Recently, a prospective business school candidate emailed mbaMission with the following question: “What is the most basic stylistic error that candidates make when writing their MBA application essays?” Our answer: unnecessary repetition. Although repeating a word within a single sentence or in consecutive sentences does not constitute a grammatical mistake, it can still be grating to a reader’s “ear.”
Consider this example:
“During my time at XYZ Sales, I increased productivity by 31% and increased revenue by 21%. Meanwhile, I increased my client base by an industry-leading 81%, bringing increased prestige to my firm.”
Although this example—which uses the word “increased” four times in just two sentences—may seem like an exaggerated case, it is actually not as rare as you might expect. However, the repetition can be easily eliminated and the sentences made increasingly reader friendly with just a few simple changes:
“During my time at XYZ Sales, I increased productivity by 31% and revenue by 21%. Meanwhile, I grew my client base by an industry-leading 81%, enhancing my firm’s prestige.”
The key to eliminating repetition is to first become aware of the potential problem and then gain distance from your work. By stepping away from your essay drafts for a day or two and then going back to reread them, you will gain the objectivity necessary to catch—and correct—this easily avoidable mistake.