Monday Morning Essay Tip: Leave Out Extreme Descriptions

This week we offer an oxymoron of sorts: extreme humility. We suppose that one candidate could be more humble than the next, but one could never refer to oneself as “extremely humble,” because doing so would undermine the very claim to humility.

Our philosophy at mbaMission is that candidates should let their experiences—not just their word choices—captivate the admissions committees. Sometimes we find that instead, candidates attempt to emphasize their actions with “extreme” adjectives and adverbs, and this is an approach we strongly advise against.

Example: “As others withdrew their support, I remained remarkably dedicated to our crucial fundraising efforts. I dramatically increased my participation in our strategic planning meetings and insisted that we push forward with a wildly creative guerilla marketing plan, which brought forth tremendous results—$1M in ‘instant’ proceeds.”

In these two sentences, the writer uses the descriptors remarkablydramaticallywildly and tremendous to make his impression. We find that a more effective approach is to eliminate these “extreme” descriptions and let the experiences do the “talking.”

Example: “As others withdrew their support, I remained dedicated to our fundraising efforts. I increased my participation in our strategic planning meetings and insisted that we push forward with a guerilla marketing plan that brought $1M in ‘instant’ proceeds.”

In this second example, we do not need to be told that the results were “tremendous,” because the $1M speaks for itself; we do not need to be told that the marketing campaign was “wildly creative,” because this is implied in the nature of guerilla marketing. In addition to truly showing a level of humility on the part of the candidate, this approach is also less wordy. Although the eight words saved in the latter example may seem inconsequential, we removed them from only two sentences. If we can remove four words from each and every sentence, we would be able to significantly (but of course humbly) augment your essay with other compelling ideas.

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