There are several ways to improve your writing for the college entrance examinations and your college application essays.

This sentence features a form of weak syntax known as "expletive construction." Phrases that begin with "there" or "it" and a form of "to be" are often unnecessarily wordy and should generally be avoided. (The word "expletive," when used as an adjective, can mean "serving to fill a vacancy" and refers to the lack of meaning offered by these phrases.)

Notice the impact made by restructuring the sentence to avoid the expletive construction:

You can improve your writing for the college entrance examinations and your college application essays in several ways.

Removing the expletive phrase "There are" places more emphasis on the subject ("you") and the object ("writing"). Furthermore, every word in the sentence now serves a purpose in conveying the meaning of the sentence. "There are" is an empty phrase that did not add anything to the original sentence.

Review the following pairs of sentences and notice the difference that removing an expletive construction can make:

  1. There is a dog sitting on my bed.
  2. A dog is sitting on my bed.

  1. There are three things that you need to remember: close the window, lock the door, and bring the cake.
  2. Remember these three things: close the window, lock the door, and bring the cake.

  1. There was a glass pitcher, which was full of lemonade, on the table.
  2. A glass pitcher of lemonade sat on the table.
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A journalist from the LA Times reports her experiences as a reader for the essay portion of the SAT. She offers several tips for students taking the test:

  • "Varied sentences and vocabulary are good, and smooth transitions help."
  • "Write at least a page and a quarter."
  • "Prepackage some thinking. Get familiar with a couple of Greek myths or literary classics that would work for multiple themes."
  • "Prepare a few highly burnished words that can be applied to almost any situation. A prepared sentence or two wouldn't hurt."

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Quintessential Careers features a section on their website that provides a guide for brainstorming ideas, choosing a topic, and writing an effective college application essay.