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The Itty-Bitty Nitty-Gritty Personal Statement Thread

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Nemethyst, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. Nemethyst

    2+ Year Member

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    Hey guys,

    So its getting to that time of the cycle, where if you haven't sent in your AMCAS, you're just about to.

    I thought we should have a place to ask the nitty-gritty details about our personal statement, so that we could get help from the larger community, as in usage of words, and other grammatical problems. I thought it would be better than spamming the other thread.

    So, I'm pretty much done with my personal statement, but have run into some smallish details that I need help with.

    Contractions/abbreviations:
    - Can I say ER or should I say Emergency Room? Should this be capitalized (Emergency Room) or not (emergency room)?
    - I talk about MRSA in my statement. Should i type out all of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (~40 characters), or should I assume the ADCOM knows what I am talking about?

    I know the general rule with abbreviations that you can type out the full word or phrase, and then use the abbreviation for the rest of the essay, but some people have told me never to use these types of abbreviations in a PS. I know that consistency is paramount.



    Also, please feel free to post any detail-oriented questions that you might need help with.


    [if this is considered extraneous, then it can be locked with my apologies]
     
  2. mdessay1

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    ER is fine as ER. MRSA is a little trickier. Unless you're running out of characters, use Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. But adcoms will know what MRSA is.
     
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  3. schismal

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    Personally, I would not consider spelling out ER and certainly not MRSA. Both are common abbreviations, and spending the characters to expand MRSA would be very likely to disrupt the flow of your statement.
     
  4. CultureDoc

    CultureDoc MSII
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    Hey guys,

    Regarding contractions, if your tone in the PS is supposed to be essentially conversational, is it ok to use contractions (e.g., doesn't, wasn't, I'm)?

    I don't have many of them in my PS, but I feel like there are a few instances where it might sound better to use a contraction (less stuffy). What's the general consensus here?
     
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  5. Nemethyst

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    I would generally stay away from them. While this isn't an academic/research paper, its supposed to be professional.

    Maybe if you post the sentence we can help you out.
     
  6. saa09

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    I don't think you should use contractions in this kind of writing. For things like ER and NICU, I spelled them out the first time I used them and used the abbreviation later on
     
  7. CultureDoc

    CultureDoc MSII
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    Wow . . . I just discovered there is a whole thread on this topic, and it's kind of a raging debate. I think I'll go back and see if I can't reword/take the contractions out to err on the side of caution. Thanks!
     
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  8. TheRealMD

    TheRealMD "The Mac Guy"
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    Even if a personal was familiar with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is there a particular reason why it is mentioned in your PS?
     
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  9. Nemethyst

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    I talk about a patient i work with while volunteering who has an acute MRSA infection.
     
  10. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Just an FYI: people in emergency medicine use the term "Emergency Department" and the acronym "ED" (not to be mistaken for erectile disfunction or emotionally disturbed) rather than ER.
     
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  11. pdp2001

    pdp2001 pdp2001
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    i don't know about your school's EM program, but ours reminds us daily that we rotate through the ED, and we want to be EM residents. they hate being called an "ER" program and find it disrespectful. just thought you should keep that in mind.
     
  12. brianmartin

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    ED not ER. MRSA is fine.
     
  13. LittleRocker

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    Taken from one of my favorite books, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser:

    Your style will be warmer and truer to your personality if you use contractions like "I'll" and "won't" and "can't" when they fit comfortably into what you're writing. "I'll be glad to see them if they don't get mad" is less stiff than "I will be glad to see them if they do not get mad." (Read that aloud and hear how stilted it sounds.) There's no rule against such informality - trust your ear and your instincts. I only suggest avoiding one form - "I'd," "he'd," "we'd," etc. - because "I'd" can mean both "I had" and "I would," and readers can get well into a sentence before learning which meaning it is. Often it's not the one they thought it was. Also, don't invent contractions like "could've." They cheapen your style. Stick with the ones you can find in the dictionary.

    This guy knows his stuff. I use contractions through out my PS and it reads MUCH better (not to mention you save precious characters).
     
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  14. student1799

    student1799 "Señora” to you, hombre
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    Great advice--and you should take it LITERALLY. In other words, while you're working on your PS, print it out after each revision and read it to yourself from start to finish, aloud if necessary. That will give you a much better idea of how it will sound to the reader, which is your most important consideration. You want a final product that reads smoothly, with a logical flow of ideas. If you edit piecemeal without looking at the big picture, your PS can come out sounding stilted or choppy.

    I don't think there are any hard and fast rules about contractions (at least not in a document like this where space is so tight). This is not a PhD thesis or a paper in JAMA, so you can get away with a bit more informality. However, you must be VERY careful to avoid grammar and spelling mistakes, which really irritate adcoms. If you know you're shaky in these areas, have your PS read by someone you know who's rock-solid in them (and specifically ask them to flag mistakes).

    The thing that will shock you the most about PS writing is how little space you have to work with. 5300 characters (including spaces!) may sound like a lot before you start the serious writing, but when you do, you'll find you have hardly any room to get into the kind of detail you might want to. You'll probably have to condense like mad, and once you're down to the very end, you may find yourself playing Scrabble-like word games to squeeze everything in. (For example, I had to change "realized" to "knew," "family member" to "relative," etc., just to save space.) And don't forget a really important tip someone gave me: skip only ONE space after a period or colon, rather than two, to conserve precious characters.

    Good luck with your writing. But you'd better move fast--as you yourself said, time's a-wastin'.
     
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