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What to Avoid when Writing Academic Essays

After handing in an essay and anxiously waiting for it to come back, one can only wonder if it was enough. The paper gets handed back and the grade is not exactly what was expected. Looking through the paper, it was obvious what was missed even with the editing.

It can be frustrating when writing academic essays and making sure that everything is right and that it meets the requirements.

But what if there were mistakes that could be avoided? Here are five mistakes that can be avoided.


When writing a rough draft, it is easy to misspell a word, particularly if the writer has been looking at the screen for a long time. During the editing and revising process, take time to read each sentence and correct any misspelled words before handing in the paper.

Change of Person Voice

If the paper is to be in third person, make sure to use the third person voice. An example of this would be instead of using “I” or “me”, which is first person, the writer can use the words “he” or “she”. There is also the idea of being able to use “one” when referring to the writer themselves in order to be neutral.

Changing in Tenses

A common mistake is to get caught up in switching between past and present tense. An example of this might be in a paper that talks about comparing and contrasting vegetarian foods with a paleo diet. One way to avoid this is to decide on whether or not the paper is to be in past or present tense.


In formal papers, contractions aren’t allowed. Most instructors will say that the words need to be spelled out. An example would be in the sentence above. Instead of “aren’t”, spelling out the word “are not” is much more professional and formal.

Incorrect Sentence Structures

In English composition classes, sentence structures are pounded into the heads of college students and they are told what the expectations of the professional world are: complete sentences full of thought. In the process of editing and revising, check for sentences that are fragments and need to be revised to have completed thought for the reader. Also check for sentences that are too simple or could be seen as too informal of a tone, meaning could it be too conversational instead of it being formal.

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