This is the fourth post our new series, Maximize Your MBA Application: 5 Tips for Succinct Essays. Follow the series on the blog or download our special report to learn the tips and tricks needed to focus on the critical and trim your essays down to the limits, without sacrificing valuable content.
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to concise writing techniques (and I’ll provide plenty of resources for more information at the end of this post), but for now, I’m going to focus on three of the most important writing techniques for brevity.
1. Use vivid verbs.
Colorful verbs are more enticing than boring ones, so when constructing sentences, try and use the vibrant, descriptive ones. For example, which do you think is better?
She ate the chocolate cake.
She devoured the chocolate cake.
Saying that she ate the chocolate cake tells us nothing about how she felt about the dessert; if she “devoured” it, however, then we can be pretty sure that a) she enjoyed the cake and b) it was good cake! (Or she was really hungry!) By choosing vivid verbs, you can say more in fewer words and engage the reader with more animated language.
Again, with shortened word lengths, your goal as a writer is to make each word count. Active sentences inform more succinctly and powerfully than passive ones and will give your writing more bang for its buck. Which do you think is the better sentence?
The task was completed by the team. (7 words)
The team completed the task. (5 words)
In the second option (which is the better one), not only do you trim off two words, but you get right to the point and focus on the substance of the sentence – that the team did something. That’s the point here.
Your writing comes off as flabby when you use more words than you need. For example, notice how the first sentence throws in unnecessary verbs that the second sentence omits:
He was able to run the marathon. (7 words)
He ran the marathon. (4 words)
She had the opportunity to go to China.
She went to China.
HINT: When a word has a verb and noun form, try to use the verb. In examples 3 and 4, you can save words by tightening your language and eliminating words that you simply don’t need.
He is a quick typist. (5 words)
He types quickly. (3 words)
I came to the conclusion that…
OR I concluded that…
As promised, more resources on writing techniques:
• Elements of Style, yes, the classic, exemplifies succinct writing.
• On Writing Well, another favorite of mine.
This post is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Maximize Your MBA Application: 5 Tips for Succinct Essays. To download the entire free special report, click here.
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