Myth: It’s incorrect to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so)

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.

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Writing myths: The reasons we get bad advice

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.

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Interactive example of a well-structured essay

This example guides you through an essay structure. It shows how to build an effective introduction, focused paragraphs, clear transitions between ideas, and a strong conclusion. Note that each paragraph addresses a single central point, introduced by a topic sentence, and that 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. This is a relatively short essay, but its principles can be applied to any length of essay.

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Linking words and phrases in academic writing

Linking words, also known as transitions, are among the most important elements in writing, since they allow readers to see the relationships between your ideas. There are several categories of transitions, including words and phrases that signal contrasts and agreement.

Because transitions are so important, it’s critical that you don’t misuse them. This article presents both common transitions and commonly misused transitions, along with examples.

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The difference between essays and other forms of writing

Barring the obvious answer (to get a degree), in answering this question we need first to ask, what distinguishes an essay from any other form of writing? Most people will have strong intuitions that newspaper articles, scientific reports, and short stories, for example, are not forms of essay, but it might be hard to distinguish exactly why these don’t count as essays.

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The revision process: Fine-grained details

After you’ve revised your paper with the broader, global concerns in mind, it’s time to turn to the fine-grained details of the writing.

The goal of this stage of editing and proofreading is to produce an optimally concise, precise, and coherent essay, and one that is impeccably formatted. Again, you should address certain things first in this process: there’s no sense in focusing on a misplaced comma if the sentence should be rephrased; there’s no sense in rephrasing a sentence if that sentence should be cut.

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The revision process: Global concerns

There’s no sense in focusing on a sentence if the whole paragraph needs to be revised; there’s no sense in focusing on a paragraph if the whole section needs to be reworked or cut. For these reasons, global concerns should be your first order of duty in editing, and you should work from general to specific, leaving the fine-grained details for later. In looking at global concerns, concentrate on purpose and organization.

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