A lot of people write essays. Students write them. Teachers write them. Journalists write them.
Five Most Common Essay Writing Mistakes
Essays are a pretty common method of writing. As such, there are a lot of common mistakes that people can make while writing them. If you learn about all these mistakes and avoid them the next time you have to write an essay, your write-up can come out looking a whole lot better.
Let’s take a look at some of the common mistakes and how you can avoid them.
1. Not checking and proofreading your essay
Chronologically, this is the last step in the essay-writing process. However, since this problem is so common and damaging, we’re going to mention it right here in the first spot.
There are different things that you have to check in your essay before you finalize it. You have to look for, among others:
- Grammar and spelling errors
- Readability issues
- Incorrect formatting and organization
- Incorrect facts/figures
- Uncited facts/figures
- Missing references or citations
And so on.
These types of issues have to be eliminated before the essay is finalized. The mistake that a lot of people can make is abstaining from doing the post-writing proofreading/checking – due to which the errors remain unremoved.
You can avoid this mistake by simply creating a comprehensive post-writing checklist that involves steps for finding/removing these types of mistakes/problems.
Now, for some of the imperfections and errors that we’ve listed above, you can get help from online tools and software. For example, if we talk about grammar and spelling mistakes, you can use an online grammar checker to find and weed them out. This saves a lot of time, and the tools are able to find errors that can otherwise be missed during a normal, manual proofreading session.
But, for some of the imperfections, i.e., that we mentioned above, there are no tools that you can use. Rather, you have to look out for them yourself by doing some careful reading.
Keeping that in mind, your post-writing checking process can involve two stages:
• The initial proofread (during which you can look for all the errors yourself manually)
• And the follow-up with the online tools/software (for good measure i.e., for the errors that can be found using them)
2. Not backing up claims and arguments with evidence
A claim or an argument in an essay backed with evidence can have a heavily positive impact on the reader. But if the evidence is missing, the claim/argument becomes a feeble opinion.
There are some parts of your essay that act to join two different arguments together or that act to explain an argument more extensively. Such expository content in the essay can afford to be un-evidenced.
However, when a fact or a figure is mentioned in the essay, after which an entire argument is structured on it, you have to give it a solid basis. You have to give the source of that particular information so that the reader realizes its authenticity.
A mistake that is quite easy to make here is not providing evidence for such information – which can lead to the integrity of the essay getting severely compromised.
There’s not a lot of complexity to this mistake and how you can avoid it. You just have to note down all the sources where you get your information, and then cite those sources properly whenever you use that information in your essay.
3. Not organizing the essay properly
The way the information in your essay is structured is more impactful than what the information itself is. Even speculative stuff can look authoritative if you arrange it properly.
In an essay, the organization of the content is basically done by:
- Making headings and subheadings to split up the different parts of the content
- Adding bullets and lists whenever enumerating something to make them easier to read
- Putting statistical information and the like in tabular form i.e., in tables and charts
If all this stuff is thrown out the window, the essay would become a blob of content without any sort of segmentation or breaks. And no reader would like to go through such a write-up.
This is the third mistake that we’re mentioning in this post: not organizing and arranging the content in your essay.
To remedy and avoid this problem, you can follow the three pointers we’ve mentioned above to get started.
4. Plagiarizing content (or letting accidental plagiarism go untended)
Plagiarism is what happens if you take content from somewhere i.e., an existing book, article, or website, etc., and then use it as your own without giving kudos where it’s needed.
There are two main ways in which plagiarism can occur. It can either be done intentionally or unintentionally.
Intentional plagiarism is when someone deliberately takes content from a source and then uses it…blatantly.
On the other hand, unintentional plagiarism is when someone writes their content, but it matches existing content on the internet by pure coincidence.
Germane to intentional plagiarism, the mistake that people can make is just put existing content from a source in their essay and then try to pass it off. That’s a mistake and the way to avoid it is to just not do it.
On the other hand, unintentional plagiarism is not to be blamed on anyone. It happens by coincidence. However, the mistake that people can make in this regard is not to be on the lookout for it and let it pass by into the final draft.
The way to avoid this situation is to follow these steps:
- a. Once the essay is complete, go and find a plagiarism checker on the Internet. There are a lot of those available, so you just have to run a search.
- b. Then, run your essay through the plagiarism checker that you have selected.
- c. This will basically show you if there is any plagiarism in the content to worry about in the first place or not. If there is, highlight the specific parts.
- d. The next thing you have to do is do some paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means to reword something – tell it in different words so that it has a different look but the same meaning.
When you paraphrase the accidentally plagiarized parts, they won’t stay plagiarized anymore since the words will be different. Problem solved.
By the way, paraphrasing parts of your essay once you’ve just written it can be a bit of a pain. It can be a lot easier and more practical to try out a paraphrasing tool instead. Paraphrasing tools do the same thing you would…when rephrasing the content. They change words, the structure of the sentences, and so on, but they do it way quicker.
5. Using an informal tone/language in the essay
This is yet again something that a lot of people can slip up on when writing an essay. Essays are academic. And you’re not supposed to be informal and casual when writing something academic.
Students, in particular, can find themselves using words and phrases that they would in normal conversation, in an essay instead.
Some good pointers to keep in mind to avoid this are the following:
- Use as few contractions as you can. Contractions are typically perceived to be somewhat informal. Saying, “I’ve to do something that you’ve no idea of…” for example, is much more informal than saying, “I have to do something that you have no idea of…” (It’s not something you would say in an essay, but we’re giving an example.)
- Don’t use slang – in any capacity. We’re not going to exemplify this.
- Don’t use idiomatic phrases in your essay. While idioms can be great and expressive, they’re not the best choice to use in an essay. Saying, for example, that a particular person or party “beat around the bush” would be nugatory of the formal tone that you have to follow in an essay. Saying “unnecessarily delaying,” on the other hand, would be much more in line.
It’s easy to make mistakes when writing essays. There’s a lot that you have to do, and forgetting some of the stuff is nothing uncommon.
To recap, the common mistakes are: a) not checking your essay once you’re done writing it, b) not substantiating your claims and arguments, c) not organizing and formatting the essay, d) being ignorant of plagiarism issues, and e) using an unsuitable tone for the essay.