What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?

Glossary of grammatical and rhetorical terms.

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner. Also called a personal statement . 

A type of creative nonfiction , the personal essay is "all over the map," according to Annie Dillard. "There's nothing you can't do with it. No subject matter is forbidden, no structure is prescribed. You get to make up your own form every time." ("To Fashion a Text," 1998) .

Examples of Personal Essays


Theresa Werner, "Personal Essay."  Encyclopedia of the Essay , ed. by Tracy Chevalier. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997

E.B. White , Foreword to  Essays of E.B. White . Harper and Row, 1977

Cristina Kirklighter,  Traversing the Democratic Borders of the Essay . SUNY Press, 2002

Nancy Sommers, "Between the Drafts."  College Composition and Communication , February 1992

Richard F. Nordquist, "Voices of the Modern Essay." Dissertation University of Georgia, 1991

igcse english essay samples

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Compare and Contrast the way three poems from the anthology and outside the anthology present the theme of death Essay Title: How is death portrayed in different forms in poems? The poems War Photographer (Carol Ann Duffy), A mother in a refugee camp (Chinua Achebe) and Do not go gentle into that Good Night (Dylan Thomas) have misleading initial impressions but the deep concept that lies in all these poems is death. Death is a common concept used in poetry that relates to war, husband – wife relationships and family rivalry.

Death poems are also common for another reason – many poets tend to spill out their emotions and frustrations held within them through self – portrayal or portraying it through different characters. This essay will discuss and explore how death theme is portrayed in different conditions like war, family, etc. Comparisons will also be made with these three poems outside of the anthology – Song of Myself (Walt Whitman), I died for Beauty – but was scarce (Emily Dickinson) and The Weary Blues (Langston Hughes).


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“ Amazing as always, gave her a week to finish a big assignment and came through way ahead of time. ”

In the poem War Photographer, Duffy emphasises emotions and memories of a photographer after the turmoil of death he has been through.

There are also many short sentences which highlight the message that life is really short, death is really quick. The metaphor “fields don’t explode beneath…” infers to the landmines used in wars and the people who are running are the children (as mentioned in the text). When children are scared, they lose control of their minds and start running around, trying to find safety.

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But they are not aware of the secret, hidden dangers and many are killed like this. This also shows that the poet is haunted by the memories of people dying in a very bad way. In the same way, the poem Song of Myself has a meaning of death but hidden in nature.

The poet believes that whenever he dies he will always serve nature and the cause of his death and life is nature. So, these two poems show the hidden ‘attacks’ of death and how some people confine to death knowingly or unknowingly. Another technique in this poem is a contrast. There is a contrast between good and bad – war photographer – the photographer shows all the bad things that happen (war, dying photos) and opens up the message to the world which is a good thing. So basically, throughout this contrast, an oxymoron is created for the aspect of good and bad. This also highlights the seriousness in his job.

Another aspect of his character that is shown is the qualities in him – he stands up for those who are in need. There is also contrast in Song of Myself – the poet talks about evening but that is a time when there is contrast and diversion from day to night. But in his terms, it is change from life to death. It is also a change between worlds for him – change from nature to civilisation. In the dark, civilisation cannot see nature properly so the dominant property is civilisation. In the day, nature dominates civilisation as most animals and plants are there and they can protect nature.

Very strong diction is used in this poem which can help emphasise the aspect death. The word “finally” in stanza one suggests that he has been through a lot and he is very tired after trying to dodge death in the war and try to take photos to show the world the reality that takes place. The word finally also suggests that he is relieved not to see any more bloodshed. He also wants to end the memories of people dying and suffering pain. In the same way, in the poem The Weary Blues, Langston Hughes talks about a black man who wants to end his life and succumb to death because of the black people segregation.

Then only will he be relieved and be able to ‘live’ happily in peace. Both the poems refer death but to as a relieving ‘ailment’. The poems are saying that one of the common remedies that people take when they are in stress or in difference of opinion is death. The words used in War Photographer, The Weary Blues are negative words as this complies with the death theme. The language is very slow – paced, which emphasizes the fact of grievance death, how people are dying and suffering and also how the photographer has the memories back when he unconsciously saw death.

In The Weary Blues the poet uses his character to say language that all weaves with death. The poem A Mother in a Refugee Camp is poem that talks about death in a very strong relationship. The relationship in this case is between a mother and child. The poem has a very irregular structure but the main feature of this poem is that there is a very unusual use of punctuation in the form of pauses. These pauses literally show that the mother is trying to tell her story, experience and what she is going to have to see and experience after her child’s death.

