Dos and Don’ts of Essay Writing: The Ultimate Guide

Mistakes in Essay Writing

If you know the ropes, essay writing can be fun as much as easy. However, it can also be incredibly difficult if you don’t know how to go about it. If you are wondering what you have not been doing right, this article is for you. I have identified five dos and don’ts of essay writing to give you a great chance of being successful in your next entry or application. Let’s get to it!

The “dos”.

  1. Plan your essay

You have probably heard that proper planning prevents poor performance. It’s not different with essay writing. Brainstorm and do the necessary research on the topic before beginning to write.

Don’t be in a haste to start, if not, it would likely end in premium tears. Jot down points as you have the muse because what you remember in that moment might be forgotten two minutes later. That’s how erratic the human brain is.

  1. Be Original

Creativity cannot be overemphasized. You must think of what method to employ to make your essay stand out from others that would be submitted. Remember, more often than not, it is a competition. Think outside the box.

Employ humour it you have to. Tell a story that would corroborate your viewpoints. Use proverbs, idioms, quotes, anything you believe can make your essay distinct. However, be cautious, as too many cooks can spoil the broth. For instance, being overly humorous might present you as a clown to the assessor or reviewer.

  1. Obey All Instructions

For many, the failure to follow simple instructions in application essays has led to many “casualties”. Sometimes, these instructions might be word count limit, prompt to explain certain qualities, length of paragraphs, among others.

Usually, organisers of essay competitions immediately throw out essays that do not follow given instructions. In your own best interest, read the instructions and check periodically to see if you are still on track.

  1. Edit

Always ensure your spellings, grammar and vocabularies are as correct as possible. An essay fraught with errors will definitely lose its spark. There is perhaps no greater writing tip than to avoid using wrong tenses, improper punctuation, and shaky sentence structure.

Always endeavour to use the right words to convey what you mean.

  1. Deploy a Second Eye

Four eyes are better than two. Well, four good eyes, that is. Reading your essay out loud as many times as possible would help you easily find out faulty lines. It is, however, recommended that you pass your essay through a professional editor. It helps!


The “don’ts”.

  1. Leave the big words for the dictionary

As much as possible, avoid grandiloquence. Haha, that’s just it. I’m guilty.

Don’t try to use ‘big words’ to impress anyone. You would only end up impressing yourself, and not winning the essay.

  1. Remove all filler words

If it’s not important, don’t write it. Avoid giving information that does not directly or indirectly answer the essay poser.

Always perform this simple test when writing. Ask yourself: If you were the judge of your own essay, would this information impact your final assessment of the essay?  If the answer is ‘No’, then, such information is irrelevant.

  1. Flee Plagiarism

When you take someone else’s work and pass it off as yours, that’s plagiarism. I don’t know of any essay-assessing platform that does not strictly frown against this practice.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning has made detection of copied parts of written work easily detectable, and the penalty is automatic disqualification in most cases.

If you must know, copying and pasting without modification and proper referencing is plagiarism. Acknowledge the works of other people you’ve cited.

If you need help checking the uniqueness of your essay, you can use SmallSEOTools or Copyscape.

  1. KISS

Now, I don’t mean anything erotic. I mean Keep It Simple Stupid.

While you don’t want to be boring, you don’t also want to end up like an unserious fellow.

Be moderate with your use of words, idioms, quotes, proverbs and what have you.

  1. Easy does it

A study by Microsoft has revealed that the average attention span of any human is 8 seconds. A good way to keep your reviewer engaged is by using short and straightforward sentences. This is why you must do without long sentences.

Also, over-reliance on web sources can be very dangerous too, as not all web sources are legit. Consult journals and books instead.


If you would obey the Dos and Don’ts of essay writing as written above diligently, you might just find yourself in the Promised Land. Bear in mind however, that the tips above are guidelines and are not an automatic guarantee to securing top spots in any essay competition. While they might increase your chances, you still have to put in the work.

Do you think there are other important tips that I have not mentioned? Let me know in the comment section below.

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