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Common Mistakes in Academic Writing

Revision is as necessary for excellent academic writing as the study for your future. It has been observed many times that when we revise our papers whether for academic purposes or other professional aims we may find many mistakes like spelling, grammar, vocabulary and etc.

Let us have a look at some common mistakes in writing an academic paper

  1. Spelling Mistakes
  2. Grammatical Mistakes
  3. Typographical Mistakes
  4. Relying on Spell checkers
  5. Punctuation Errors
  6. Wrong use of Subject / Verb Agreement
  7. The use of Run-on Sentences and Fragments
  8. Incorrect use of Modifier
  9. The incorrect use of Verbs
  10. The incorrect use of Pronouns
  11. The incorrect order of Adjectives
  12. The incorrect use of Antonyms
  13. Incorrect Capitalization

1) Spelling Mistakes

While writing an academic paper using application software like Microsoft Word or any other word processing application, spelling mistakes are very common. One may make a mistake accidently or he / she may deliberately type the wrong spelling. The use of short form or colloquial language also increases the chances of spelling mistakes in academic papers.  These mistakes transmit a very negative impression on audience and therefore must be avoided at any cost. The best remedy is to write it with concentration and then thoroughly revise the whole paper for mistakes.

2) Grammatical Mistakes

Grammatical mistakes are a big problem for those people who are not the native speakers of the language they are using in their academic paper. The usage of a wrong tense can change the whole context of the paper and therefore may cause misconceptions. Other grammatical mistakes include fragmented sentences. The solution to this problem is to keep the flow of the essay under control and be very specific about the context of event being explained in the paper.

3) Typographical Mistakes

Typographical mistakes (typos) are mistakes made during typing of a paper. Typing a document quickly is the major driving force behind these mistakes. These mistakes are sometimes very difficult to locate and correct as spell checking software are unable to find and/or correct them and in rare cases can be removed by these software. Again proper revision and proofchecking are the only effective solution to this problem.

4) Relying on Spelling Software

Software can never prove to be a replacement for human eye and understanding. A software or automated correction tool will always leave behind the margin of errors. The reason is that this software is coded and designed by humans like us and like those who are not perfect. So there is always a chance that mistakes would be there in your document even if you check it with an automated tool. A common example is that any automated spell checking software would identify a mistake and then replace it with the closest matching word according to a special algorithm, but the replaced word could be totally irrelevant to the context of your essay.

5) Punctuation Errors

One of the most common errors in English writing is the use of punctuation marks.   In comma-splice, comma or a semi-colon is used to combine two or more simple sentences leaving out the coordinating conjunction.  A comma or a semi-colon is also used to put together and relate these two or more simple sentences.  But too much use of comma or semi-colon is also a problem for the writers.  The coherence and true meaning of the sentence may be lost with a very long sentence.

Using apostrophe is also a common punctuation error.  The use of ‘s to show possession should be added to a noun that does not end in –s or to a plural noun that ends in –s.  Apostrophes are not to be used after a possessive pronoun.

6) Wrong use of Subject / Verb Agreement

In the English language the subject and the verb should concur with each other.  A single subject requires a single verb and a plural subject requires a plural verb.  The trick here is that the ESL student has to determine if the subject of the sentence is singular or plural.  If a singular subject and a plural subject are used together in a sentence, put the plural subject last followed by the plural verb.

7) The use of Run-on Sentences and Fragments

The use of run-on sentences is the total opposite of the comma-splice as discussed above.  Run-on sentence is made up to two sentences put together by a coordinating conjunction to make a compound sentence. Run-on sentences do not use commas or semi-colons.   Sometimes errors lie when the writer presents the sentence without end punctuation, a coordinating conjunction or the use of too much commas. Error occurs when the writer uses an incomplete sentence or a fragment as a complete sentence.  Fragments are incomplete sentences because they don’t deliver the full meaning of the sentence making it a weak sentence.

8 ) Incorrect use of Modifier

Modifiers, if used incorrectly, may pose a problem and may also lead to miscommunication.  Modifiers should be used next to the word it modifies or else it would not make sense at all.  Using the correct placing modifiers and identifying clearly the word being modified will send ideas and intentions clearly.

9) The incorrect use of Verbs

Errors committed with verbs are very common even for native English users, especially with irregular verbs in different tenses.  Students should learn to be consistent in the use of tenses in their sentences in order to be able to convey the correct time element to the point in time certain events occurred. The trick here is to be consistent and make sure not to shift tenses in one sentence or in a paragraph.

10) The incorrect use of Pronouns

We discussed above the common mistake using the wrong subject/verb agreement.  This holds true also with the incorrect use of pronouns.  A pronoun is used to replace a noun or a pronoun like “he,” “which,” “none,” and “you” to make sentences less repetitive. Errors in using pronouns occur when these pronouns does not agree with the number of their antecedents.  A singular noun / pronoun requires a singular pronoun, and a plural noun / pronoun requires and plural pronoun.

11) The incorrect order of Adjectives

A certain order of adjectives should be followed when two or more adjectives are used before a noun in a sentence.  The order of adjectives in a series should follow as: Article (a, an, the, most), judgment (such as wonderful, great), size (such as few, many, large), shape (such as long, narrow, round), age (such as old, young), color (such as black, brown, and white), nationality (such as Filipino, Indian, and Chinese) and material (such as wood, wool, cotton).

12) The incorrect use of Antonyms

For a language with many words having the same sound but with different meanings, sometimes is easier to be a speaker than a writer.  For a student, one must know the definition of the words before it is used in the sentence. Many words sound very much alike but may mean two different things.  This may definitely lead to a miscommunication or an object of a laughing stock.

13) Incorrect Capitalization

Sometimes students tend to ignore the correct capitalization.   The first letter of the proper noun should be capitalized.  To know what words should be capitalized can be tricky.

By keeping these mistakes in mind while writing academic papers/reports/articles/personal statements or any other research work you can write better and with a professional approach. But if you still are in confusion then contact us – we are here for you to help.

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