Sample Writing Style Mistakes

These are some examples of common writing style, or English usage, errors that you will wish to avoid in your writing assignments in your history courses.

Examples of poor introduction

In the areas of Germany, England and France during the Middle Ages, a lot of differences and similarities occurred in the political and social developments.

During the Middle Ages, the regions of England, France and Germany were interconnected by marriage, war and church. [PASSIVE] The development of monarchy into governmental systems varied among the states in Western Europe. The three territories broke into different directions of political concepts of government. All developed new systems. New systems that grew and changed. [REPETITION AND FRAGMENT] Some even flourished, remaining intact and are still in use today.

During the Middle Ages, conquerors made their way throughout Europe. Kingdoms were established [PASSIVE] and reestablished, making the locals go through many changes in their religion, language and nationality.

Examples of good introduction

When the emperor Charlemagne died in 814, the fragmented remains of his kingdom formed the beginnings of what later became France and Germany. Together with England to the northwest, these three areas became the primary powers in Europe in the Middle Ages. Throughout this time, the secular leaders of these regions, engaged in political struggle with the papacy and with local nobles and dukes. In France, these struggles led to the emergence of a strong monarchy, and in England to a strong central government in which power was shared by a monarch and Parliament. Germany, however, because of these conflicts, never achieved a unified government.

There were many similarities between Germany, France and England during the Middle Ages in the areas of rulers, traditions and the impact of military success.

Germany, France and England all went through similar, although by no means identical, developments in rule, religion and administration in the Middle Ages.

Need for a new paragraph

William established a strong central government in England. He had accurate information about property in the kingdom gathered by officials. This information was then recorded in a book called the "Doomsday Book." The book then was used to decide what taxes people owed. [HERE] When William died, his son Henry replaced him.

As for the question of the church, William had its support for his conquest because of his willingness to support Gregorian reforms, which Harold, England's previous king, had not supported. [HERE] When Henry I came to the throne, he captured his brother Robert, who had inherited the French lands of William I.

Poor Transition

Otto was crowned Holy Roman emperor in 962. The empire was then continually divided by war as the dukes tried to regain control of their territories. [transition lacking] After the fall of Rome, cities had decayed.

This was an early form of what became Parliament. These are the reasons England became a centralized and unified state during the Middle Ages. [transition lacking] In France, Louis IX (1226-1270) issued two ordinances without consent which furthered royal power.

Good transition

William established a national unity in England, being that he conquered the island all at once. National unity was also established by developing a common law.

Relevance problem

But the kingdom of Wessex, ruled by Alfred the Great survived. In order to stop the decline in learning that usually accompanied the Danish invasions, Alfred set up a palace school and brought scholars from other areas. Alfred's descendants gradually regained land from the Danes and re-established Anglo-Saxon control over England.

This law became known over all of England and restored its unity. [OVERSTATEMENT] Henry II formed the procedure of trail [SPELLING] and jury for case's in the kings court. [APOSTROPHE] This jury was an ancestor of the modern jury systems. Financial administration paralleled the development of a strong judicial system. Royal accountants saw to the collection of revenues owed to the king.

Use of apostrophe

Alfreds descendants, kings position, kingdoms assent, governments oppression, Johns French lands, it's territories, it's Germanic territories


England was divided into Shires administered by Sheriffs.

Pronoun antecedent problem

Specifically, Charlemagne had the church set up schools for any man's use, had them [?] codify their laws and said, in essence, "one church, one service," meaning anyone who goes to church anywhere in Germany would have the same service performed as anywhere else. [RELEVANCE]

When someone is excommunicated, they [?] are thrown out


In 1226 Louis IX became king. He was the most dearly loved monarch of the Middle Ages. [why] Under him the power of the French monarch continued to grow. [why] In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Philip IV engaged in a struggle.

The Estates General "never succeeded in becoming a balance of power for the monarchy as did the English Parliament."

Unlike the English Parliament, the Estates General never became an important body in French political life. No comparable checks on the king's power developed in France as it had in England.

Otto's successors wished to gain control over Italy [WHY] and the papacy, a dream that hurled the territory into a war with the church. German dukes sided with Italian cities, both enemies of the emperor. Eventually, the German attempt to control Italy failed. Consequently, Germany remained as divided territories unable to ally into political unity. [WHY]

Grammar problem

During the reign of Henry I (1100-1135) and Henry II (1154-1189)

Edward III (1227-1272) was good with Parliament but fomented the Hundred Years' War, introducing longbowmen, who made knights vulnerable for the first time.

The Middle Ages was a time for vitality and renewal. In the middle ages [CAPITALIZATION]

When King John was in rule

Henry II lay the foundations

Passive tense

When Pepin died, the throne was claimed [pp] by his son, Charlemagne.

From the very beginning of the Middle Ages, the area of Germany was left to deal with a problem of unity

From the time following Charlemagne's death, France was encompassed by several civil wars

Lack of coherence in a paragraph

Most European law consisted of Germanic customs. Although Germany was unable to grow in a political state due to warfare, internal rebellion, and assassination. Kings became more powerful and were able to achieve greater order and security in large areas.

Use of "would" or colloquial language

The German empire would go on to produce emperors such as Frederick Barbarossa who would attempt to stretch the German empire and put a choke hold on the pope.

His grandson, Henry, would later gain much of southern France.

Probably his biggest contribution to history was his dividing of his kingdom into 300 counties, each run by a count who had sworn an oath of fealty to him. This would be used as a governmental model in both France and England.

the biggest monarchal power in Europe

his biggest contribution

Frederick II got into a dispute

Logic problem

The French king maintained support from the church in order to avoid conflicts and any threat to his power. This enabled the king to increase and extend his power. The conflict between Philip the Fair and the pope ended in Philip's success.

Fact problem

The Magna Carta is a document that entitles British citizens to their basic rights and liberties.