4

I am about to apply to a grad school, and I have prepare the SOP for it (think it like a cover letter to apply to a job). I know the rule: show what I've got, not tell how I think I'm cool. I've tried, as best as I can, to stick to this rule. I must emphasize that again: as best as I can. However, the feedback on it is very negative.

The commenter has already disclaimed: that just a single opinion. However, based on the number of votes, I think that maybe my SOP is really presumptuous. I just want to convey an image of confidence. I always think my readers as an audience, waiting to be entertained. I want to impress them with my writing style, but it seems that not everyone will read it as I read it.

Maybe this is the cultural issue. When I write stuff in my own language (I'm an Asian), people tell me that I have a unique style (in positive manner) (of course I have never met someone who criticize my writing style).

Here is the example. What I write is:

Two linguists have read this work and left positive feedback. I plan to complete this work and publish it in a linguistics journal before going to grad school.

One suggestion is:

After incorporating feedback from two linguists, I hope to have this paper published.

Another one is:

Based on some positive feedback from two linguists who have been kind enough to review my work, I will continue my research and plan to pursue publication.

When extracting the line, I can feel "something", but I don't know what exactly it is. When reading my article as the whole, I cannot pick up other bad sentences.

So what is the fine line of "confidence" and "presumption"?

closed as off-topic by Lauren Ipsum, Mark Baker, user5645, Neil Fein Dec 21 '16 at 7:36

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question appears to be off-topic because asking what to write or asking for help rephrasing a sentence or passage are both off-topic here, as such questions are very unlikely to help anybody else." – Lauren Ipsum, Mark Baker, Community, Neil Fein
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I agree with the close votes, this is asking what to write, which is currently off-topic here. – Neil Fein Dec 21 '16 at 7:36
4

I think the problem is less style itself than the fact that your readers are taking your writing style as indicative of a problematic attitude. Let's take the sentences you highlighted and the suggested improvements as a guide:

Two linguists have read this work and left positive feedback.

Based on the suggested improvements, I'm guessing this reads as boastful and entitled. It may seem like a completely neutral statement, but it highlights only the acclaim you've gotten.

After incorporating feedback from two linguists...

This suggested improvement instead makes it sound like you are willing and eager to learn from others.

Based on some positive feedback from two linguists who have been kind enough to review my work...

This suggested improvement paints you as a person who is grateful for the consideration others show to you, and respectful of those with advanced professional accomplishments.


I plan to complete this work and publish it in a linguistics journal before going to grad school.

It's very difficult to get published in a reputable academic journal, and rare for anyone pre-grad-school to get such an honor. Many may plan such an accomplishment, but few will achieve it. Your confidence here sounds callow and naive.

I hope to have this paper published.

This revision highlights your understanding of the difficulty of the task.

I will continue my research and plan to pursue publication.

This does the same thing, but I think it is better, because it highlights the hard work you will do to accomplish your goal.


In summary, your readers on reddit want you to not merely showcase your achievements, but also to paint a picture of yourself as humble, hard-working, grateful and realistic --as well as confident.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.