The irregular structure helps make the poem more realistic. The poet Chinua Achebe lived in Nigeria at the time of the civil war in Nigeria and he has helped Nigeria come out of this tunnel of death. The poet has used a very strongly emotional juxtaposition – “The air was heavy with odours…” – this sentence has a straight – forward yet harsh and bitter tone. This suggests the after effects of starvation and also emphasises and highlights how sick the children are. Bones are literally washed away. Since it is Nigeria, poverty is emphasised in this poem to show how poverty is affecting relationship bonds.

This also shows that no one cares about the poor people in places like Nigeria. The disease spreads quite quickly, the poem indicates that food, water and shelter, three things that are essential for humans, are hard to find and due to this, many are dying. In the same way, the poem I died for beauty but was scarce Dickinson is trying to say that people strive for external beauty but what other people get attracted are internal beauty and your characteristics. In A Mother in a Refugee Camp Achebe is saying that poverty is overlooked while Dickinson is saying that beauty is overlooked.

As shown here, there is a contrast yet comparison. The contrast is that the two poets are talking about two opposite features – beauty and poverty. But the comparison is that they are saying that these two characteristics are overlooked in olden and modern days. Another major comparison is “Like putting flowers on a tiny grave”. This shows that the child is going to die soon and the mother is foreseeing it very quickly, even though she doesn’t want to. There is also a comparison of everyday occurrence of tenderness with putting flowers on a grave shows how inevitable the child’s death is and also the fact that she knows it.

There is also a simile with a contrast – the child used to live happily, go to school, have breakfast, but now the child doesn’t have good clothes, bad hair and has to eat nothing but crumbs and rotten food which are destroying the child. In the same way, in the poem The Weary Blues the black man in the poem knows that death is inevitable for him and so he is basically ‘singing’ his feelings due to his helplessness to help himself. Another pointer for this poem is the ellipses that are present. The poet has cleverly used this technique to suggest a change of topic (lines 3 and 11).

From line 3 – 4 the topic changes from a religious view to what is happening in the real world. It also changes from a mother’s feelings and emotions to the current situation. From line 11 and onwards, the topic changes from the real world to what happened in the past. As for death, she is trying to remember her child more before the child dies, and she is trying to make herself feel happy by remembering these fond memories. But deep down inside, she is feeling extremely hurt. Likewise, in the poem I died for beauty but was scarce, the poet is feeling hurt inside and wants to die

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Descriptive Essay IGCSE English First Language

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GCSE Descriptive Writing  by bobstrawberry

Descriptives and Narratives(IGCSE English) by GauthamK

IGCSE grade 9 (A**) narrative writing by SAFFRON69

IGCSE First Language English (Descriptive & Narrative) by hayley_1628

High school One Shots (IGCSE) by PhenyoDitebo


From Students to Students


Q. Describe the few minutes just before and after an outdoor event is ruined by weather.


The majestic ball of fire thrones over the azure blue sky, standing out distinctly, amidst the moseying clouds that appear as specks of white colours gently dabbed onto a cerulean canvas. The beam of light emerging from the tangerine orb is reflected by the coarse multitude of the seaside’s sand grains lined endlessly in a deep saga of golden hues resembling a never ending stretch of a desent. My almond eyes gaze at the water waves bobbing up and down like a precarious see-saw, hosting a plethora of organisms and myriads of minute fish deeper down it tumultous expanse.

The sight is eventually replaced by young, freckle-faced children excitedly scrambling themselves like squawking hens in a packed cage, to drench their feet in the gushing tides. Splashes of water from the little monkeys chattering their lungs away in a discordant cacophony reach the perspiring faces of the serious-faced, grim adults, now engrossed in setting up their clanging, silvery pots and pans preparing for their barbecue. As the heat from the fire grill gushes into my body in a suction like manner the way a frog may succulently grasp its prey through its long, unwinding tongue, I observe the crowd from our get together queuing themselves up, trickling into line like ants on a lollipop.

