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5 Common Academic Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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If you’re a student, you know the drill when it comes to academic writing. But if you are a student, you’re also likely among the 99% of students who have made academic writing mistakes. Because academic writing errors are so common and affect nearly every student at every academic level, it can be helpful to review the five most common academic writing mistakes and the easiest way to avoid them. If you can master the techniques for avoiding these errors, you’ll be most of the way toward creating the best possible paper for your next academic writing assignment.

So, let’s take a look at some of these mistakes.

Mistake #1: Plagiarism

The biggest mistake students make in their academic writing is plagiarism. Most students think of plagiarism as something that cheaters do, but it is also something that happens accidentally due to carelessness or ignorance. The two most common ways students unintentionally plagiarize are by (a) forgetting quotation marks or citations and (b) paraphrasing or summarizing too close to the original, borrowing or echoing words and phrases without recognizing that they are using the same or very similar words. You can avoid this mistake by always using quotation marks around borrowed language, citing sources whenever you use material from an outside source, and reading back your paraphrases and summaries against the original to make sure that you have used completely different words and phrases. To avoid plagiarism in academic writing, a lot of college students prefer contacting writing companies for assistance. But it is rather difficult to choose a professional academic writing service which produces non-plagiarized custom written papers of top notch quality.

Mistake #2: Using poor quality sources

The second mistake that many students make in their academic writing is using poor quality sources. It can be tempting to use Google to find only the information that we think we need for an academic essay, but this is often a path to poor quality research. A search engine like Google or Bing turns up information that is popular and widely read, but not necessarily the most accurate or scholarly material. This can create a problem for essays when poor quality sources leave you with too little information to achieve the best results. Instead, fix this problem by using your school’s library to search academic databases where you can find peer reviewed academic sources that can provide the scholarly information you need for an academic essay.

Mistake #3: Inflated language

Many students believe that using big words makes them sound smart. This leads to essays larded with complicated and often incorrectly used language, particularly long Latinate words that can be more easily expressed in simpler English. For example, “Heretofore, he had ambulated to the solarium” could be much more clearly expressed as “Previously, he walked to the sunroom.” Using big words doesn’t improve the clarity of language, and it is much easier to misuse a confusing big word. The best writing uses a long word only when there isn’t a shorter one that captures the same meaning. To avoid the problem, use a complicated big word only when it is the only word to do the job the right way.

Mistake #4: Telling rather than showing

One of the golden rules of writing is to “show, don’t tell.” This means that you should use examples and high-quality information to reinforce your thesis with facts and evidence rather than by simply asserting the thesis over and over again. You can avoid this mistake by staying away from using over-explanation through phrases like “This shows…” or “This demonstrates…” When you clearly relate each detail back to the main idea and have good information and examples, you won’t need to restate your thesis until the end of the paper because the reader will be making mental connections between your information and the thesis you presented at the start of the essay.

Mistake #5: Grammar and syntax errors

Even with all of the help available to students, from word processor programs’ grammar checkers to most schools’ online writing labs, grammar and syntax issues are the most common mistakes that instructors find in student papers. With the rise of texting, the use of abbreviations and creative misspellings creates challenges for students who have difficulty switching between informal online English and the formal English of academic writing. To help avoid this problem, proofread carefully, make use of the tools available to you, and ask a friend or writing tutor to give your paper a quick read-through to find the common errors that can bring down your grade.


With these tips, you’ll soon find yourself steering clear of the most common academic writing mistakes so you can focus on the best part of your essay - your great ideas!