It’s technically a holiday in the U.S. — Labor Day, where Americans are supposed to having end-of-summer barbeques and final beach trips and all. But not this year, because coronavirus, and actually, never in Snarkville, because deadlines.
Yup, it’s happened. The deadlines are here!
We’re busy reading essays and apps in case you’re feeling nervous and want some input before you click that final “submit” button — our Sanity Check is a great way to get an expert’s take on whether or not you’re ready to go with Harvard or whichever other school is stressing you out at the moment.
If you’re in the final edit phrase, we’ll toss out a few links to posts from the ‘snarchives that may be useful, including this one on what seems obvious but really is a whole process unto itself: Proofreading.
And a few additional comments today, on another aspect of essay writing that’s not, like, illegal or anything. You’re not going to be rejected if you have these in your essays.
But they’re also not going to help you.
What we’re talking about are cliches.
Cliches are things like what we’ve got up there in the title of this post: “The means must justify the ends.”
The actual saying is “The end justifies the means” and it’s semi-similar to the phrase, “Whatever it takes.” The intention with that is, the final goal or objective is so valuable and even honorable that even if you have to cheat, lie, or steal to get there, it’s justified. Governments like to use this logic to justify doing things like invading foreign countries, such as when America invaded Iraq because our leaders at the time claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Taking out a global threat from WMDs was seen as justification for going to war against a country that actually had done nothing against America (Iraq was not involved in the 9/11 attacks on America, which set all of this in motion).
It turns out that Iraq did not have WMDs, so the invasion was not justified.
Why on earth are we talking about wars from 20 years ago??
Uhhh… not sure, but let’s get back to the topic which is, oh yeah. Cliches.
Cliches are not so great in MBA essays.
You can use them like this. But please don’t use them in your essays.
Cliches are things like “I took the path less traveled” or “Failure is not an option.” Or something maybe your grampa used to say, “Measure twice, cut once.”
Cliches are similar to all those bschool buzzwords that may be littering your essays. They don’t convey actual meaning about YOU. They’re shorthand – but they are not shortcuts. They don’t get you where you want to go with your reader. (Side note: Please also no quotes from your grampa at the start of an essay.)
Cliches can be especially tricky for non-native English speakers. Sometimes we see international applicants attempting to use cliches, and they kinda get them wrong. If cliches used correctly are not helping convey meaning, then cliches used not quite correctly stand out like a sore finger. They draw attention to themselves because the American reader will get stuck there, trying to puzzle out what is meant by the phrase. (Hint: It’s actually “stand out like a sore thumb” which is why that may have looked off to you!)
Here’s a nice overview about cliches from the student writing center at the University of North Carolina.
In business writing, common cliches are things like “At the end of the day…” or “We needed to all get on the same page…” or just “We pivoted to…” There’s nothing actually wrong about these showing up in your essays. They just make the reader tune out when reading; they’re like dead space on the page.
If your essay is finished, it might be worth going over one more time to see if you can identify any cliches.
See if you can remove them in favor of a statement that is actually written in your own voice, with something specific to you. How can you characterize the idea you were using the shorthand of a cliche for? Or, maybe it can be simply deleted? The “At the end of the day” phrase doesn’t usually need to be in the sentence. If it says, “We decided that, at the end of the day, we would all be happy with the outcome if we did it that way” then you could just write it as “We decided we would all be happy if we did it that way.” Streamline. Tighten.
Is this the most important change that would need to be made to an essay? No. Totally not.
But we’re in the 11th hour. If you’ve got your draft done, you should be proud of it! Doing last-minute hack-job edit attempts is unlikely going to be worth the stress. If you’ve been following along with our advice this season and trying to incorporate what we’ve been offering to create a sophisticated essay for Harvard, then what you have now represents your best effort already, and so looking for small value-adds like this “no cliches” exercise is probably a decent use of your time. You’re unlikely to clobber any otherwise-good work with making little changes, and having a more personalize sentence here and there — sure, that’s additive, in the quest towards making every word count on the page.
So yeah, Labor Day in the U.S. always means labor day in Snarkville ‘cuz there are Brave Supplicants looking to get their best pitch possible completed! If that’s you and you think EssaySnark might be able to help, we’re here – hit us up for whatever type of support you’re in need of – we would love to dig in and see what you’ve got!