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First-Year Skills: Writing Tips

Library Resources

Common Writing Mistakes

Although good writing is something that requires practice it is also important to be conscious of common writing mistakes students make in order to avoid making them in your own writing.

  • Not formatting paragraphs properly. A paragraph should be 4-5 sentences long. Furthermore, each paragraph should be about only one topic. For example, let's say I was writing a paper on recycling. In one paragraph I can write about the history of recycling and in another paragraph the different ways a person can recycle. I should not try to write about both in one paragraph.
  • Spelling/Grammar. Many professors will reduce your overall grade on assignments for having too many spelling and grammar errors.This is why it is so important to review your papers before turning them in. Reading your papers aloud to yourself is one way how you easily catch spelling and grammar mistakes. Another tool you can use is the Spell and Grammar check in Microsoft Word, which can be found under the review tab. As you complete your writing assignments make sure to utilize that tool several times. Other suggested resources (especially if you are not using Microsoft Word) can be found under the Library Resources and Apps/Online Resources columns provided on this page.
  • Using "peer talk"/informal English. Sometimes what we say to our friends and peers in person is not appropriate in college assignments/papers. Such as, "I thought the movie Immigration we saw in class was cool." Instead write, "I found the movie Immigration to be very interesting." In other words, make sure you are using only formal language for your papers. Also, avoid using common short-cuts usually taken when communicating via text messages and social media, i.e., u in place of you, b/c in place of because, w for with or b4 for before.
  • Being redundant. As a rule of thumb try not to repeat a point in your paper more than twice. It is good to repeat a strong statement or argument you may have if it sounds catchy or clever in certain instances. However, in general, you want to spend more time supporting your argument with actually evidence gathered from a variety of resources rather than repeating the same thing over and over again.
  • Not being specific enough. Try to avoid using pronouns such as they, he, she, etc. Instead, write out exactly who/what you are referring to. You can also switch it up in some instances you can write out the person(s) full names and in other instances just their last name(s). Also, don't hesitate to include examples. Examples help to clarify the point you are trying to make and remove ambiguity.

To manage sugar levels better diabetics should eat more healthy.


To manage sugar levels better diabetics should eat more vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, carrots, beets, strawberries, black berries, apricots, etc.

  • Not including a thesis/argument. Most of your academic papers will require some type of argument and a working thesis statement. Essentially what this means is that you will have one important central idea that you want to convey to your reader. This will require you to make sure that the information in each paragraph is related and/or ties back to that central idea. Hence does the organization of the paper make sense and will the reader be able to understand and follow your argument. You also want to make sure that when you incorporate quotes or other evidence in your paper that they are being used properly and integrate well within your thesis. 


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