As a writer, I must constantly be on guard against it. As a college consultant, I check essays carefully for it. As a student, you must be aware of it.
The tendency to overuse words and phrases affects all writers. We get an idea in our head – a theme if you will. Then, we tend to hammer it to death within our writing.
Since most college personal statements are a mere 500-650 words, repetition sticks out like a sore thumb to everyone but the writer themselves. I have caught myself using a single word four or five times in an article. I’ve caught students exhausting a single word as many as twenty-one times in an essay. Not only does this lead to a sluggish composition and boredom for our reader, it makes us look like we have a seriously limited vocabulary.
How do you guard against this?
- Let your writing grow cold. Once you think you are finished, go away and leave it for a week. Come back to it and you’ll be amazed at what you catch.
- Read it out loud. A specific turn of phrase might have sounded great in your head. However, when it is vocalized, you find the spots that are hard for a reader to follow.
- Look specifically for word or phrase repetition. Microsoft Word has a search bar in the upper right corner that allows you to check your document.
- Use a thesaurus. College essays are not the place to display a compromised vocabulary!
- Be aware that there are some words that are so strong or overused that they should only be used once, if at all: passion, amazing, life changing, etc.
Watch your words if you want to leave a good impression with college admissions officers!
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