“You know what I mean…”
Well…maybe not! There are a hundred different ways to express the same idea on paper, but not every sentence is made equal. When trying to convey information, it’s essential to use a positive tone, direct sentence structure, and precise examples. Otherwise, your message just won’t connect. Or, worse, it could send the totally opposite message of what you intended. Take this paragraph:
When my post-grad coworkers spoke to me, I found they had more respect for their peers and a greater sense of social fairness. Their ingenuity and curiosity prompted me consider an MBA. They also pointed out that I lacked a holistic view of global enterprise – I still viewed business from a bureaucrat’s perspective. That’s the initial push that prompted me to apply to UCLA.
We sort of get what he’s saying… buuuuut this doesn’t quite work for a couple of reasons. First, it’s needlessly long, which weakens his message and leads to some awkward sentence structure. Second, this is too negative in its focus on the skills he’s lacking. Finally, terms such as “social fairness” and “a holistic view of global enterprise” are too vague and lack the clear and precise meaning one wants to convey in an application essay. Now after a few rounds of edits, this is what our applicant came back with…
Approaching colleagues, I found that those with graduate degrees had more respect for others and a greater sense of equality and fairness. Their creativity made me realize that I needed to broaden my horizons beyond a state owned middle-eastern company, prompting me to consider UCLA.
Here’s why this works: he switched his negative tone that emphasized his lack of skills to a positive one that emphasized what he wanted to learn. This changed none of the content but reframed the issue from his inadequacies to what he hopes to achieve. He also cut his word count down by switching to the active tense and limiting himself to two sentences. And, after a series of questions that forced him to clarify his message, he modified his search for “a holistic view of business” to the more concrete and attainable goal of broadening his horizons beyond his home country.
And now his message (and explanation for his need for an MBA) is loud and clear for the adcom.
- A positive tone.
- Short direct sentences using the active tone.
- Concrete, attainable goals.
Check out the other articles in this series:
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #15: Being Brief Vs. Being Detailed
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #14: Building a Better Achievement
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #13: Avoiding “Application Fatigue”
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #12: Writing On A Deadline
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #11: Researching Your Dream School
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #10: Sentence Breakdown: Career Transition
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #9: A Guide to Fantastic Essay Conclusions
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #8: Simplify Your Writing By Avoiding Buzzwords
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #7: “Your School Is Ideal Because…”
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #6: Breaking Down Technical Jargon
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #5: Getting Specific With Goals
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #4: Writing About Sensitive Topics
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #3: Quantifying Success
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #2: Making Your Personal Qualities POP!
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #1: Building a Catchy Intro