Imagine you had spent countless hours conducting research, analyzing data, and constructing insights for your paper. You were confident that your paper would help you get a good grade. You eagerly submit your paper, only to receive feedback filled with writing corrections and suggestions for improvement.
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Well, you're not alone, an Indonesian university conducted a research study where they analyzed the papers of 70 students. Surprisingly, The findings revealed a total of 1596 writing errors across the sample group. But, What went wrong?
Here the problem lies in the writing errors that often happen in academic writing, undermining the credibility and decreasing the impact of even the most promising papers. A study conducted by the Institute of graduate studies shows that approximately 80% of college students struggle with basic grammar and punctuation in their academic writing.
But the truth is, these common writing mistakes are a universal problem that extends beyond the realm of academics. People face an array of problems while writing, which can be grammatical mistakes, punctuation errors, and even sentence structure and coherence. That being the case, this guide will address these pain points, offering insights and strategies to identify and rectify common writing errors. By understanding the challenges posed by grammar, punctuation, coherence, and style, this guide will help you in overcoming those challenges and elevate the quality of your writing.
Let's start the blog by addressing the broadest challenge in writing which is the issue of structuring your content effectively.
Common writing mistakes in structure
Unnecessarily long introductions
You read the introduction for this blog, how was it? Did you find it effective in conveying the main message? Did you notice any information that could have been omitted and lastly were you able to smoothly walk into the place that the blog explores? That is what an introduction should be, it shall act as a transition for your reader to move from their daily lives into your piece of content, but writing an introduction can sometimes become the most difficult part of writing.
A major problem with writing introductions is, students forget the main motive of writing introductions, which is just to give a brief of the topic, and end up adding too much information. The problem with adding too much information is that it buries the main message the writer intends to deliver. Moreover, providing vague information in the introduction will create confusion in the minds of the readers which will lead them to feel lost and lose attention from the main message.
Now what to do
The introduction of your content will act as a road map for your readers for the rest of the piece. Hence, it should include the ideas you want to present and the questions you want to answer in your content. Additionally, it helps you to hook your readers and inspire a genuine interest in the value you will deliver.
So, while writing an introduction, you first need to decide how broad your opening would be, but make sure your broad idea relates to your topic. You can start with a broad idea sentence and then narrow it down to the argument of your content. In this also, you need to make sure you don't jump directly from a broad idea to a specific argument, you need to provide a proper sequence and context for each idea that you will present.
You can also try writing your introduction in the end, if you don't have a good idea of what you are going to talk about, it is perfectly fine to write down your content first and then reflect upon it in your introduction.
Keep it concise, keep it precise, and outline the points that will be discussed in your content.
Lack of clear flow in writing
Clear flow in writing means that your content can be read smoothly and easily from beginning to end. In this case, a reader does not find it hard to connect the ideas and feels no difficulty in understanding what you are trying to convey.
On the other hand, poor organization, lack of coherency in sentences and paragraphs, and sentence fragmentation cause disruptions in ideas, and difficulty in understanding which makes the reader go back and read again. Look at the example of a sentence below
“Walking through the park, my friend called me on my phone, which surprised me because I wasn't expecting it”.
Now what to do
Before showing you the corrected sentence, let's talk about the different aspects you need to keep in mind. Firstly, you can make your writing more clear by sticking to a single structure throughout your writing, maintaining proper grammatical use within sentences, and using parallelism to depict a relation among your ideas. Additionally, you can take advantage of pronouns and transitions to link sentences together, for developing coherence among ideas and sentences.
And finally, don't forget to follow the rules of grammar, make sure your sentences include subject, verb, and object so that they would make sense even if they're used as independent sentences. Now getting back to our example, here is how that sentence would look when written correctly.
“While walking in the park, I was surprised when my friend unexpectedly called me on my phone”.
Follow a single structure throughout your writing along with ensuring seamless transitions and logical progression of ideas.
Transition words help your writing to move smoothly from one sentence, paragraph, and topic to another. These words clarify the logic of your argument by carrying your reader as you develop ideas between sentences and paragraphs. Additionally, these words help you alert your readers about a shift in your argument while maintaining the clarity of your message and smoothness throughout. The problem with the usage of transitions is not that it is not used enough, but that it is used incorrectly. Let’s take an example of the incorrect usage of transitional words.
