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Common Mistakes With Freshman Writing

Formatting Your Paper:

Check out the Style Guide to make sure your paper matches the guidelines for title page, page numbers, spacing, hanging indentation, footnotes...

Sentence structure:

Run-ons, Fragments, Comma splices. These errors make writing unclear and confusing. What do these errors look like and how do you fix them!?

Example:

Redundancy: - using words or phrases repetitively

Example: (redundancy found in one sentence) "In Genesis 38 we see that Tamar becomes the daughter-in-law to Judah but as the story progresses, we see that she becomes a widow because her husband Er loses his life because he was 'wicked in the eyes of the Lord.'" [we see that. this sentence can improve drastically by changing the second clause and editing out one instance of the phrase "we see that"]

Example: (redundancy found throughout an essay) "In fact, in the Greek days, earthquakes were what he was known for. (later in the essay) When in fact this is something... (later in the essay) In fact, most of the gods...

Example: (using a redundant modifier) "This is the same equivalent as one full dump truck dumping plastic into ocean every second." (the phrase "same equivalent" is literally saying the same thing twice and is unnecessary)

Contractions:

Example: aren't, didn't, isn't, wasn't, weren't, let's... etc... The occasional contraction is acceptable; perhaps a handful in a 1200 word essay at most.

Example: So once the spiritual practices have been attached to their corresponding disciplines, some of the stigma can be dispelled, as we see that these aren’t new age,

Example: I believe that Hollywood has led society to see the Greek Gods as something they aren’t. They aren’t “the good guys” or “the heroes” the are imaged on film.

Overly casual and conversational tone:

Your essays should not read like a sermon or a conversation between two people: "let's dive in." Audience engaging tactics like those you might hear in a speech: "Why is this important?"

Example: "The church cannot brush this uncomfortable topic under the rug, or table it for discussion..."

"The truth of the matter is that in the heat of the global church's debate on gender roles..."

Example: "This topic of conversation is an interesting one we will explore together." These are phrases that make sense in a conversation or in a speech, but not in a written essay.

Passive Voice:

Simply put, passive voice is when the subject is acted upon rather than performing the action. In practice, passive voice is a weak sentence structure that should be avoided when possible.

Example: "The second prominent view to be discussed is the egalitarian perspective. Before the subject can be delved into any further, the most prominent views on this issue must be asserted." --> In order to fix passive voice, sometimes you must dramatically alter the sentence. Start by asking yourself what you are intending to say. Here is an example edit for the sentences above: Of the two dominant perspectives on gender roles in the church, the egalitarian position is another important position to consider.

Excessive use of direct quotation:

Almost always, a summary or paraphrase in place of a direct quotation, will flow much better in your essay. Consider whether or not you need to directly quote your sources or if a paraphrase is acceptable. (When would you want to direct quote?) When you are able to paraphrase your sources, then your writing is vastly easier for the reader to digest. Your sentences flow better with paraphrase, rather than with direct quote which forces the reader to switch gears between your voice as the writer and the voice of the one you are quoting. Even with scripture references, many (if not all) of the scripture references you draw from flow much better by incorporating them into your voice through paraphrase. In the context of an essay, when the EXACT WORDING of the scripture reference is not on display, there is no real need to handicap the flow of your writing with a direct quote.

Example: "Focusing so much about what is happening with our own life can result in forgetting about others. This is where God comes in and tells us to simply love all of the time. 'Do everything in love' (1 Corinthians 16:14)" Through paraphrase, this sentence can become --> Focusing too much on what is happening with our own life can cause us to forget about others. This is unfortunate because God tells us to love all the time and to do everything in love. (1 Cor 16:14)

Thesis - Intro - Conclusion:

Make sure your introduction and your conclusion CONNECT (THESIS). Introduction and conclusion paragraphs need to connect through the thesis statement. Usually, the thesis is a statement, claim or position that you are making throughout your essay which you articulate in the first paragraph (intro) and rephrase again in the last paragraph (conclusion). It is like the two covers of a book, front and back but connected by the spine. Thread your thesis idea throughout your essay. Each body paragraph should uphold or support your thesis; building out your position as you go. Your conclusion should not include any NEW information or evidence nor any new ideas. Your conclusion should just be a reminder of the main points from your essay, highlighting their significance. If you were to just read the intro and conclusion paragraphs, it should be obvious that they belong to the same essay.

An original and unique title:

Do not use " First Essay Submission"