Boilerplate: Janine Kerr

Fortunately I was able to dig up my MiW application letter for some excellent, boilerplate-filled sentences. Off we go!

  • “I have kept a diary since I could hold a pen because I love to write.”

Okay, that is just flat out false. Babies can grasp objects pretty darn early so slow down with the hyperbole Janine, you weren’t journaling until elementary school. Besides that, what does this sentence even mean? What aspect of writing prompted me to keep a diary? This is a blanket statement that sounds nice at first but doesn’t actually explain anything about what drives me to write/what aspects of writing I truly enjoy. I bet all those diaries are chalk-full of boilerplate.

  • “A significant portion of written communication is now online through [various media outlets], and branching out into this realm will only improve my ability to effectively communicate and understand others.”

Clearly I’m trying to make some connection between traditional writing and our modern, online, screen-filled lives and make it seem like I can ~evolve with the times~ and actually ~use it to my advantage~, but the resulting sentence is really just nonsense. I do no explaining of how these other outlets will improve my ability to communicate and understand others, nor do I support my claim that written communication is more online with an example of any sort. Again, blanket statement that sounds kinda pretty at first glance. Trash.

  • “Understanding how to write to most effectively reach my goal when dealing with many different walks of life will be extremely helpful.” (In reference to my goal to get a Masters in Public Health)

It would have been much more helpful for me to explain here that in the public health field different groups and cultures prioritize different things. Understanding their priorities and catering my communication in a way that meets these priorities and makes them seem the most important while still achieving my health goal is a skill I will need to learn. Instead I circle all around this very literal explanation and phrase it as “dealing with different walks of life”. Who are these “walks of life”? Why am I “dealing” with them? It’s all just mildly offensive fluff. And, of course, boilerplate.

While there may be a time and place for boilerplate, looking closely at my own grotesque use of it is mildly unsettling. Undoubtedly, though, it’ll still pop up all over my writing. Let us boilerplate on!

— Janine Kerr

Boilerplate Examples and Discussion

Hello everyone –

Below are some examples of boilerplate I found in my letter for the Minor in Writing Application.

  • “I want to graduate with a broader perspective and as a well-rounded and critical thinker.”
    • Reading this statement doesn’t really tell you too much, other than that I know and can apply some “keywords” that sound good. I am conflicted because I feel that this statement is accurate, but it comes off as cliche. This sentence serves as a topic sentence that goes into further detail in the paragraph, so I’m not sure if this should be taken out completely or if it might serve a purpose.
  • “I learned that the minor is a true college experience as students are granted autonomy to write about their interests.
    • This would be textbook boilerplate if the sentence just ended after “experience.” That would say something about the minor, but it would say nothing about the minor at the same time. I feel that continuing the sentence makes it a little better, but even then, the use of the word “autonomy” makes the latter portion of the sentence boilerplate.
  • “I hope to complete the Minor in Writing because as an Athletic Trainer, I will be interacting with human beings and these interactions will only be more meaningful if I am able to be an articulate, well-rounded individual.”
    • There are a couple problems with this sentence. The discussion of “interactions” doesn’t really say all that much, especially considering there isn’t really a job that doesn’t involve interacting with others. Secondly, the word “meaningful” is fuzzy in a way as it fails to really say anything that the reader would be able to connect with in regards to their lives. Again, “articulate, well-rounded individual” is simply cliche and doesn’t convey anything meaningful to the reader.

Reading my application letter again has been pretty eye-opening. (<—An extra boilerplate at no extra charge!) I now realize how difficult it is to write boilerplate-free pieces.

Thanks!

– Justin

Boilerplate – Casey Lyons

Reading through my letter of intent for the writing minor actually made me cringe. The amount of boilerplate that is in a 2-page letter is absolutely ridiculous – but also a bit humorous if you ask me. I’ve pointed out some of my favorites below:

To me, writing is a skill, one that you can perfect with time and practice, and it is imperative to communication in all aspects of life.

I honestly don’t know what point I was trying to make here. Reading it again, all I can see is that I needed an outlet to say why writing is important and apparently I think that because it allows me to communicate? I really hope so, Case.

This program, with the intensity and variation of different writing practices, gives me the ability to broaden my horizons as a student.

