25 Common Errors in Writing Essays: Mistakes to Avoid

Have you ever received a lower mark because of some minor flaws in your paper? It must have been unpleasant. To not let this happen again, our experts share the knowledge they’ve been developing since 2007. They’ve reviewed thousands of academic papers and gained tremendous experience while editing essays, case studies, dissertations, articles, and other tasks. There are typical mistakes students make from paper to paper. This article will assist you in learning how to spot and avoid making them in academic writing. Read this page till the end to take your essays to the next level! Contents
  1. πŸ” Top 5 Common Errors
  2. πŸ”£ Grammar Mistakes
  3. 🧱 Essay Structure Mistakes
  4. 🎲 Topic Choice Mistakes
  5. πŸ“š Mistakes in Using Sources
  6. πŸ–ŒοΈ Stylistic Mistakes
  7. ❓ FAQ

πŸ” Top 5 Common Errors in Writing Essays

There are five types of common student mistakes. Here is what we will discuss today:

  1. Grammar. Spelling, punctuation, and other typical errors.
  2. Topic choice. The features of a bad topic and how to modify it.
  3. Essay structure. Length of the paragraphs, thesis statement, and topic sentences.
  4. Sources. The number of sources you need and their credibility.
  5. Writing style. Overcomplicating, using personal information and emotional language.

Also, we have a FAQ about academic writing issues at the end.

πŸ”£ Essay Mistakes: Grammar

#1 Spelling Mistakes

Using a computer doesn’t save you from spelling mistakes. Autocorrection can help you with some typos but be careful with homophones. If you are unsure which word to use, double-check with a dictionary.

πŸ™… Incorrect

You steel have one our before they arrive hear.

πŸ’ Correct

You still have one hour before they arrive here.

#2 No Comma After an Introductory Phrase

An introductory phrase comes before the main clause and provides background information. In most cases, an introductory phrase requires a comma after it. Note that a comma before a short introductory phrase is optional.

πŸ™… Incorrect

Visiting his mother in the Northern part of California_he finally felt at home.

πŸ’ Correct

Visiting his mother in the Northern part of California, he finally felt at home.

#3 Comma Misuse Inside a Compound Subject

A compound subject consists of two or more simple subjects coordinating conjunction between them. For example, “John and Steve,” “Mary or Kate.” There is no need to put comma if conjunction between a compound subject.

πŸ™… Incorrect

My classmates, and a couple of boys from another school, went to the stadium.

πŸ’ Correct

My classmates and a couple of boys from another school_went to the stadium.

#4 Subject-Verb Agreement

Remember to use singular verbs with singular subjects and plural verbs with plural subjects. Pay attention to the verb “to be” and to uncountable nouns.

πŸ™… Incorrect

This research show the correlation between several factors.

πŸ’ Correct

This research shows the correlation between several factors.

#5 No Commas Around Interrupters

Interrupters are words or phrases that break the flow of a sentence with additional information. You usually need to separate interrupters using commas.

πŸ™… Incorrect

It usually takes an hour to drive to the shopping center from my house.Today_however_I needed only 40 minutes.

πŸ’ Correct

It usually takes an hour to drive to the shopping center from my house. Today, however, I needed only 40 minutes.

#6 Using Sentence Fragments

A sentence with no subject or main verb is a sentence fragment. Always check if there is a subject that does the action and the action itself. Sentence fragments also often seem uncompleted.

πŸ™… Incorrect

Because of his professional reputation.

πŸ’ Correct

Because of his reputation, he got this job.

#7 Squinting Modifiers

A squinting modifier is a word that can qualify the words before and after it. Consider changing the word order or sentence structure to correct this mistake.

πŸ™… Incorrect

Entrepreneurs who act irresponsibly expose their businesses to risk.

πŸ’ Correct

Entrepreneurs’ irresponsible actions expose their businesses to risk.

🧱 Essay Mistakes: Structure

#8 The Overall Structure

Make sure you have a five-paragraph structure unless the instructor gave you other guidelines. Your paper should include an introduction with a thesis statement, at least three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

#9 A Missing Thesis Statement

Your paper should be based on the thesis statement. It is only one or two sentences, but it plays a huge role. That is why its absence can lower your grade drastically.

