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de Doris Hall (2020-04-07)

Whether you are a high school freshman or a graduate student, the ability to write can serve you in good stead. Although it takes time to hone your essay writing, it is a skill that can extend through the rest of your academic (and post-academic) career. However, there are several common mistakes to avoid.

Lack of organization

Although not every essay will need to be preceded by a formal written outline, you should organize every essay from that you write. If you do not organize your thoughts before you begin writing, your essay may reflect that. This is also the stage where it is beneficial to write a thesis statement, summarizing the point of the entire essay in a single sentence. Writing your thesis statement first may serve as a guide for your following points, where you "tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them."

An obvious last piece of advice for organizing your essay is to follow the prompt and fulfill the requirements. Have you answered the question? Have you supported your ideas? Make a checklist of issues brought up in the prompt and make sure you have covered those topics.

Lack of proofreading

Do everyone (including yourself) a favor by using spelling and grammar checks. Don't, however, stop there. Sometimes it takes a human being, not just a computer, to find the error in your ways. Who hasn't gone through the rite of finding the right write (or some other homonym)? After you have written your essay, read through it. You may even want to read it aloud. Then, set it aside for a while before you look at it again with fresh eyes. During that rest period, ask a parent, teacher, or friend proofread it.