In the United States and the United Kingdom, essays are an essential part of a formal education.
One of the greatest skills that students gain during their college years is learning to write well. It is not easy to write concise and impressive essays and research papers, especially if you are an ESL student. Most of you will make so many mistakes before you learn the art of essay writing, and you may feel disappointed. Well…
There is good news for you:
I know how to solve your problem.
Learn about common college essay mistakes and do your best not to make them.
To help you, here’s a complete list of the most common college essay mistakes to avoid: common mistakes in content, style, structure, spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Common Content Mistakes in Essays
A perfect essay usually has an impressive introduction, well-organized content, and a powerful conclusion. Bad college essays often lack structure or content and do not impress the reader.
What should you do?
Follow these six tips when writing any type of essay:
- Always write an essay that includes relevant facts, concrete details, and specific examples
If you just write down a few paragraphs that have something to do with your topic, you will not succeed in writing a good essay. Read the question carefully before you start writing. Single out the key words and then elaborate on your ideas with facts, details, and examples.
- Write a good introduction
An interesting introduction gives the background for the whole essay. In the introduction, you should make your presentation of the essay topic. To write a good introduction paragraph, tell your reader what you are going to write.
- Write a strong thesis statement
The thesis is the hook on which any essay hangs.
The thesis statement expresses the writer’s thoughts on the topic and tells the reader how the topic is going to be developed. A good thesis statement explains two key things to the reader: what you plan to argue in your essay and how you plan to argue it. Always support your thesis with your own ideas in the main part of the essay.
- Never write a thesis statement if you do not have enough ideas to support it
While planning your essay, you should think carefully and ask yourself whether you have enough ideas to support your thesis. And if you are not sure, formulate another one that you will be able to support.
- Use ideas that you can prove with examples
Keep in mind:
Any idea should be clarified and proved. So always give appropriate examples.
- Write a powerful conclusion
In the conclusion, take advantage of your last chance to say something important to your readers. You should emphasize the purpose and importance of what you wrote in your essay.
Stylistic Mistakes in Writing
Even if it’s written in an interesting way, your essay may make a poor impression if you do not use the correct style.
These are five essay mistakes that most students make:
- Word repetition
Here is the truth:
Your essay will look boring and childish if you use the same lexical sets. So, use synonyms and word substitutes to avoid repeating the same nouns or verbs.
- Overly formal or informal words and phrases
Many students forget that an academic essay requires a layer of vocabulary that we do not use in our everyday life. Never use slang expressions and nonstandard verb forms like gotta or wanna in your academic papers. You should use formal constructions and high-level vocabulary. Always consult a good dictionary to choose the proper word.
- Too many passive structures
When you use the passive voice in your sentences, they sound more impersonal and objective, but they are longer and harder to read. On the contrary, active sentences are clear and direct. So, if you want to write a good essay, you should use both types. A good rule of thumb is to write less than 20 percent of your sentences in the passive voice.
- Sentences that are too long or too short
If you use sentences that are too long, you make your essay harder to understand. On the other hand, you can destroy the logical development of your idea if the sentences in your essay are too short. Try to use a good balance of both long and short sentences.
- Sentences beginning with coordinating conjunctions
Coordinating conjunctions are mainly used to connect words and clauses in the same sentence. Sometimes we can also use them to start a sentence. But if you begin too many sentences with coordinating conjunctions, your essay will be monotonous. It’s better to use corresponding conjunctive adverbs like nevertheless, moreover, or however, which have the same meaning. They are more appropriate in a formal context.
Structural Mistakes In Student Essays
The essay is a long-established form of academic writing, and there are strict rules for writing every type of essay. These rules make it easier to organize one’s thoughts without limiting creativity.
The most common structural mistakes are:
- Sentence errors
The most typical sentence errors are fragments and run-on sentences.
Fragments occur when you punctuate groups of words as complete sentences. They do not express a complete thought because they do not contain independent clauses. As a result, they make your meaning unclear.
There are two ways to correct such mistakes:
- You can expand the fragment into a complete sentence by supplying the missing elements such as subjects, verbs, and clauses.
- You can incorporate the fragment into an adjacent sentence.
