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How to write an English Language/Literature personal statement

How to write an English Language/Literature personal statement

by Emily Jackson

When you're applying to university, a personal statement is your chance to showcase what you can offer. It's important to be persuasive, direct, and really project your love of your subject. You also need to highlight why you think your chosen university should want you.

Ultimately, an English Language/Literature personal statement should tell the reader two things: why you want to study the subject and why they should want you as a student on their course. In our latest blog, we've spoken to current academics and admissions teams to find out:


How do I start my personal statement? 

Getting started is often the hardest part of the process.

With so much information online about what's right and wrong, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused. However, you don't need to put pen to paper right away; instead, warm up to writing by:

  • Writing a checklist of why you want to apply for the programme. What is great about it? How does it fit into your long-term goals? Who do you hope to study or work with?

  • Look at the degree pages of the universities you’re applying to. It's here that you'll find detailed overviews of what the programme entails. This will give you a better understanding of the type of candidate they're after. Use this information to show how much of a desirable student you are. 


What should an English Language/Literature personal statement include?

  1. A clear demonstration of why you want to study English Language and Linguistics. Talk about why the subject interests you and what areas you want to learn more about.

  2. An explanation of how the subject fits in with your aspirations for the future. Is there a career you're interested in pursuing, or a field of research you're keen to explore in more detail? This tells the reader that you've chosen this degree as part of a long-term plan, and frames you as a forward-thinking and passionate candidate.

  3. A description of why you're qualified to study this subject. Include examples of related academic or work experience. For instance:
    • speaking/learning any other languages
    • writing a blog
    • volunteering at a newspaper or local school
    • virtual work experience
    • teaching English abroad

How to write a good English Language/Literature personal statement?

  1. Avoid any clichés, platitudes and general statements, such as 'I've always had a passion for Linguistics' . 

    What many personal statement guides won't tell you is that starting with a quote is overdone.  Aim to be clear and concise in your first draft; it’s a lot easier to go back and add flair later! If you're unsure how to open your personal statement without sounding cliched, try writing your introduction last. 

  2. Vary the length of your sentences, and keep your points concise 

    Imagine your personal statement being read in the context of thousands of others, It's important that you stand out, and don't go into too much unnecessary detail. Fundamentally, don't make the reader work hard to see your potential.

    Make sure your personal statement flows, and your arguments are succinct. Reading drafts aloud is a great way to check this. If you read it back and stumble over your words or get out of breath, chances are your reader will find it tough to digest, too. 

  3.  Keep everything relevant

    It's tough, we get it. You've written a sentence or a paragraph that you're really proud of, and you like how it flows. But it just doesn't serve the purpose of your personal statement. Unfortunately, it has to go. The key to nailing your personal statement is to only include essential, valuable pieces of information.

    So, write multiple drafts, move different sections around, cut out irrelevant bits and take breaks between writing. A personal statement isn’t something you can type out in 20 minutes. It's a document that represents you and what you're passionate about - it deserves lots of time and attention.

  4. Have someone else check over it

    The more fresh eyes you can get on your personal statement, the better. Sometimes, when we work hard on something, we don't always see the errors or missteps that are right in front of us. 

    Never be afraid to ask for help! Share drafts with friends, family or teachers and ask them to look out for any spelling or grammatical errors.

Do I have to mention a book in my personal statement? 

No. For literature degrees, mentioning a book or other text can help to demonstrate an active interest in literature.

However, for English language and/or linguistics personal statements, this is by no means necessary.

If you're really keen to discuss a text that's had a profound impact on you, keep it relevant. Don't just talk about the books you’ve studied at school or college.


How do I make my personal statement impressive? 

Think less about making your personal statement impressive, and more about making yourself impressive.

Do extra reading, volunteer work, research the course you're interested in studying thoroughly. 

Remember, the strongest pieces of writing don't need fluff or unnecessarily long words. You'll impress the reader with a well-structured, clear essay.

Download: How to write YOUR personal statement