7 Common Mistakes in Essay Writing and How to Avoid Them

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So you’ve just finished your essay but you’re not sure if you’re ready to hand it in yet. Maybe the last essay you submitted came back to you covered with red correction marks. If only you knew for certain this essay is not also full of mistakes.

The good news is that the essay writing mistakes can be easily fixed or avoided. Here’s a list of the most common errors and how to fix them.

Spelling Errors

These are very common errors that are easily fixed. It takes a mere 30 seconds to do a spell check on your essay. But also read it through yourself to find any typos. Your spell checker won’t find every mistake.

Comma Misuse

It may seem simple but commas are frequently used incorrectly. Generally, a comma is needed to separate three or more items in a series, and to separate dependent clauses, as I just did here. Do not use a comma to separate independent clauses (in other words, two phrases that could each stand alone as an independent sentence.) A good grammar book is your best friend when navigating the proper use of commas.

Failure to Follow Instructions

Some of the directions that your instructor gives you (regarding things like fonts, margins, and spacing) may seem trivial but rest assured that there is always a good reason behind these instructions. Most guidelines are easy to follow and failing to do so can signal that you are not a very serious student. If you’re not sure that you understand the directions, always ask.

Poorly Organized or Unclear Thesis

Your thesis is the most important part of your whole essay, so don’t neglect it. In most cases, you will want to place your thesis statement near the end of your introductory paragraph. It should accurately summarize your position on the topic. Each part of the remaining body of your essay needs to support your thesis in some way.

Lack of Evidence

An important rule to remember is “Show, don’t tell.” Any statement or idea in your essay needs to be backed up with examples. Unless you support your statements with evidence, it is merely opinion. Avoid using an excess of descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Instead of just saying that someone is a kind person, use examples to show it. Instead of stating that the house was messy, give details (food in the sink, clothes on the floor) that say it for you.

Lack of Structure

There should be a clear progression in your argument from beginning to middle to end. Your reader should never feel lost. If you are unsure how to make your essay flow, then start by creating an outline and stick to it.

Plagiarism

Nowadays when there is so much information readily available on the Internet, it can be tempting to just copy and paste directly from your sources. But this is a mistake that can get you in a lot of trouble. Make sure that every time you use a source, you document it correctly. Your instructors will let you know whether they prefer MLA or APA style citation. You can easily find guidelines for both of these in a writing handbook or just by googling them. Even if you are just paraphrasing information, you should always cite it properly.

Follow these simple rules and don’t let a few thoughtless mistakes distract from the strengths of your writing. A little extra time and attention to these details can help you write a great essay.

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