Avoiding These Essay Writing Mistakes Will Immediately Make You a Better Writer
Getting better at essay writing depends on more than simply learning the right methods and approaches to use. It is just as much about learning what not to do, what to avoid, and what to use sparingly. In many ways, understanding the wrong practices is even more important than studying the right ones – it is easier to avoid doing something altogether than to learn how to apply this or that method skillfully. In this article, we will cover some of the worst mistakes you can make when writing an essay – make it your rule to avoid them like a plague, and it will immediately reflect on your grades.
This is probably the worst thing you can do in an academic paper. Being accused of plagiarism not just earns you a bad grade – it goes against every academic rule and puts your entire college career in jeopardy. What is even more insidious is that you do not even have to do it intentionally. There are two types of plagiarism, and you can be accused of either of them without ever intending to steal another person’s work.
The first type involves simply taking a source and repeating it word for word without giving credit to the author. In the age of ubiquitous plagiarism checkers doing so intentionally is incredibly stupid, so the main danger lies in forgetting to properly mark a quotation in your text.
The second type is more complicated – it consists of rewording and rephrasing a source or a part of a source and passing it as your own ideas. You have to be particularly careful about this kind of plagiarism – sometimes you may write something that is very close to the words of another author, so always make sure you have studied as many sources on your subject as possible to avoid such accidents.
Quoting relevant sources is a great way to show that you have done your research and can navigate the context related to the topic of your essay. However, just like with any other tool, it is easy to abuse and overuse. Put too many quotes into your essay, and it starts to look as if you do not have anything of your own to say. Therefore, use quotes only when you feel they will be particularly effective in driving your point home.
Working without an Outline
When you write an essay, it is only natural to be willing to get right down to business and get it over with quickly. Therefore, many students start directly with the introduction and work things out as they go along. If you type your essays, it is even easier to justify this approach because you can always get back to earlier parts and correct them if necessary. However, not using an outline or a plan is a big mistake. Your essay will turn out to be amorphous and rambling, you are likely to omit important points or repeat yourself. If you are attentive, you will probably be able to whip your essay into shape eventually, but you will lose more time rereading and rewriting it than you win by skipping the outline.
Starting with a Rhetorical Question
Starting an essay with overgeneralized rhetorical questions is a technique often taught at high school and justified by the need to “hook” the reader and motivate him/her to read on. In reality, these questions are rarely interesting and look incredibly clichéd and amateurish most of the time. Starting your essay with something like, “Since the beginning of time, people asked themselves, what is the purpose of life?” looks almost painfully trite and does not bode well for the reader who will have to read the rest of it. Instead, try to give the audience a clear idea of what you are going to talk about and what your purpose is.
Weak or Absent Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is supposed to contain the main idea of your essay in a condensed form. It should be as specific, concise, and unambiguous as possible. The reader should be able to get the gist of what you want to say in your essay from it alone. However, many students pay very little attention to this aspect of an essay, and either forget to include it altogether or deal with it in passing. Avoid using a thesis statement that is too broad, vague, and general. Make sure it contains a single strong point – if you feel the need to include more than one, it most likely means that your thesis statement is not specific enough.
Using Low-Quality Sources
The Internet is both a blessing and a curse for an academic writer. On the one hand, it makes it incredibly easy to find information on virtually anything. On the other hand, it makes it extremely hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Before you use any source, you have to make sure it can be trusted. Check the identity of its author and his/her qualifications. Think about the possible agendas of the author of the publisher. See if the source is up to date. Make sure it is backed up by viable evidence. Prefer the sources found in reputable peer-reviewed academic magazines.
By the time you finish writing your essay, you are probably so sick and tired of it that you want nothing more than to finally set it aside. However, by freeing yourself from it a little bit earlier you often risk getting a worse grade than you deserve. Although you may think that you know all the ins and outs of your essay by now and have weeded out all mistakes, proofreading requires a different approach and mindset than writing itself. You have to focus on it wholeheartedly to do it effectively. Correcting an occasional mistake as you write is not the same as paying the essay your full attention and carefully going over every word.
Of course, you can always pay essay writer to help you out with a particularly difficult assignment and ease your burden. However, it is still a good idea to learn the common mistakes – you can never know when you will have to write an essay on your own.