Guidelines I -- The Elements of an English Paper

The guidelines you will find in this section are not meant to be prescriptive! Please think of them as techniques that will help you discover what you want to say and then say it effectively.

Many of the suggestions are as much for your own sake as for your reader's. Take transitions, for example. Obviously, they help your reader get from one paragraph to the next. But just as importantly, they help you see the thread of your argument!

If you've finished one paragraph and have a vague idea of where you want to go in the next paragraph, by all means write that next paragraph, but don't miss the opportunity to pause and ask yourself, "So what is the connection between the point I made in the preceding paragraph and the new point I'm trying to make in this new paragraph?"

If you answer that question for yourself and then put that answer at the beginning of the new paragraph, you'll have helped both your reader and yourself see the logical progression of your argument. And you can then go back through that new paragraph and revise it in light of the now clearly articulated "through line."

And transitions are just one example among many. The point of this site, in other words, is not to prescribe "rules" but to suggest techniques that will help you write well and grow as a writer.