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Nice to meet you~
I am an applicant for graduate programs from the universities in Canada.
Now, I am preparing my statement of purpose. Unexpectedly,I wrote an extremely lengthy parallel structure to demonstrate my command of English but now I have realized it is a poor way to express my meanings in this way. So any suggestions on how to break it up into multiple sentences to convey a much more coherent and clearer meaning?
The poor lengthy parallel structure is as follows:

Over the past 6 years, I have grown tremendously from a newbie who could barely write 10 lines of code without errors to a seasoned programmer who can manage a software project that consists of thousands of lines of code, from being lost every time a program crashes for seemingly no reasons to being confident and patient every time I set breakpoints and single-step through a faulty method or function, from not knowing where in the intimidating lines of code is mistakenly altered to utilizing version control systems like SVN or Git to ease the whole development process.

Thank you so much in advance!
Any suggestions or better expressions in this context are much appreciated!

closed as off-topic by Jason Bassford, Nathan Tuggy, Hellion, RubioRic, shin Mar 7 at 5:56

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  • "who could barely write 10 lines of codes without errors" - shouldn't it be "lines of code"? – Andrew Tobilko Mar 5 at 13:34
  • @Andrew Tobilko You are right! Thank you! I will correct it right away! – Jie Yan Mar 5 at 13:37
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    I suspect that they might look better on you as an applicant if you didn't have a sentence that's nearly 100 words long. Once you simply the structure by having multiple sentences, the rest may fall into place more easily. – SamBC Mar 5 at 13:47
  • @SamBC Haha~Thank you! Maybe, but I thought I could demonstrate my good command of English this way. Probably,I am wrong~ – Jie Yan Mar 5 at 13:59
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    @JieYan to show a good command of English, you don't necessarily need to write intentionally complex sentences. To me, the easier a person expresses their thoughts, the smarter they appear to be. I think magniloquence isn't a thing to be proud of or to flaunt. – Andrew Tobilko Mar 5 at 14:14
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So, the structure will probably be easier to have confidence about if it weren't so complex - and so protracted. You will better impress with your English ability if you're using more advanced techniques appropriately. Below, I have re-written this sentence as more than one. I have explained it as I go along, breaking it into chunks with commentary. I do not want you to just use this; I want you to understand it, and tweak it so it's more what you want to say. I've not made any major changes to structure or meaning.

Over the past 6 years, I have grown tremendously from a newbie who could barely write 10 lines of code without errors to a seasoned programmer who can manage a software project that consists of thousands of lines of code.

That's a reasonable sentence there. It's longer than necessary, but if part of your intent is to demonstrate English this goes a long way towards that by showing a sentence with several verbs properly interconnected, not all in the same tense (a not uncommon novice mistake, thinking they should be), subordination done nicely. It reads like a sentence from a native speaker, albeit one who has a penchant for expressive language (which is not always a bad thing). Depending on how formal you want this to be, you might want to consider replacing newbie with novice, which is much more suitable for a formal register.

I have developed from being lost whenever a program crashes for seemingly no reasons to being confident - and patient - every time I set breakpoints and single-step through a faulty method or function.

Here you get to build up a little anaphora, a technique that a novice might stumble into but you can show you are using deliberately by changing a word for an appropriate synonym or near-synonym. Similarly, removing repetition by replacing one every time with whenever makes something that reads more fluidly, and shows that you can find alternative ways to say things. The setting out and patient as an overt parenthetical (you could use commas for this, the choice is stylistic - parentheses are less appropriate for that sort of parenthetical in this sort of context) is a matter of style, and you can take or leave it, but it shows the use of another device.

(By the way, and this is programming-specific, I'm not sure you really need to say "method or function"; the people reading it aren't going to assume you don't know that you use different terms in different languages/paradigms.)

Now, for the last bit, you've demonstrated a parallel structure - let's show that you can say the same thing with a different structure.

from not knowing where in the intimidating lines of code is mistakenly altered to utilizing version control systems like SVN or Git to ease the whole development process.

When I started out, I would have no idea where in a file filled with intimidating code an error had been introduced**; now** I make sure to use version control systems like SVN or Git to help track changes, and ease the whole development process.

In this new structure, we are contrasting the state at different points in time not by indicating movement, changing from one to another, but just stating the different states. We use a prepositional phrase to introduce the old state, locating it in time, and the very simple now to introduce the second. The two are separated with a semicolon because they are free-standing sentences in their own right, but you wish to indicate that they are more closely associated than they would appear with a full-stop. I also added an explicit indication that you know why version control would help with that situation, just in passing.

Convoluted sentences prove you can keep track of a long sentence, but they are hard to read and not usually useful. Demonstrating the same sort of thing across multiple sentences, doing it in different ways, is easier to read, more effective communication, and more impressive.

  • Thank you so much! Your answer has been the greatest help to me! I have followed your advice and rewritten this paragraph. I believe admission officers from Canadian graduate schools will feel much more comfortable reading it now~ Thank you again! – Jie Yan Mar 6 at 5:52
  • I've read your answer again.It is indeed the most wonderful answer I could have. You have not only provided excellent sugguestions but also thought wholeheartedly on my behalf.Thanks again! One more thing I missed in my first reading is about the "method or function" you mentioned. They are programming-specific terms used to refer to the same concept - a piece of code that is called by a name-though they have minor differences. In an OOP language like C++, a "method" is a "function" that is associated with an object. I mentioned both to show I know both C & C++ and the OOP concepts. – Jie Yan Mar 6 at 12:08
  • I'm familiar - I have an MSc in computer science and have worked professionally. If you want to suggest that you know both, you should be saying that elsewhere, and don't need to illustrate it here, is my opinion. – SamBC Mar 6 at 12:13
  • Thanks, SamBC! I accept your advice! Then "every time I set breakpoints and single-step through a faulty function" is well enough? Or should I leave out the "through a faulty function" part entirely? – Jie Yan Mar 7 at 12:54
  • @JieYan: That's a good way to put it - and it's better with it in. – SamBC Mar 7 at 13:31
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TL;DR

Very few people are happy to start diving into such a long sentence, just to understand the basic structure.

You will be always much better off by splitting long sentences in short statements which can be easily understood.

Now think about it (and choose):

  • does the Uni test you and your abilities?
  • do YOU test the employees of the Uni to see if they can withstand the torture of long sentences?

I am sure that their time is limited. They will have to read your sentence at least 3-4 times before they can make anything of it.

NOTE: Sentences like this might be welcome at an institution dealing with arts (literature, drama, arts criticism...). But computer science? I have my doubts.

  • Your advice is seconded! – Ronald Sole Mar 5 at 15:36
  • Thank you for your answer, too! A little bit critical but good enough to put me back on the right track~ I love your words really, which are very straightforward and humorous.I am definitely wrong to write such a lengthy sentence! It is my best luck to have all you people here correcting me in time! – Jie Yan Mar 6 at 6:01
  • Thank you (both) for the nice words. Is my answer worth an up-vote? :) – virolino Mar 6 at 6:04
  • Of course,your answer is surely worth it! But my reputation now is less than 15, so I am not qualified to do so now. Anyone please help me to give both of the two answers an up-vote! I will come back to do so as soon as I am qualified! You have my words~ – Jie Yan Mar 6 at 6:10

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