Readers' Corner

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Essay

Writing can be complicated. Each new prompt gives you the challenge to solve. There are no rules that can determine the content of your essay. The way you devise your answer will be unique and subjective. For this reason, it is always difficult to look at your essay with fresh eyes and find flaws in it. However, there are a few things that make an essay look weak. Take a look at seven common writing mistakes to avoid and become your own editor.


Weak Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a crucial part of an essay. It outlines the significance of the issue and the author’s perspective on it. When you write a weak thesis statement or fail to provide it at all, you leave your paper without a clear focus and have fewer chances to convey your argument to the reader.

A thesis statement is usually the final sentence of the introduction. It should be supported in each body paragraph and restated in the conclusion. A good thesis statement is specific and precise. It gives the reader a hint on how the writer will develop the topic.


Lack of Relevant Evidence

When writing an essay, you are expected to conduct research and find evidence to prove your argument. It will provide a scientific basis for your ideas and show your reader that you are well-informed about the topic under discussion.

What counts as evidence will differ depending on the subject area and type of writing. For example, a research paper for your chemistry class will benefit from the use of quantitative data. In contrast, an expository essay for your English teacher can include evidence from interviews, surveys, and personal experience. Read the writing prompt carefully and determine the exact type of evidence you need for your paper. Make sure you have enough of it to build a strong argument.


Quotations Without Proper Introduction and Comments

Another issue that refers to evidence in academic writing is its presentation. To incorporate evidence in your paper, use quotations, paraphrasing, or summary. Usually, paraphrasing is more preferable as you can put information in your own words and show your work with sources.

Furthermore, the evidence does not speak for itself. If you do not introduce and explain it properly, it is no more than a set of random facts. Therefore, to make evidence fulfill its function in your essay, you need to show a clear connection between your claim and the data that supports it. Explanations and transitions will help the reader to follow your line of thought.


Lack of Clear Structure

To be effective, an essay needs to have a certain structure. It goes without saying that you need to divide it into an introduction, body, and conclusion. However, this is only half of the success.

Each part should have its own structure as well as transitions between ideas. For example, you can use a point-by-point or a block method for a compare and contrast essay outline. The key here is to observe logical relationships when developing your ideas. Consider whether you want to provide an example or emphasis, show similarity or contrast, draw a conclusion or add some extra support. Transitions and structure depend on the message you want to convey.


Repetition of the Same Idea

Every claim you make to support your thesis statement should be unique. If you repeat the same idea twice, you lose the chance to prove your point of view from multiple angles. For example, if you are working on an explanatory essay, you will use a traditional 5-paragraph structure, which includes three body paragraphs. Each of them should present a new idea that explains a certain side of the issue upon discussion. A conclusion is the only part of the essay where you can repeat something you have already mentioned. This is one of the most common writing mistakes you need to avoid.


Faulty Generalization

Generalization is a logical fallacy. When used in academic writing, it shows that the author uses limited or no evidence to draw his or her conclusions. Naturally, if you use inductive reasoning in your paper, you need to make generalizations, but they should be done with caution. Apply critical thinking to make sure they will not compromise the quality of your work.

You should always use a large sample size to make your conclusions. For example, if you interview two people who say that they feel more productive working at night, you cannot overgeneralize and write that: “People prefer to work at night.” The sample is unrepresentative. Always consider multiple sides of the issue and find a sufficient sample size. It will make your essay more precise and trustworthy.


Skipped Editing

The revision process can be even more important than drafting. It helps you to find the right words and structure to convey your ideas effectively. If you fail to do it, you risk submitting an essay full of errors and poor transitions. It is unlikely to bring you the grade you deserve. So how to edit your writing?

  • Take some time to clear your head. If possible, edit your essay a few days after finishing the initial draft.
  • Check whether you have addressed all questions that the assignment requires. Make sure your argument is complete and meets the task objectives.
  • Use grammar checkers but do not rely on them completely. You can identify some of the errors, but human editing is always more effective.
  • Read your essay out loud. It will help you to hear every word and make the necessary corrections.


To Conclude

Avoid these writing mistakes and you can significantly improve the quality of your writing. These are some of the universal guidelines that can be used regardless of the type and purpose of writing. They will help you to build your writing skills and improve your grades.

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