I’m taking a class this fall. It isn’t a regular offering, but it’s taught by a professor at a nearby university, and I’d describe it as similar in workload to the classes I took in college back in the day. Why I didn’t think about homework before signing up is a little bit of a mystery. By the time the class met in September, I was already behind in the reading. I tried to catch up from the first week and didn’t do any of the reading for the second week. Then there were two weeks when we didn’t meet. Good opportunity to catch up, right? No. I was utterly undisciplined and was lucky to have finished the reading for the third class, having abandoned the idea of finishing the work for weeks one and two. I’m prepared for tonight, but I wouldn’t describe my preparation as thorough. Sigh. At least this experience allows me to connect with our sometimes-overwhelmed students.
Whenever I manage to do the reading, there’s another way in which the class connects to my work. As I’ve read, I’ve been contemplating the nature of academic writing. Must it have big multisyllabic words? Or can complex thoughts be expressed in clear language?
Regardless of my ability to achieve my own ideal when I write, I adhere to the concept that clear language is something to which we should aspire, and that use of big words should not be our goal. Why, then, do so many applicants seem to write a draft of their application essays and then randomly select words to which they’ll give the thesaurus treatment? It’s as if they ask, “Why use an ordinary word like ‘ordinary’ when we can substitute ‘quotidian'”?
Dear blog readers, I implore you to consider the readers of your application. We’re all educated people, and we won’t be won over by a thesaurusized essay. Instead, make your essays clear and straightforward. Use a ten-dollar word if it’s natural for you and suits your sentence, but don’t strive to do so because you think the Admissions Committee expects it. Your aim should be to make your experience and objectives clear to the Committee. As you put the finishing touches on your essays for an Early Notification application, or start the process of writing essays for a January application, keep this in mind: plain language can go a long way toward winning over your readers.
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