Concise and Precise Writing: College Admissions Essay Help (page 2)
One of the most common problems with high school writing rarely registers with students. After years of completing assignments with specific word count requirements, students are often in the habit of extending their arguments with dozens of unnecessary words and phrases to make the count. Since the typical college application essay is between 250 and 500 words, and because it is imperative that you tell a compelling story about yourself, now is the time to pare down your writing. Leave out common clutter words and phrases, and get to the point to make your essay strong.
Wordiness is a favorite error in multiple-choice questions in the Writing section of the SAT. Get in the habit of being concise, and you'll be able to correctly answer more questions and score more points.
Four Phrases to Avoid
The following four worst phrase offenders are all too well known and used. They should be eliminated from your writing because they either aren't necessary, or are awkward and should be altered to a shorter form.
- Because of the fact that.
In most cases, because alone will do.
- Instead of: Because of the fact that it rained, the game was canceled.
- Write: Because it rained, the game was canceled.
Eliminate them by turning the idea in the that or which phrase into an adjective.
- Instead of: This was a course that was very helpful.
- Write: This was a very helpful course.
- Instead of: The game, which lasted three hours, ended at nine.
- Write: The three-hour game ended at nine.
These constructions avoid the direct approach and are often unnecessary. Drop them and replace with a clear agent of action.
- Instead of: It was with regret that I left the school for the last time.
- Write: I left the school for the last time with regret.
- Instead of: There is no reason I can find to make another choice.
- Write: I can find no reason to make another choice.
Word Choices for Concise Writing
Use the following list to revise or delete wordy phrases and improve the effectiveness of your writing.
|a lot of||many or much|
|all of a sudden||suddenly|
|along the lines of||like|
|are able to||can|
|as a matter of fact||in fact|
|as a person||(delete)|
|as a whole||(delete)|
|as the case may be||(delete)|
|at the present time||currently or now|
|both of these||both|
|by and large||(delete)|
|compare and contrast||compare|
|due to the fact that||because|
|for all intents and purposes||(delete)|
|has a tendency to||often|
|has the ability to||can|
|in order to||to|
|in the event that||if|
|in the near future||soon|
|is able to||can|
|it is clear that||(delete)|
|last but not least||finally|
|on a daily basis||daily|
|on account of the fact that||because|
|period of time||time|
|somewhere in the neighborhood of||about|
|the fact that||that|
|the majority of||most|
|the reason why||the reason|
|through the use of||through|
|with regard to||regarding|
|with the exception of||except for|
Another way to make certain your writing is concise is to check for the repetition of ideas and information. Saying the same thing more than once can really bore your reader. Writers often repeat themselves unnecessarily because they are not sure they've been clear, or they're not attentive to the need to be concise. Get it right the first time, be confident, and move on.
Repetition in your application essay can take two forms: word choice and content. Word choice refers to the use of unnecessary words and phrases that simply repeat information already given. For example:
- Repetitive: The awards ceremony was held at 4 p.m. in the afternoon.
- Concise: The awards ceremony was held at 4 p.m.
- Repetitive: As I pointed out in my list of extracurricular activities, I was elected to student council for four years in a row, and during two of those years I was the president.
- Concise: I was elected to student council for four years, and spent two years as president.
Content refers to the personal information you are writing about. The essay is not the place to repeat information that can be found elsewhere on your application. For instance, you have already listed your extracurricular activities and GPA, and they have been noted by the admissions committee. There is no need to remind them of these accomplishments. Use your essay to tell your readers something they don't already know about you.
Correcting Repetitive Sentences
Review the following repetitive sentence corrections and avoid making these mistakes in your essay.
- Repetitious: It is essential that everyone arrive promptly and on time.
- Concise: It is essential that everyone arrive on time.
- Repetitious: It's time to terminate the project and put an end to it.
- Concise: It's time to terminate the project.
- Repetitious: While I was in the all-state orchestra I played first violin and beat out all the other violinists for first chair.
- Concise: I played first violin in the all-state orchestra.
Once you've eliminated clutter words and phrases, you want to be certain that your word choices deliver the maximum impact. Choosing appropriate adjectives and adverbs (modifiers) make your points clear and convey ideas with greater style and more shades of meaning. Consider the difference between these two sentences:
- Tom puts his hat on, and walks away.
- Tom Wessels slaps his felt hat over his bushy hair, and starts striding away with the confident gait of a hiker.
The latter example allows you to hear the full voice of the writer, and provides a more interesting picture of the action. The first sentence is simply dull. Using modifiers brings your reader more closely into your story, and helps create an important visual and/or emotional connection that makes your writing more powerful and memorable.
Examples of Powerful, Precise Adjectives and Adverbs
Review the following phrases. They're strong examples of effective essay word choices.
- directly involved
- unflagging dedication
- promptly accepted
- productive discussion
- grueling game
- instinctively aware
- influential teacher
- invaluable learning experience
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory