Top 10 Mistakes Made During Essay Writing (Part 2)

Updated: Nov 9, 2016

Top 10 Mistakes Made During Essay Writing (Part 2)

This article is a continuation of Top 10 Mistakes Made During Essay Writing (Part 1)

6. Thinking a Citation Speaks for Itself

When the student does find an ideal source to pepper into their essay, they should not expect the source’s content itself to support a claim. Even if it is fairly obvious to the reader why the source was used in a certain case and how it evidences the paper’s thesis statement, it should be explained and made sense of for the reader’s sake.

The writer should keep mindful to always contextualize a source, explaining why it is important and how it confirms the point being made.

For example, if they are arguing Edgar Allen Poe’s use of an unreliable narrator in his “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the writer will probably want to illustrate how the narrator was mentally ill. In this case, they may then use this passage from the text:

“If still, you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. … First of all, I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings.”

Using this passage, the student can’t expect it to speak for itself. They must explain that normal, healthy people, first of all, don’t kill people. Even more convincing, this narrator is insane but tries to convince the reader otherwise, that he of a normal mental condition. But he is most certainly not. There is no way possible he can be trusted as a narrator.

Regardless of the source (or how its context is) being used, the writer must always explain its placement and inclusion and why it is important and pertinent in defending their argument.


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7. Not Using Linking and Transitional Words and Phrases

An academic paper is deemed ineffective if it fails to communicate a message. When it comes to communication, keywords and phrases are used in an essay to indicate a change in the flow of the text; also, they are used to bridge certain thoughts and sentences and examples.

Whenever the focus of an essay transitions from one evidencing point of an argument, or thought, to another, and a second, new point is being an examined, the reader needs to be informed right before as it happens. Without being so, they are prevented from successfully navigating through the story’s argument, and will not be successfully following each point being explained and examine, one by one. It is the student’s responsibility to have the reader to know exactly what they are attempting to convey and be able to follow their argument through to the end.

To indicate a change in topic or point, a transitional word or phrase can be employed. Just like keywords in conversation, the purpose of these particular words is to communicate effectively and illustrate a transition in thought: Firstly, first of all, secondly, thirdly, next, subsequently, lastly, conclusively, in conclusion, and finally.

Linking words and phrases (like on the contrary, however, as a result, in comparison, this suggests that, including, most importantly and although) bridge together certain items in a sentence or paragraph. Since the middle, body paragraphs in most academic essays are meant to defend a point, or an overall theme of the paper, to generally expand on each point, one at a time, linking words and phrases are generally used in a single paragraph to connect sentences and thoughts that validate a single point that is being examined in an essay. These types of words and phrases are generally used for when a writer needs to expand on just ONE point evidencing their thesis.

When a writer fails to communicate these specific types of changes, explanations, transitions, they risk missing the opportunity to convey something important to their reader, and the objective of their assignment will be compromised, resulting in a bad grade.

8. Writing With Too Much Ego … and Not to Simply Communicate a Thought

Writing effectively at the college level is not about sounding smart on paper, writing intellectually – using big words, esoteric words, and phrases and references. It’s about using everyday language to make the case for something, and not using the BIG word, the small word, but the RIGHT WORD.

It is essential to produce an essay that is written in simple language and that conveys an intricate thought or span of thoughts. Think succinct, direct language like Hemingway, not flowery, literary prose with Fitzgerald.

Whenever the writer scribbles with conviction, thereby choosing to discuss a passionate subject at length, they will, almost innately, make a good case for something.

9. Not Including a Title

A good title, which the reader will come across first before reading an essay, is a must-have element to any writing assignment. Not only does a title help the reader to avoid a low grade on the assignment – because it really is a requirement to most if not all writing assignments – a title is another way of enticing the reader to consider something, a sort of appetizer to the entrée.

Also, since the reader first glances at the title before they read the essay itself entirely, it serves the very important function of letting the reader know what is to follow. Again, the better a reader has kept abreast of the argument being made, the more likely they are to be convinced of that argument.

10. Not Rereading the Essay for Flow and to Find Mistakes 

Long before a student even considers handing in their writing assignment for evaluation, they should reread their completed essay several times. They are looking to make sure that it is void of proofreading and grammar mistakes, and that a solid case has been made to defend their thesis, for whatever subject.

It also is beneficial, before turning a written assignment into one’s professor, to have a friend or writing tutor, or even one’s professor, first reading and verbally evaluating the assignment.

The pre-submission checklist can be found here

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