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10 Most Common Mistakes In Essays

There are plenty of common mistakes that people make with their essays. Here are ten of the most common mistakes that particularly grind the gears of professors. They are mistakes that they see every time they hand out assignments and mistakes that need to be corrected for every class that turns up each semester. Avoid these mistakes and your professor may round up your grade for simply making his or her job a little easier.

1 - Giving a piece of information or an idea and not referencing it

You are supposed to show what or whom you referenced in your essay. Otherwise, you are copying the ideas and data of other people and that is plagiarism. You may get away with it in the corporate world but not in the academic world and especially not if you are writing an essay in college or school. You need to show where you got your ideas and data if they were not directly from your mind.

2 - Not proofreading for typos

People do not look for them because they think their spellchecker is going to pick up on them all. But, there are some typos that are not flagged, such as if you write “to” instead of “two” or “too.” In addition, if you do get it wrong then it may make you look really dumb. Your professor may actually believe you do not know the different between “to”, “too” and “two,” especially if English is not your first language.

3 - Making the introduction too long

This is a sin committed by people that are quite excited by their essay. They may add in more detail than is actually needed for the introduction. They start to flesh out their ideas or they start to define the numerous pieces of evidence they have added to the work, and it results in an introduction that is too long. The introduction is supposed to baby-step the reader into the essay. To give the reader a flavor so they may decide if they want to read. It is not a place to describe details.

4 - Rewriting the work of others with a twist

If professors were to take honesty drugs (if they existed), they may admit that they cannot check every other essay in the world to be “100%” sure the work they just marked is not a rewrite. They have seen a lot of essays in their time, so they are going to recognize a few similarities, but if you rewrite the work of another person, then professors may admit that they cannot always tell. They say they can always tell and that people always get caught because they do not “want” you rewriting.

Still, some people do rewrite and get away with it. It is however, a mistake to rewrite the work of another. Consider the source of what you are rewriting, such as from a journal or online essay, and ask yourself if you can be 100% sure you are the first person to ever rewrite it and that your professor couldn’t possibly know about it. Is it really worth the risk?

5 - Adding long quotes

They take up word count and for a struggling student they are a savior. But, a longer quote buys you no more marks than a shorter quote. Plus, if your work has similar ideas, data, evidence and themes to the work you are quoting, then the professor may start to think you have been rewriting. Plus, do you really want to burn up all those words when you have a word count limit? If you are struggling to meet the word count, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed; it cannot be patched with two or three longer quotes.

6 - Not reading the question fully

This could be the most common mistake of all time. The student doesn’t read the question and instead writes what they think it is asking. The question may ask for the effects the greenhouse effect and the student writes about the causes of the greenhouse effect.

7 - Check your tense consistency

In other words, if your essay starts in the third person, then do not let it slip into the first person. This tends to happen most with research papers. The student conducted tests on his or her own in order to get the evidence. That student starts the essay in the third person until it comes to describing the tests, at which point the student switches to first person.

8 - Not reading or understanding what they reference and quote

This is a very nasty error that gets professors hot under the collar. The main reason for this is that professors dislike the reference section. They hate having to check the references to see if the student is just referencing for the sake of it. In a professor’s perfect world there would be external ways of making sure that a reference section is correct every time.

With that in mind, you must understand what you are referencing. The biggest mistake you are going to make is to reference a piece of work in support of your argument when that piece of work is not supportive (or not even related). For example, you may write an essay about horticulture and claim that the air in a greenhouse is a little dirtier because the wind cannot get in and freshen is up. You may then quote from a book about greenhouse gasses. Such as silly mistake will annoy your professor, as it means he or she has to check all your other references to make sure you are not referencing for the sake of it.

9 - Incorrect sentence syntax

Getting the structure of your sentences wrong is easy because you know what it means. The trouble is that a poor structure may be difficult for another person to read. Saying, “Working on my computer, a loud noise scared me.” This is a dangling participle error (a syntax error) because the word “working” has nothing to do with the word “noise.”

10 - Not following the formatting guidelines

Your professor or teacher gave you those guidelines so that you could make your work consistent with all the other pieces he or she is going to receive. If you get this wrong then it is obvious and a silly/avoidable mistake.

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