Grammar and Writing Tips for Essay Writers


Are you tired of getting your essays returned covered with red marks? Grammar and style are important parts of writing essays. Overlooking even a few small things can negatively impact your grade. Refreshing the basics of writing will save you (and your professors) a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

Vary Sentences

Writing sounds more interesting when you have sentences of varying lengths and styles. While you don’t want to have writing that is littered with different tenses and points of view, you can vary your sentences so that your writing isn’t tedious. Sentences can be short. They can be long and complex, with multiple ideas and subjects. Vary your sentences for interesting writing.

Use Paragraphs Well

Paragraphs are a tool you can use to order and organize your thoughts. You should use each paragraph to make one point or tell one idea. You don’t want to stuff too much information into a paragraph and make it overwhelming or confusing. Use paragraphs the way you would use bricks when building a house. Each paragraph does its own work and has its own idea, and they work together to support your thesis statement. Paragraphs build on each other as they work towards a conclusion.

Paragraph Length

Paragraphs are important and help your writing flow well. They also help convey your ideas well. Your writing needs to have paragraphs that are neither too long nor too short. A paragraph should be about one idea. If you think you have a paragraph that is too long, see if it is about multiple ideas. Look for a place that you can logically break it into two.

Most paragraphs are 3-6 sentences long, but that is not a rule and it is more important to make sure the paragraph breaks make sense and flow well than it is to have a specific number of sentences.

Write Concisely

Learning to write concisely is one of the most difficult barriers to excellent writing. Concise writing means saying exactly what you want to say in as few words as possible. It means being able to communicate well without being overly wordy. When you are writing, it is easy to assume your reader will not understand you and end up over-explaining. Learn how to edit your writing ruthlessly, rewriting as needed to make your writing concise and simple.

Use Formal Style…

When you are writing an essay for a school assignment, you should sound professional. You want to use a formal style, avoiding clichés and contractions. Cliches like “made a mountain out of a molehill ”or “the rest is history” are old and tired, and you should avoid them like the plague. Contractions can also make your writing less professional, so in general it is best to use the words separately.

But Don’t Be Pretentious

While you want a formal style, you don’t want to sound stuffy. Avoid using big words just for the sake of sounding more eloquent. It usually has the opposite effect and makes you sound pretentious and like you’re trying too hard. Instead, attempt to be concise. Use words that mean exactly what you want to say in as few words as possible. If you need a big word to say something, use it, but it should be because it helps you speak concisely, not because you want to sound more knowledgeable.

Be Politically Correct

When you are writing, make sure you avoid phrases and words that could be seen as racist or discriminatory. Phrases and words change over time, so if you are unsure of the proper usage, do a little research.

Avoid Common Grammatical Mistakes

Avoid common grammatical mistakes such as using the wrong homophone. Words such as “it’s” and its” are so easy to confuse that even experienced writers sometimes miss them. Other confusing homophones include:

  • There/their/they’re
  • Very/vary
  • To/two/too
  • Effect/affect
  • Then/than
  • Hear/here
  • Our/are
  • Accept/except
  • Buy/by

It is also important to make sure you are using the correct verb tenses for your sentences. Some subjects can be more difficult to use than others. For example, it can be tempting to use plural verbs with subjects that involve groups. The words “team” and “herd” are singular even though a team has more than one person and a herd contains more than one animal.

Use Punctuation Properly

Learn how to use punctuation to help convey your meaning. Avoid overusing commas and exclamation marks. Most professional writing will never use an exclamation mark at all. Commas are usually, but not always, used in pairs. Semicolons and colons are used sparingly and in specific ways. If you are unsure when and where to use punctuation, do a little research and check your usage in a grammar program or app.

Edit Well

The final step of any writing project should be editing. You should edit your work carefully, looking for any mistakes as well as checking for proper phrasing and clear meaning. Make use of an essay checker to help you spot any mistakes. Read each sentence by itself, out loud. It will help you to hear the meaning and flow of the sentence and check for grammar mistakes or confusing phrases.

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