5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Content Writer at Gradehacker

How frustrating is it to hand in an essay you thought was good only to receive a low grade and a heap of corrections? 

Here at Gradehacker we have had years of experience writing custom-made essays for college students. In this time we have come across many students who feel defeated as they keep receiving the same feedback on different essays. This can leave you feeling unable to fix the weaknesses in your essay writing and lift your grades.

Many of those corrections you might find spread throughout your essay are common essay mistakes! Though you may feel you are alone in repeating the same essay mistakes, this is not the case. 

Excellent essay writing is a skill you need to complete college successfully. In this article, we will share the 5 most common essay mistakes we have observed in essays and how to avoid them. This way you can solve these mistakes and get that A+ essay you desire!

5 Common Essay Mistakes

Mistake #1: Thesis Statement Problems

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

A thesis statement is a sentence located at the end of your introduction that lays out the argument you will be making in your essay and the points that you will include to back this up.

Writing a Vague Thesis Statement

What makes a thesis statement vague is leaving out the points that will support why your argument is valid. Let’s take a look at an example of a vague thesis statement: 

Children should eat vegetables.

Does this thesis statement make the reader confident that children should eat their vegetables?

This thesis statement isn’t convincing because it presents an argument without any justification for it. It does not include why children should eat their vegetables.

How do I make a strong thesis statement?

When crafting a thesis statement, you have to remember to include the why aspect.

When you have an argument, ask yourself, “why is this so?” The answer to this question will be the points that will support your argument and must be included in the thesis statement.

Taking this into account, let’s tweak the previous thesis statement:

Children should eat vegetables because they provide the necessary nutrients for growth, protect against diseases, and are an excellent fiber source.

Compare the previous thesis statement to this one. This one sounds a lot more convincing, doesn’t it? This thesis statement was improved simply by including points that back up the claim.

I asked myself, why should children eat vegetables? And added on to the thesis statement by putting my answer after a ‘because.’

Thesis statements don’t always address a “why is this so?” sometimes, they address a “how did (any event) happen?”

That means that if asking yourself, “Why?” does not fit your thesis statement, ask yourself, “How?”. When you answer either a why or how always include your answer as the supporting points.

Ensure you do not just include an empty statement, but you are also justifying your statement.

Choosing a Non-justifiable Thesis Statement

Another mistake is choosing a thesis statement that you are not able to justify extensively. If you find that you chose a thesis statement but are struggling to find points that will support it, you are making this mistake!

You can end up with a non-justifiable thesis statement for two reasons:

  • There aren’t many facts out there to support the point you make in your thesis statement.
  • You chose a thesis statement before researching thoroughly and only based on your personal opinion.

If you have a non-justifiable thesis statement, it will affect your entire essay! Your body paragraphs, which elaborate on the supporting points, will suffer as you end up justifying more with opinion instead of facts and information.

How do I ensure my thesis statement can be justified?

Simply put, stick to the facts! And avoid:

  • Choosing a thesis statement before researching a topic.
  • Picking an argument that has little evidence out there.

Do not be afraid to change your thesis statement! Because you will end up losing more time and points on your grade if you stay put with a thesis statement that isn’t easy to justify. 

Here’s a visual template you can follow to know if your thesis statement is appropriate for your paper o not. 

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Important Note: Don’t Forget About the Thesis Statement Throughout the Entire Essay

So, we pointed out that having a good thesis statement is a must-have, but is that it? No! A big mistake is including a thesis statement but not connecting back to it throughout your essay.

This common mistake occurs when we lose sight of our thesis statement in the writing process. We may follow our essay plan and include the points we planned, but forget to relate these back to the essay’s stance.

This error involves leaving the thesis statement in the introduction and forgetting about it in the rest of your essay.

How do I address the thesis statement throughout the entire essay?

To avoid this, you must understand that each body paragraph(s) explores a separate point supporting your thesis statement.

Have your thesis statement in sight while writing, so you can always be reminded of your essay’s general argument. When you include evidence or facts within a body paragraph, always explain how this backs up your general thesis statement points.

Think of your thesis statement as a string to which each body paragraph is connected and ties back to.

Mistake #2: Including Hard-to-read Sentences

Have you ever had someone else read your essay and ask, what are you trying to say? Hard-to-read sentences are commonly found in essays. Many include fancy words and long sentences, thinking it will make them sound “academic.”

These sentences, you think, sound academic will just be confusing to the reader if they are not concise and have superfluous words.

While academic writing does involve formal words and academic language, clarity is the most important thing!

How do I make my sentences readable?

Nowadays you can use many online readers and grammar editors that will help you make your sentences easier to read and more accurate. 

