contractions and common acronyms: space saver or fatal mistake?

epsilonprodigy

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As a self-admitted long-winded person, I am struggling with the character counts on applications! What are the general thoughts on things like contractions and commonly-understood acronyms (ER, ECMO, ICU and the like)?
 
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As a self-admitted long-winded person, I am struggling with the character counts on applications! What are the general thoughts on things like contractions and commonly-understood acronyms (ER, ECMO, ICU and the like)?
I think some are ok (like ER, ICU). Actually, I don't know what ECMO is.

Have several people read it, including some non-med people, and see if it inhibits understanding. I think using some would be fine.
 
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Oh, and with contractions, I would avoid them unless you really, really need to eliminate only a few characters.
 
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epsilonprodigy

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ECMO = extracorporeal membrane oxygenator. Kind of like a bypass pump for patients in cardiorespiratory failure. Hoping adcom members have enough medical background to recognize stuff like this...? Oh well, I can always explain if asked.
 

LizzyM

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If non-pre-meds would understand the acronym, then it is ok. I'm OK with contractions, too. Keep in mind that the readers of the essays range in age from 24 to 84 (I'm not kidding, we have some wonderful retired physicians and retired basic scientists in our ranks) and include med students, physicians, basic scientists as well as a few people in allied fields such as social sciences, health law & ethics, medical humanities, etc.
 
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ECMO = extracorporeal membrane oxygenator. Kind of like a bypass pump for patients in cardiorespiratory failure. Hoping adcom members have enough medical background to recognize stuff like this...? Oh well, I can always explain if asked.
Ah. But as far as I know, not all adcom members are doctors. Some may be PhDs as well (and there may be others). That's why I think you are safe with common acronyms but may want a few people to read over your app to make sure.
 

epsilonprodigy

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one super specific question: do people know what "fast track" is, in reference to the ER? I don't remember if i didn't know what that was at one point LOL.
 
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I've used contractions in nearly every essay I've submitted. Including but not limited to: might've, there'll, and my personal favorite, who're. I'll let you know how that turns out.
 

Application Doc

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I would avoid contractions and acronyms at all costs at the risk of sounding casual and overconfident, respectively. Not only are many Admissions Committee members not physicians (they may be hospital chaplains, ethicist, education specialists, and basic scientists), Admissions Committees want to know that you are professional and a good communicator. Contractions and acronyms may detract from this. Acronyms may also make you sound arrogant, particularly if the reader is unfamiliar with the term.

Moreover, the single best piece of advice I have ever received or given is that profound brevity on your application is far superior to lengthy prose. If someone is simply going to glance at your answer/essay, you would rather them actually learn one thing about you rather than learn nothing because they hurried over a too-lengthy document. Brevity is the soul of wit.
 

epsilonprodigy

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That seems rather self-explanatory ... does that mean that they are very sick and get priority?

Nope, opposite. Fast trackers are the "I rode the ambulance because I broke my toenail" crowd. Actually found a way around using this phrase.
 
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I would avoid contractions and acronyms at all costs at the risk of sounding casual and overconfident, respectively. Not only are many Admissions Committee members not physicians (they may be hospital chaplains, ethicist, education specialists, and basic scientists), Admissions Committees want to know that you are professional and a good communicator. Contractions and acronyms may detract from this. Acronyms may also make you sound arrogant, particularly if the reader is unfamiliar with the term.
Something I've used: If it comes up often enough, define a commonly used acronym (CUA) and then every time you use a CUA, you won't have to worry about seeming overconfident or losing space over each expanded CUA.

Also, I disagree with avoiding contractions at all costs. My opinion and MO has always been to use contractions where stylistically appropriate. Most of these essays tug at personal, challenging, and sometimes heartfelt stories and dilemmas. They are not formal, and your being a good communicator has nothing to do with writing "I am" versus "I'm." I have gone out of my way to avoid contractions in certain situations, as well. It really depends on the essay itself, the image I'm trying to project, and the rhetoric I feel would be most appropriate.
 
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Ideally Fast Track means the patient gets in and out rapidly - high turnover. I've seen plenty of times where the normal ED rooms get busy and patients spill over into fast track though.
 

ponyo

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Something I've used: If it comes up often enough, define a commonly used acronym (CUA) and then every time you use a CUA, you won't have to worry about seeming overconfident or losing space over each expanded CUA.

Also, I disagree with avoiding contractions at all costs. My opinion and MO has always been to use contractions where stylistically appropriate. Most of these essays tug at personal, challenging, and sometimes heartfelt stories and dilemmas. They are not formal, and your being a good communicator has nothing to do with writing "I am" versus "I'm." I have gone out of my way to avoid contractions in certain situations, as well. It really depends on the essay itself, the image I'm trying to project, and the rhetoric I feel would be most appropriate.
I agree that contractions should be used where stylistically appropriate, but the specific application of such a rule invites such controversy that it seems prudent to just take a conservative approach. In formal writing, I try to adhere to every stylistic rule, even those as idiotic as split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions. The truth is that most people will not notice a split infinitive, but some will; even if they don't care for the rule themselves, I wouldn't want to interrupt the flow of my writing with a stylistic dissent.
 