“Harry wanted burger. He wanted pizza”.
Are you able to identify what is wrong with this sentence? Let me show you the correct way of writing it.
“Harry wanted cake but he also wanted pizza”.
You can see how better your text sounds with the correct usage of transition.
Now what to do
But only knowing the correct transition is not the whole thing you need to make sure you use transition strategically by choosing the words or phrases that match the relationship you're trying to make. Also, make sure you understand the meaning and usage of each word to be sure that it's the right match for your content's structure. So let's discuss the major types of transitions used for different sentences and purposes.
Strategically select and use transition words that match the intent of your content to enhance coherence and guide a logical flow.
Lack of clear beginning, middle, and end
When writing content, one of the biggest problems the majority of writers face is keeping ideas clear and organized from beginning to end. Especially when writing long content, be it for academic or general purposes it is easy to lose track of the main message. In this case, a lack of proper content structure will hinder readers' comprehension and disrupt the flow and cohesion of the writing. Hence, it is important to have properly structured and coherent sections as it provides a roadmap to readers and helps in increasing the reader's comprehension of the topic.
Now what to do
A good way to create properly structured content is to start by drafting an outline. An outline will help you to identify gaps, and problems in sequence and smooth flow from one to another. You also need to make sure your content starts with a well-defined introduction that provides a brief of what will be discussed in the rest of the part. Then, continue with your topic but make sure while talking about ideas, try to start with the broader topics first and then move on to the narrower ones. This ensures the coherent development of ideas and a proper flow from general to specific problems. Then end your writing with a full-fledged conclusion in which you summarize the main points discussed in the topic along with a call to action.
Draft an outline to maintain a clear and organized content structure, start by concisely introducing the topic, then progress through your ideas logically, and finally summarize effectively.
Having understood the importance of establishing a solid structure for your blog, the next step is to identify and rectify any mistakes that may have found their way into your content.
Common writing mistakes in content
Explanations lacking backup or detail
Whenever you discuss anything in your writing you need to make sure that you provide enough explanation. This will ensure that your content provides maximum value to your readers.
A major problem that many writers face while writing is not being able to decide what things they need to explain and what their audience might already know. This leads to them not providing explanations for many things that their audience might not be aware of, which creates holes in the content that impacts its credibility, questions the validity of the information, and results in an unsatisfied audience.
Now what to do?
As Tim Radford stated, “If in doubt, assume the reader knows nothing”. So you need to make sure that whenever you talk about something in your writing you provide proper details, use examples for better explanation, and don't forget to use case studies to back up your information and add more credibility to your writing. Also, if you are writing for academic purposes you need to make sure that you provide evidence and use citations for every informational thing you include, as academic writing requires evidence-based reasoning.
Ensure comprehensive explanation by providing thorough information, sufficient details, supporting evidence, and addressing all relevant aspects.
Use of jargon without explanation
Before we talk about jargon, let's first talk about the difference between the use of a technical term and the use of jargon. Let's take an example, suppose you are writing on artificial intelligence, and you have to talk about “image classification tasks”. While there might be no other correct way to refer to the technical term. but, instead of writing it like this “utilize advanced machine algorithms and deep neural network to optimize the performance of the convolutional neural network model for image classification tasks” You can instead write it like this, “using algorithms and neural networks to enhance the performance of image classification”. Im sure you can tell which one is better for writing. Still, for your clarity, the first one is the use of jargon and the second one is the use of technical terms.
A fundamental suggestion when writing for any niche is to try to avoid jargon as much as possible. There are chances that some of your readers might be laymen, who are not familiar with the terminologies. This would create barriers to understanding as the reader would feel lost in the professional terms, which would ultimately lead to a loss of engagement for laymen as they won't be able to keep up with the content.
Now what to do
You cannot fully avoid the use of jargon, some topics require you to include jargon in the writing. In those cases make sure that you provide relevant context and explanation with every jargon you use. You can also provide footnotes where you explain the use of jargon or you can link to other pages where a proper explanation regarding the jargon is provided.
