Common Writing Mistakes That Students Should Avoid

Writing guide
Posted on April 9, 2020

Writing academic essays can often be hard because you need to research your topic, find relevant sources, brainstorm ideas, create an outline, write, revise, and rewrite your final draft. With a variety of challenging tasks to complete, many ESL students often feel overwhelmed and as a result, make many mistakes that they can easily avoid if they followed the grammar rules and were more careful. In this article, we speak about common mistakes in English writing that many undergraduate students make.

Types of Writing Errors

If you want to write well, you need to understand and avoid common writing mistakes. Here we are going to discuss several types of writing errors that are typical for students who write in English no matter whether they are native speakers or English is their second language. They are spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and mechanical errors in writing. Let’s discuss each of these types in detail to help you get a better idea. Here is our list of top writing mistakes to avoid.

Spelling Grammar Punctuation Mistakes in Writing

English spelling is very complicated and irregular. Although there are a lot of spelling rules, there are many exceptions as well. In fact, you actually have to remember how each word is written before you begin to notice some patterns that you can follow in your writing. For example, many students make mistakes in homophones (write, rite, right) or spell compound words as separate words.
Although a spelling mistake can’t prevent your readers from understanding the content, if you make many orthographic errors, you will make a negative impression on them. That’s why you should be very careful when proofreading your academic papers. Use computer spell check and check the spelling in a good online dictionary. A good idea is to check your writings using some free spelling and grammar checker apps.

Grammatical errors are the next type of mistakes commonly made by native speakers and ESL students. For example, many students use incorrect verb forms and tenses; make mistakes in subject-verb agreement, and fail to use correct definite and indefinite articles. The worst mistakes of this type are wrong forms of irregular verbs, which are very difficult to master even for native speakers. You can easily correct these common errors themselves, especially if you read your essays aloud. Besides, you should regularly check popular grammar guides.

Serious punctuation mistakes are common for both ESL students and native speakers. To avoid them, you should learn the rules of English punctuation system and regularly practice writing different types of papers. For example, a common error is no comma after an introductory phrase that provides the background information. Another example of a common mistake is the lack of comma where it is needed, for example, in a compound sentence. Besides, syntax rules require at least one comma when we use a list of three items:

  • Incorrect: The book is interesting easy to read and affordable.
  • Correct: The book is interesting, easy to read, and affordable.

Besides, we should always use comma around the words and phrases that interrupt the flow of the sentence to provide additional information:

  • The PDF file was, unfortunately, not opening.

Common Syntax Errors in Writing

The syntax is about structure. Common syntax errors in writing are misplaced modifiers, which make the sentences unclear, the lack of subject in independent and dependent clauses, and faulty sentence structure. If you begin a sentence with one structure and then change it to a different one, you may simply confuse your readers. It’s crucial to use a single grammatical pattern in a sentence. Keep in mind that each sentence must have a subject and a verb and they must make sense together. You should avoid using fragments that miss a subject and run-on sentences.

  • Incorrect: Finder on your Mac. You see it when your computer finishes starting up.
  • Correct: You see Finder on your Mac when it finishes starting up.

Besides, you should avoid creating tiresome sentences by including too many equally weighted clauses and phrases.

Typical Mechanical Errors in Writing

Mechanical mistakes are actually mistakes in punctuation, spelling, and capitalization that both native speakers and ESL students make, especially when they write quickly and have no time to pay attention to such aspects of writing. In some cases, they need to focus on the content and not on the form of writing. Such mistakes typically don’t interfere with the reader’s comprehension of the written text. However, they can make a negative impression on them and this aspect is especially important in formal academic or scientific writing. That’s why you should always be very careful when writing your assignments and consult a good dictionary to check the spelling. As far as punctuation is concerned, you should consult grammar guides and always follow the rules. Besides, you should always proofread carefully all your college essays.

How to Avoid Common Errors in Writing

Some students think that mistakes and typos are inevitable. But it is not true. You can significantly improve the quality of your writings if you use effective editing and proofreading strategies. Wondering how you can do that? Here are some tips on how to avoid common errors in writing.

  • Don’t rely on spell checker on your computer. Always proofread your papers yourself or ask your friend or family member to help you. They will be able to look at your writings with a fresh set of eyes and spot mistakes that you might have missed.
  • Don’t start proofreading just after you have finished creating the final copy of your essay. Take a short break at least for a couple of hours. In this way, you’ll avoid the writer’s blindness and will be able to catch more mistakes and typos.
  • Read your paper aloud. This approach is especially effective when you want to check for grammar and punctuation errors. Besides, when reading aloud, you’ll easier catch sentences that sound awkward – fragments and run-ons.
  • Read the text backwards, sentence after sentence, from the end to the beginning. In this way, you won’t focus on the content and will pay attention to grammar and spelling. This technique is especially useful when you haven’t much time for proofreading. Reading your essay backwards, your brain will consider it new so you’ll easier focus on the form and will catch errors that you might have overlooked using other methods.
  • Use a good dictionary. You may buy a paper copy or work with a web app. You can easily find a lot of dictionaries online. You should develop a habit to consult a dictionary when you write something to check spelling and learn new words to enrich your vocabulary.

We have discussed the most common writing mistakes. You can use our article as a free checklist when editing your essays and research papers. It’s important to proofread all your papers carefully for these errors before you handing them in. Our article can be also useful for those who are preparing to take IELTS. Still, these are not the only problems that you should worry about in your writing assignments. You should also take care about the structure of your essay or research proposal, the logical flow, and clarity. If you want to learn more about different aspects of writing academic, scientific, technical or business papers, you can check other articles on our blog.

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