When it comes to creative writing, applicants to business school are the best.
Actually, your MBA essays are not meant to be a creative writing exercise. Even though storytelling is an important technique to be leveraging in your applications, there’s a good way and a bad way to go about it – and the worst way is to use flamboyant language and made-up phrases.
Which we’ve been seeing a lot of.
We’ve come across some real doozies in the past few weeks. Words and terms that just don’t mean diddly squat. Phrases like these:
- my solidified personal expertise (“solidified” as an adjective, not a verb)
- collaborated analytics (again, “collaborated” as an adjective; do they mean “calibrated”?)
- best-in-class syncing speed
- system of record
- deficiency focused training
- With [city] domiciling vibrant startup and NGO communities, I want to…
Listed out that way, perhaps they don’t seem that bad, but when you hit one odd phrase after another in a paragraph, then it quickly bogs down into undecipherableness.
Sometimes you can get away with using jargon or technical terms in an essay when you offer enough context around it, in a way that the reader understands what it means. But you should only do that once in blue moon — or not at all. Jargon just does not belong in an essay. If the definition you give for the term also includes jargon then you’re really in trouble.
We’re not sure which is worse: Going too deep down into the weeds in trying to explain the intricacies of a project that you worked on, or staying at such a high level that you’re not capturing your skills and your strengths. The stories that you present in your essays require a certain level of detail to impart meaning and significance. But that detail cannot be so technical or industry-specific that it’s off-putting to your reader.
Remember your audience. Stay focused on conveying meaning in a simple and straightforward way. Be a friend to your reader. Don’t assume that they’re familiar with your world.
And stick to plain English. Ditch the fancytalk. Put away the thesaurus and just write how you speak.
Your first draft may be choppy and rough. It might contain jargon and some silly-sounding phrases. And you might not realize that unless you go back to it later, after letting it sit for some time. (Or after someone points it out to you.)
[A]sk friends or family members for feedback — especially about whether the tone and voice sound like you.
That may seem like great advice, but we’re not convinced that people in your life are that well equipped to offer that type of feedback; if you get your mom to read your essay, she’s probably going to think it sounds great! No matter what you say! That’s what moms do. Most people slip into “essay writing mode” where they use fancy words and complicated language when trying to write an important document like an MBA essay, and they don’t see the problem with it – but that’s not the best way to go. That type of writing will almost always make the essay sound stiff, and unnatural. It usually requires a lot of rewriting to get the ideas to flow and the language to come across clean.
That’s why, starting now for Round 2 applications is wise.
You may also be interested in:
- Words that appear only in MBA essays and resumes
- The buzzword trap
- Please ditch these words from your vocabulary, or at least your essays
- An exercise for writing teachers to use with their students, from the New York Times: Thank you, thesaurus: Experimenting with the right word vs the almost right word