My pet peeve? The chronic usage of the adverbs never and always. I’m not sure if it’s a tic, trend or laziness, but these two words are popping up like weeds in college application essays that are otherwise abloom with prized-perennial phrasing. Here’re few tips for combatting this tendency:
Read Your Work Aloud
I have an imaginary post-it by my desk reminding me to read missives, manuscripts and messages out loud before submitting or sending. Not only does this allow me to hear repetitions of words that I may have numbly or lazily overused, it also provides me the opportunity to hear the music in my sentences as well as the off-key notes. This way I can edit or switch up the cadence in sentences before I hit SUBMIT.
Memorize Muscular Verbs
Dictate. Abhor. Forge. Survey. Here are four examples of verbs that excite readers vs. put them to sleep. When sentences have powerful verbs, adverbs aren’t necessary. Think lean phrases vs. cluttered ones. Verbs that conjure up an action or evoke visual images are the most memorable for tired Admissions Committee Members.
Word Check (as well as Spellcheck!) Your College Application Essay
Students love to comb their essays for misspellings, mostly because digital tools make that job easy! Counting the number of times certain words have been used is easy so I urge my students to do just that for never and always. “I didn’t realize how often I lean on that word.” Exactly. The two tips above always help clarify and their easy-peasy implementation never fails to surprise my essay-writers.