Writing Well - Convey A Message

The message of your GRE essay is ultimately what you want your audience to understand from your writing. When you think about the purpose (why you are writing), and the audience (who you are writing to), you should ultimately come up with a message that imparts significance to your essay. And, how well you get your message across to the reader will in large part determine your score on the essay portion of the GRE exam. Fortunately, you can structure your essay and your ideas in such a way that your message is concise and insightful.

Relaying a Message - an Example

Let us assume that your purpose is to write an essay that describes an important event in your life. You have chosen to discuss the day your friend was injured after drinking and driving. And, assume that you've completed the brain-storming portion of the essay, for which you have determined the following audience and purpose:

  • Purpose: The purpose of the essay is to convince my audience that I learned from this event, and that it was an experience that I will carry with me throughout my life. I want the audience to know that this experience changed the way I view my friends, my social life, and the trust that my parents have in me.
  • Audience: The audience is an essay evaluator. Since I do not know this person I must avoid slang and technical jargon. I want to sound knowledgeable and reflective about my experience so that my audience can assume that this event had a significant impact on my life.

Now, which of the following messages is more meaningful when it comes to explaining the significance of the above event?

Example 1: My message for this essay is going to be that drinking and driving is wrong. My main point is that my friend should never have been drinking and driving because it led him to suffer serious injuries.

Example 2: My message for this essay is that I learned that day that it is necessary to take responsibility for our actions. My friends and I didn’t think much about drinking and driving before that day but I know now that I shouldn't wait for something bad to happen before I think about the consequences of my actions.

Example number two is clearly more descriptive. Read it again and try to figure out why it is the better of the two examples.

The answer is that example number two is a more personal lesson that relates to the story being told in the essay. If the purpose of the essay was to impart significance to this event, then the second example is much more successful in giving a personal, well written meaning to the experience. Example one is much less personal and much less powerful. While its message "don't drink and drive" is an important one, it is rather generic and could be deduced without much thought or effort put into the essay itself.

Is Your Message a Good One?

Not just any message is a good one. You don't want your GRE essay to be drab and dull. For that reason, refrain from relaying a message that is trite or unoriginal. That does not mean that your message cannot be simple -- quite the contrary! Rather, just make sure that the message that you want to relay to your reader is insightful, poignant, and worth-reading.

To determine if your intended message is a good one, here are a few questions that you might ask:

  • What is the main point of this essay?
  • What is my message summarized into a few short sentences?
  • Does my message support my purpose in writing the GRE essay?