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Word Limits and Indiana Jones

August 19, 2008 :: Admissionado Team

We see a lot of patterns here at Admissionado. And that’s good news for all of you taking note. Because, breaking FROM those patterns will help you. Word Limits: (sigh) I know it’s very tempting to take as many words as you need to tell your story. But let’s come back to that. Have you ever seen the first Indiana Jones movie? Remember that classic scene where that Bedouin fellow does a big elaborate sword-swishing intimidation dance? And then Indiana Jones, with a cocky smirk, reaches into his holster, removes his gun and blows the guy away in a single, crisp shot?

Who won that confrontation?

The clean, crisp, efficient move of Indy’s gunshot completely outclassed the comparatively lengthy, flashy and ultimately INEFFECTIVE dance the other guy was busy doing.

The same is true of the best essay writers. Economy of words, like a single gunshot, is actually more POTENT than the alternative. It says something about how dangerous you are. If you can tell your story in 400 words and it takes someone else 700 to tell the exact same story, 400 Guy WINS. 700 Guy is left in the dust.

As you’re bursting over the suggested word count, consider that someone ELSE is actually doing it correctly. And for Adcom-folk saddled with reading HUNDREDS of applications, brevity is a welcome breath of fresh air. Write your story, use as many words as it takes. That’s important, too. But then, do yourself a favor and write a SECOND version that is literally SLAVE to that suggested word count (if you’re off by 5% or 10%, fine. No more than that though… that’s an incorrectly-conceived piece of work). You will learn something through that exercise. You will lift only the essential pieces. And 9 out of 10 times that second version will be not only AS compelling as your first (longer) draft, but much more so.