5 Essay Mistakes You Can Totally Avoid


Writing the perfect essay can feel like a minefield of dos and don’ts, but many of the most common writing mistakes are actually easy to avoid. Here’s a rundown of five errors you can easily fix on your next paper (even the one that’s due tomorrow).

Not Presenting an Argument

An essay should never be a simple regurgitation of facts. Instead it should present an argument, point of view or interpretation that you are able to support convincingly. Your thesis statement is key in setting the argumentative tone of your essay.

If your statement is one that no reader could try to argue against, you need to look at it again. For example:

“Slavery is wrong”

This is an example of a thesis statement that isn’t debatable. It states a blanket value judgement without saying specifically what you are going argue, backed by evidence.

“The Chinese ‘sweatshop’ industry is as unethical as 17th-century slavery in colonial America.”

This is an example of a stronger thesis statement that could be debated. The reader knows that you’re going to attempt to prove a specific argument by presenting evidence.

Remember that you need a thesis statement for any paper you write, even a straightforward research paper.

Poor Pacing

An academic essay should have three basic parts:

  • An introduction that includes a thesis statement. This should set out the aim of the essay and present the core argument to be supported.
  • A middle section that serves to persuade the reader with a combination of critical thinking and cited material.
  • A conclusion that sums up the findings of the essay.

The length and detail of each section will depend on the total length of the essay. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you divide your essay into fifths, the introduction and conclusion should be one fifth each. So a well-structured, 1,000-word essay would have the following approximate structure:

  • Introduction—200 words
  • Body—600 words (split into three 200-word paragraphs)
  • Conclusion—200 words

While this is a rough guide, the point is to keep your essay balanced and moving at the right place. That means no long, rambling introductions!

Bad Grammar or Spelling

Spelling and grammar can account for a significant portion of your overall grade. A few mistakes could mean the difference between a C and a B, or a B and an A, even if your argument is well-reasoned and supported!

Online grammar checking tools mean that there’s absolutely no reason to lose marks for grammar or spelling. Try the grammar and plagiarism checker right here on Citation Machine to get instant suggestions on improving your writing style, grammar and sentence structure.

Incorrect Citations

Citing can be confusing, especially as different subjects prefer different citation styles. If you’re struggling to understand how to cite, online citation generators can help. All that you need to do is check with your professor on which style of citation you should be using (MLA, APA and Chicago style format are common examples) make sure you note down all the required information when doing your research. Then it’s simply a matter of feeding the information into the citation generator and linking your full citation to a parenthetical citation within your paper body (or a footnote, depending on the citation style).

Parroting or Plagiarizing

One of the most serious mistakes that you can make when writing your essay is to not even attempt to cite your sources at all. At its worst, this is plagiarism, which could result in an essay fail or even more serious college sanctions.

Parroting, or repeating someone else’s ideas as if they were your own, is also a form of plagiarism. Remember to cite all sources that you borrow from to strengthen your argument, even if you don’t use a direct quote.

With Citation Machine Plus, you get unlimited plagiarism checks, ensuring that nothing in your essay goes unreferenced. You can even add the citations you missed directly into your paper!

For more citing help, get the lowdown on how to cite a book, website, journal or other type of source material. With these tools and some attention on your part, your next essay can be properly cited and error-free!

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