September 24, 2006

Essays - Brevity and Precision

If there are word limits for essays, then brevity and precision are important. Brevity is to tell whatever you want to tell, briefly. Precision is to convey what you want to tell, accurately. It's perfectly possible to be brief and say nothing.

Example 1:

Original: I would like make a substantial contribution to my company's decision making process and play significant part in my company's strategy (21 words)


Brevity: I would like to play a substantial part in my company's strategy and decision making (15 words - a saving of ~30%

You're saying the same thing, in a shorter version. The words you save can help add more content to the essay.

Example 2:

Original: I played an important leadership role in my company's quality initiatives and disseminated process knowledge across the company.(18 words)


Brevity/Precision: As the lead quality auditor for my company, I trained different departments on processes.(14 words - 22% saving)

You're saying the same thing, with less words and greater precision. No vaguess about "some leadership role", the words "lead quality auditor" say a lot more.

Right now, I'm working through my initial essays. My strategy is to first write what I want to say, without worrying about word limits. Then, I apply these steps,

1. Are there repeating themes in the paragraphs? does anything repeat? remove them.
2. Are there "fluffy fillers"? hot air words that don't mean much but take up space? remove them.
3. Can some words be removed without significantly altering meaning? remove them.
4. Can I say the same thing by reorganizing the sentences?

By the time I'm done, I've usually cut nearly 30-40% of the original size, so I have that much space left to say other stories.

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