How to Avoid Common Mistakes when Writing a Paper

Avoiding mistakes when writing a paper helps the author to develop and maintain credibility. Listed below are some common mistakes to avoid when writing.


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    Punctuation goes inside the quote: ,” or .”.
    • Unless you are citing the quote: “Here’s the beginning of my quote, and here’s the end of the quote” (Palmer 8).
    • Exception number 2: The punctuation is not part of the quoted material. Example: Did he really say "It's not you, it's me"?
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    Limit the use of: “you,” “we,” “I,” “my,” “our,” “us,” etc. Using these types of words can distract from the purpose of your essay, not to mention it is informal. Stick to the third person at all times.
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    Do not make broad generalizations about “people,” “everyone,” etc. You do not know what “everyone” thinks so do not say you do.
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    Always cite your direct quotes. MLA asks for the author’s last name and page number in the parenthesis without a comma = (Palmer 8). Of course, if you introduce the author’s last name in the sentence, then you just need the page number in the parenthesis. And, of course, if you block off a quote you do not use quote marks at all and the period goes at the end of the sentence, not after the citation.


  • Be sure you have a clear and concise thesis that indicates what kind of essay is about to follow.
  • Make sure your direct quotes are interwoven into your paragraph. You want to introduce your direct quote with your own words and offer analysis after the direct quote. You do not want your direct quote to just be “plugged in” the middle of a paragraph. Also, do not assume that the reader will come to the same conclusions you did just by reading the quote.
  • Can I start a sentence with a conjunction? Yes. But, if you are going to start a sentence with a conjunction then you need to be sure you have written a complete sentence.
  • Topic sentences should encapsulate what you are going to talk about in the entire paragraph.
  • Can I use contractions? Only in certain circumstances. In academic writing, such as all papers in college, you should never use a contraction unless it is part of a quotation.
  • Because and since are not the same word. Because indicates cause and effect whereas since indicates a time frame.
  • Then and than are not the same word. Then indicates a time frame whereas than indicates a comparison.
  • You cannot have “over” a number; you can have “more than.”

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Categories: Better Writing