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Use These Tips When Trying to Cut Word Count From Your Essay

CCEdit_TorreyCCEdit_Torrey 31 replies296 threads Editor
Getting your college essay down to the required word count isn't always easy. The Dean offers some advice. https://insights.collegeconfidential.com/must-i-cut-my-too-long-college-essay-if-so-how
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Replies to: Use These Tips When Trying to Cut Word Count From Your Essay

  • PublisherPublisher 8510 replies91 threads Senior Member
    I would be careful about the first tip which suggests that one eliminate the entire first paragraph of an essay ("throat clearing" paragraph). If this is a problem for an applicant, then exceeding the word limit is the least of that applicant's problems.

    Also, I disagree about relying on contractions.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34480 replies382 threads Senior Member
    That example with hyphens would have been much smoother and, imo, smarter, with commas.

    And the problem with the first para is kids are taught over and over to use a hyposthesis statement. Not needed. It's often better to just jump right in.

    Just remember, the ability to self edit is a skill top colleges like. You don't have to tell every little detail to get a point across.

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  • PublisherPublisher 8510 replies91 threads Senior Member
    The first paragraph should set out the theme of the essay.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34480 replies382 threads Senior Member
    But not necessarily in the format high schools teach. It's expensive real estate to just set scene. Unlike a hypothesis statement, for a college app, you aren't introducing a concept to be defended.
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  • STEM2017STEM2017 4100 replies96 threads Senior Member
    Students should be required to read The Elements of Style.

    That is all.
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3024 replies53 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    I agree 100% with STEM2017. Read the "Little Book," cover to cover. Twice. Three times. Take the time to digest it.

    Especially take to heart Rule No. 1: "Omit Needless Words." Learn how to apply the rule to your own essays.

    "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

    I first read this book in my freshman year of college. Sometimes after writing a first draft of an essay, I would pick up my copy of Strunk and White and re-read the whole book (it's not very long). That would put me in a frame of mind to "swiften up" my essay. I proceeded from the assumption that it is ALWAYS possible to cut 10% of my draft essay. I could sometimes apply that principle 2 or 3 times over to the same essay until I'd omitted enough needless words.
    edited October 22
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  • Jon234Jon234 345 replies9 threads Member
    Publisher wrote: »
    The first paragraph should set out the theme of the essay.

    Not necessarily.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8510 replies91 threads Senior Member
    edited October 24
    @Jon234: What do you suggest for one's first paragraph if not to set out the theme of one's essay ?

    P.S. So I just reread two very well written common app essays. While neither essay formally set a statement of the theme, both used their initial paragraph to introduce the theme in a subtle manner.

    In short, I hope that we agree that the first paragraph of an essay should tie into the theme in an introductory fashion. Otherwise it may confuse the reader.

    My belief is that writing should be clear & concise. Best way to accomplish clarity is through a logical progression.
    edited October 24
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  • PublisherPublisher 8510 replies91 threads Senior Member
    See what I did there ?
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  • Jon234Jon234 345 replies9 threads Member
    I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules to writing college essays.
    If someone can write well, while breaking with convention, we’ll why not?
    I pity the poor AO plowing through reams and reams of essays all subscribing to the same formula.
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  • Jon234Jon234 345 replies9 threads Member
    I saw a few things that you did there, yes.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8510 replies91 threads Senior Member
    The reason that I wrote about the content of the first paragraph was in reaction to the article which suggested that one could lower an essay's word count by eliminating the entire first paragraph.

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  • Jon234Jon234 345 replies9 threads Member
    Jon234 wrote: »
    If someone can write well, while breaking with convention, we’ll why not?


    Well. Damn you predictive text!

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  • LoveTheBardLoveTheBard 2116 replies20 threads Senior Member
    The essay format that most high schools teach these days is that of the ubiquitous and oft-overused 5-paragraph essay (generally speaking, an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion; this is likely the type of essay to which @lookingforward refers). While this format might be effective for writing persuasive essays and book reports, it falls short of the type of narrative structure that works well for an application essay.

    The opening sentence of a college app essay should ideally provide some sort of "hook" that will draw the reader in and make him/her/them (I'm still balking at using the politically-but-not-grammatically correct singular pronoun them!) want to keep reading. The opening sentence or two (it needn't be a full paragraph) should indeed present a theme, image, or idea that ties into what follows and, ideally, should be brought back towards the end of the essay.

    As for the rest, contractions are generally fine (if not overused), and some of the suggestions regarding word choice given in the article are spot on.
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