Essay Writing Mistakes: The 3 Ss and How to Correct Them

Guest Post by Jennifer Frost, LoroCreative

“To write is human, to edit is divine.” — Stephen King

You’ve probably already read and heard the tips on how to write an essay, from developing a thesis statement to crafting an unforgettable conclusion. But you may still dread showing your work to others because you are not sure if you’ve missed some errors or failed to follow a rule. Maybe you don’t have a teacher, an editor, or a friend beside you all the time to identify the parts of your writing that you need to correct or improve. So today, we will help you become your own editor and share with you a checklist of common writing mistakes based on the key areas of an essay, the 3 Ss: Substance, Structure, and Sources.

SUBSTANCE

Common Mistake # 1: Too Many Topics

Having too many topics in your essay would defeat the purpose of your thesis statement, the main point of your essay. Have you ever been asked about your dream job and you end up talking about your summer vacation, your mother’s fight with her boss, or your trip abroad next month? If so, then you’ve got to narrow it down

What to do


Use these guide questions to help you craft a focused thesis statement: What is the essay question? What are the requirements? Do all your paragraphs support your answer to the essay question? Are you expected to inform, argue, narrate, or persuade your readers?

Focus on the question. Focus on your answer. When you’re asked to describe your mother, don’t talk about how naughty your sister is or how busy your father is. Describe how your mother takes care of you, your sister, and your father.

Common Mistake # 2: Lack of Evidence Caused by Obsession with Adjectives and Adverbs

You might be always describing people and how they do things: “My teacher is beautiful. She teaches us excellently.”

But your readers might ask: “What made you say your teacher is beautiful? Why is she an excellent teacher? How does she teach?”

You can write all the adjectives and adverbs that sound good to the ears but your point remains unclear.

What to do

Don’t describe people; explain your description of them. Don’t describe how they do things; show how they do things. You can also use examples, evidence, or information from scholastic documents.

Take a look at this sentence: “Aside from her blue eyes and good posture, my teacher’s beauty shines when she encourages us to read and act the stories in class.”

Isn’t this clearer than the previous sentence?

STRUCTURE

Common Mistake # 3: Comma Splices, Run-on Sentences, and Missing Commas

A comma splice happens when two independent clauses are joined together by a comma. A run-on sentence is a combination of two independent clauses with no proper punctuation. Commas are necessary when there are three or more items that appear in a list and when separating clauses from one another.

What to do

When in doubt, check a grammar book when evaluating your use of commas. There are several ways to fix a comma splice and a run-on sentence. Keep in mind that commas are used not only for the structure of a sentence but to distinguish ideas and elements.

Common Mistake # 4: Passive Sentences The passive voice occurs when in a sentence, the subject is not the doer of the action but is being acted upon by the verb. According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, using the passive voice might lead to awkward sentences, but it is acceptable when the information being delivered needs more attention than the doer or carrier of that information. One example is the result of a study where “the writing appears to convey information that is not limited or biased by individual perspectives or personal interests.”

What to do

Changing passive into active voice starts with recognizing the subject and turning the tense of the verb into the same tense as the helper, and ending the sentence with the receiver of the action. Here is an example from the Language Portal of Canada:

Passive: The novel Obasan was written by Joy Kogawa. Active: Joy Kogawa wrote the novel Obasan.

SOURCES
 Common Mistake # 5: Plagiarism

Common Mistake # 5: Plagiarism The Harvard Guide to Using Sources defines plagiarism as the practice of not crediting an idea or any language to its original source, such as un-cited quotation and un-cited or inadequate paraphrase. Committing plagiarism has serious consequences. Moreover, it may be easy to copy-past information from the Internet nowadays, but you know what’s the most difficult here? This habit teaches you to be lazy and become a thief.

What to do

Style Guides, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, are accessible online and in the nearest libraries. The topics and rules are organized in a way that it would be easy for you to find the instructions you are looking for. Remember that citing your sources properly is not only a way of respecting others but it can also boost your credibility and commitment to keeping your work professional.

Editing a paper may seem tough for it requires a fresh pair of eyes and the willingness to grow as a writer. However, it’s good to remember that revisions are signs of growth and respect for your readers, and they can always be turned into better visions for your future writings.


Jennifer Frost Bio PicJennifer Frost — Jennifer is a blogger, writer, mother, wife, and English teacher located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She’s an open-minded person who loves to travel, while exploring new places, foreign cultures, and learning new languages.

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