Essay Blunders Your Teacher Can’t Stand

It seems like some teachers just LOVE to assign essays. You know which teachers we’re talking about — the ones that assign multi-chapter reading assignments and discuss a single info point for an entire class.

While it may seem as if these instructors thrive on stumping you, the truth is essays are just as much work for them as they are for you. Think about it — teachers need to read, critique, and grade every single student’s paper…it adds up!

So if you’re wondering what it takes to score the right grade on your next paper, keep these tips in mind — your teacher will appreciate it (and just may reward you for it).

ESSAY BLUNDER #1: Summarizing the whole story

Your essay: Features a long-winded, drawn out summary of the text you’re reading; this is most often placed near the beginning of your essay.

Your teacher’s gripe: Chances are your teacher has taught this text year after year – if there’s one thing they don’t need to read it’s another recap of the story.

Your best bet: Instead of trying to condense an entire novel into a paragraph, highlight a few key elements (the beginning, middle, and end) of the story to help create the context for your essay’s direction. Use this as a chance to frame the most relevant themes of the text in relation to the “point” of your essay.

ESSAY BLUNDER #2: Random quotes

Your essay: Features a “grab bag” of quotes from the text to meet the necessary assignment minimum.

Your teacher’s gripe: Your teacher knows how many quotes they asked you to include in your essay…just because you fit all three in there doesn’t mean you’re getting an A+.

Your best bet: Rather than finding the most descriptive bits of narration or popular pieces of dialogue, search for quotes that you can actually build on. Whether it’s to highlight a key character trait, the subtext of a scene, or the importance of an environment, every quote that you use should work in tandem with the argument you’re trying to convey.

ESSAY BLUNDER #3: Clichéd terminology

Your essay: Contains over-used expressions like “one in a million,” “the grass is always greener” or “better safe than sorry.”

Your teacher’s gripe: Your teacher has read A LOT of essays in their day – coming across the same old simplistic, played out phrases is eye-roll inducing.

Your best bet: Be creative! As comfortable as it might feel to rely on those time-tested sayings, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Similes, analogies, or metaphors may better serve your paper.

ESSAY BLUNDER #4: Grammar goof-ups

Your essay: The words “there”, “their”, and “they’re” are all used in your essay…but in the wrong way.

Your teacher’s gripe: You were taught homonyms, homographs, and an array of grammar rules in elementary and middle school – when your teacher sees you mix them up it’s hard for them not to facepalm.

Your best bet: If two words sound the same but can have a different spellings, take the time to double check which is right. There’s a world of difference between a “pair” and a “pear” (unless you’re writing about a “pair of pears”).

ESSAY BLUNDER #5: No conclusion

Your essay: After churning out five pages you reach that final paragraph and…you have nothing to say.

Your teacher’s gripe: An essay without an conclusion is like a road with no end – you’re causing the person on the journey to move onward with no sense of closure.

Your best bet: Before you even start your essay, think about how you want to end it. Work backwards from an endpoint and structure your essay to support your final conclusion. It’s always easier to get to the end when you know where you’re going.

written by
Sean Castillo
November 25, 2013

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