Top Typical Mistakes in Essay Writing Foreign Students Make

If you consider the fact that we start to learn punctuation and spelling from a tender age, writing should be easy; but is it? Far from it! In fact, a study revealed that people who went to university are more likely to make grammar and punctuation mistakes than those who did not. Of course, this includes ENL students, however, foreign students have it just a little more rough as they may not have grown up speaking the language. Essay writing is a critical part of university education, particularly in the United States, and foreign students should seek help from a writing service rather than struggle on their own. While spelling and punctuation might affect how good a paper is, there are a variety of other mistakes that foreign students make in essay writing. 

Ridha (2012) found that a significant number of foreign students are prone to grammatical, semantic, lexical, word order, and semantic errors. Ridha (2012) also found that these errors are typically due to local language transfer. This implies that most students rely on their first language to process, understand, and communicate ideas. This language transfer, therefore, affects how the student communicates (and write) using English because they have to think of ideas in their first language then attempt to translate them into English in their heads (Javaid, 2018). 

The mistakes made by ESL students in writing can be categorized into; spelling, style, content, grammar, and structure mistakes. 

Spelling mistakes


These typically include ‘affect’ vs. ‘effect’, ‘their’ vs. ‘there’, ‘than’ vs. ‘then’, ‘your’ vs. ‘you’re’ and ‘principal’ vs. ‘principle’. These words are almost similar but have completely different meanings. 

Content mistakes 

– Fact gaps. Students sometimes forget to support their essay with relevant and reliable facts. A good paper has clear details and gives examples where necessary.

– Poor or missing introduction. A good introduction lays the foundation for the entire essay. The introduction is where you introduce your topic to the reader. A good introduction tells the reader exactly what the essay is about. 

– Weak or missing thesis statement. A thesis statement is included at the end of the first paragraph. It tells the reader the stand that you (the writer) are taking in relation to the topic. It tells the reader the argument that you intend to make in the paper and how you intend to support this argument. 

– The body. Foreign students typically make the mistake of writing a body that does not support the thesis statement. Before you start writing, make sure that you have sufficient and relevant ideas to support it. You are better off changing your thesis statement than attempting to write without enough supporting ideas. 

– Conclusion. A good conclusion sums up the entire essay such that the reader can tell what it is about by simply reading the conclusion. 



The most common grammar mistakes include the use of nouns, verbs, and pronouns. Countable and uncountable nouns are often misunderstood. Some students also have difficulty using infinitive and modal verbs. It is important to note that some pronouns can have only a singular form or plural form while others can have both. 


Some students use a writing style that is inappropriate for formal writing. This may include the use of informal words and phrases such as ‘wanna’ for ‘want to’ and ‘gonna’ for ‘going to’. Others are guilty of using too much repetition, which makes the essay monotonous and boring. Another common mistake is the use of passive voice instead of active voice. The passive voice results in overly long sentences that are tiresome to read and may even distort the clarity of the argument. Also, some students write sentences that are either too short or too long. A blend of short and long sentences is ideal.



Poor paragraphing is another common mistake foreign students make in essay writing. A good paper should have at least four paragraphs where the first serves as the introduction, the second and third as the body, and the fourth as the conclusion. Each paragraph should flow seamlessly into the next to give the essay a good structure.  Also very important thing is number of the words you will use in the article. You can use help of some online tools, such as


Commas, full stops, colons, semicolons, and hyphens among others may seem like a tiny fraction of writing, but they have the power to change the meaning of a sentence and hence argument. Punctuation mistakes are notorious because they are less obvious in a piece of writing compared to say, spelling mistakes. Knowing where to put a comma or a semicolon can make the difference between an excellent essay and a shoddy piece of work.   

We write everywhere be at school, at work, in church, or at home. This has led us to forget that writing is, in fact, an art and that it requires a certain skill. Nonetheless, essay writing for academic purposes is different from everyday writing, as there are rules to be followed. While writing may come naturally to some students, foreign students often have a hard time because they lack mastery of both the language and the rules of writing. As a result, they make a lot of mistakes that may not only affect the quality of their essays but also their grades. offers essay writing services for students who struggle with academic writing so that they do not have to break a sweat to come up with the perfect paper. They take it upon them to deliver high-quality non-plagiarized papers tailored to your requirements.

About Ed Dillinger

Check Also

9 Tips for Developing Your Academic Writing Skills

College is one season in your life when you will do the most writing. Each …

Sahifa Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.