Avoid the use of jargon without an explanation and provide context to ensure readers' understanding and engagement.
Having explored the potential errors in content creation, the final step is to address any errors that may have arisen in grammar and sentence structure. Let's now delve into these common mistakes and take the necessary steps to rectify them.
Common mistakes in Grammar and Language use
One of the more common grammar mistakes found in language writing is the excessive use of passive voice. Since the use of passive voice emphasizes the receiver of the action. Therefore, it should be used only when the doer of the action is unknown, because in other cases, passive voice may make the writing feel impersonal, indirect, and lacking in clarity. In place of passive voice, you should implement active voice in your writing. Since active voice puts more emphasis on the doer of the action it results in more concise and direct sentences. This ultimately makes the writing more engaging and compelling for the reader. But you've already written your sentences in passive voice, for example, you wrote
“The ball was caught by her”
Now what to do
Even though this text may be good in some cases but it does not effectively deliver the action. So what to do now? Well, you can start by converting those passive sentences into active voice, let's rewrite the same example mentioned above in active voice:
“She caught the ball”
Now see how this text adds more meaning to the action. But how do we convert passive sentences into active voices? This is how you do it, first, you need to identify the subject of your sentence and then rewrite the sentence in a manner so that the subject is performing the action. Easy enough?
If you want to write in an active voice make sure your sentence follows this structure
Active voice formula: "(subject) does something to (object)."
And for passive voice follow this structure
Passive voice formula: "(object) is/are/was/were being done by (subject)."
Before talking about inconsistency in tone, let's talk about what is tone. Generally, the tone is the writer's attitude towards the topic he is writing about, but tone can also be influenced by other factors such as context. Before talking about inconsistency in tones let's take a look at major tones used in writing.
In writing, an inconsistent tone often arises when there is a lack of consistency or coherence in the writer's style, attitude, or voice throughout the piece. It is important to keep a consistent tone because tone plays a crucial role in establishing the overall attitude and conveying the intended message of a piece of writing. Moreover, it ensures that the writing has a unified and cohesive feel.
Now what to do
After you've got a little understanding of these tones the next thing you need to do is identify which tone suits your topic the best and maintain that tone throughout the content. Also, after you are done writing your content you should proofread your content to identify and rectify any tone inconsistencies.
Establish an attitude, choose an appropriate tone for your topic, and maintain it throughout your writing
Lack of variation in sentence length and structure
So you've read till now, what do you feel about this blog? Does it feel repetitive or does it feel new and different in every subtopic? This is what we are going to discuss in this sub-topic. The problem of lack of variation in sentences occurs when sentences are consistently similar in length and structure, resulting in a monotonous tone. This problem makes the writing feel dull and potentially causes readers to lose interest and disengage from the text.
Now what to do
So, how do we deal with this? By incorporating varied sentence lengths and structures. By implementing this you will be able to create a more dynamic and engaging reading experience for your readers. Moreover, the use of varying sentence lengths adds rhythm and flow to the writing, capturing the reader's attention and ultimately helping in maintaining their interest throughout the writing. It will also allow you to put more effective emphasis, as you can use shorter sentences to convey concise and impactful statements, and longer sentences to provide complex data and elaborations. You can also try breaking long sentences into shorter ones so that you don't overwhelm your readers with too much information at once. But, make sure your sentences are complete because incomplete sentences or fragmented sentences can be confusing. Fragmented sentences are presented as complete sentences but in reality, they're not, they're usually missing a verb. Let's look at an example:
"Too many spices in this pizza".
This sentence is missing a verb, hence it's a fragmented sentence. Let's look at the correct way of writing it:
“There are too many spices in this pizza”.
Add variety to sentence length and structure to avoid monotony and create a dynamic rhythm that catches the readers' interest.
Inconsistent use of tenses, punctuation, and capitalization
A lack of inconsistency in the verb tenses, punctuation marks, and capitalization rules throughout a piece of writing can affect the clarity of the piece and brings into question the professionalism of the writer. Talking about tenses, Verb tense errors are one of the more common grammar errors, a research study by the University of Negeri Yogyakarta shows that verb tense errors accounted for 27.82% of total errors in writing among students. Inconsistent use of tenses can confuse readers and disrupt the flow of ideas. For example, look at the sentence below.
