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Words have the power to influence your audience.
If you are applying to college, your audience is the admissions committee. They receive thousands of essays each year. Many of them are boring and the language is cliched. You can make your essay stand out by using the power words and avoiding weak words.
Remember, when it comes to language, less is more. In your essays, avoid the following words.
1. Stop protecting yourself with “Just”, "I think..." and "Arguably"
You may be using words that protect yourself, words like "just', "I think" and "arguably". You are either afraid of offending someone or bracing for a strong disagreement. You may not realize it, but these words broadcast to the world that you may be wrong but that is okay because it is only what you think. It projects that your view is not important. It is a way to protect yourself from an attack, should someone hold a different opinion, or may dislike you. This can come across as passive aggressive, which can create resentment and lessen your value, or simply confuse people what you are communicating about.
The words you use to protect yourself from a verbal attack or negative impressions are undermining your power. You are entitled to your opinion. Don’t undermine your viewpoints. Sharing your opinion without hesitation, even if others disagree, can help you garner respect and influence people. This is really critical in your essays for college admission. You want to come across as a critical thinker and a good communicator. Remember, you are communicating your value to the college. What is in for them to have you as a student? If you are not clear about that, you will reduce your chances of getting in.
2. Stop the Drama with “Very,” “Absolutely” and “Totally”
Words such as “very,” “absolutely” or “totally” do not add value to the noun you want to describe or highlight. You do not need to say, “I’m very afraid.” Saying “I’m afraid”, or better, "I'm terrified" does the trick. Superfluous adverbs and adjectives can add unnecessary drama, but they do not convey much. Here is a list of words to substitute "very". Reviewing the list will also improve your vocabulary.
When you appreciate the power of words, you use less of them to communicate the same thing. When you use fewer words, each word becomes more powerful and can be better appreciated by others. So stop using"very", "absolutely" and "totally" in your writing.
3. Stop using filler words: “Like,” “Whatever,” “Etcetera” and “…and so on and so forth”
Keep the “likes” and similar phrases to a minimum. These are common filler words used in everyday speech. They are not for writing essays because they dilute the potency of the words you use. Remember, spoken language is different than formal, written language.
4. Don't act superior. Avoid “Actually” and “Obviously”
Words such as “actually” and “obviously” can rub people the wrong way. "Obviously" makes an assumption that they overlooked something simple. They may feel stupid or inferior. "Actually" doesn't really add anything except pointing that the other party overlooked something. Do not make assumptions about people. You could come across as someone who shows a lack of understanding and can annoy or frustrate others and cause people to disrespect you.
5. Avoid common crutches like "That"
"That" whenever possible. “That” is a handy word that isn't always useless. However, it's also commonly a crutch without a purpose. Whenever you're about to use the word, ask yourself if there is a better way to avoid it. Consider this sentence: “I found a gem that is beautiful.” The sentence is weak. "That" here is similar to "very" here. Change “that” by rewriting it to “I found an exquisite gem.” The sentence sounds much more powerful and conveys the message clearer.
6. Avoid the credibility killers: "Basically", "Probably", "Definitely", "Virtually", "Certainly"
These "credibility killers” -- fluency disruptions -- communicate doubt. Also, some people use these words, especially "basically" repeatedly. That sounds annoying as well. Avoid such language in your essays. It makes people think you don't know what you are talking about.