I haven’t decided whether to have an annual Clichés of the Year post, but I have decided to have one this year. Either I am getting old and crotchety since becoming a grandmother for the second time, (Actually I’m thrilled. She’s gorgeous, 3 weeks old tomorrow, and this was simply the first time I figured out a way to mention her .) or you folks are including more clichés in your writing, or it’s just time to write about them. I think the latter.
A cliche according to Dictionary.com:
“a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.”
I like that definition. But I’ll also share my own description. In a recent email to Accepted.com editors asking for their “favorites,” I wrote:
“Every year certain phrases seem to come into vogue, almost like an outlandish fashion that works only on a few models and rare occasions… and somehow everyone who is anyone wears it everywhere and all the time.”
Then it ceases to be fashion statement. It ceases to express anything.
So what are my “favorite clichés” in applicant personal statements and essays? And the winner is…
Take it to the next level
This poor phrase, abused and overused, has lost all meaning, distinctiveness, and color. Like the frequently washed tie-die T-shirt form the 70’s, it’s long past retirement age. It’s more than ready for the rag heap. Strike it from your essays! Frankly, when I see “take X to the next level” my eyes glaze over, and I really just don’t want to read more because I have read this so many times before. That’s not the reaction you want your essay to engender.
Now the Runner’s Up, in no particular order.
- Synergies: Jennifer Bloom nominates “synergies.” She thinks they’re “going nuts this year.” Sheila Bender adds that she feels like sneezing when she sees “synergies” in a personal statement. You also don’t want your essays to trigger allergic reactions.
- Leverage: Tanis Kmetyk is seeing less of “leverage,” but I still see too much of it for my taste.
- Been there for me: So banal and hackneyed. And vague. Did he or she listen to you rant and rave at all hours of the night? Walk with you daily to help you deal with loss? Visit regularly? Sit with you quietly? Work long hours? Simply lend profound emotional support in uncounted ways large and small? For Heaven’s sake tell me what they did!
- The bottom line: Whatever happened to “conclusion,” “summary,” “crux,” “main point,” “core,” or a host of other phrases. Bottom line means Income – Expenses. Limit its use to income statements.
These are just a few of the most pernicious clichés that infest your essays. Don’t use them!!!!!
Ok. I feel better now. If other admissions readers, Accepted.com editors, English teachers, or admissions consultants are reading this blog and want to share their “favorite” clichés from application essays and personal statements — you know the ones you really, really despise and never want to see again — please add them in a comment. Maybe, just maybe, we won’t see them so often if applicants know how evil they are.
We can only hope, although I recognize this post reflects the tip of the iceberg. And yes, That’s a cliche.