#10 No Topic Sentences

Each body paragraph needs a topic sentence at the very beginning. It should highlight the main contents of the passage. Also, all the topic sentences support the thesis statement. It makes your essay more structured and coherent.

#11 Not Appropriate Length of Body Paragraphs

The length of each body paragraph should be somewhere between 150 and 200 words. If a passage is smaller, it does not seem like a well-developed thought. A bigger paragraph will make it harder for the readers to concentrate.

#12 Not Appropriate Length of Introduction or Conclusion

A general rule is that introduction or conclusion should make up 10% of the paper word count. For example, it is a 1500-word paper. It means your introduction should not be bigger than 150 words. Pay attention that it might be bigger if the text is 300 words or less.

#13 No Transition Between the Paragraphs

All the paragraphs should be logically connected to the thesis statement. You need to show a connection between the sections using linking words and sentences. Add a concluding sentence to each body paragraph to ensure they support the main claim.

#14 New Information in the Conclusion

Some essays require a personal evaluation of the presented material. If your instructor doesn’t provide such rules, don’t include them in your conclusion. The main two components of your conclusion are a paraphrased thesis statement and a summary of the main points.

🎲 Essay Mistakes: Choosing a Topic

#15 The Topic Is Too Simple

A simple topic doesn’t provide enough space for research. It is also harder to formulate a good thesis statement if the topic is plain. A simple topic doesn’t motivate your audience to read the paper either. They already might know enough about it.

❌ Bad Topic

Is everyday physical activity good for children?

βœ… Good Topic

What kind of everyday physical activity is the most beneficial for children in elementary school?

#16 The Topic Is Too General

Picking a specific topic will raise the quality of the essay. You can instantly filter the sources and create a smaller selection related to your topic. With a particular topic, you will conduct more profound research.

❌ Bad Topic

What are the effects of physical exercise on the human brain?

βœ… Good Topic

How does playing team sports affect brain activity during the game?

#17 The Topic Is Not Original

It is not a good idea to pick a topic over-researched by other scholars. There are answers to all of the questions you might want to research, so it will be hard to impress your professor. If you chose a topic that lacks originality, try to modify it.

❌ Bad Topic

What are the harmful effects of cell phone addiction?

βœ… Good Topic

How do social media companies contribute to cell phone addiction among teenagers?

#18 The Topic Doesn’t Need Research

If you know you can write this paper without any research, it’s a bad sign. Your audience and professor probably know everything too. Make sure to extend your knowledge to complete an essay. A good argumentation always needs some proof from credible sources.

❌ Bad Topic

Is fast food bad for your health?

βœ… Good Topic

What are the effects of sodium benzoate used in packaged foods on human health?

20 Examples of Good Topics for Students

  1. The use of renewable energy: challenges and solutions.
  2. The impact of computer technology on architecture.
  3. Genetically modified foods: effects on human health.
  4. Are we too dependent on computers?
  5. Distracted driving: should talking and texting be banned?
  6. The Japanese and the US healthcare systems: a comparative analysis.
  7. Effective approaches in leadership and management in nursing.
  8. Breast cancers: causes, symptoms, and treatment.
  9. Implications of children and adolescent obesity.
  10. Euthanasia as an ethical dilemma in nursing.
  11. The social security system in Saudi Arabia.
  12. β€œLearning from 9/11”: changes in police departments.
  13. International humanitarian law: peacekeeping operations.
  14. The origin, justification, and importance of a private property.
  15. How do the US presidential elections affect the Middle East?
  16. Practical and emotional intelligence: application and examples.
  17. Deviance and crime in colleges and universities.
  18. How does situational awareness affect decision-making?
  19. The effectiveness of mindfulness meditation intervention in reducing stress in adolescents.
  20. Causes of increased suicide rates in the United States.

Visit this 100% free online essay database for more amazing paper ideas.

πŸ“š Essay Mistakes: Using Sources

#19 Bad Sources

The sources you use for academic tasks should be reliable and up to date. Avoid Wikipedia, such forums as Quora, and other non-scientific data. Your college should have a research database or provide access to credible websitesβ€”for example, Scopus, Web of Science, PubMed, JSTOR, etc. You can also use printed sources you can find in your library as an alternative.

