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Monday, August 26, 2013
Beware of Too Much Sincerity
Oscar Wilde quipped that "A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal". No doubt, many of the admissions essays of our time would cause the great 19th century author to turn in his grave. Proof, perhaps, that society changes quickly, but human nature much less so.
Because most people can smell insincerity a mile away. And it isn't pretty. It offers a blueprint of a person who is, at worst, manipulative and at best, unimaginative. Neither are qualities very appealing in a student candidate.
You may have volunteered at the homeless shelter in order to pad your resume, but if you weren't really invested in the experience, that insincerity will come through in your writing. It's hard to write about personal growth in your admission essay if you really didn't have any.
Lack of introspection often comes across most painfully in those essays that attempt to wade into weightier emotional waters. I'm talking death of loved ones, siblings with disabilities. If you are going to tackle something serious like this, tread lightly on your words, unless you really mean it. This is sensitive stuff.
Frankly, if you are a writer prone to hyperbole, the admission-essay writing process could offer an important learning curve. There is almost never room for too much sincerity in any formal written work. You just don't need it. It isn't persuasive, it's distracting.
If you're trying too hard to wrench meaning from something insignificant, it will be obvious to your reader. Some of the most emotionally understated works of literature are the most moving. So think carefully about your tone as you set pen to paper.
Labels: Beware of Too Much Sincerity
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