Top 20 essay writing mistakes
A common failure of many students when faced with an essay task is that they do not benefit themselves by creating an established, well-ordered and usable work-space. Their area of work needs to be quiet, well-lit and warm, away from distractions and temptations like the phone or the TV. Difficult essay tasks are made harder by this basic preparatory failure.
Similarly, students need to allow themselves adequate time frames within which to complete their work. Once more this is a matter of organisational effort and thought. Far too often a student will disregard or be too flippant about an essay deadline, particularly if it is some distance away. Once an essay date is set, it should be marked down and a time plan for its completion should be set.
3) Essay title
Either through lack of care or time, a classic student mistake when writing an essay is to pay too little attention to the title. This indiscipline at such a crucial stage can have long-lasting consequences as it is very easy to continue along an incorrect narrative or address inappropriate themes once you are up and running.
Not doing enough research on an essay is a classic mistake. The danger often lies with the essayist feeling they know ‘enough’ of a topic to get by but the strong essay writer should undertake as much research as possible in order to be as well equipped as possible.
In a similar vein, when researching an essay, the writer should not get over-dependent on internet sources. Not only is the reliability and validity of the source sometimes questionable but it is a potentially lazy habit for an essay writer to fall into.
6) Past essays
Disregarding past essay critiques is also the sign of the indifferent essay writer. The advice of the teacher, lecturer, mentor etc. is crucial to understanding both the thematic and technical requirements of an academic piece of writing.
As a result, a bad essay is often characterised by lack of planning and preparation. There will be no evidence of any thought-showering or brainstorming, no annotated models and there will a lack of paragraph ideas and key points to include. An essay written without the benefit of a good model will inevitably struggle.
The introduction to an essay sets the tone. The weak essay writer will be too scant or threadbare in terms of ‘laying the table’ for what is to follow or, alternatively, they will be excessively detailed and exhaustive and include too much information too early on. A poor introduction will be confusing, irrelevant or overly basic.
Another major fault of the poor essay writer is to misread or disregard the required levels of audience, purpose and tone. An essay aimed at persuading the local MP to revamp leisure facilities will inevitably demand a different stylistic approach to one reviewing an amateur theatre production!
10) Too many quotes
Over-quoting is an easy trap for the half-hearted essay writer to fall into. As tempting as improving your word-count via the utilisation of a hefty chunk of text may be, if it isn’t relevant to the question, then it is both pointless and frustrating to the marker.
11) Not enough quotes
Similarly under-quoting or quoting sloppily or inaccurately is a palpable weakness in many essay writers. The well-researched and illuminating quote is a highlight of a good essay but huge chunks of narrative unenlivened by a sharp, thoughtful quote can make for a dull read. Equally, quoting something that is vaguely connected to the topic is even more harmful than not quoting at all! It simply demonstrates the lack of care inherent in the bad essay writer.
12) Losing track
A common mistake among essay writers is that, in the rush to complete the work, many writers simply forget to keep referring back to the title. This simple step is vital in keeping the essay on track.
13) Writing style
Unless the essay absolutely demands it, then it is important the writer adopts a clean and simple style of writing. There should be little need to be over-complicated, fussy or suffer from a lack of clarity. Vocabulary should be relevant and meaningful, not an excuse to indulge in pretentious wordplay.
14) Spelling, punctuation and grammar
It is never acceptable to assume that, in an essay, the basics are not to be taken care of. Therefore grammar, punctuation and spelling should be an intrinsic part of the essay writer’s toolkit. To not pay attention to these is to deprive you of marks from the outset.
Another key error is essay writing is to not utilise paragraphs effectively. To miss out on the introductory topic sentence makes paragraphing awkward and confusing to follow and leaves the reader with no clears, linear progression through the work.
16) Idea development
This failing is sometimes compounded by the inadequate development of key points in the essay. The essay model/plan should have highlighted the key responses required to best fully cover the essay criteria and question and the weak essayist will skip though these major ideas too lightly.
The ill-prepared writer will seek to pad out their work by simply revisiting and reiterating the same (However good or salient) issue again and again. A sign of a poor essay is the feel of sameness that can often pervade the work.
18) Word count
Word-Counts are a matter that simply must be taken seriously. It goes without saying that a vastly under developed body of work is going to be seriously compromised in terms of its mark. However, a common misconception is that writing more than the required amount is an impressive option. In reality it shows a lack of editorial control and the inability to be disciplined and selective.
In the same way that a weak introduction sets the tone for a below-par essay, then a vague, unfocused conclusion leaves the marker with an overall feeling of dissatisfaction and disquiet over the quality of the work.
20) Critically analyse
The final error is often the costliest. Once the work had been completed it must be analytically reviewed by its author. To do anything other than this is to invite the possibility of error and the likelihood of marker criticism.