Please someone explain what horizons I’m trying to broaden…I think I was making the point that my major doesn’t allow for much creative outlet, but instead of explicitly stating that, I decided to to use the most cliche phrase I have ever heard.

I am passionate about writing, and I am passionate about my own growth as a well-rounded student.

Can you tell I really want to be in this program? Because instead of stating that I want to pursue writing for the learned skill and my personal passion for the task, I have to note that I want to be a well-rounded student, as well.

What others may brush off as unimportant, I find the most crucial and pertinent to my ability to express myself and pursue my several passions.

I was talking about the communicative measure of writing again and how it is not touched upon in my major. I don’t know why I could not just explicitly say that this minor will open many doors that I don’t have available to me in my major field of study, but instead I have to fill in space by saying it’s crucial and pertinent to my passions.

I could definitely dig up more if you want to hear anymore of the ridiculous phrases I have put in application letters..

Max Rysztak: Boilerplate

Given that I was unable to find my application letter to the minor in writing program, I have chosen to use my go-to cover letter for job applications. While I could pretty much copy/paste the entire letter and use it as a boilerplate sample, these are some of the quotes that stood out to me the most:

 

“I apply for this position with great enthusiasm, which is founded by my passion for politics and public policy.”

I look at this quote and realize that it really doesn’t explain why I’m enthusiastic about applying for the position. Even though most of the positions I apply to are political/policy-related in nature, nothing specifically about this phrase explains to the application reader why their specific office/company/etc. excites me. I think I originally chose to include it (in my opening paragraph) simply because it sounds good.

 

“The most important thing this position has taught me, however, is leadership. This position has taught me to be creative in my campus-wide-strategy, but it has also taught me to trust and listen to others’ ideas, which I now believe to be one of the most important leadership qualities.”

I added this quote because I wanted to emphasize my leadership skills. But reading back, I realize that most leaders are creative and good listeners. There’s nothing unique about those qualities and they, in all honesty, don’t relate to my experiences in the position I’m referring to.

 

“I think I am a candidate with great communication skills, political experience, and strong motivation, which will bring unique experiences to the Congressman’s Office. I am truly thrilled about the prospect of joining your team.”

This quote, last but not least, is the epitome of boilerplate. Communication skills, experience, and motivation – what else am I supposed to mention in a cover letter? I included this because I felt it was the only acceptable way to conclude my letter. While that may be true, I certainly could update this phrase to make it less generic than it already is.

 

Boilerplate!

So many boilerplates, so little time…here are two from separate applications:

–From my college application:

I’m a 21st century explorer. I experiment with things; many things. And sometimes I get lost. But the good kind of lost; like being lost in music, or a sports game.

Why did I include this in my application? To be honest, it sounded very…powerful at the time. Or compelling or something. I underlined the part that seemed the most “boilerplate-y”. I was trying to explain that I find something meaningful in my weaknesses/failures, and that there is something to gain from them.

–From my writing minor application:

I write because I have a constant urge to.

Oh man…uh…again, this seemed compelling this fall when I submitted it. The statement above isn’t untrue, it just doesn’t explain why I want to write at all. I mean, people do everything that they do because they have the urge to. What else stimulates a decision?

 

Is boilerplating a major/ how does one apply?

Cliche or Nah?

  1. My grade A example of a piece that is a boiler plate is this article about Donald Trump at the AIPAC conference (http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/03/21/donald-trump-calls-himself-lifelong-supporter-of-israel/). The nominees spoke about their opinions on Israel. While Donald Trump says he is a long supporter of Israel, all he talks about in the speech is his military opinions in the Middle East. This is a boiler plate because his speech is not saying that he supports Israel, he is saying that he supports Israel in order to downgrade the surrounding countries. (Sorry to make this all political, I just felt impassioned about this after I watched the AIPAC conference)
  2. My choice of a cliche is the Odyssey article that is labeled: Why wine, your girlfriends, and pizza are better than boys (http://theodysseyonline.com/alabama/wine-girlfriends-pizza-boys/314962). I am sorry, but I have probably been told that pizza is better than boys a million times when I have had relationship difficulty. Quotes in this article like, “Pizza is like boys. There are so many different types of pizza just like there are so many different types of boys.” C’mon. These are just cliches that are trying to make woman feel better about their break-ups.