The Most Common Errors in Essay Writing

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by Gene Grzywacz – Edited by Lynne Hand

While writing comes naturally for some people most everyone else has to make a conscious and concentrated effort to get the appropriate words on paper. It is not only the words, but also the formatting, spelling and grammatical errors that often plague the common student’s essay. There are a number of reasons for this; however it can be easily corrected with a little bit of time and effort. After all this essay could mean not receiving the acceptance letter desired or a failing grade. It is important to ensure that anything from a letter to a full blown research paper is correct and reads well because it is a direct reflection on yourself. This article will cover the common errors of essay writing and a few tips to help alleviate those issues.

Spelling – Not Only Spell Check

Spell check is one of the most wonderful inventions ever. It helps everyone, not only students with ensuring the words on their paper are spelled correctly. Over the years we have all learned to spell, but there are those specific words that give us trouble each and every time. Many of us have become dependent on the computer for alternate words, spelling and catching grammatical errors, but we also have to remember that the computer is not 100% error proof. By this point you fully realize that different words can have different meanings as well as alternate spellings. Though spell check is a very efficient tool there are items that it simply does not catch. This doesn’t mean that spell check leaves words incorrectly spelled; it means that the word that you intended may not be the word that is included in the paper. For example words such as there and their are commonly mistaken in the context of the sentence. The computer is logical, but is not able to apply common sense to wording.

Improper Person

Almost every student has a problem with writing in the wrong perspectives at some point or another. This is a very common problem and can be addressed with a little bit of understanding. The two most common perspectives of writing are the first and third person. The second person perspective is generally not required for most college, high school or other academic papers unless otherwise specified. In most cases the third person perspective is used when it applies to everyone and not any one person specifically. First person refers to the author or the individual writing the paper. The first person perspective is commonly seen in opinion or evaluation papers, from the writer’s point of view.

Fragments and Run On Sentences

Students commonly find themselves either with a long winded sentence or one that is not a complete idea. This is a very common problem among professional writers. Generally, individuals will either have trouble with one or the other, but in some cases both issues are a problem. Spell check will catch fragments and run on sentences for the writer to correct before turning the essay in. Run on sentences are easy to spot because they are two independent sentences sandwiched together. They can be corrected by simply adding punctuation, and therefore separating the sentences. For fragment sentences it is important to express a freestanding idea in the sentence. Below are examples of both:

Run on: Logan loves to color he is a talented artist. (This would sound better if it were broken down into two – it crams two complete thoughts together.)

Fragment: Such as dogs, cats and horses. (This sentence can not stand alone and make sense – what about dogs, cats and horses? What the author means is unclear.)

Not Proofreading

Proofreading is not all that much fun and no one likes to do it, but it is imperative for a well written essay. As we pointed out earlier spell check does not catch every type of error that can be found in typical writing. It only takes a few minutes to read over each and every sentence ensuring that they are complete thoughts, have the correct words and make sense. Proof reading increases grades by about 10 to 20 points every single time. Most professors and teachers claim that if the students would have reread or proofed the paper before turning it in, they would have received a much better grade. In many cases those extra points could mean the difference between passing and failing the entire class, or gaining entrance into a school of choice. If possible having someone else read over the paper or proof it as well can help, sometimes the author understands the concept, but the reader may not be able to understand.

The best advice in writing a good essay is to slow down and follow the guidelines to ensure a quality paper. All of the steps must be followed or it is likely that the paper will have errors and will receive a poor grade.

About the Author: Read more from Gene's website College Success on essay writing and other college tips

Proof read / proof-read / proofread?  Which is the correct spelling?  Well, proofread or proof-read is acceptable, I prefer proofread.

There are more writing tips on the Learn English site.


Thanks to Carl for pointing out the spelling mistake (one that no spell checker would have caught.)