Common Essay Errors

Common Essay Errors
1. Do not use first person pronouns
 I, you, we, etc.
2. Always use present tense, as though you are writing about the text as it’s happening
3. Watch for subject-verb agreement
 If you say “one shall never argue” then you cannot refer to “one” as “their”
in the same sentence, it must be he/she. One is singular, whereas “their”
is plural.
4. MLA
You need a creative title
Do Not underline title or italicize or use quotation marks unless you are
referring to a specific work in your title
Double space throughout essay – that includes between information in
top left corner, title and start of essay, and each body paragraph.
Do Not justify margins
Last name and page number on top right corner of every page excluding
the first page
5. Block Quotations only (quotes longer than 4 lines of typed text in your essay)
 Block/long quotations are used only if a quotation runs more than four lines
in your paper
 Indent quotation 5 spaces (1/2 inch)
 Always use a colon at the end of the signal phrase when introducing
 Quotation marks are not used to open/close block quotations.
 Punctuation goes at the end of the quote’s final sentence, not after the page
 Every quotation must have a parenthetical citation
Having said this, it remains true that all American citizens have a
constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment right to remain imprisoned in
their own conditioned narrowness and cultural isolation. This luxury of
ignorance, however, is not available to us as teachers. Ours is a higher calling,
and for the sake of our students and the future of their world, we are
required to grow toward a more adaptive set of human qualities, which
would include the dispositions for difference, dialogue, disillusionment, and
democracy. (Howard 28)
6. All major/long works (book titles, movie titles) are italicized, while minor/short
works (poems, short stories) require quotation “ ” marks.
7. Do Not use quantifying words such as huge, enormous. It is too subjective. For
example, the speaker in Angelou’s “Still I Rise” undergoes an enormous amount of
8. Each quotation must have a thorough analysis (ie. 4-7 sentences as a guideline)
9. Do Not use contractions
 Hasn’t, wasn’t, didn’t
10. Do Not overgeneralize (ie. For all time, every man in the world, etc.)
11. Be careful not to repeat your ideas. Do not repeat words or phrases, and when
analyzing a quotation, do not repeat the whole quotation again in your analysis.
12. Stay focused on thesis – don’t get off topic
13. Topic sentence – be sure it is specific to exact argument
14. Concluding sentence – must restate topic sentence but in different words
15. Transition sentence – should give a hint of the next argument and is to come after or
within the concluding sentence
16. Order your paragraphs in the order you’ve stated your arguments in your thesis
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