Ask Dr. Diane: What are the most common writing mistakes that your students make?
While it is not unusual to see spelling and grammar issues, I’ll assume that readers realize that they should check for such things and just list the top 10 most common other issues I see here. I hope this posting will give some insight into how to set up your papers so that you can avoid making these common mistakes.
- Papers not set up with double-spacing – To set your paper to be double-spaced, be sure you are on the home tab in Word and go to the paragraph section of the tool bar. There is an up and down arrow icon that you can click on. When you do this, it will give you choices of how to set up your spacing. Pick 2.0 to set double-spacing.
- Papers should not have an extra space between paragraphs – Remember that papers must be double-spaced throughout in APA. Word sometimes defaults with an extra space between paragraphs. To change this, click here.
- Papers must have headers/numbers set up correctly through the header/number function in Word – To learn how to do this, click here.
- Papers must be set up with an introduction/body/conclusion – Your introduction and conclusion need to be strong summaries of what the paper will or has included. For more about how to write an essay, click here.
- Papers should not be written in first person – Remove the “I” or “Me” from your writing. For an explanation of the meaning of first person, click here.
- Citing and References confusion – Citing is the act of quoting a source. For example: “Citing is the act of quoting a source.” (Hamilton, 2010) This is not to be confused with references. References are included on a separate page with the title References at the top. You must include references whenever you cite. The reference explains who deserves credit for the citation. Many students list references but no citations. That is not correct. You need both.
- Paragraph length confusion – Students often either write in overly short or overly long paragraphs. A good size paragraph is at least 3-4 sentences but should not be so long that it takes up an entire page or more.
- Papers should be left justified and not blocked – Students sometimes write in blocked format. That is not correct. Papers need to be left justified. The setting for this is on the home tab under the paragraph part of the toolbar.
- Over citing – I see a lot of students who tend to write entire paragraphs of citing and forget to include their own writing in their work. Although citing is important, it is also important to have your own points and statements. Remember to make your point and then follow that up with citations to back up what you have written. As a professor, I am looking to see that you have learned the subject and are not simply restating what others have said.
- Forgetting title page – Students often forget to include a title page. It is very important that all papers include a title page that is correctly formatted in APA format. For helpful examples of APA formatting, click here.
For more help, see the following articles: