One way to conserve words in your application essays and short-answer responses is by pluralizing nouns whenever possible. Singular words often require an article such as “a,” “an,” or “the.” These words can add unnecessarily to your word count, thereby cluttering your page without contributing to your argument or style. Consider the following example:
“A manager with an MBA can ascend the corporate ladder faster than a manager who lacks an MBA.” (18 words)
Now consider this version, in which many of the singular nouns have been pluralized:
“Managers with MBAs can ascend the corporate ladder faster than managers without MBAs.” (13 words)
As you can see, both sentences present the same idea, but one sentence is five words shorter than the other. Given that application essays can include dozens or even hundreds of sentences, pluralizing wherever possible is helpful in meeting word count requirements and decluttering the text.
Although decluttering your application essays is important, ensure that all of your sentences are not the same length. Many business school applicants use medium-length sentences (like this one) in their essays. Few use short sentences (like this one). Likewise, few use long sentences in their application essays, even though long sentences (like this one) can often play a useful role in an essay’s structure and story.
Confused? Consider the following example:
“At XYZ Inc., I was the manager in charge of leading a team of 12 staff members. Included in my team were four engineers, four marketing professionals, and four market analysts. Our goal was to develop a new thingamajig within six months. We worked really hard over the six months and succeeded. The new thingamajig is now on the market and is selling well. As a result of my efforts, I was promoted to vice president.”
All these sentences have approximately the same number of words and the same rhythm/cadence, making the paragraph fairly boring to read. Nothing changes—the structure just repeats itself over and over again, with one medium-length sentence following another medium-length sentence.
Now consider this example:*
“At XYZ Inc., I was the manager in charge of leading a thingamajig development team of 12 staff members, four of whom were engineers, four were marketing professionals, and four were market analysts. We had just six months to launch our new product. The team worked really hard and succeeded, and the new thingamajig is now on the market, where it is selling well. As a result of my efforts, I was promoted to vice president.”
The sentences in this paragraph are varied—the first is quite long, the second is very short, the third is medium-long, and the fourth is medium-short. Sentence variety makes for a much more interesting read, and one very short sentence in the middle of some longer ones can provide precisely the kind of contrast and drama that application essays so often need.
*Please note that this is a simplified example for illustration purposes. If this were an actual essay, we would encourage the applicant to offer greater insight into his/her experience launching the product.
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