A whiff of freshly baked apple pie drifts towards my nostrils tempting both my gustatory and olfactory buds as I yearn to take a bite of the layered cake, with the hard, crispy surface and the Creamy, Velvety layers tasting..as soft as they’d look simply gushing down my currently parched mouth. The pungent, bitter-sweet odour of delicacies adorned with thyme and cinnamon prick my nostrils as I walk over to join the group intensely packed in discussion, a few eyeing each other with bladed eyes that could pierce one’s soul. Gradually droplets a different odour stimulates my nostrils one resembling the muddy, earthed smell of petrichor. As droplets of water begin to adorn my face, smudging my eyelines and causing it to trickle down my down pink cheeks like a river gushing down a mountain, I begin to wonder to myself. Was it merely droplets of the saline seawater reaching us due to the restless bunch of having children a gala of a time near the sea or was it the heavens showering us with torrents of rain to drench us?

My question is answered as I frowningly glance upwards to look at the to heavy bank of greying clouds resembling whiffs of smoke cloaking nearer to each other and concealing the flaming orb which now submergingly accepts it defeat to the fury of the rainclouds. They menacingly begin to pelt a violent tattoo of a multitude of never ending water droplets, disrupting our relishinent of the freshly brewed coffee and chatter sessions which had launched me into a reminiscent saga of memories. I was on anchored to the spot whilst the others begin to staggeringly pace themselves with a rocketing velocity to stuff their belongings into their brightly coloured handbags. My rooted spot to motion is eventually broken as I leap like a gazelle in the dancing-Prairie grass, grasping my belongings to hear the menacing, broken and angered sounds of thunder, which seemed to glare at all of us with the clouds seeming like daggers, drowning the high pitched shrieks of us onlookers. The waves which had been initially bobbing gently in a transverse motion like a dancing china doll on the mantelpiece are now subjected to violent jolts in their upward motion resembling angry men aggressively moving a slinky rope. Bolts of lightning strike the now jet black sky, standing out distinctively like white fairy or pearls adorning a black dress.

The north winds blow as though in an endeavour to uproot the gigantic trees of the beach, which are now compelled to bend in a meek, submissive manner, standing in a sterk contrast to the breeze, prior to this storm which had suddenly erupted in our midst. The cool colonnade of the breeze had whispered to the rustling autumn leaves of orange and yellow resembling the Majestic orb which had assumed its place. The same leaves are now violently snapped in the gale, similar to our excitement and wave of disappointment that washes over me in tides to witness our get together being mercilessly destroyed.

As we head back to our vehicles like a flock of birds retiring to their nests after a long day, I glance backwards to witness the beach no longer appearing like the appealing sandy seashore it previously did, shocked at this staggering twist of nature.

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Igcse English Paper 3 Sample Answers

IGCSE English Paper 3 Model answers BY Anusha291098 Description of a sunny day:- The freshly watered grass gleams as if it were dotted with sparkling diamonds in the late afternoon day. Beautiful, wild flowers grow untamed and uncultivated on one side of the field while on the other side trees covered the perimeter as far as the eyes could see. A silent stream trickles gently through the clean-cut rocks placed in middle of the field, divided the field into two.

Essay Example on Global Warming Sample

Not many knew where to find this sun-dappled, thereal beauty of God’s private chapel and those who did, did not dare to come here for the fear of getting lost from the clearly marked trail.

As I lay down on the soft grass I cannot help but wonder how silly people can be, staying away from this beautiful gift provided by nature itself, but at the same time I’m glad for the privacy.

I place one hand in the stream and watch the water run thorough my fingers, shimmering magically in the fierce sun.

Though it seems like I’m not the only one njoying this paradise, a shadow looms over me blocking the radiant sun rays. I look up to see a family of four; two parents and their two children trekking in the woods. They mustVe been lost, from the look of their faces. Tear paths show clearly on their mud cover faces and they break out in big smiles when they see me.

igcse english essay samples

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“ Have been using her for a while and please believe when I tell you, she never fail. Thanks Writer Lyla you are indeed awesome ”

I stand up, and the mother starts talking, explaining how they got lost in the woods that morning after having wandered what they thought a few meters away from the trail.

I quickly ive them my canister of orange Juice, which they quickly gulp down hungrily. After theyVe calmed down considerably I give them directions to the highway where theyVe left their car. They thank me profusely and leave with the extra map and compass I always keep with me. What an interesting day! , I think to myself. The sun retreats below the rim of the turning world, creating an aura of mystery and magic. Indigo hues deepen around the mesmerizing and occasionally surprising field that IVe come to love in the few years IVe known it.

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Igcse English Paper 3 Sample Answers

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