#20 Too Many or Too Few Sources

Using too few sources might indicate that you did not research the topic properly. Too many references make showing your standpoint and analytic skills more challenging. Your instructor should provide you with the number of sources you need to use. The average quantity is three sources per one double-spaced page. But this number might vary significantly depending on the type of essay.

#21 Just Summarizing

A summary shows that you have read the sources and extracted some information. You also need to analyze and synthesize the data to understand the issue deeper. Use critical thinking and creative approaches instead of paraphrasing the source. Try to figure out the author’s claim, how it is similar or different from other sources, its impact, etc.

#22 Improper Citation

Your instructor should also provide you with the citation style required for your paper. You can find guidelines for each online or in your college’s library. No matter how you format your essay, there always should be references to the sources you use. Otherwise, it’s plagiarism.

πŸ–ŒοΈ Essay Mistakes: Style

#23 Being Too Personal

If the task requires you to tell about yourself, go ahead. You can include some information to prove the credibility of your judgments. You can also explain why you used specific sources in your research and provide your opinion about them. If you don’t have to use any personal information, better focus on the investigation. Also, be careful when using pronouns “you” and “I” β€” ask your professor if it is appropriate for the task.

πŸ‘Ž Too Personal

I fact-checked the report results and compared them to other findings.

πŸ‘Just Good

The report results were fact-checked and compared to other findings.

#24 Over-complicating

Academic writing is not about putting something simple into complicated words. The main goal is the opposite – your paper is supposed to be as direct and concise as possible. Don’t use complex terminology or long phrases if there are other alternatives.

πŸ‘Ž Over-complicated

Scientists in different parts of the world have carried out many investigations which were aimed at minimizing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

πŸ‘Just Good

Scientists worldwide studied how to reduce the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

#25 Emotional Language

Emotional appeals work well in marketing texts and fiction books. You should always be objective and cold-minded writing an academic text. Even if the topic is sensitive to you, leave your emotional responses out of the paper. To be persuasive, include more convincing examples rather than expressive language. Support your arguments with factual claims and provide references to your findings.

πŸ‘Ž Too Emotional

It is unfair that children struggle with asthma, especially when their inattentive parents fail to stick to the treatment regimens.

πŸ‘Just Good

According to the authors, many children struggle with asthma, especially when treatment regimens are violated.

Use our free Read My Essay tool to hear how your text sounds – it will help you find more stylistic mistakes.


How to Avoid I in an Essay?

  • Use references to credible sources and their authors instead of relying on the word “I.”
  • Rather than writing “I think” or “I believe,” use such phrases as “According to (some evidence),” “Based on the data,” etc.
  • Write about the essay, not yourself. Instead of “I will present…” write “The essay presents…”

Is It Bad to Start an Essay with a Question?

It is better not to use a question as a first sentence. Instead, use an introductory paragraph to provide some information about the topic. In academic writing, you can include a rhetoric question in your introduction if it is appropriate.

What Words Not to Use in an Essay?

  • Slang, rude words, jargon: “OMG,” “dope,” “touch base.”
  • Exaggerating words: “absolute best,” “amazing,” and “groundbreaking.”
  • Emotional words: “disgusting,” “gorgeous,” and “repulsive.”
  • Such words as “very,” “really,” “totally,” “just,” and “actually.” They are often overused.
  • Plain words: “good,” “bad,” “thing,” and “stuff.” Try to find less popular and more intelligent synonyms.
  • Contractions: “don’t,” “wasn’t.” Use complete forms instead.
  • ClichΓ© phrases: “time flies,” “a perfect storm.”

Why Am I so Bad at Writing Essays?

You can develop your writing skills like any other ability. Imagine that you are bad at swimming. You can learn how to swim well if you put in enough effort and practice. It is the same with writing.

πŸ”— References

  1. Top 20 Errors in Undergraduate Writing | Hume Center for Writing and Speaking – Stanford University
  2. Twelve Common Errors – The Writing Center – UW–Madison
  3. Top 10 Student Writing Mistakes: Finals Edition
  4. 10 Common Grammatical Errors and Conventions in Academic Writing – University of Toronto Mississauga
  5. Common grammar mistakes that make people cringe
  6. 31 Common Grammar Mistakes (With Examples and Corrections) | Indeed.com
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