Earlier articles looked at mistakes in essays involving the use of pronouns or things like relying solely on one’s spell checker. This essay looks at other common mistakes that can cause readers to dismiss one’s writing. Sometimes errors in papers make it seem like a student just didn’t care enough, but other times mistakes are just distracting. Here are common writing mistakes found in essays and how to fix them, so that readers can enjoy one’s paper.
Improperly Citing Sources
Many students are wary of plagiarism and rightly so. However, when a citation is quoted, be aware that the quote must contain the exact words of the author.
The following paragraph will be used as a source that is quoted below:
“…While it has been proven that Shakespeare’s history was not always accurate, that he embellished some history, downplayed or compressed other various accounts, and erroneously (and sometimes intentionally) dramatized a few facts, I believe that Shakespeare attempted to remain true to the historical figures, even if those people were remaining consistent only within the framework of his play; when he chose to alter a character’s history, he did so for dramatic effect. Ultimately, however, I argue that Shakespeare did not portray women in anything other than a realistic light in regard to the times in which he lived, whether or not the character’s portrayal is faithful to the historical figure and whether the characters were based on real women or were entirely fictional roles…”
This is an incorrect quote from the above source: “Shakespeare portrayed women in a realistic light in regard to the times in which he lived.” These are not the exact words of the author. If a writer from cheap essay writing services does not want to use an actual quote, a summary or paraphrase will work. To be in quotations, however, the writer needs to quote the source exactly.
These quote the source correctly:
- “Shakespeare did not portray women in anything other than a realistic light in regard to the times in which he lived.”
- “Shakespeare . . . portray[ed] women in . . . a realistic light in regard to the times in which he lived.”
This paraphrase also uses the source in the correct manner: The author maintains that Shakespeare “portrayed” historical women realistically.
Note that the second quote above, while altered by the writer who displayed the changes with brackets and ellipses, does not change the author’s original intent. Always be careful to maintain the author’s original intent (in other words, don’t take the author “out of context”).
Commas in Introductory Phrases
Many people have problems with comma usage. Even people who don’t know what a “comma splice” is have heard of one! However, many people use commas when they shouldn’t, or they forget to use commas in “subordinate” clauses. An easy rule of thumb: Any time a writer begins a sentence with the words “as,” “if,” or “when,” she will know that she’ll need a comma where one would normally pause in speech. See these examples:
- “When I sit down to write, I need peace and quiet.”
- “As he sat on the couch to watch television, the phone rang.”
- “If you go outside, take your umbrella.”
Commas sometimes, but not always, reflect a natural pause in speech. Introductory phrases cause this pause. Some words that begin introductory phrases include the above words, as well as these (but there are even more than the ones here): although, while, even though, since, and other similar words.
Correcting Mistakes Shows a Writer Who Cares
Instructors (and readers) appreciate a writer’s attention to detail. Sometimes if a writer becomes aware of common mistakes, he will recognize those errors and make them less frequently. The key is to keep trying.