The Second C of Great Application Writing: Concise

By Ryan Hickey + updated on November 13th, 2012

For our purposes, concise means precisely what you think it means… unless you think it means angry or purple… in that case, you’d be wrong.

Concise writing says what it needs to say while using words economically.

In this definition, don’t be confused by our use of “economically” – this has nothing to do with money or quality. Rather, it means that concise writing does not waste words. As noted in the previous post, when you’re dealing with a length limit, it’s extremely important that each word contribute something to your story.

While writing in an essay of this type should be concise, that does not mean that it should be boring or clipped. Concise writing should still be eloquent and expressive. Just because you’re working within fairly tight space constraints does not mean that you can throw style out the window in favor of cramming in facts.

Writing that is too long-winded will not work in an admissions essay, as it takes up a ton of space without actually saying much that is meaningful. Admissions committees see tons of this type of writing, and are not impressed by it. Writing that is not concise tends to also be unoriginal and overly generalized. Such traits are often symptomatic of a late start – rushing the process causes people to try and cram whatever comes to mind into the essay as they go – which is yet another reason that you should start this process as early as possible.

Though this kind of writing is no good for our purposes, the opposite isn’t any better; you can take the “concise” idea too far. When that happens, while your essay may be short, it also probably won’t sound good. Writing of that type is mechanical and passionless, which means that it won’t make much of a good impression on the reader. In fact, despite its simple nature, it’s actually hard to read in some respects, since it’s so devoid of energy.

So how do you write in a concise fashion without sacrificing the overall quality of your prose? Well, we have three suggestions that, if heeded, can help you notably improve your writing in this regard. We’ll go into each a bit deeper in our next posts, but here they are now for those of you who want to get a head start:

1. Avoid cliches

2. Minimize use of the verb “to be”

3. Use active verbs and dynamic nouns

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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One Response to “The Second C of Great Application Writing: Concise”

  1. Nice and informative post! Probably will help out a lot of readers! Really appreciate the efforts you have put in to research these facts. Cheers!

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