Admissions Essays Applying to College

Other Mistakes Writers Make in their College Essays

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So you know about the common mistakes essay writers make, but now you want to be sure that your essay is even better. What else should you look out for to be sure that your essay reads well? Don’t worry. We have a list of more common mistakes that you should watch out for when writing an essay!

More common mistakes writers make

Overcapitalizing

Like commas, capital letters are overdone. If you see how many words SHOULDN’T be capitalized, it might help minimize capitalization errors.

Don’t capitalize:

  • Seasons – spring, winter
  • Directions – east and west, EXCEPT geographical locations. I live in the East.
  • Food – french fires, t-bone steak, watermelon, EXCEPT when something already capitalized is part of the food name: New England boiled dinner, Chinese cabbage
  • Courses – biology, algebra, EXCEPT when it is a language: English , French or it is the title of a course (usually with a level or number): Algebra II, The History of the Civil War
  • Diseases – flu, common cold, cerebral palsy, leukemia
  • Plants – elms, maples, lamb’s ear
  • Games – gin rummy, soccer, football
  • Titles – mister, dame, baron, pastor, EXCEPT when they are part of a name: Baron Von Bert, Pastor Higgins

What do you capitalize?

  • First letters and important letters in a title: The Joy of the Farm
  • Titles in names: Reverend Malcolm, Professor Riley
  • Adjectives made from specific names: China to Chinese
  • Brand names: Kellogg’s cereal
  • Proper nouns: specific names of people, places, and things!

Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used in two instances, to show possession and for contractions. They are NEVER used to show plurality!

WRONG:

  • I ate two chocolate bar’s for breakfast.
  • My two dress’s arrived by mail.

Apostrophes show possession with nouns. Pronouns have a whole new form to show possession and don’t need apostrophes (ex. the possessive form of the pronoun he is his.) Nouns have no such form, so they need apostrophes to help.

Singular nouns become possessive by adding ‘s.

EXAMPLE: John’s coat, the cat’s claw

EXCEPTION: What if the singular word ends in s? Then, you can do it either way:

  • Bess’s dress and  the dress’s fabric
  • Bess’ dress and the dress’ fabric

Plural nouns only need the apostrophe after the s.

EXAMPLES: the dresses’ fabric, the cats’ claws

EXCEPTION: What if the plural doesn’t have an s? Then you use ‘s:

  • the children’s toys

Apostrophes are also used to show that letters are missing in a contraction. A contraction is when two words are combined to be a single word by leaving out one or more letters.

  • does not becomes doesn’t
  • is not becomes isn’t
  • we are becomes we’re

Correct Pronoun Case

You have already seen that pronouns have an entirely different form for possessives: he becomes his. This form is referred to as a case. In addition to possessive,  pronouns have two other cases, nominative and objective.

Nominative Case

Nominative case is used for subjects and predicate nominatives.  They are also known as subject pronoun forms. Here are some common nominatives: I, she, you, he, it, they, we, who.

When to Use Nominative Case

  1. Pronouns used as subjects must be in nominative case
    1. She is a great teacher
    2. I will contact you
    3. Who is my friend?
  2. Pronouns used as predicate nominatives must be in nominative case
    1. It is I
    2. The professor is he
    3. It is who?

Objective Case

Objective case is used for direct and indirect objects and objects of a preposition. Here are some objective case forms: me, her, you, him, it, them, us, and whom. Notice that objective case pronouns often have an m in their forms.

When To Use Objective Case

  1. Pronouns used as direct objects must be in objective case.
    • I love her
    • They told him
    • You asked whom?
  2. Pronouns used as indirect objects must be in objective case
    • The judge gave her forty years
    • Mimi sent us the pictures
    • The teacher assigned us an essay
  3. Pronouns used as objects of a preposition must be in objective case
    • Give that to me!
    • To whom should I write?
    • The cake is for you and me.

What’s wrong with these sentences?

  • It’s me.
  • She fought for John and I.
  • I went to who they suggested.

Poor Sentence Variety

Too often writers fall back on the simple sentence form, a single sentence with the typical subject-verb order.

EXAMPLE: Sally is the best cook in the world.

Or, writers go just one step further and use that simple sentence format but double it up by making it a compound sentence.

EXAMPLE: Sally is the best cook in the world, and she will be glad to fix a meal for you.

What you need is sentence variety!

  1. Use a question which inverts the subject-verb order:
    • And, why is Sally such a good cook?
  2. Try complex sentences which are simple sentences with dependent clauses, that is, a clause has a subject verb but is not a complete sentence.
    • Sally, who is a great cook, will fix a meal for you.
  3. Also try compound-complex sentences. These are compound sentences with a dependent clause within one or both of the sentences.
    • Sally, who is my sister, is a great cook, and she will fix a meal for you when you get home.
  4. Try using introductory words to give variety to sentences that always start with the subject.
    • Although Sally is a great cook, she often will not get a meal unless she is asked.

Can you find introductory words, a compound-complex sentence, and an inverted subject-verb in the following sentence?

  • Why should Sally, who is my favorite sister, cook so well, but when I come home from school, she refuses to make a good meal for me?