So you have written, rewritten, and revised your essay multiple times and have made sure that you have adequately addressed all parts of the essay question within the prescribed word limit effectively and persuasively. Now the last step is to get your essays edited for sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors. If neglected, these errors are a poor reflection on your candidacy and can jeopardize your chances of admission despite your great GMAT score, good GPA, and impressive work experience.
In order to bring variety to your writing, try to compose a mix of simple, compound and complex sentences. Do not write extremely long sentences stretching 4-5 lines. Unduly long sentences might confuse the reader.
The most common error I have noticed in student essays is the omission of articles ('the', ‘a’, and 'an'). Sometimes, in their enthusiasm to trim the essay as per the prescribed word count, they tend to sacrifice ‘poor’ articles.
Let’s look at an example:
Looking back, this has been huge learning experience for me. My integration project has changed my status in company as I was offered position of chief analyst. My relations with some of my colleagues have become more cordial, and we continue to work together as team in friendly atmosphere... Since then, I have learned importance of teamwork which I later applied successfully in my integration project.
The only problem with the above example is the omission of articles ‘a’ and ‘the’ at some places.
Looking back, this has been a huge learning experience for me. My integration project has changed my status in the company as I was offered the position of chief analyst. My relations with some of my colleagues have become more cordial, and we continue to work together as a team in a friendly atmosphere.... Since then, I have learned the importance of teamwork which I later applied successfully in my integration project.
You can see how the appropriate addition of articles has made the above paragraph error-free. Also, check the essay for other common grammar errors: sentence fragments, run-on sentences, modifier, and parallelism errors.
In addition to grammar errors, please proofread your essay for spelling errors and punctuation errors as well. A misplaced or missing punctuation mark (comma, period, and semicolon) can change your intended meaning. Also, it may make comprehension difficult. After having reviewed thousands of essays in the past three decades, I can say that commas and semicolons are the most misused punctuation marks. People often mistakenly use semicolons at places where they should have used a comma. Please note that a comma is used to signal a minor break or pause in a sentence, while a semicolon is used to join two complete thoughts or independent clauses.
Let’s take a look at the following example:
Before I began my German studies in Europe; I was apprehensive that my professors and colleagues would be intrigued by my orient knowledge and my unique perspectives. Also, I could not grasp how to express myself clearly and effectively in a foreign language.
Before I began my German studies in Europe, I was apprehensive that my professors and colleagues would be intrigued by my orient knowledge and my unique perspectives. Also, I could not grasp how to express myself clearly and effectively in a foreign language.
The inclusion of comma after an introductory phrase (in place of a semicolon) and then as an introductory word (Also) in the above example makes it a grammatically correct and easily comprehensible sentence.
Lastly, I would like to make a suggestion for the non-native applicants applying to US B- schools. Please identify words/ phrases that American English speakers may not be familiar with and then replace them with their American English equivalents. There is no denying the fact that English is an international language used as a means of communication by people all around the world. However, it is also true that English spoken by people in India and the UK is different from that of American English in terms of spelling, grammar, and usage. Therefore, I would highly recommend that when applying to the US B schools, the non-native applicants should proofread their essays for terms that US Ad Com may be unfamiliar with.
I have discussed this subject in detail in my article Proofreading Tips for Non-Natives.
For more details on the differences between American English and British English, refer to my article ‘American English vs. British English.’
- Correct grammar errors, spelling errors and punctuation errors
- When applying to US B schools, make sure to use American English words/ phrases
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