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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Earning Your Keep

Anyone who has written an email that has been misunderstood, let alone an MBA application essay, is no doubt aware of the subtleties of language and the simple nuances that can change a message’s meaning.  Indeed, you can enliven a simple sentence by simply choosing a more active verb.

For example, consider the verb “earn.” By using “earn” in the examples below, rather than using a more passive approach, we change just one word and thereby alter the meaning of each sentence. Suddenly, you are in control—suddenly you worked hard and, as a result, attained great accomplishments.

Bad:  “I received my PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of So-and-So.”
Good:  “I earned my PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of So-and-So.”

Bad:  “I was promoted from junior to senior analyst.”  (Also bad because of passive voice.)
Good:  “I earned a promotion from junior to senior analyst.”

Bad:  “As a result of obtaining my MBA, I will be able to….”
Good:  “As a result of earning my MBA, I will be able to….”

Once you have finished your essays, review them and check to see how often you can replace certain words with the verb “earn” or a form thereof—you’ve earned it!




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