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Monday Morning Essay Tips: Avoid Platitudes

Many business school candidates unwittingly start their essays with platitudes—obvious or trite remarks that are written as though they were original. To give an example, when responding to the Harvard Business School essay question “Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision,” a candidate might mistakenly write the following:

“Managers constantly face difficult decisions. Still, everyone hates indecision.”

The writer does not “own” this idea and cannot lay claim to this statement. A simple alternative would be to insert his or her personal experience and viewpoint into the sentence:

“Yet again, I was in the boardroom with Steve, anticipating that he would change his mind on the mbaMission file.”

By discussing your personal and unique experiences, you take ownership of your story and engage your reader. Avoiding platitudes and generalities—and ensuring that you are sharing your experience, rather than one that could belong to anyone else—is a simple but often overlooked step in creating a compelling message.




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