Even when a sentence is conventional in its grammar and mechanics, writers can construct sentences that are unintentionally awkward, detracting from the meaning. [EDIT]
Once a writer has command of the conventions, issues of style become more important. Many elements can contribute to awkward wording. Most writers will acquire a smooth style from drafting, peer input, editorial/instructional input, and reading extensively. The most common sources of awkward constructions are language habits we bring from speaking into our writing.
Some areas to consider:
Avoid: “what I am trying to say,” “what the author is trying to say,” “this means that”
Avoid: Direct references to your sources as “quotes,” direct references to your essay or your argument—“in the quote above,” “my point is,” “in this essay,” “in conclusion”
Recast: “How,” “when,” “where” and similar clauses into “-ing” constructions; for example:
He does not tolerate how people talk during movies. (avoid)
He does not tolerate people talking during movies. (recast)
Avoid: Repeated back-to-back sentences with the first ending in the same word as the subsequent sentences has as the first word; for example:
Jessica wanted to join a club to play soccer. Soccer is her favorite sport.
Jessica wanted to join a club to play soccer, her favorite sport. (revised)