Writing essays is an integral part of students' life. At times it's challenging, and at times it's are fun, but at all times, it's a cumbersome core. This is especially because so much can go wrong with this task: grammatical errors, incorrect essay vocabulary, citing mistakes and plagiarism, to name a few. How many times have you feared showing your work to others simply because you were not sure if you missed out on some embarrassing errors, or failed to write a convincing essay that delivered the message effectively? If yes, then you probably know the perils of submitting essays rampant with common, embarrassing errors!
Whether you are looking to write a book, or churn up great essays, this guide is sure to help you out! So, rather than facing the challenges blindly, take a glance at the following checklist of 5 mistakes that every professor hates to see in an essay.
Mistake #1: Description Without Explanation
As a student striving to pen down a persuasive essay, it's natural to become obsessed with adverbs and adjectives and miss out on the explanation in the process. For example, you may be always describing people and the way they do certain things, like: "My mother is beautiful. She is a good teacher as well". Now, this statement is wrong for a number of reasons. Your readers might ask: "Why did you come to the conclusion that your mother is beautiful? What made you say that she teaches well?". So, bottomline is that you can very well go on filling your essay with strong adverbs and adjectives that sound pleasing to the ears, but the point still remains unclear.
Do not describe people and things, instead explain the reason behind your description vividly. Do not describe the things they do and how they do, rather back up your statements with evidence to show exactly how they do those things. It is always advisable to quote examples, information, or evidence from authoritative sources.
Now, take a look at the next sentence.
"My mother has sparkling blue eyes and flaming, red hair that makes her beautiful to behold. Moreover, she always encourages me to read and manages to explain even the toughest of things with alarming ease".
Isn't this a lot clear than the previous sentence?
Mistake #2: Passive Voice
A sentence written in passive voice occurs when the main subject of the sentence does not perform the said action, rather the action is done on it by someone else. Professors believe that using the passive voice in an essay leads to awkward sentences and doesn't quite convey the thought very well. However, it is still acceptable when the action being performed deserves more attention than the main subject or doer of that action.
Writing in active voice helps to capture the attention of the reader and makes your essay stronger by showing responsibility, or highlighting a certain action. By using the passive voice, you tend to avoid showing responsibility and hence fail to give enough information to explain the problem in detail. This is especially detrimental if the main core of your essay is centered around that problem/action.
In order to change passive into active voice, start by recognizing the subject. Thereafter, make the verb of the same tense as that of the helper, and then end the sentence with the receiver of action.
Consider the following example:
Passive: The novel "Black Friday" was written by S.Hussain Zaidi.
Active: S.Hussain Zaidi wrote the novel "Black Friday".
Mistake # 3: Missing Commas, Comma Splices & Run-on Sentences
These are common mistakes that even seasoned writers tend to make. When present in excess, they end up ruining the meaning of your essay and compromise readability, thereby causing your professor to just lose interest and give you a measly grade at the end. A comma splice occurs when you use a comma, instead of a semi-colon to join two independent clauses. A run-on sentence is one that combines two independent clauses without any proper punctuation, or conjunction. Commas are used to separate clauses from one another, and a series of items occurring in a sentence/list.
When in doubt, run your essay on an essay checker in order to evaluate your use of commas properly. There are many ways to fix a run-on sentence and comma splice. For example, you can add a coordinating conjunction after the comma, like 'for', 'nor', 'but', 'yet', 'or', 'so', etc. Alternatively, you can change the comma to a semicolon as well, or change it into a period to end the sentence and thereby, divide the independent clauses into two complete sentences. When adding commas, keep in mind that they are used to form the structure of a sentence, as well as distinguish between key ideas and elements.
"Mark had disappeared he left his coat and sunglasses in the shop."
"Mark had disappeared. He left his coat and sunglasses in the shop."
"It was raining, our school was closed today."
"It was raining; Our school was closed today."
"It was raining, so our school was closed today."
Mistake #4: Incomplete sentences
Every complete sentence needs to have a verb and a subject. While, this may seem rather straightforward to comprehend, you will actually be surprised to know that even seasoned essay writers end up making this mistake in their regular assignments. The trouble happens when you begin constructing a complicated sentence, and then stop midway because you either forget to finish it, or don't know to give it a logical ending.
Every sentence needs to be complete for clear communication and effective engagement of the reader. An easy way to know if your sentence is complete or not is to check if it expresses a complete thought in itself. You can read the sentence aloud for better clarity. When it's incomplete, you will either feel like the sentence doesn't make sense, or that it has stopped with an abrupt or vague ending.
Consider the following examples:
- 'Visited the museum'.
- 'Walked in the park'.
- 'Drank a glass of wine'.
In all these sentences, the subjects are missing, and that is why they are incomplete
- 'Jane visited the museum'.
- 'Molly walked in the park'.
- 'I drank a glass of wine'.
Mistake # 5: Too Many Thoughts
An essay should focus on one single thought, and your goal, as the writer should be to clarify the thought in the best possible manner. Having too many thoughts in the essay defeats the purpose of writing it in the first place. It also dodges the reader's attention and comes across as a confused piece. For example, if you have been asked to write about your dream job, don't end up including irrelevant details like your previous summer vacation, or your mother's aspirations, or your future trip abroad. Alternatively, if the essay is argumentative in nature, do not include counterargument ideas, as they are largely irrelevant and go completely against your topic. Basically, you need to streamline your essay into a format that conveys a single idea in a compelling way.
Whenever you get an essay topic, your first instinct is to brainstorm all the ideas, twists and angles that can be used to present it in the most engaging manner. At this stage, it's important to sort out a single idea and build your write-up on it. So, the best way out is to simply focus on the question. When you are asked to describe your aspirations, don't spend half of the essay describing your father's occupation, or your grandmother's last wish. Instead, come straight to the point. Describe your passions and give compact examples to prove just how passionate you are for your aspirations. Then again, it's also completely fine to include a paragraph or two to give a background of the real theme. Another thing to keep in mind is that all your paragraphs should support the one idea/answer to the essay statement.
And finally, steer clear of big words but don't use small words either. Just use the right words, and you will be fine. How to ensure this? Check whether every word in your sentence justifies your essay topic. That's all. Also, edit ruthlessly. According to research, proofreading and essay editing reduce essay mistakes and enhance readability to a whopping 30%. So, if you are desperate to improve your grades and avoid running the risk of making all 5.mistakes that every professor hates to see in an essay, do follow the guide for your next assignment!