Writing essays isn’t always easy. Professors generally have different preferences when it comes to writing and they have to read and grade hundreds of papers, so the last thing they want to read is a bad essay. Instead of telling you what to do, I’m going to tell you what to avoid, so you don’t end up submitting an essay that’s unique for all the wrong reasons.
Here are 7 tips on what you shouldn’t do when writing an essay.
1. Don’t use clichés
The first thing I can remember a writing teacher telling me when I was younger is “avoid clichés,” and this still rings true today. Clichés in writing are overused expressions that have lost their luster over time. Some examples are phrases like “plenty of fish in the sea” or “add insult to injury.” We’ve all heard these expressions millions of times, and they just feel outdated and unoriginal. Even phrases used by many essay writers should be avoided, such as “at the end of the day” or “in this day and age.”
2. Don’t use meaningless sentences
When I write an essay, I start with a mindset that each sentence should have a purpose. Of course, no writing is ever perfect, but you only get a limited number of words to write what you actually want to write. Don’t use up your space with thoughts or sentences that should be in the trash bin. When writing, think of each sentence as a bridge to your next one. This is why outlines exist. Even though I’m not always a fan of outlines, half of writing an essay comes before you even type a word.
3. Don’t use filler words
Yes, completing your word count is important, but it shouldn’t be prioritized over the quality of your essay. Words like “basically,” “very,” “really,” “that,” and “additionally” are words that are often used unnecessarily. It’s the equivalent of saying “um,” and you don’t want that.
4. Don’t be redundant
Redundant writing is a pet peeve of mine. This topic ties into the idea of having meaningful sentences. Always vary your vocabulary, so you don’t end up using the same words throughout an entire essay. Don’t make every sentence long and don’t make very sentence short. You have to spice it up. You don’t want to each chicken everyday for the rest of your life; sometimes you want steak. The best way to avoid redundancy is to read your essay out loud. Once you hear the flow of your essay, you’ll notice the changes you have to make.
5. Don’t waste your quotes
Of course, it’s important to know the fundamentals of writing quotes in essays, but it’s also important to know how to use quotes. Quotes should not be used haphazardly; they should only be used if the person you’re quoting said something that you couldn’t say better yourself. A common mistake writers make is to forget to introduce the quote. Quotes aren’t meant to just be plopped into a paragraph. The other important thing to remember is that quotes should only be used to expand your thoughts on the essay. Follow your quotes with substance that shows the reader why you picked the quote.
6. Don’t stray from topic
Don’t start essays without having an idea on how you want the entire essay to go. This may sound simple, but it’s actually an easy mistake to make if you aren’t focused enough. Professors don’t like to read essays that start off strong but taper off by the end. Even the best writers in the world had to learn discipline. This can be avoided by constant revision and a strong foundation or outline.
7. Don’t throw away your conclusion
Don’t use your conclusion as a throwaway. The conclusion is a vital piece of your essay, which will round up your thoughts and leave a good or bad impression on your professor. While your conclusion should not introduce new thoughts, be sure not to repeat exactly what you’ve said in your essay already. A good way to start a conclusion is by reminding the reader of your thesis. Make sure your last sentence is interesting and makes a lasting impression on the reader.
There is always something you can do to improve an essay. Follow these steps, and you’ll write a cohesive and thought-provoking essay!
Brian Bonilla is a Journalism and Marketing student at Brooklyn College. When it comes to sports he’s an expert watcher and a mediocre player. When he’s not busy catching up on shows or writing scripts he’s probably telling people to watch The Americans on FX.