ACT Prep: What to Avoid on the Writing Section

Avoid these mistakes on the ACT writing section

Flickr user Kiran Foster

Ah, the “optional” writing test on the ACT. 40 minutes of attempting to write a cohesive essay after every teacher you’ve ever had has said, “You can’t write a good essay overnight.” It’s difficult, true, but your essay doesn’t have to be the best you’ve ever written. Here are some mistakes you’ll want to avoid on the ACT writing section.

Writing with five word sentences.

This sentence has five words. This sentence does as well. It sounds very dull, right? I could go on, too. Please vary your sentence length. Reading this is no fun. This is painful to write.

The five-word sentence is a classic example of boring writing. I’m sure there is someone out there who can prove me wrong, but to make your writing flow and be interesting, it’s good to vary length and structure. Be complex. Make your point, and move on.

Not offering a counter-argument.

Issues are rarely one-sided. As such, the side you do not support needs to be acknowledged. This opens up a way to delve into a new point in your essay. Use an opposite viewpoint to further your argument’s credibility.

Misusing complex words and grammar.

Making your writing complex is definitely recommended, but you want to use words that you know how to spell as well as use. The same goes for grammar and punctuation: Do you know the difference between a colon and a semicolon? They’re just one example. Using them correctly might score you bonus points; practice using them in your everyday writing.

Using fragments on the ACT writing section.

If I was writing this for the ACT essay currently, I would lose points with every bolded subject line. Why? Because they’re all fragments. Beware of fragments. Make sure every sentence has a subject (implied or otherwise) and a verb.

Not proof-reading.

No one is perfect. Even well-practiced writers make simple mistakes all the time. That is why proof-reading is an essential part of the ACT essay. Check to make sure you’ve written the correct to, too, or two. The same goes for they’re, their, and there. Did you write “if” instead of “of” or some other common mix-up? Did you accidentally combine two words because your brain was going faster than your hands? Just give yourself a few minutes at the end to read over for little mistakes like that. See if your pronouns have matching antecedents.

Repeating yourself.

The graders don’t need the same information said in five different ways. All you need to do is make your point and continue on to the next one. Try not to needlessly fill your page just because you want your essay to appear longer.

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