When I quit law to re-train as a journalist my writing style needed a major shake-up. A newspaper article / blog that reads like a dry legal document wasn’t going to gain much traction with users / followers / subscribers.
Similarly, a vacation scheme or training contract application that reads like an essay is unlikely to capture the hearts and imaginations of early talent / graduate recruitment teams. Most job application forms limit answers to 200-300 words, requiring candidates to draft concise and punchy responses. Failing to do so leaves little or no space to cover ALL the relevant points in an appropriate level of detail, resulting in time being wasted preparing endless re-writes rather than moving onto more applications.
If you’re struggling with word counts, I recommend doing away with ‘filler’ words that add little weight to your answers. I’d also limit the use of works like very, really, highly, absolutely, incredibly etc. Though such words are great for emphasising a point and adding some drama to your answers, over-using them dilutes their impact and eats into your word count. In the same vein, though it helps to have a thesaurus at hand to look up synonyms and thus avoid repetition be sure not to use BIG words out of context.
In the table below, I’ve set out a list of some of the most common filler / unnecessary words / phrases to avoid in your application forms. This will ensure each one has a strong chance of standing out from the crowd.
|Filler / unnecessary words / phrases||Suggested alternatives / examples|
|All of the||Delete of|
|As to whether||Delete as to|
|Due to the fact||Delete and replace with because – e.g. rather than “I don’t fancy a pudding due to the fact I have eaten a big breakfast” use “I don’t fancy a pudding because I’ve eaten a big breakfast”|
|As a result of / resulted in||Delete e.g. replace “my efforts resulted in a 30% increase in membership of my university’s student law society” with “my efforts boosted law society membership by 30%”|
|For the purpose of||Delete and replace with to – e.g. rather than “for the purpose of creating an inclusive culture we are planning to” use “to create an inclusive culture we plan to”|
|In terms of||Delete and restructure or use about or regarding, depending on context.|
|In the event of||Simply replace with if|
|In order to||Simply replace with to|
|That||Delete unless it’s needed to make a sentence clear. She believes that he is coming to the party. She likes the villa that has a sea view. In the former sentence that is unnecessary but in the is latter it’s essential to explain which villa.|
|The fact that||Replace and restructure, e.g. instead of “Husnara hated the fact that she lived far away from her family” use “Husnara hated living far away from her family”|
|With regard to / in relation to||Use regarding / relating to / about, depending on context.|
|Successfully||Consider deleting – replace “I successfully completed a sponsored swim” with “I completed a sponsored swim”|
|End result||End is redundant – delete and say the result|
|Gives me the opportunity to||Shorten by using allows / permits / enables me to|
|Needless to say||Unnecessary filler – delete|
|It is important to note||Unnecessary filler – delete|
|I have the ability to…||Shorten to I can or I am able to|