Successful Academic Writing

Academic writing

Academic writing

Write well

The Common Mistakes
Following a survey of Solent University lecturers, we came up with a list of the most common, and annoying, writing mistakes that students make. If you want to write well, know what the common mistakes are, and avoid them:

  • No clear introduction. What is your point or position? Where is the essay going?
  • Poor structure with little or no signposting (linking expressions)
  • Generally too descriptive, often with little or no analysis or reference to theory
  • Writing in the first person (using 'I', 'me', 'my' or 'mine') or slipping in and out of third and first person
  • Poor referencing
Paragraph level
  • Weak or non-existent topic sentences
  • Paragraphs often very short with little development of the main idea
  • No supporting evidence or relevant examples
Sentence level
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Overlong sentences
  • Sticking two sentences together with no link
  • Incorrect word order
  • Poor subject/verb agreement (eg 'they was' instead of 'they were'.)
  • Poor verb agreement with collective nouns (eg 'the government were')
Misuse of the apostrophe
  • Adding an apostrophe to plurals (It's not needed!)
  • Omitting or misplacing the apostrophe for possession (eg the student’s work or the students’ work?)
  • Using “it’s” instead of “its” for possessive
Misuse of the comma
  • Missing comma after an introductory element
  • Missing comma in a series
  • Missing comma when combining two independent clauses
Stylistic errors
  • Using quotation marks with block quotes (quotes of three or more lines should be indented with no quotation marks)
  • Not understanding the difference between a reference list and a bibliography

Let's now pick up on a couple of those points and look at how to write sentences and paragraphs correctly.