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B is for Bashful – How the Seven Dwarves can help you write a better essay.

So maybe they're not the archetypes of Jungian psychology. But, boy. Among the lot of them, those Seven Dwarves have pretty much got us pegged.

Personally, I know I've dated at least three Grumpies, one Sneezy-Grumpy, and a Doc.

(I keep trying to date Happy, really I do. What can I say? Happy just doesn't make me feel like a room without a roof.)

But, right. This isn't my sex and dating column...

The point is: we don't just behave like little animated caricatures of various personality types - we write like them too.

And without a doubt the dwarf that most of us learn to write like is Doc. Always putting things assertively. Always sounding like we're sure we've got the answer right.

Then, just like Doc, we often end up sounding less convincing than we imagine...

One of the ways to write better essays than you ever thought you could is to channel different personality types as you draft and redraft a piece. Heaven knows you shouldn't limit your inspiration to the Seven Dwarves, but they do make for handy illustrations.

For instance, if you're a straight-up Doc when you write--always sounding assertive and sure of yourself? Try a little Bashful when you sit down to revise.

That doesn't mean sprinkling your essay with "maybes" and signs of self-doubt. Just... take a moment to channel Bashful, that charming little guy who's humble enough to blush every time Snow White smiles. Then take a read-through.

Your inner Bashful is the one who will blush when you read yourself trying to bluster your way through an argument:

"It is a universally acknowledged phenomenon that insert wobbly, untested idea."


"Since the dawn of time humans have insert indefensibly broad proposition about human behavior."

Yeah. Go ahead and look down at your shoes for a moment - it really does sound as bad as you think. But no harm done! Just pull that writing back...just a little. Nix the sweeping language - the "universally acknowledged" this and "since dawn of time" that. Seek out a little more info and reformulate your claims with more precision. Back things up with an extra cite or two if you can.

It takes humility to recognize where you've let big sweeping language cover up for not knowing what you want to write--or if what you're writing is true.

But that touch of humility will make you all the more convincing in the end.

So if you write like Doc, go ahead and edit with some Bashful.

If you're a Happy (you know who you are, you gushy writers who all but put smiley faces in your essay titles) - why not try channeling your inner Grumpy when you rewrite? Give yourself a chance to really bite into that argument.

Just everyone--stay away from Sneezy.

Sneezy never seems to help.