personal beliefs about life and the world

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Writing Prompt: Write 600-1000 words analyzing your beliefs about your life and the world as it pertains to you. Your essay should express one (or more) personal belief or philosophy that you hold. You then need to support it with examples.

This essay is YOURS and is PERSONAL to your experiences and your ideas. That said, please consider the following tips and instructions from the original writing prompt (invitation) that has been used on National Public Radio since the 1950s:

This invites you to make a very great contribution: nothing less than a statement of your personal beliefs, of the values which rule your thought and action.

We know this is a tough job. What we want is so intimate that no one can write it for you. You must write it yourself, in the language most natural to you. We ask you to write in your own words and then record in your own voice. You may even find that it takes a request like this for you to reveal some of your own beliefs to yourself. If you set them down they may become of untold meaning to others.

We would like you to tell not only what you believe, but how you reached your beliefs, and if they have grown, what made them grow. This necessarily must be highly personal. That is what we anticipate and want . . .

ESSAY TIPS:

  • Tell a story about you: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events that have shaped your core values. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.
  • Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief.
  • Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.
  • Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

You will be scored on the following characteristics of your writing:

      1. Thesis Statement—a strong thesis provides a roadmap by stating what the essay will prove.

Thesis statements can be directly stated or implied, but they typically are found in the last sentence of the first paragraph. It needs to be clear and respond to the prompt questions.

      1. Introduction: What kind of introduction did you use?

Mini-story

Background Information

Quotation

Strong Statement

      1. Evidence: Back up your thesis with specific evidence.

Personal Experiences

Experiences of Others

Quotations

Disproving the Opposite

      1. Conclusion: What kind of conclusion did you use?

Circle back

Look to the Future

Figurative Language

Final Example

      1. Transitions: Refer back to your thesis. Keep your essay moving.

These can be simple: In addition, Finally, However, Although, (see more from They Say, I Say) They can also be more complex, finding a thread in your introduction that you can weave throughout the essay.

      1. Succinct Writing:

Strong Verbs

Concrete images/specific details

Clear ideas and supporting examples

No clutter or unnecessary wordiness

No clichés or overused/vague sayings (stay away from common quotes)

      1. Editing and MLA formatting Spelling, Punctuation, Capitalization

Complete Sentences and other grammar

Each paragraph is indented (new idea=new paragraph)

Headings, margins, text, and line spacing all according to MLA 8 guidelines

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