“I walk to the store and I bought milk”.
In the sentence “walk” is a present-tense verb, and “bought” is a past-tense verb. This makes the sentence lose clarity and seem unprofessional. Hence, you should maintain a consistent timeline and avoid any unnecessary shifts to keep your readers connected throughout your writing. Now coming back to the example the correct way of writing the sentence would be
“I walked to the store and bought milk”.
Avoid any abrupt and unnecessary shifts, and maintain consistent verb tenses throughout.
Directing to punctuations, these are symbols used in writing to support or separate sentences and cite other people to convey the meaning more accurately. Improper or less use of punctuation marks can cause ambiguity in the content and can also lead to misinterpretation in the mind of readers. But using too many commas can cause the problem of comma splice. A comma splice occurs when you connect different clauses with only a comma instead of following the comma with a conjunction. For example, look at the sentence below:
“I went home, and had lunch”.
Using commas here is grammatically incorrect. Here is how you should write that sentence
“I went home and had lunch”.
So make sure you follow the punctuation rules such as ending a sentence with a period(.),question mark(?), or exclamation mark(!), etc. to enhance clarity and add better meaning to your writing.
Use punctuation intentionally and effectively to support or separate your sentences.
Since “and had lunch” does not have a subject so there is no need to add a comma before “and”.
Finally capitalization, this may not seem like a major problem, but it can bring into question the professionalism of your writing. This makes it necessary for you to follow consistent capitalization of proper nouns, titles, and heading to add more clarity to your writing.
Capitalize proper nouns, start of sentences, titles, and headings.
Wrong and unnecessary words
A lot of writers try to replace a word they have written with a synonym of the word that sounds more professional. Even though it helps in creating sentences that are strong and concise, there is still the risk of selecting words that might convey a slightly different meaning. Selecting a wrong synonym can completely change the meaning of your sentence. Moreover, many times, you might have to modify a word or sentence to avoid plagiarism while taking inspiration from an idea written by another author. This makes it important for you to keep a check on the words you are modifying. Let's take an example
“Harry discovered his phone”.
In this sentence, “discovered” depicts a sense of exploration, implying that Harry stumbled upon his phone unexpectedly. Whereas the actual meaning of the sentence was meant to convey that Harry was searching for his phone and he found it. Let's look at how the sentence should've been written.
“Harry found his phone”.
Another issue with word error is the overuse of adverbs and adjectives which in simple terms mean being wordy. Wordiness in writing means using more words than necessary within a sentence. Using unnecessary words will make your content feel long and dull which will ultimately decrease your reader's engagement and interest. This makes it necessary for you to omit any needless or overused words and make your writing more concise and persuasive.
Now what to do
While selecting synonyms for your words make sure you understand the meaning of the word you're selecting and check if it fits with the overall meaning of your sentence. Directing to wordiness, you can try replacing “very”, “too”, “actually”, etc. with a more precise word which will make your writing more impactful. for example, look at the sentence below
“Sunlight is very important for a healthy body”.
Even though this sentence is not wrong, it's just that it can be written in a more professional and precise way. Let's look at how you could have written that sentence
“Sunlight is vital for a healthy body”.
You see? By using a more precise word, the sentence has become much more persuasive and impactful.
For selecting the right word, ensure that the synonym you select aligns with the intended meaning of your sentence.
For removing unnecessary words, substitute 'too',' very',' that', etc., with more precise alternatives.
An alternative to manually resolving grammatical errors
Apart from these solutions, you can also make use of various grammar checker tools available online like Grammarly, Quillbot, Gingersoftware, etc. to check for any grammar mistakes in your content. But make sure you don't fully rely on them, as these software do not provide 100% accuracy in checking. Ultimately this makes your brain the only 100% accurate grammar checker tool, so make sure you are well-revised with the grammar rules which will help you to write error-free content.
Mistakes in writing are a common occurrence, and rectifying them is not an overnight process. It demands long-term commitment and substantial effort to achieve error-free writing. However, by understanding and implementing the points discussed in this guide, we are confident that you can elevate your writing for creating more engaging content for your audience and/or obtaining higher grades in your academic papers.