Usually, online editors look like this:

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Getting someone else to read your essay is a great way to avoid having hard-to-read sentences. Having another pair of eyes look over your essay will allow them to catch which sentences are difficult to understand.

You can also highlight lengthy sentences in your essay, review them, and ask yourself:

  • Is this sentence difficult to read?
  • Will this sentence be more exact if I change the words?
  • Will this sentence be clearer if I shorten it?

Hemingway Editor is also a great online tool that points out which sentences are hard-to-read and lengthy.

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mistake #3: Disorganized Essay Structure

Sometimes, even though the ideas you brainstormed for your essay and the evidence you found are excellent, your essay’s structure is not great.

Having a clear and organized structure is what makes or breaks an essay. It facilitates getting your point across.

However, many students don’t pay much attention to the structure, and they end up with an essay with no apparent organization.

When you don’t have a good essay structure, your paragraphs will seem like different topics that do not relate to one another or flow effortlessly.

How do I better structure my essay?

The only way to avoid this is to structure your essay before writing! This involves planning out each part of your essay, your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

You can make a bullet point list of what you will write in each section and remember each section is supposed to work together to illustrate a point. This point that each body paragraph needs to work together to present is the argument in your thesis statement.

When planning out what to write in each section, don’t forget to list out:

  • The significance of your argument in the conclusion.
  • The thesis statement in the introduction.
  • How each point relates and backs up your thesis statement.
  • The evidence you will use in your body paragraphs to prove each point.

This is an example of a good essay structure you can follow so your writing can flow flawlessly. 

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Make sure to limit each body paragraph to one idea, so that the structure isn’t confusing. Also, don’t forget to include transition words between paragraphs so that your essay flows nicely.

Always tie everything back to the thesis statement; this will make sure your paragraphs connect to one another.

Mistake #4: Rewording the Introduction for the Conclusion

There is a widespread misconception that all you need to do in a conclusion is reword the introduction. Yes, you cannot forget to revisit the points you make throughout the essay, but a conclusion is not the same as an introduction!

This is why students make the common mistake of not including the bigger picture of your essay.

Another mistake is beginning your conclusion with a generic term that marks finality such as, “in conclusion.”  

How do I make my conclusion better?

You should check whether your conclusion does these things:

  • Mention any further implications of your argument.
  • Revisits the points you made and how this supports the thesis statement.
  • Reflect on the argument you made and the “bigger picture.”

Try not to begin your conclusion with a generic phrase like ‘in conclusion,’ as these sound amateur. Also, a conclusion should be able to be identified without these introductory phrases.

Mistake #5 Not Editing Your Essay Thoroughly

The biggest mistake you can make is not editing your essay thoroughly before handing it in.

By not rereading your essay, your silly mistakes will distract from what you are trying to say. Any mistakes, such as typos or punctuation mistakes, will make your essay harder to read for your professor and disrupt the point you are trying to make.

Skipping this final step in the essay writing process will rid you of the chance of perfecting your essay and fixing any mistakes. This simple step has a significant impact on getting you from a C or B to an A!

How do I revise my essay better?

Proofread your essay and pay attention to any: 

  • Disorganized structure/flow.
  • Not relating back to the overall message (thesis statement).
  • Punctuation mistakes.
  • Hard-to-read sentences.
  • Grammar mistakes.
  • Spelling mistakes.

Grammarly is an online tool you can use in the revision process to pick up any grammar and punctuation mistakes you did not catch.

Asking someone other than yourself to read your essay is very helpful in the revision process. As they are in the reader’s position, they can see which areas are necessary to correct and give you suggestions.

5 Common Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Learning From Common Essay Mistakes

The best way to avoid making essay mistakes is to identify common essay mistakes and learn from them. Keep these five common essay mistakes in mind in the essay writing process. You will definitely see an improvement in your essay writing quality.

It is essential to complete each step of essay writing (research, writing, editing) precisely. Skipping one of these steps or completing one of these steps half-heartedly will impact your essay’s grade.

We know from personal experience and through our clients, that essays are not a piece of cake! They involve skill not only in terms of content, but in terms of citing properly and finishing them in a timely manner.   

Do you struggle with citing properly in your essays? Read our article on APA vs. MLA Citation: What’s the Difference?

Are you used to taking ages to write an essay? Check out our article on 10 Kickass Steps to Write Your Essay Without Wasting Time

Athina Hansen

Athina Hansen

Athina has worked with Gradehacker both as a content writer and a study consultant, where she assisted college students with nursing courses. Athina has a background of educating others and producing content, having tutored college students and produced articles for her school magazine. She brings her experience to her current role, where she writes content to empower and assist the non-traditional college student who is often overlooked. You can find her on LinkedIn

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