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I agree that contractions should be used where stylistically appropriate, but the specific application of such a rule invites such controversy that it seems prudent to just take a conservative approach. In formal writing, I try to adhere to every stylistic rule, even those as idiotic as split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions. The truth is that most people will not notice a split infinitive, but some will; even if they don't care for the rule themselves, I wouldn't want to interrupt the flow of my writing with a stylistic dissent.
Everyone has their own comfort level. In the end, the choices you make will likely be reflective of your personality and level of professional conservatism. I'm pretty comfortable with my advice, but if if you take it, you're taking advice from a guy who's written about such great topics as gay clubbing in his secondaries. So yeah, it's SDN. Grains of salt...
 

isoquin

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Formal writing such as personal statements should not have contractions. Fact is, they don't save you too many characters, and part of the point of this statement is brevity. I'm sure you can cut out a single word somewhere in your statement that would allow you to remove all contractions. Common acronyms recognized by lay people are fine, and it is also acceptable to do something like "I write on the Student Doctor Network (SDN)" and continually refer to SDN after that point, insofar as it applies to program or institutional names, not the random part time job from last summer.
 
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Despite LizzyM being OK with contractions, I feel like there would be many who would look down on it. It's generally accepted that contractions should be avoided in formal writing, and while some may see a more conversational tone as a plus, I think many would also see it as a detractor from your application (though a minor one probably). IMO application essays should be written in about the same manner you would use for college essays -- for me that means no contractions but YMMV. I agree that you shouldn't need to define commonly-used medical abbreviations though like ER, ICU, etc. since your audience will already understand these.

You mentioned that you're long-winded -- maybe try to cut down on extraneous wording while still maintaing your point and impact.
 
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Despite LizzyM being OK with contractions, I feel like there would be many who would look down on it. It's generally accepted that contractions should be avoided in formal writing, and while some may see a more conversational tone as a plus, I think many would also see it as a detractor from your application (though a minor one probably). IMO application essays should be written in about the same manner you would use for college essays -- for me that means no contractions but YMMV. I agree that you shouldn't need to define commonly-used medical abbreviations though like ER, ICU, etc. since your audience will already understand these.

You mentioned that you're long-winded -- maybe try to cut down on extraneous wording while still maintaing your point and impact.
This is the best advice. Abbreviations and contractions may save you some characters, but these essays are supposed to be concise. You should not be using abbreviations and contractions to just make the max amount of characters. Instead, you should try and say the same thing with less words.

It's a good skill to have. Plus, adcoms read thousands of these things so making it short may be in your best interest (without sacrificing quality of course).
 

ponyo

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This is the best advice. Abbreviations and contractions may save you some characters, but these essays are supposed to be concise. You should not be using abbreviations and contractions to just make the max amount of characters. Instead, you should try and say the same thing with less words.

It's a good skill to have. Plus, adcoms read thousands of these things so making it short may be in your best interest (without sacrificing quality of course).
:thumbup:

Maybe write comfortably for your first draft, but ask a more experienced writer to cross out all extraneous bits.
 
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Maybe write comfortably for your first draft, but ask a more experienced writer to cross out all extraneous bits.
Conciseness is key, completely agree.

On a broader note: I do worry, though, that a younger me might've seen some comments on this thread (and similar threads) and exercised extreme restraint at the expense of losing some personality. It's the same way I felt about CollegeConfidential, which I didn't know about until after I'd been accepted to college; if I had been too self-conscious about my essay, I probably wouldn't have taken some risks and gotten through to the adcom (which he admitted to me some time after I'd matriculated). Yes, I was lucky, too, that the risk paid off.

Point is, these essays aren't one size fits all. Best advice in this thread, IMO, is to seek out experienced writers who know your voice and can help you write naturally, honestly, and concisely.
 

ponyo

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On a broader note: I do worry, though, that a younger me might've seen some comments on this thread (and similar threads) and exercised extreme restraint at the expense of losing some personality. It's the same way I felt about CollegeConfidential, which I didn't know about until after I'd been accepted to college; if I had been too self-conscious about my essay, I probably wouldn't have taken some risks and gotten through to the adcom (which he admitted to me some time after I'd matriculated). Yes, I was lucky, too, that the risk paid off.
:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

In general the first draft should be the one that is most "you"; take all the risks and be as extravagant and individualistic as you want. Reigning in creativity is much easier than attempting to edit in flair. You'll know when you've cut too much because the essay won't feel the same anymore.
 
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