Words, Words, Words: Overused Adjectives and Phrases in Personal Statements
Most of the adjectives below are very general adjectives. When used in an essay, they are so nonspecific that they do not adequately describe an emotional response or experience. Others are sufficiently descriptive, but are used so often that they become generic descriptors.
When students report, “I feel great when working with children,” what does this really mean? Do the students mean that they feel elated? Does it mean that they are energized? Or could it mean that they feel amused? A more specific adjective would make the reading more interesting and descriptive and complete. The adjectives are sometimes referred to as “flat” since they don’t adequately describe an event, feeling, or condition.
This is not to say that these adjectives should never be used, but be aware of their limitations. Several have adequate descriptive ability but are overused in residency applications. If you can find another way to express yourself, it would help you stand out among the other applicants.
Some overused adjectives and nouns in personal statements include:
|Bland/Overused Adjectives||More Specific But Overused Adjectives/Nouns|
Some frequently seen phrases in personal statements include:
(One or two of the phrases below you should not use in formal writing, but most of the examples are used so often that it would be pleasant reading to find a more unique substitute, while still staying genuine and real. If your substitution sounds too awkward or ostentatious, then stick with the tried and true.)
|Overused Phrases in Personal Statements|
|“helped care for”|
|“catch a baby” (not formal)|
|“I will always remember”|
|“I will never forget”|
|“I look forward to”|
|“meant to pursue”|
|“is my passion”|
Here is a List of Substitute Adjectives
|Adjectives to substitute for "good" or "great" ("I feel___")||Adjectives to substitute for "good" or "great" (continued)||Adjectives to substitute for "excited"||Adjectives to substitute for "excellent"||Adjectives to substitute for "dedicated"||Adjectives (to substitute for "interesting")||Adverbs/ Adjectives (to substitute for "very")||Nouns (to substitute for "passion" and "desire")|
|fine||stanch||splendid||out of the ordinary||intensity|
|gentle||thrilled||talented||significant||object of enthusiasm|