Essay writing help

Essay writing help: common mistakes to avoid

Mar 21, 2013

#1 Filler content-stuffing your essay

When a page count is your primary goal, filling can easily take over. Filler content is usually information that is presented in an essay or other writing that is of little or no benefit to the reader. That is, the filling can easily be omitted without affecting the main objective or purpose of the paper.
In some cases, filling occurs innocently and is not a result of trying to reach a certain page count. For example, people may make the mistake of crafting a very long essay (with lots of filler content) hoping for it to be superior simply due to its length; without putting too much energy into the quality of the words.
*They fail to realize that oftentimes less is more. And almost any editor, instructor or critic would value a short, 'straight-to-the-point' essay over a long-winded, drawn out one.
Whether you insert 'filler-content' intentionally or unintentionally the remedy is a good revision. Taking your time to revise your work rigorously should eliminate redundancies and any unnecessary content.

#2 Failing to provide convincing evidence (except in some cases)

If someone is assigned to write and argumentative or persuasive essay, automatically they may think 'I'll need some really strong evidence to prove my point.' Because the nature of these assignments is to win over the audience with compelling arguments and evidences. But similarly, other types of essays as well deserve strong and convincing evidences to support their main thesis (regardless of the topic or type of essay being constructed).
For instance, if writing a definition essay, instead of stopping at your own interpretation of a specific term, such as "no love is unconditional" when defining the term unconditional love, provide concrete examples of how there are limitations on love outside of your own personal thoughts and experiences. Go the extra mile when providing evidences for this topic; for instance, dig for historical examples, stories in the news, or other clear cut illustrations.
One way to approach this flaw is to know the varying types of evidences and how to properly apply them. A popular acronym; FRIES, is used to help students remember how to elaborate or provide evidence in their writing. The words represented are facts, reasons, incidents, explanations, and statistics. They're a good starting point for providing evidentiary support in an essay.

#3 Not answering the essay question

This common mistake may occur in less than an hour but will take about two hours to fix. For students, after an essay assignment is given, the intention is usually to answer whatever essay question was asked of them. This is usually seen in the information provided in the title or introduction of their essay; but then somehow they make it to the conclusion without really answering what was asked.
For example, someone may be required to answer a question that specifically asks for them to compare and contrast 5 different ways to improve over health. In the beginning the person may acknowledge the 5 different ways but throughout the paper only actually compare two, and then cram the rest into the last paragraph of the essay (with only a few things mentioned about them).
This is a common, common mistake that usually plagues students more than anyone else. The main culprit is a lack of planning; this affects how thoroughly a question is answered, how support statements are presented and the proper connection of ideas.
The remedy is to take some time out to create a decent outline and layout for any essay; this includes identifying a suitable organizational structure.
For instance, for a compare and contrast essay, information can either be examined block by block or point by point. Block by block, meaning that one issue is fully examined before moving on to the next, and point by point, meaning that specific points from both issues are examined separately. These are two ways this essay can be organized.

#4 Falling victim to plagiarism

Sometimes even a concentrated effort to properly document sources and reference materials is still not enough to avoid plagiarism. Many forms of plagiarism are subtle and hard to detect-for conscious writers and students alike.
So how do you reduce your chances of falling into plagiarism?
(1) First, carefully organize and document your notes and sources to make it easier for you to separate your ideas from theirs and (2) Second learn when citing is absolutely necessary.
The basic protocol for avoiding plagiarism is to document referenced sources in-text and/or at the end of the essay. This includes sources that you quote from directly as well as ones that you gained a lot of valuable information from (that was used in your essay).
A quick list of when to indicate source;
  • when providing a direct quote
  • when summarizing
  • when paraphrasing
  • when you're not really sure what to do but know that the idea you want to share is not your own

#5 Trying too hard or not trying hard enough

The middle course is often the best course; "don't fall short but don't go overboard either."
When you want to do really well on a paper or even just deliver an impressive essay, your good intentions may sometimes turn sour when you 'try too hard' to impress the reader. This usually comes in the form of big words that are really out of place, or a cavalier tone that suggest you're a scholar on the subject (when you're not), or sometimes too much information and detail in areas that don't really require it.
Also, some essays fall short by taking on an ultra-casual or friendly tone or approach to writing. This may include lots of personal anecdotes, exclamation points, jokes, slang, and cliches. This type of writing can be problematic for a few reasons.
Mainly if your audience is an academic or professional one, your essay may be looked at unfavorably for this casual approach and even lead them to believe that you are uneducated or unqualified to write on the topic. So for situations such as this you would be seen as not trying hard enough and ultimately taking your audience for granted.
To rectify this common mistake a writer needs to carefully consider his or her audience-always. It's ok to write in a relaxed, casual manner if it helps you connect with the reader, but the benefit needs to outweigh the harms. And even with this some precaution should be taken (don't reveal anything too personal or write using an excessive amount of slang or cliches).
And even though 'trying too hard' is usually never a good idea, writing at an educational level that is appropriate for your audience (even if it may seem difficult and complex to some) is not something blameworthy.
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By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.
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