September 28, 2006

Being yourself in an Essay - 3 observations

I've been reading some blogs and adcomm interviews where they all talk about "being yourself" in an essay. And then you have many people saying "edit your essay, have it proof-read, re-do it, review it, make 5 people read it.." and I see a problem with this.

The more the people read and make comments and incorporate them, the less it becomes "being yourself." The exception to this being corrections to syntax and grammar. Let me show an instance.

I like adding a smiley here and there, a light banter when possible, an exclamation to highlight a point - things that make my paragraph more "me." For e.g.

"I wanted to be a 28 year old millionaire! But over time, I've realized that it takes a lot more hardwork to actually be one at any now I'm hoping to see 7 figures when I'm 45 :)"

now - let 5 people review this, of which 3 maybe rather serious and think that the smiley or the banter is "out of place" in a serious essay. So after a lot of review and edit, I could maintain the content and turn it into

"After realizing that I could not become a millionaire at 28, and that it would take a lot more hardwork to become one at any age, I have now set my goals and am striving to achieve such a position by the time I am 45."

Sure, the second one is more staid and is rather serious. But it isn't "me." If I take an essay that is 500 words, and then remove my style and rewrite it based of multiple inputs, it's no longer my style. I have a problem with that. What I think is a more appropriate thing to do is

1. Reviewers should comment not on style, but only substance. If you think my rationale of why I want an MBA looks weak and unconvincing, say so. But if you focused on how I said it (assuming no grammatical or syntactical errors), then you would alter my style and miss the point entirely.

2.Tell me if my sentences are wrong, or are badly formed. Be a grammar nazi, and for once I won't scream at you for being one.

3.If you know me well, give me ideas on what else I could highlight. Let me worry about the "how."

I'm writing my essays now, and these questions do haunt me. Am I forcing myself away from my natural writing style? Will a business school find my writing too informal (or conversely, too formal?). So instead of worrying too much about all this - I'm going to go ahead and be myself. That means smileys, exclamations, silly sentences, anecdotes and other personal embellishments. I got away with them even in my company performance evaluations, and I hope it won't butcher my changes in school applications. You might disagree with me. Well, what do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Necromonger,
Read your blog today. Though posted 1 year back, it truly reflects what I am feeling today while writing the INSEAD essays.
So now that you are already IN, what would you say? Does, what you wrote in this blog, still holds true? Should one not sacrifice his writing style?

Can you please let me know of your email? I had a few questions regarding INSEAD essays (I am applying for 2008).
My email id is

Regards, and all the best.