Important Writing Rules

1.    First drafts and Final drafts should be typed. When you type, obey the following rules: (MLA Format)

Use one side of white 8 1⁄2 x 11 inch paper. Double space. NO EXTRA SPACING! Use one inch margins on all sides. Use Times New Roman or Ariel font. Type size should be 12 point.

Create a title block in the upper-left hand corner. See example in #46. Create a header with your last name and page number. Leave one space between your name and the page number.

2.    Give your paper a title that is informative, not cute. Do not underline or put quotation marks in your title.

3.    Italicize all full-length films, plays, books, magazine titles, and newspaper titles. If you are not typing the paper, you must underline instead.

4.    Short stories, film shorts, one-act plays, and articles go in quotation marks.

5.    Give your paper a clear thesis statement in your first paragraph. That is the most important rule of writing. It should appear in the last sentence of your first paragraph.

6.   Do not use one or two sentence paragraphs.

7.   Each paragraph must stick to the subject introduced by the topic sentence of the paragraph.

8.    Do not misspell words.

9.     A possessive without an apostrophe is a misspelled word. Remember the following two rules about the correct use of the apostrophe to indicate the possessive case:

1.    Add ’s to form the possessive case for singular nouns (EVEN if the noun ends in s...example: Charles to Charles’s)

 The student’s notes were clear and concise.

 Henry James’s novels reward the patient reader.

 Doris’s class is always entertaining.

2.   Add only an apostrophe to form the possessive case of plural nouns.

 Workers’ incomes have risen over the past decade.

 The girls’ basketball team won the state meet.

 Bring the first two classes’ notebooks tomorrow.

Note the one exception to rule 9:

§ Its is the possessive of it. 

§ It’s is the contraction for “it is”

§ Since I do not want contractions in your papers, you will never need to write “it’s” on your paper. In other forms of writing, you will need to know how to do this correctly.

10.    Make the transition between your sentences and your paragraphs clear and logical. This task is one of the most challenging aspects of writing.

11.    Do not use the first or second person – I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours, you, your, yours – unless I say you may use them.

12.    Do not use passive voice: “Amazing actors are directed by the best directors.” Use the active voice: “The best directors direct amazing actors.” The active voice is direct and clear; this rule is one of the most important elements of style.

13.    The “to be” verb is weak. Never begin sentences in any of the following ways: “There is/are...” “This is/are...” – “ It is...”

14.    Do not use “this,” “that,” “those,” “which,” or “it” unless the word has a clear and unmistakable antecedent nearby.

15.    Never dangle a participle. Correct – “Showing a lack of devotion, the athlete failed to practice.” DO NOT WRITE – “The athlete failed to practice, showing a lack of devotion.”

16.    Never end a sentence with a preposition.

17.    Never write an incomplete sentence.

18.    Use clear, decisive words, not words such as “maybe” or “perhaps.”

19.    Never JUST summarize or paraphrase. I want to know (without the use of I, my, or me) your ideas about what happened.

20.    Support your ideas and assertions with concrete examples or brief quotes for the work you are discussing or with a short citation from a reliable source.

21.    All quotes should be connected to a sentence. You can connect quotations to sentences in at least three different ways:

1.      Integrate quotations smoothly into your own sentences. Henry David Thoreau believed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (Thoreau 5)22.


When you quote from the Bible, put the book, chapter, and verse in parenthesis immediately after the quotation [example – (Psalms. 12. 6)] When the quote is from Shakespeare, put the play,(unless you have mentioned it earlier) the act, scene, and line number in parenthesis following the quotation [ example – (King Lear, 3.1.25)] When the quote or paraphrase is from someone else, put his or her last name and the page number of the quotation in parenthesis following the quotation [example – (Cole 27) and list the book in MLA format on a Works Cited page at the back of the paper or in APA format on a References page at the back of the paper. Check with our instructor for specific instructions.

23.    On extremely rare occasions (see me first) when you quote more than two lines of text, indent and single space the quotation and leave out the quotation marks.

