- Enumerate your achievements (such as good grades and prizes) but do not show them off. Use them as indicators that your chosen career path is going in the right direction.
- Do not belittle yourself, your effort, or your achievements.
- This is not the place to list things that you cannot do, or that you don't find interesting.
- Do not overly praise the institution you are applying to. They know how good they are, and they also know that you are applying to several other places.
- But demonstrate that you know what is special about this particular institution, and give the impression that you know why you are applying there.
- Use the active voice, especially when you talk about yourself. ("I found cell biology fascinating" instead of "Cell biology attracted me".)
- Be as precise as possible. Use specific instead of general terms. ("I operated a gas chromatograph in a bioanalytical laboratory" instead of "I worked in a lab".)
- Use active verbs that carry precise meanings, instead of general ones. Look at the List of Verbs to use in a Graduate School Essay, and the special List of Active Verbs structured by Levels of Abstraction.
- Use positive language, looking towards your aims. ("I came to Germany because of the superior opportunities to study biochemistry" instead of "I left xxx because it stunted my scientific growth".)
- Look at the "Words and phrases to avoid without explanation" section of the site, http://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement.stm .
- Books on style in general: The best book on writing in English that I know is "The elements of style" by William Strunk and E.B. White. It can be found in the IRC.
- Perform a spell and grammar check usin using your word processor, and have your essay read by a native English speaker. CSC may be able to help with this.