May 25, 2021

7 Signs Your Essay Is Vague and Ways to Fix It

By Sona Mathews

Essay writing requires a lot of work, especially when you are not used to this kind of task yet. You should be able to explain ideas using facts.

At the same time, you should stay creative and eloquent and demonstrate your excellent writing skills.

Sometimes, this task is too complicated or boring for students. For this reason, they use vague phrases to meet the word count.

7 Signs Your Essay Is Vague and Ways to Fix It: eAskme
7 Signs Your Essay Is Vague and Ways to Fix It: eAskme

Other people are at: How to Write a Good Essay in High School

However, your teacher or professor will not appreciate this approach.

That's why this article dwells on seven signs of a vague essay and offers some recommendations on how you can fix it.

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Absence of Specific Examples

It's a common mistake, especially at the beginning of one’s educational journey. Examples must be provided almost for every statement of your paper.

Yet, some students tend to use only general phrases avoiding any practical cases.

For instance, if you claim in your essay that pop music is the world's favorite music genre, you should identify some charts to substantiate that. In another case, it's just a non-factual statement of a subjective student.

"There are many things people don't like about eating pizza" is an example of a flawed and vague sentence.

It's always better to say which things in particular.

That's how you allow your reader to hear the reasons.

Let's transform it to "Originally, Italian pizza should be eaten with hands. However, some people find it inconvenient."

Generalization Is Your Best Friend

Avoid using phrases like "many people think" or "all Americans know."

These generalizations make your point very indistinct. In addition, such formulations do not sound reliable.

Instead, try using some surveys on this topic. Transform this sentence into 'according to the previous research by The Guardian, 49% of Americans know how to spell ukulele.'

Another example of generalization is when you don't use names of people or objects directly.

The more details you include in your work, the better your ideas will sound.

Try to detail the appearance of the mentioned people (if it’s relevant, of course), the place of action, and the times you’re writing about.

But please remember that too many unnecessary words are also not welcomed. It would be best if you tried to find the middle ground.

No Citations

You mustn't use somebody's opinion without citing the sources.

However, sometimes it's not only about copyright. By quoting, you make your paper more trustworthy and less vague.

For instance, instead of saying that "there are women who don't like perfumes", you’re going to need to find some real statistics, or at least a quote of a popular woman who dislikes perfumes.

Citing can help you to express your ideas more precisely.

It is also helpful when you write on a controversial topic because you can use alternative visions to come to your conclusion.

No Definitions of Key Terms

College writing also requires some term usage.

Yet, sometimes, due to the lack of time or knowledge, students avoid strong key terms, replacing them with general language.

It doesn't seem like a good idea, especially if your major is the focus of your essay.

Try to explain the basic terms in your essay as if it's not your professor who will read it but a complete stranger or a kid with no clue what the topic is about.

Defining the key terms would also be helpful to learn some problematic technical words yourself.

Too Many Familiar Facts

Any essay is a text that should always offer the reader something new.

Even if the topic is prominent, your ideas and opinions could be fresh.

That's why it's crucial to avoid using too many common facts.

'It's not a secret that the Earth is going around the Sun.' Of course, it's not. So, choose something more exciting to impress your reader.

Another way to avoid this mistake is to present the common fact in a new light. It would help if you tried to find new relations between the points.

Try to compare it with something unusual. That's how an old fact becomes a brand new one.

Passive Voice Is Overused

Passive voice is the grammatical category that is unfortunately way overused in academic works.

By using it, students either want to sound more intelligent or try to avoid first-person writing.

However, this technique should be applied in a moderate way.

To make your opinions stronger, use the active voice as much as possible.

It's not just about the fact that it’s easier to read sentences with active verbs.

The text itself becomes more concise and clear.

"Many People," "A Lot Of" Things

It's better to avoid such word constructions as 'reasonable number of something.'

Be specific when you talk about numbers, dates, or quantity of something.

For example, when you speak about the painter who is the author of many famous paintings, define how many of them he's finished by that moment.

You could also name some of them to support the idea that they are very well-known.

To make your essay better, try to read it out loud several times before submission.

Don't be afraid to rewrite, cut some sentences or even delete the whole paragraph.

By doing it, you will understand what is redundant and what parts are essential.

In the end, you will get the perfect balance of creativity and form.  


Vague statements in your essay make it hard for readers to understand your point.

In addition, your teacher can’t evaluate your knowledge of the topic adequately.

As a result, the paper becomes weak, and it influences your grades.

Hopefully, the recommendations mentioned above will help you improve your writing and avoid vagueness in your future assignments.

If you still have any question, feel free to ask me via comments.

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