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Today is about specifics in essays.
Understanding the advice to “show, don’t tell” is paramount in learning to write good essays, but us SAYING “you have to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ in your essays” is TELLING you — which is not helpful. Today we’ll try (again!) to SHOW you what this means in practice.
Here’s an example: You come in to work on Monday morning, and your buddy says to you, “I went on a really great trip this weekend.”
What does that tell you?
Pretty much nothing. Except that he had a good weekend and probably wishes he was still on his trip rather than telling you about it at work.
Do you know:
-Where he went?
-What he did?
So how about you ask: “Where did you go?”
And he says, “I went to Europe.”
Guess what? You still don’t know squat! Except that he’s probably jet-lagged if he’s already back in the office again. So you can probably write him off for going out for a beer later on tonight. He’s gonna be wiped.
Do you know anything more about his weekend though?
You don’t even know where he went.
Europe is a big place.
Literally, all we get from that answer is this:
It’s kind of like a BSer saying in their MBA essay: “I want to go into consulting.”
OK, well, we have a vague idea of a huge region in our mind. We know that it’s not Central America, and not Africa. (Or that it’s not investment banking, and not entrepreneurship.)
So you say, “Oh, wow, where did you go?”
And he says, “Yeah, I’ve been to Europe a bunch of times.”
(If you’re reading this and saying, “Huh?”, well, now you know the experience EssaySnark frequently has, when we see the answers BSers give to essay questions.)
So you say again, “Where did you go this time?”
And he says, “Oh, mostly Western Europe.”
Which does not narrow things down much. So you wait for him to continue.
“We went to the UK.”
So now we’re here:
Which still hasn’t even narrowed it down to a place where everyone basically speaks the same.
So you say, “Dude, I totally want to hear about your trip, but I have a meeting that starts in a few minutes so I have to go pretty soon. Are you gonna tell me where you went or not?”
And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, totally, dude. I went to Tobermory.”
And he sits there, grinning at you, as if you’re supposed to know what that means.
He went from totally zoomed-out, to totally zoomed-in, and now he’s lost you.
Go ahead and click on that map. See how many clicks it takes to zoom out to where you get oriented.
You need to provide the adcom reader with the just-right amount of information to get oriented.
There’s a fine art to finding this proper level of detail to include.
Almost always, we’re coaxing BSers to be more detailed. More specific. Tell us EXPLICITLY what they mean. If you want to go into consulting, what kind of consulting or what industry or what specialization? Do you know some companies you might want to work for? Where in the world do you want to go work? What are the DETAILS? What is the actual plan?
Even more important: What makes you qualified to go into consulting after the MBA? WHAT, SPECIFICALLY? Can you point to an example? How about another?
We need to know what you want to do. We need to know what you’ve done.
But we need to know it in the proper level of detail. Specific is always good – until it’s not.
Go back over your writing. Check where you’re only giving the reader vague outlines — or where you’ve zoomed in too far.
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Tell us what you think.