So this one goes out to all of the students out there, I want to share the top 5 writing mistakes to avoid, but before I do I think we all need to get on the same page and realize something very important…
Every teacher keeps a list of what drives them crazy in student writing. Maybe your teacher’s list isn’t actually written down, but after comparing notes with other teachers, I can tell you most teachers have some kind of list. As a grad student I always wonder what my professors’ lists will consist of. Every year I work to improve my writing. I ask myself what is the best method of writing improvement for this course? That being said, I am not only a student but also a teacher, and I, my friends, have a list.
Well, let me tell you first how I found my list, which consists of five common writing mistakes to avoid.
Overall, I taught roughly 320 different students over the last year and a half. No matter what level I teach to, the same student writing mistakes keep popping up. All of these mistakes are curable.
Let’s count down.
5. Weak Verbs and Adjectives
You know what I’m talking about. In fact, I just used a weak verb in that last sentence (you know, the one before this one). Verbs that are overused or vague are not on my “happy list.” As a reminder, a verb is an action word and an adjective is a descriptive word. Helping verbs (see explanation here), also known as “to be” or auxiliary verbs, can be weak. When trying to write academically and as articulately as possible, it is important to implement (example of a good verb) strong verbs and adjectives. Also, if you come across a verb in your paper and you know for a fact that particular word was an active word in your kindergarten vocabulary, it may not be the best verb.
Let’s practice with just verbs for now.
- Here is a BAD example: William Golding did write a lot of other books in addition to Lord of the Flies.
- Here is a BETTER example: William Golding wrote a lot of other books in addition to Lord of the Flies.
- Here is my BEST example: William Golding crafted many other novels in addition to Lord of the Flies.
Get it? Just by tweaking your verbs and adjectives you will improve your writing. Let’s move on.
4. Vague Sentences
The next writing mistake to avoid is vagueness. Vagueness is flushing out writing with non-specific words. Vagueness is often exhibited by overusing pronouns.
For instance, the “he” in the second sentence in the following example, doesn’t specify who specifically I am talking about.
- “William Golding and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote books in the same century. He wrote The Great Gatsby.” I needed to state who the “he” was in that last sentence.
Sometimes vagueness isn’t very obvious. Using the word “it” is often the culprit. I suggest having someone read you paper and circle anywhere he or she gets confused–usually this indicates vagueness.
3. Wordy Sentences
We have all stretched a sentence or maybe even a paragraph to meet a required length. Don’t be wordy. Personally, I define wordy as using too many words to say something that could be said a more effective manner. Often when someone is wordy, he or she becomes vague just trying to expand the assignment. Writing improvement includes concise writing.
- Example: This is vague because I refuse to tell you what it is that I’m referring to. How are you supposed to know that I don’t like it when you don’t talk about it?
I know that in my classes, I am more lenient with those that say things plainly and concisely. I am not saying don’t use great words, but I am saying that you should ask yourself if you are stating what you want in the most productive way possible.
2. Awkward Sentences or Phrases
This mistake is kind of obvious in meaning. Sometimes you read a sentence and think, “Wait a minute…what?” Sometimes writing gets awkward when the writer writes too fast or doesn’t proofread. The best way to remedy this is just by simply reading your paper out loud before turning it in. Usually, your ear hears what you eye can’t see when it comes to finding awkwardness.
1. Forgetting Purpose
Every sentence that you write needs to have purpose. Now I don’t want you to confuse having purpose with having a thesis statement. Every single sentence you write should be for a reason. Each sentence should contribute to the purpose of paragraph or document. To put it simply always ask, “Why is this sentence here, and does it do what I want it to?”
Focus on these top 5 writing mistakes to avoid, and I know that writing improvement will follow.
What other struggles do you have when it comes to writing? Comment below. Maybe I’ll write a post about it. 🙂