An infinitive is one uninflected form of a verb, and it’s easy to spot. To go, to say, to wonder, to ride, to share—these are all examples of infinitives, and you will recognize plenty of them in your own writing, no doubt. Usually (though not always), and infinitive verb is preceded by “to.”
To split an infinitive is to put a word or words between “to” and the verb in order to modify that verb. Again, the myth of this error comes to us as dogmatic prescriptive advice, gaining a foothold in mid-nineteenth century England’s insistence that English should emulate Latin (in Latin, infinitives are a single word and cannot be split).
Continue reading: Myth: It’s an error to split infinitives
We might guess that this common misconception comes from a desire for students to be forward-looking. As such, we can hazard a guess that the rule, “paragraph transitions should always happen at the ends of paragraphs,” is a provisional one taught when students are introduced to essay structure.
This desire for students to be forward-looking is well founded, since good writers constantly anticipate where and how they will move their discussion as their texts progress.
Continue reading: Myth: Paragraph transitions should be placed at the ends of paragraphs
Another provisional rule, the maxim that no sentence should begin with “because” is likely the result of a teacher’s frustration with sentence fragments.
Continue reading: Myth: It’s incorrect to start a sentence with “because”
This rule is a provisional one, meant to help beginning writers to see the differences between oral and written communication.
Whereas in speech we very often use conjunctions, especially “and” and “but,” in text a writer’s overuse of conjunctions at the beginnings of sentences makes for repetitive and sloppy writing. To combat this stylistic problem, people who teach beginning writers sometimes ban the use of any coordinating conjunction at the beginning of a sentence.
But such an all-out ban is misguided. In fact, plenty of good writers begin their sentences with coordinating conjunctions once in a while.
Do note that it has become acceptable in popular and literary language, but is still deemed unacceptable in many academic circles.
Continue reading: Myth: It’s incorrect to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so)
Depending how writing advice is motivated, it can be more or less helpful, and myths about good writing often begin with good intentions. Good writers look past good intentions to get good results, though, and this article will help you find these good results by showing the reasons behind common pieces of misleading writing advice.
Look below for our entries on writing myths, which each explain a myth, why it can be safely dismissed, and what is useful about it.
Continue reading: Writing myths: The reasons we get bad advice
This example guides you through the structure of an essay. It shows how to build an effective introduction, focused paragraphs, clear transitions between ideas, and a strong conclusion.
Each paragraph addresses a single central point, introduced by a topic sentence, and each point is directly related to the thesis statement.
As you read, hover over the highlighted parts to learn what they do and why they work.
Continue reading: Example of a great essay | Explanations, tips & tricks
Revising and editing an essay is a crucial step of the writing process. It often takes up at least as much time as producing the first draft, so make sure you leave enough time to revise thoroughly.
The most effective approach to revising an essay is to move from general to specific:
- Start by looking at the big picture: does your essay achieve its overall purpose, and does it proceed in a logical order?
- Next, dive into each paragraph: do all the sentences contribute to the point of the paragraph, and do all your points fit together smoothly?
- Finally, polish up the details: is your grammar on point, your punctuation perfect, and your meaning crystal clear?
Continue reading: How to revise an essay in 3 simple steps
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that aims to present a convincing argument using evidence, analysis and interpretation. It always has an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.
When you’ve finished writing your essay, use this checklist to evaluate your work.
Continue reading: Checklist for academic essays | Is your essay ready to submit?
A rhetorical question is a question asked not as a genuine inquiry but rather to suggest something or to make a point.
Continue reading: Avoid rhetorical questions
A few informal writing tendencies appear in student papers, and contractions and common informal phrases are among the most common.
Continue reading: Avoid informal writing