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A woman writing in a book

Writing an essay can be both exciting and daunting. There are many types of writing errors to avoid — from grammar and punctuation mistakes to incorrect word choices. Using grammar and punctuation properly can help you write better essays and improve your grades. If you don’t understand the basics of these rules, you can make mistakes that will not only hurt your essay grade but also your reputation as a writer.

Wondering how to avoid making embarrassing writing errors? We’ve compiled this guide on writing good essays to help you out a bit. In this article, we’ll cover the most common writing mistakes and how to prevent them.

Types of Mistakes Writers Make

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Eyeglasses laying on a book

When it comes to academic assignments, students make different types of errors. Let’s break down the most common essay mistakes in writing.

Grammar mistakes

Grammar mistakes involve incorrect usage of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other parts of speech. These mistakes mostly appear when the writer doesn’t know how to use words correctly or misuses punctuation.

Some examples of grammar errors include:

  • Noun form errors — wrong use of nouns, verb tenses, and articles,
  • Pronoun errors — incorrect word choice for pronouns, as well as incorrect pronoun agreement,
  • Sentence structure errors — poor sentence structure that does not make sense or is confusing to the reader.

Punctuation mistakes

Punctuation mistakes are types of errors in writing that involve incorrect use of punctuation marks.

Common writing mistakes related to punctuation are:

  • Incorrect comma usage — incorrect placement of commas, as well as missing commas,
  • Missing apostrophes — misplaced or forgotten apostrophes,
  • Misplaced quotation marks — incorrect placement of quotation marks.

Stylistic mistakes

Stylistic mistakes occur when a writer uses words that are inappropriate for the context. Poor word choice, awkward phrases, or incorrect spelling can also qualify as stylistic mistakes.

Examples of stylistic errors include:

  • Inappropriate use of jargon — using uncommon words that do not fit the context,
  • Incorrect use of colloquial expressions — words and phrases that do not fit the tone of the essay,
  • Incorrect use of synonyms — using words with a different meaning than intended.

Spelling mistakes

Spelling mistakes involve using the wrong spelling of a word. These errors can happen when a writer is typing quickly or doesn’t have access to an online dictionary.

Writing errors related to spelling include:

  • Misspelling words — writing words with incorrect letters,
  • Incorrect use of homophones — using the wrong homophone to express an idea.

Vocabulary mistakes

Vocabulary mistakes include using words that are too complex or advanced for the context. This type of mistake can take place when an author is trying to sound smart by using uncommon words.

Words to avoid in essays may include:

  • Overuse of complex phrases — using too many long and complex phrasing,
  • Using too many passive voice sentences — hiding the subject and emphasizing the object,
  • Incorrect use of idioms — phrases or expressions that have a figurative meaning.

Content mistakes

Content mistakes refer to errors that have to do with the topic of an essay. These errors are the most serious and can lead to a low grade if not corrected.

Examples of content errors include:

  • Incorrect citations — incorrectly citing sources in a paper,
  • Misunderstanding of key ideas — misunderstandings of topics and concepts discussed in the essay,
  • Plagiarism — copying the work of someone else without giving proper credit.

Structural mistakes

Structural mistakes focus on the structure of an essay, such as organization and flow. These errors can make a paper difficult to understand or lead to confusion for the reader.

Here are some examples of structural errors:

  • Incorrect transitions — using words that do not connect ideas in an essay,
  • Unbalanced paragraphs — when one paragraph is much longer than all the others,
  • Incorrect topic sentences — when a topic sentence does not match the content of the paragraph.

Common Writing Errors to Avoid

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Crumpled sheets of black and white paper

We’ve covered the types of mistakes essay writers make while working on their papers. Now, let’s discuss some common errors in writing essays that students commit.

1. Weak thesis statement

The thesis statement is a crucial component of every essay. If your thesis statement isn’t clear or strong, it can weaken the impact of your essay.

What makes a strong thesis statement? First, it should be a summary of your main argument. Second, it should be concise and provide an outline for the rest of your paper.

2. Not enough evidence to back your thesis

Having a strong thesis statement isn’t enough though. Your essay should also include evidence to support your claims. Use facts and expert opinions to back up your arguments.

Make sure you cite your sources correctly. Proper citation will add credibility to your paper and ensure that you don’t commit plagiarism.

3. Using too many passive voice sentences

Passive voice sentences have a structure that hides the subject and emphasizes the object. While this can be useful in some cases, it’s important to use active voice instead when possible.

