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Question on titles and abbreviations?


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So, I'm applying to a program that has one of those annoying SOP/Interests that's 300 to 500 words long. I am used to the semi-formal writing  style of " Performing research under Dr. Badoodle Flimflam at the University of Pretendo Fakey ....." (12 words) [look, if I'm gonna obscure stuff I may as well have fun with it].

Is it considered too informal or impersonal to just write "Performing research under Dr. Flimflam at the University of Pretendo Fakey" (11 words) or "Performing research under Dr. Flimflam at UPF" (7 words) to cut down on the word count? 

One of the schools in question is a large research university, but the other is a smaller liberal arts school that could be confused with a similarly initialed larger school is the only reservation I have to abbreviating the schools.

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Always write out the term, such as an association or school, the first time before abbreviating it later on. Abbreviations could mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. 

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This may depend on the field, but I would say that for my field, formalities are not necessary and you can feel free to shorten things as long as it doesn't impede understanding.

To be clear, I mean things like "Dr. Flimflam" instead of "Dr. Badoodle Flimflam". I do not mean shortening academic jargon or other technical terms that mean different things to different readers! 

Your SOP is supported by the CV and other application materials that can show the committee whether it's Badoodle Flimflam or Zippity FlimFlam. And to be honest, I don't even think it matters because the SOP is about you, not the people you've worked with before. I think having the name there is helpful so that the committee can connect whatever experience/story you're relating in the SOP with other times you mention this work in your CV and elsewhere, and for that, just Dr. Flimflam is good (unless you happened to work with both Badoodle and Zippity!).

Similarly, to avoid writing out long names of institutions which don't really matter, you can use other words with more meaning! For example, you can say, "My BSc thesis, with Dr. Flimflam, studied XYZ". Here, you've provided the name (helpful for connecting things) and a key piece of information: this is your undergrad thesis work. I would say it is far more interesting to the admissions committee to know what XYZ was your undergrad thesis work than the location where it was conducted or the academic affiliation of Dr. Flimflam (again, this is a essay about you, not these other places/people). Note that you might have already mentioned the name of your undergrad school elsewhere in the SOP, or they can just look it up on your CV. I would say the main exception to this advice is when you really really want to draw attention to the name of the institution. This is a rare case, and I wouldn't do it to "name-drop" (name dropping is not really that useful in a SOP) but if the school you're applying to happens to have a formal connection with UPF or something, then mentioning that you worked at their partner school or something could be helpful. 

Finally, when you're short on space, I would try to avoid sentences that have no other purpose than to introduce characters or places. You may be tempted to begin each paragraph describing a research project with something like, "My first/second/BSc/MA/whatever project was with Dr. XYZ at the University of ABC studying DEF." These sentences are going to be skimmed anyways as the reader seeks the meaty content of each paragraph. Instead, just focus on delivering the main message you want to convey about each of your experiences and work the name/location details into them. 

 

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