8 Mistakes You’ve Probably Made When Writing Your Essay

access_timeMarch 30, 2018


As we write an essay, we make common mistakes. It’s human. These eight seem to be the most common of them all. As you’re editing, keep an eye out for these problems.

1. Homophones

You know, “their”, “they’re”, and “there”. You shouldn’t be using these interchangeably. Other popular words that get mistaken for their counterparts are “weather” and “whether”, “read” and “reed”, “accept” and “except” – there are several dozen more. Don’t make this mistake in your formal essays. Your professor won’t be impressed.

2. Basic Spelling

The first time you read through your paper, you should catch the vast majority of these mistakes. Pay close attention to your spelling. Once homophone mistakes are eliminated, there should only be obvious spelling errors to catch. Since Microsoft Word and other processors usually catch these mistakes, you shouldn’t have an impossible job ahead of you.

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3. Sentence Fragments

You’ll be able to edit this portion of your paper by reading it out loud. There are a variety sentences that, without another sentence prefacing them, couldn’t stand alone? Eliminate these phrases, or group them in with other sentences. Just make sure all of your sentences are complete. Your professor is going to be looking for that. It’s a significant part of a formal essay.

4. Using First Person Narrative

In other words, avoid these words – I, me, may, you, your, we, our. These are just a few examples. A formal essay shouldn’t point to the writer or the reader. Rather, it should point to a hypothetical situation – a world separate altogether from ours. Keep in mind that, when you’re writing informally, these words can be used as often as you’d like. It’s just a formality. It’s keeping your paper clean.

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5. Bad Spacing

If your paper should be doubled spaced, make it double spaced. If your paper should be single spaced, make it single spaced. But there’s more to it than that. Overall, your paper should look even and neat. If it doesn’t, there might be something wrong with your spacing. Keep a close eye on this – most students don’t catch it.

6. Missing Topic Sentences / Transitions

Again, noticing these issues will come from reading your paper out loud. What’s wrong with your sentence structure? What transitions are you missing? Is the paper clear? Do you have a thesis statement? What components of a basic essay structure are you missing, and what components do you already have?

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7. Flawed Punctuation

Never use exclamation points in a formal essay. Unless, of course, you’re sharing a quote. It just isn’t worth it. You’re not impressing anybody. Also, try not to spend too much time asking questions of the reader. Your professor didn’t assign you a paper because they wanted to do the work. Answer the questions throughout your paper – don’t ask them.

8. Unclear Points

If there’s anything in your essay that appears unclear, assume that it’s going to seem even more unclear to a reader who isn’t inside your head. Make everything as clear and concise as possible. You’ll regret it, if you don’t. 

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