Active voice sentences have a clear subject and verb structure, which makes them easier to read and comprehend. When using an active voice, make sure your verbs are strong and specific.

4. Poor word choice and grammar

Word choice can make or break an essay. Using words that are too simple or advanced for the context can make your writing seem unprofessional. When choosing words, focus on precision and clarity.

What are the words not to use in an essay? Avoid too informal or colloquial vocabulary. Such words can make your essay sound unprofessional and weaken the impact of your arguments.

Pay attention to grammar and punctuation rules. A paper with incorrect grammar will be difficult to understand and could lead to a lower grade. Consider using an online grammar checker or a proofreader to ensure that your grammar is correct. Always double-check your work for errors in noun forms, verb tenses, and articles.

5. Using the same lexical sets

When writing an essay, you should avoid using the same lexical sets (words or phrases) repeatedly. Word repetitions can make your essay seem monotonous and uninteresting. Instead, try to use a variety of words to express your ideas. Some of the most common repetitive words to avoid in academic writing include:

  • Very
  • Really
  • Quite
  • Thing

Focus on using strong verbs that can help you convey your meaning more effectively. A thesaurus can also help you discover new words to use in your writing.

6. Overly complex sentence structure

Next, it’s important to remember that longer sentences can be difficult to read and understand. If you find yourself writing overly complex sentences, break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Using punctuation marks like commas and semicolons can help readers better follow the flow of your essay.

7. Misplaced punctuation

Punctuation marks are essential for structuring an essay. Forgotten or misplaced punctuation marks can make it difficult for readers to understand what you mean.

When using punctuation marks, make sure they are in the correct positions. Remember that different punctuation marks have different functions, so use them appropriately. For example, a semicolon aims to join two independent clauses while a comma separates ideas within a sentence.

8. The lack of transitions between paragraphs

Transitions help to connect ideas in an essay and make it easier for readers to follow the flow of the paper. Without transitions, the reader may become confused or lose track of your argument.

When transitioning between paragraphs, try to use words that link one idea to the next. Consider using transition phrases such as “contrary to that,” or “furthermore” at the beginning of your next paragraph.

9. Too many subjects covered

When writing an essay, it’s important to focus on one or two main topics. Trying to include too many ideas can make your paper seem disorganized and confusing.

It’s best to organize your thoughts before you begin writing to avoid this problem. Try brainstorming ideas and creating an outline of your essay. This practice will help you stay focused and make sure your paper has a clear structure.

10. The lack of a bibliography

It’s important to cite the sources you use in your essay. A bibliography is an essential part of any paper and should include a list of all the references you’ve used.

When writing a bibliography, make sure to follow the formatting guidelines provided by your instructor or school. Remember to note where you found each source, and make sure all references are in the same format.

11. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious issue in academic writing. Be sure to always give credit to the original author for any quotes or excerpts you integrate into your paper. Cite your sources correctly and keep track of the references you apply to. Use originality-checking software to ensure your paper is free from any inadvertent plagiarism.

Examples of Mistakes Correction

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An open notebook with a pen and a mug near a laptop

What do common writing problems look like? Let’s look through fragments of sample student essays with errors. These examples will show you how to find the most correct way to write an essay.

Weak thesis statement

Example 1: This essay is about the importance of punctuation in essay writing.

Correction: Proper punctuation helps writers express their ideas and make their essays understandable.

Incorrect punctuation

Example 2: Vaishali is an excellent student she always gets good grades.

Correction: Vaishali is an excellent student; she always gets good grades.

Vague language

Example 2: “Fast food is not healthy.”

Correction: “Consuming too much fast food increases the risk of obesity and heart disease.”

Incorrect citation formatting

Example 4: “[14]. Smith, J., (2019). The Benefits of Exercise.”

Correction: “[14] Smith, J. (2019). The Benefits of Exercise.”

Lack of transitions between paragraphs

Example 5: “Cats are great pets. 

There is no need to take as much care of them as of dogs.”

Correction: “Cats make great pets because they can express affection but also cherish their independence. Furthermore, cats need less care than dogs.


Writing a good essay requires both grammar and punctuation knowledge. Being aware of writing mistakes to avoid and how to fix them are key to good essay writing.

Always proofread your work before submitting it. Pay attention to grammar and punctuation rules and use transitions between paragraphs. Focus on one or two main topics, include a bibliography, and cite all sources properly.

Take advantage of the tips and examples we’ve shared, and craft an error-free essay in no time!