom teacher is responsible for leaving no student behind, which means lessons must be basic enough to make sense to the weakest writers in the class.

But what if you’re a professional with fairly strong writing skills who has weak spots in your writing knowledge?  Do you take writing lessons or classes aimed at beginners or intermediates?  For many professionals and students who need writing help, most of the writing instruction in such classes will prove a waste of time and money.  Beginning classes might cover what you know already; intermediate classes may assume knowledge of exactly what you missed in high school.  What you want is writing help that addresses your specific issues, whether you’re a non-native looking for ESL coaching or a smooth native speaker in need of grammar lessons.

I have the expertise to adjust to any writer’s needs.  With each new client, I ask for writing samples that reflect their current abilities.  Based on these, I design a specialized program that offers writing help in specific areas of deficit.  As we continue to work together, new problems may surface.  We zoom in on these immediately, on demand, rather than being tethered to a class syllabus.  You learn more quickly by focusing on those areas where you, as an individual, need clarification and practice.

English Instruction – What About Grammar?

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

When I was in eight grade, I had an English teacher named Mr. Beisel who had written a grammar handbook. He was actually a terrible teacher, but the handouts from his book were excellent. Day after day, while he sat dozing at his desk so inert that some of us eighth graders theorized about whether he might be dead, we plodded through a series of lessons partitioned in a large cardboard box up by his desk. Each isolated one aspect of grammar instruction, so that by the time you finished the lot of them, you could diagram any sentence in English.

Diagramming sentences is a lost art. But being able to identify various parts of a sentence is actually imperative in order to apply the rules of punctuation and syntax accurately. This is another reason to hire an English tutor with a strong background in writing. For example, if the rules state that you DO use a comma between an independent clause and a phrase, but not between an independent clause and a dependent clause, you need to be able to tell the two – the phrase and the clause – apart. A clause, whether dependent or independent, features a who doing a what. A phrase has a who or a doing, but not both.

A good writing coach can help you understand the difference, so the next time you’re wondering where to place a comma, you’ll know.

ESL Coaching at Every Level

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

If you’ve learned English as a second language, chances are your knowledge of English grammar is stronger than that of many native speakers. If you’re seeking further English help, you need an instructor who can explain grammar not in terms of what “sounds right,” but in specific grammatical terms you can comprehend. That way, you can incorporate the rule into your understanding for future reference.

Rather than progressing through a standard book, I pull grammar lessons from the web as needed for each individual ESL Seattle client. We work on what YOU need to learn to bring your fluency and writing to the next level. Take a look at my testimonials for recommendations directly from clients who have worked with me as a grammar tutor. You’ll see that each says the lessons are both useful and fun.

Choosing a Seattle Tutor: What to Look For

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

There are hundreds of writing tutors available in Seattle. How do you make a good choice for your own writing instruction?

The majority of ads that offer tutoring for students are posted by students themselves, many of whom have little idea of the actual rules of syntax and grammar. The fact that someone is an English major who gets good grades on his or her papers may mean they can write well themselves. It does NOT mean they are qualified to give grammar instruction or serve as a writing coach.

Having served as a writing teacher on the faculty of many major colleges and universities in the Seattle area, I have the in-depth knowledge of grammar and syntax that allows me to explain to a client the rules of grammar or the benefits of style, in easy-to-understand terms. If you’re going to spend money on English help, be sure you hire an expert!

Writing Instruction: Beginning to Advanced

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Writing is the medium of the web.  Thousands of people publish blogs every day, vying for readership among web readers.  If you’re publishing a personal blog or aspiring to do so, you should have a solid understanding of what makes for effective writing.  What practices of style or approaches to editing your work will make it most readable?  To answer these questions, it’s best to hire an experienced writing tutor.

I tend to iron out any grammar issues I see in my clients’ writing first.  Once the basics of grammar and punctuation are in place, we move on to sentence variety.  Many writers rely on their ear or speech patterns to craft written sentences, when the fact is many variables influence the impact a given sentence will have on a reader.  As we work together, we explore the effects of different wording choices and sentence structures, so that you as a writer can become aware of all your options.

Such knowledge and control become valuable assets, whether you’re using them in creative writing, blog posts, or business writing.