24.    When using quotation marks, the quotation mark goes after the comma and the period and before the semicolon and the colon. Example: ,” .” ”; ”:


25.    Do not split infinitives (keep the “to” next to the verb; do not separate them with an adverb).       Write “to go boldly” NOT “to boldly go.”

26.   Know the rules of commas:

§ Join independent clauses (clauses with a subject, a verb, and not subordinating

words) either by using (1) a comma with a coordinating conjunction – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (remember them as FANBOYS) – or (2) a semi-colon without a conjunction.  

a.       “The singer did not practice her lines, so she did not perform well.” 

b.      “The singer did not practice her lines; she did not perform well.”

§ Separate items in a series by using a comma after every item before the conjunction.        Example: “The lunch lady was nice, caring, and happy.”

§ Never use a comma between the subject and the verb or between the verb and its object         (except for parenthetical clauses which use two commas).

27.    Avoid shifts in person: Incorrect: each person needs to take your assignment book.

Correct: Each person needs to take his or her assignment book.

28.    Avoid shifts in number: Incorrect: If a student does not bring a book, they will not be able to complete the lesson. Correct: If a student does not bring a book, he or he will not be able to complete the lesson. Correct: If students do not bring their books, they will not be able to complete the lesson.

29.    Good advice: Bury words like “However,” “furthermore,” “moreover,” “indeed,” etc. in the clause or sentence. You can use them at the beginnings of sentences; however, it is a higher level of writing if you use them inside sentences.

30.    Write about works of art and literature in the present tense, since Mona Lisa will still be smiling and Juliet will still be committing suicide long after we are all history.

31.    Avoid jargon: say “library”; do not say “instructional media center”).

32.    Avoid cliché. Example – “strong as an ox”).

33.    Avoid slang and colloquial language. DO NOT US IM, PHONE, OR E-MAIL WRITING. Academic papers should be formal.

34.    Avoid hyperbole (extreme exaggeration).

35.    Avoid filler phrases (say “now”; do not say “at this point in time”).

36.    Write as words all whole numbers from one to nine, and use numerals for 10 and over. One should not, however, begin a sentence with a numeral (write it as “Five hundred years ago..”). Always use numerals with abbreviations or symbols (6 lbs., $9, 5%) and in addresses (7 Elm Street) and dates (2 May 1987). For very large numbers, one may use a combination of numerals and words (5 billion).

37.    Do not use contractions.

38.    If you use large words, make sure that you know the clear connotation of the word. Big words are not impressive if they are just being used to impress the reader.

39.    DO NOT USE – “very,” “a lot,” “okay,” and “really.” 40. Avoid rhetorical questions. They are a bit pointless, aren’t they?

41.    NEVER underline or bold a word for emphasis.42. Conclude your paper with a paragraph that explains the importance of your ideas to some larger understanding. I do not want to ask, “So what?” at the end of your paper.

43.    ALWAYS WRITE A FIRST DRAFT. F. Scott Fitzgerald re-wrote one chapter of The Great Gatsby 27 times. If it is good enough for him, it is good enough for you. Great writing comes from good revision. All first drafts must be turned in with final drafts. All first drafts must show signs of editing and revision.

44.    Be safe: keep a duplicate of your final version, either in hard copy or in digital form.

45.    All paragraphs must be clearly indented.

46.    Unless otherwise instructed, no title pages will be used. Instead, place the heading at the top LEFT side of the paper. All work is to be double-spaced with 1” margins all around.

Your Name

Teacher’s Name

Course Name and Number

04 September 2012 (note: the 2,3,4 format is optional)

47.    All work must have a title. Academic paper titles are not punctuated or underlined.

48.    Correctly spell all words. Do not rely on spell check: it is not always correct with regards to the correct spelling for the correct meaning of the word.

49.    Do not introduce new information in your conclusion. Conclusions are designed to restate your thesis and to wrap up previously discussed thoughts. Do not end your paper by saying, “In conclusion,” “To summarize,” or “In summary.” Your conclusion should be obvious enough in its content that a warning is unnecessary.

50.    Proof read your paper. Then, proof read it again

If you can do all of these steps that my english teacher recommends then I can guarantee a great essay.