I am an undergraduate student applying to grad schools this year.

I was recently told by my friend (who is already in a PhD program now) that I should consider underlining some key sentences in my SoP, and put them in bold font, since the admission committee most likely won't have the time to read every whole statement, and this would be a good way to catch their eyes on the key points I want to express. It can also expedite the reviewing process so in this sense it is also helpful to the admission committee.

I think this makes sense, but I am still a bit hesitant since I'm not sure if this would be viewed as a poor writing style. Would this be welcomed from the viewpoint of an admission committee?

  • Is there a word limit on your statement? If so, what is the limit?
    – Nicholas
    Dec 11, 2012 at 13:03
  • @Nicholas Some does not mention the limit explicitly, but most others put it at around 1000 words.
    – Vokram
    Dec 11, 2012 at 13:06
  • 3
    Underlined and bold? I think you should reconsider your friendship.
    – JeffE
    Dec 12, 2012 at 4:06

2 Answers 2


If it's your opinion that your readers won't have time to read your whole document, you might want to consider adding an executive summary at the top of your document. This would take the form of a short paragraph which essentially includes all the key phrases or sentences that you would otherwise have highlighted in bold font throughout your document.

If you make your summary pithy, punchy and exciting, you are more likely to entice your reader to read through the remainder of the document.

One might indeed say that highlighting key phrases throughout your summary is a touch lazy. I wrote a similar document and went through and highlighted key phrases, just as you are considering. Then I wrote an executive summary section as the first paragraph, reusing or paraphrasing the key points. I removed the text formatting in the main text body, rewriting the phrases relating to the key points given in the summary to avoid repeating them word for word. To my mind, the result looked more professional and read much better.

  • Thank you Nicolas. My supervisor also advised me against underlining sentences, so I think your solution is the one I should go for.
    – Vokram
    Dec 11, 2012 at 13:23

No. Never underline anything. Underlining is left over from typewriters. It instructs the typesetter to put things in italics. Nowadays, you should put things in italics yourself.

  • 2
    I didn't know that underlining was supposed to indicate italicization. Interesting!
    – Suresh
    Dec 12, 2012 at 6:37

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