14 Must Know Rules of Grammar Guaranteed for Successful Writing

  • Use present tense for literature (fiction or nonfiction), and use past tense for history.
    • Shakespeare wrote The Tempest in about 1610, but The Tempest takes place on a desert island.
    • James Brewer Stewart (1976) provides an account of abolitionists but does not actually recognize the importance of enslaved individuals.
    • In Imitation of Life (1959),while Sarah Jane and Susie begin playing, Lora shows Annie their new “room,” in reality a small closet in the back of a small apartment. As Lora gets sheets, the camera zooms into Susie’s room, where the two girls are.
    • The slave trade also had significant roots in the islands alongside the Western coasts of lower Europe and Africa. Beginning in 1402, Spain assumed control of the Canary Islands. The ancient, isolated Guanches inhabited these islands. The Spanish came and forced the Guanches to work on sugar plantations.
  • Watch your spelling and word choices! Remember to use college-level diction and creative word choices.
    • Never use contractions (e.g., can’t, I’m, don’t)
    • Never use slang (e.g, “you know”)
    • Almost always avoid clichés (i.e., overused, very familiar phrases, e.g., “you can’t judge a book by its cover”)
    • Avoid vague language (e.g., it)
    • Almost always avoid first person and personal pronouns (e.g., I or you)
  • Avoid expletive sentence structure (i.e., starting sentences with e.g., it is, there was, etc.).
  • Make sure pronouns refer to the correct noun or subject. A pronoun cannot be used to refer to a noun in a previous paragraph.
  • Use active, not passive voice, as possible and appropriate. Passive voice puts the important “stuff” later in the sentence and sometimes avoids specifically saying who or what.
    • Active: For this aspect of his life, the authors present him as literally no more than a product of society, even though this element of society is not discussed.
    • Passive: For this aspect of his life, he is presented as literally no more than a product of society, even though this element of society is not discussed.
  • When using lists place the items in alphabetical order unless there is a specific reason not to. Listing them in order of importance, size, etc. might also be useful.
    • Amazon sells calendars, clocks, coffee gift sets, dolls, figurines, greeting cards, jewelry boxes, lamps, lunch boxes, mouse pads, ornaments, posters, soundtracks, trivia books, wallets, and countless publications of Mitchell’s novel–all of which commemorate Gone with the Wind.
    • Economically, politically, socially, and technologically, the twentieth century was a time of change. World War I (1914-1918), the so-called Age of Prosperity (1922-1929), the Worldwide Great Depression (1929-1941), World War II (1939-1945), and the Cold War (1947-1991) exemplify these changes both literally and figuratively.
  • (Suggestion) Use the title of your essay in the last paragraph, particularly the last sentence.
    • Title of Research Paper: Forcefully Internalizing the “Black Doll”: Imitation of Life & Brown vs. Board. Last Sentence: Sarah Jane and African-Americans in the 1950s were forced to internalize the black doll.
    • Title of Essay: Silencing Shakespeare’s Sisters: Science and Society. Last Sentence: Shakespeare’s exactly equal sisters–including Russett, Oppenheim, Clinton, and countless others–can no longer be silenced by science and society because they have recognized and celebrated achievements in society and in the University.
  • When defining a word use italics. When referring to a word as a word, use quotation marks. If used sparingly and correctly, quotation marks or italics also can be used for emphasis or sarcasm.
    • In a book of 131,817 words, Berlin uses the word “some” 267 times, “many” 226 times, “most” 219 times, “about” 90 times, “generally” 81 times, “perhaps” 76 times, “several” 54 times, “estimate” 19 times, “usually” 18 times, “majority” 16 times, “probably” 14 times, “roughly” 7 times, and “approximately” 6 times. Statistically, 1 out of every 4.965 sentences has one of these words.
    • One cannot “remember” something, if one never learns about it.
    • A reader may wonder, if these private writings are the only evidence that indicate an improved condition for women, was their social condition really improved?
  • Define all terms that are important to the argument.
    • In this essay, online learning (and its synonyms, such as electronic courses) refers to taking college courses completely on the Internet that are taught by actual instructors who are associated with non-profit, accredited colleges.
    • For this essay, androgynous women have roles different from the traditionally prescribed stereotypes of the European Renaissance society, resulting in greater equality through a blending/bending of gender roles.
  • Use sentences of varying length.
    • Is it truly possible that Gone with the Wind is a visual representation of the United States’s historical memory of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction? Moreover, is it truly possible that this novel and film, with its proclaimed characters, is largely responsible for distorting the memory of slavery, the true horrors of the Civil War, and the wrong-doing of the Southern United States? Yes.
  • Use italics for the name of a book, play, magazine, or movie. Use quotation marks for the name of an article, most poems, or short story.
    • Black Films and Film-Makers: A Comprehensive Anthology from Stereotype to Superhero
    • “Hollywood’s Reconstruction and the Persistence of Historical Mythmaking”
  • Stay Parallel.
    • Motion pictures were born from 1890 to 1910. Thomas Edison can be credited for observing and creating the possible link between film and entertainment.
    • The United Sates still sought to have a homogenous nation biologically, socially, and economically.
  • Thesis: What is your paper arguing?
    • I will argue that despite Cuba’s third-world status, mistreatment by the United States, and the Soviet Union’s destruction, socialist Cuba has changed and improved significantly in four areas: opportunities for education, medical care, religious tolerance, and racialized relations.
  • Write clearly and simply; personalize your writing. Know the difference between connotation and denotation–use them to your advantage. Finally, use dates after the name of a book, event, etc. Dates help give your writing context and grounding.

See also:


Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

Tags: , ,

2 replies


  1. The Oxford Comma, Plus Every Comma Rule You Need to Know « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  2. Two Tips for Students: Attend Class and Don’t Guess « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
%d bloggers like this: