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Nine Phrases You Should Never Use In a College Essay

Little things count for a lot in your college essay. You only get about 500 words to knock the socks off an admissions officer, so you can’t afford to waste any of them. Certain words and figures of speech can seriously dilute your command of an argument, or the impact of your story—namely clichés and generalizations. Skip what’s on this list and protect your genius ideas from the mire of inarticulateness!

1. “Throughout history…” Okay…but exactly when in history? “History” is about as general as you can get and it’s likely unnecessary to tack onto a sentence. Either be much more specific or cut it.

2. “Due to the fact that…” This one just doesn’t sound good. You can probably trim this down to a simple “because,” but again, you more than likely do not actually need this phrase to connect the dots for the reader.

3. “In this day and age…” See #1. When?? Just say it!

4. “Win some, lose some,” “Easy come, easy go,” “Between a rock and a hard place”—you get the drift. These sayings are less than eloquent and you need to do the work yourself: come up with your own description and/or summation of your subject matter.

5. “Shed light on the fact that…” This is a double no. “Shed light on” is cliché. What about “reveals?” It’s more specific. “The fact that” is another one of these unnecessary intros to the point you’re about to make. Just state the fact without this annoying preface.

6. “Basically,” “essentially,” “very,” “really,” “quite,” “totally…” AKA “intensifiers,” (and to some, “teen speech”). Your writing doesn’t need the extra help you’re looking for in these words.

7. “Considered to be…” By whom? Why? And you can probably just say, “So-and-so is the smartest woman who ever lived.”

8. “Literally…” This word is literally the worst word to use in an essay, ever. It’s a college essay: it’s given that whatever you’re discussing is real/actual/not in a dream world.

9. “In conclusion…” Maybe I spoke too soon and this is literally the worst expression to use in a college essay. Do you really think we can’t figure out that the last paragraph of your paper is your conclusion! Again, no warning necessary, just go ahead and conclude!