Run-on sentences occur when you join two or more main clauses together without appropriate punctuation. Run-on sentences confuse the reader.
What can you do to correct them?
Let me explain.
Fortunately, this is pretty simple:
Divide a run-on sentence into separate sentences to fix it, or add a coordinating or a subordinating conjunction.
- Text structure errors in essays
The most common error in the text structure is a lack of proper paragraph division.
When you make text structure errors, you will not be able to convey your meaning effectively.
Remember that any essay must have at least four paragraphs: the introduction, two main body paragraphs, and the conclusion.
It goes without saying that the text and the sentences should have a clear structure and present a complete development of your ideas.
So, now we’ve discussed common essay mistakes in content, style, and structure.
Keep reading to learn how to avoid grammar, vocabulary, and spelling mistakes in essays.
Grammar Mistakes in Essay Writing
A successful essay must be grammatically correct. Learn the most common types of grammar errors in student essays so you won’t repeat them yourself.
- Noun form mistakes
You should study key grammar areas to help you succeed. Review the rules concerning countable and uncountable nouns. Make sure you know how to use determiners with singular and plural nouns.
- Verb form mistakes
Remember the main grammar rules related to the use of stative and auxiliary verbs, as well as the correct use of the infinitive and modal verbs.
- Subject-predicate agreement
Pay attention to the cases when compound subjects are introduced by words like both, some, or neither and still take the plural predicate.
Pronouns always agree with the noun they refer to. Some indefinite pronouns can have only a plural form or only a singular form, but some can have both depending on the situation.
For more information about correcting grammar mistakes in essays, consult grammar and writing resources around the web.
To avoid grammar errors in your essay, proofread it and check whether you have used the above-mentioned grammar forms correctly.
Are you still uncertain about what not to write in a college essay? You can always get help from essay writing companies that provide editing and proofreading services.
Vocabulary Mistakes in Essays
Even if you develop your ideas logically, your grammar is correct, and your style is perfect, your essay can be a disaster if you make vocabulary mistakes.
The three most common types of vocabulary errors in essays are:
- Misuse of homonyms
Many students typically misuse the following homonyms: hear vs. here, hole vs. whole, its vs. it’s, and many more.
- Confused words
Spellcheck will not identify the incorrect use of such words as loose-lose, affect-effect, quite-quit-quiet, and accept-except. You should proofread your essay carefully to make sure you’ve used the correct words.
- Wrong word form
When we write quickly, we may write a word form that differs from what we meant to write.
For example, students often write verb forms instead of adjectives. This can result in an unintended change of meaning (disable people instead of disabled people).
You can use the following strategies to eliminate such errors:
Plan your time efficiently and leave enough time for the writing process.
Always proofread your writing, paying attention to the main problem areas.
If you can, check your essay for mistakes several days after you have written the first draft.
Spelling Mistakes in Essays
A lot of students say that the English language’s spelling system is the most unpredictable in the world. That is actually not true. There are some difficult words in English, like weigh, Caribbean, or island. You can do nothing but memorize their spelling. But a great number of other words do follow special rules.
After you have written your essay, read it carefully and correct any spelling mistakes. Make a list of the words that you usually misspell and practice writing them over and over.
Punctuation Mistakes in Essays
Punctuation is very important in essay writing. Punctuation marks are used to separate ideas, to relate ideas to one another, and to clarify meaning.
If you do not use proper punctuation, your readers will get confused and frustrated rather quickly. Using correct punctuation is probably the most neglected writing skill. Of course, it is easier to notice a spelling mistake than an incorrectly placed comma. But still it makes a bad impression on the reader. Correct punctuation is essential in college essays and research papers. Learn the rules regarding the use of commas, apostrophes, and hyphens to avoid making punctuation errors.
That’s almost all for now. I hope that these essay writing prompts will help you to succeed in academic writing.
But if you still feel that you need some help with writing, consider using a professional essay writing service and ordering your essay or research paper.
And now, last but not least. Here’s a helpful video about the most common mistakes in ESL student essays. The essay writing techniques explained in this video lesson are useful for any student who wants to write good essays.
Follow these tips on how to avoid the common mistakes in writing essays, and you will see that this challenging and time-consuming task can actually be a real pleasure.