A List of Essay Writing Don’ts

Topic / Research

  • Don’t try to solve the mysteries of the world in an essay. Stick to topics that you can handle in the space and time provided to you.
  • Don’t write about a topic you don’t understand. Pick a topic you can write intelligently about and take the time to research your topic before writing your essay.
  • Don’t use web sites as your only sources. Go to the library and read some actual books or academic papers.
  • Don’t make things up.
  • Don’t include irrelevant information.
  • Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes your initial approach won’t work. Recognize that and move on.
  • Don’t feel like you have to agree with the experts.
  • Don’t plagiarize.
  • Don’t forget to answer the question.

Style

  • Don’t provide lengthy plot summaries or paraphrases.
  • Don’t provide a collection of generic declarations and cliches.
  • Don’t use overly long quotations.
  • Don’t pad your writing. Take the space to say everything that is necessary, but don’t use a paragraph to provide a sentence worth of material.
  • Don’t misuse the thesaurus or convince yourself that big fancy words will make your essay sound more academic or intelligent.
  • Don’t be afraid to write in the first person, but remember that your voice must fit the material and the audience.
  • Don’t use slang or unnecessary technical jargon. If you must use an obscure term, take the time to define and explain it.
  • Don’t try too hard to be funny. Some humor may work in an essay, but going overboard can make your topic and you look foolish.
  • Don’t try to imitate others. Just write cleanly and correctly in your own voice.
  • Don’t just spout a list of facts or statistics. Take the time to analyze the information you are presenting.
  • Don’t forget to let your personality and ideas about the topic guide the way you write.
  • Don’t brag or put down other people.

Editing

  • Don’t turn in your first draft.
  • Don’t forget to proofread.
  • Don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling. Read through what you have written. Read it out loud and listen to the way your paper sounds.
  • Don’t be afraid of revision. Sometimes it takes a while to find the true focus of your essay. Once you find it, you may need to make major changes to create your best essay.

Formatting

  • Don’t handwrite your essay.
  • Don’t use subheadings before every paragraph.
  • Don’t use a font that is too large or too small
  • Don’t use colored or oddly-sized paper.
  • Don’t turn in an essay that is messy or poorly formatted.

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