From Gerald R. Lucas

Welcome to the English Composition Writing FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

This FAQ addresses difficulties that many new writers have with mechanics, style, content, and structure. While meant for writers new to college, even experienced writers may benefit from some of the answers to the following questions.

The FAQ is hypertextual and is divided into several sections, each containing areas that many new writers find troublesome at first. You might begin by clicking on a question below and following the links you find in the answer, or you can always come back to this start page.

Start Here

  1. How do I get started writing?
  2. What questions do I need to ask as a writer?

Content Questions

  1. How does a “topic” differ from a “subject”?
  2. What is a strong subject for an essay?
  3. What is meant by “purpose” in an essay?
  4. What is “audience”?
  5. What is a “thesis statement”?
  6. What is “interesting detail” and how do I use it?
  7. What is “development” or “support”?
  8. Where do I go for essay subject ideas?
  9. What is a strong title and how do I write one?
  10. Are there different types of essays?

Mechanics and Grammar Questions

  1. What is a “comma splice”?
  2. What is a “run-on” sentence?
  3. What is a “sentence fragment”?
  4. How do I know when I need to use a comma?
  5. Is a comma really necessary after the last element in a list of three or more?
  6. How do you use a semicolon?
  7. What is “subject/verb agreement”?
  8. What is “pronoun/antecedent agreement”?
  9. What are “coordinating conjunctions”?

Structural Questions

  1. What is a “thesis statement” and how do I write a strong one?
  2. What are some guidelines for writing a thesis?
  3. What is a “topic sentence”?
  4. How does an “opening sentence” differ from a “topic sentence”?
  5. How do I write a strong title?
  6. How do I write a strong introduction?
  7. What is the “body” of an essay?
  8. How do I write an effective conclusion?
  9. What is “unity”?
  10. What is “point of view”?
  11. How should an essay be organized?
  12. How do I get the ideas from my head to the paper?
  13. What are “transitions”?
  14. How do I present titles of other works in my essay?

Stylistic Questions

  1. What is “tone”?
  2. What is wrong with “it”?
  3. Why is the pronoun “this” ambiguous?
  4. What is the “passive voice”?
  5. What is “word choice”?
  6. What is an “awkward sentence”?
  7. What is “redundancy”?
  8. What is “wordiness”?
  9. What is “hyperbole”?
  10. When is something “clichéd” or “trite”?
  11. How can my writing be more persuasive?

Writing About Literature

  1. What tense do I use when writing about literature?
  2. How do I present titles of poems, novels, etc. in my essay?

Revision and Editing

  1. How about some general writing tips?
  2. Editing? Proofreading? Revision?
  3. What are some basic editing strategies for new writers?


  1. What is MLA documentation style?
Written: 2002; Revised: 07-12-2021 Version: Beta 0.1