If you haven’t already, please read my first ‘Common Problems and How to Solve Them’ entry, which covers issues such as formatting, referencing and writing style.
This entry covers a few things I’m seeing repeatedly in essays right from Undergraduate to PhD level.
1. Check your Footnotes
Footnotes seem to be a place that people don’t frequently proofread in their own work. Don’t think that just because your footnotes are short that they are perfectly written, and don’t think that your tutor might ignore them – they won’t, and I am increasingly seeing footnotes of a much lower quality of writing than the main essay they are part of. This is even worse with endnotes (like footnotes, but they appear all together at the end of a document, rather than individually at the bottom of each page) which sometimes don’t seem to have been double-checked at all! Not a problem if you’re using a professional proofreader, but a big problem if you’re proofreading your own work (for tips on how to do this, look here)
2. Be Careful when Pasting
I see pasting problems all the time – text pasted in in the wrong font, size, colour or style to the rest of the text. Now, pasting may well be legitimate – for example pasting a quote from a pdf journal article or a legitimate website source, in which case your work just looks a little untidy if the quote doesn’t match, but this is ten times worse for plagiaristic pasting (do NOT do this, the checking software is very sophisticated and you WILL get found out) where it just makes it blatantly obvious that a certain sentence or paragraph was not written by you.
3. Check your Quotes
Tutors are inclined to be kind when it comes to small writing errors, perhaps English isn’t your first language, or maybe your dyslexic, whatever the case, unimportant errors in your own writing are excusable. Incorrectly copied quotes aren’t, it just looks lazy. So make sure any quotes are grammatically accurate to the original, contain the original emphasis (unless you specifically state you have added/removed emphasis after you’ve quoted) and have the exact same wording. If you find a mistake in the original e.g. a typo, then leave it in, but place the word ‘sic’ directly after the word in square brackets, like this: “the King owned more casstles [sic] than any other person”.