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APA Style (7th Edition) Citation Guide: Websites

  • Introduction
  • Journal Articles
  • Magazine/Newspaper Articles
  • Books & Ebooks
  • Government & Legal Documents
  • Biblical Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Films/Videos/TV Shows
  • How to Cite: Other
  • Additional Help

Table of Contents

Entire Website - No Separate Pages or Sections

Page or Section from a Website

Note: All citations should be double spaced and have a hanging indent in a Reference List.

A "hanging indent" means that each subsequent line after the first line of your citation should be indented by 0.5 inches.

This Microsoft support page contains instructions about how to format a hanging indent in a paper.

It can sometimes be difficult to find out who the author of a website is. Remember that an author can be a corporation or group, not only a specific person. Author information can sometimes be found under an "About" section on a website.

If there is no known author, start the citation with the title of the website instead.

The best date to use for a website is the date that the content was last updated. Otherwise look for a copyright or original publication date. Unfortunately this information may not be provided or may be hard to find. Often date information is put on the bottom of the pages of a website.

If you do not know the complete date, put as much information as you can find. For example you may have a year but no month or day.

If an original publication date and a last updated date are provided, use the last updated date. If the more current date is "last reviewed" instead of "last updated," use the original publication date (since the review may not have changed the content).

If there is no date provided, put the letters (n.d.) in round brackets where you'd normally put the date.

Titles should be italicized when the document stands alone (e.g. books, reports, websites, etc.), but not when it is part of a greater whole (e.g. chapters, articles, webpages, etc.).

Website Name

Provide website names in title case without italics after titles of work. Include a period after the website name, followed by the URL. When the author of the work is the same as the website name, omit the site name from the reference.

Retrieval Date

If the content of a website is likely to change over time (e.g. Wikis), you must provide the date you last visited the website.

If a URL is too long to fit onto one line, try to break it at a slash (/).

Entire Website

Note: If you are quoting or paraphrasing part of a website, you should create a reference for a Page or Section. If you mention a website in general, do not create a reference list entry or an in-text citation. Instead, include the name of the website in the text and provide the URL in parentheses.

The Department of Justice has a site called ( to help people identify and report crimes in their area.

Note : If you cite multiple webpages from a website, create a reference for each. Include the date you retrieved the information if the content is likely to change over time.

Created by a Corporate or Group Author

Corporation/Group/Organization's Name. (Year website was last updated/published, Month Day if given). Title of page: Subtitle (if any). Website Name. URL

Example in which the content is unlikely to change over time:

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (2019, November 21). Justice served: Case closed for over 40 dogfighting victims .

Example in which the content is likely to change over time:

Adidas. (2020). Sustainability . Retrieved January 23, 2020, from

Note: When the author and site name are the same, omit the site name in the reference.

In-Text Paraphrase:

(Corporation/Group's Name, Year)

Example: (Adidas, 2020)

In-Text Quote:

(Corporation/Group's Name, year, Section Name section, para. Paragraph Number if more than one paragraph in section)

Example: (Adidas, 2020, Sustainability section, para. 1)

Note: When there are no visible page numbers or paragraph numbers, you may cite the section heading and the number of the paragraph in that section to identify where your quote came from.

Abbreviating Corporation/Group Author Name in In-Text citations:

Author names for corporations/groups can often be abbreviated. The first time you refer to the author, provide the full name, along with the abbreviation.

If the group name appears in the text of your paper, include the abbreviation in the in-text parenthetical citation:

Example: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA, 2019) assisted in the rescue of 40 dogs.

If the group name first appears within a parenthetical citation, include the full group name as well as the abbreviation in square brackets:

Example: Forty dogs were rescued in Bendena, Kansas (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA], 2019).

Provide the full group name (without an abbreviation) in the reference list entry: 

Created by an Individual Author 

Author's Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial if Given. (Year website was last updated/published, Month Day if given). Title of page: Subtitle (if any). Website Name. URL

Price, D. (2018, March 23). Laziness does not exist . Medium.

Shillam, S. (2018). Message from the Dean . University of Portland. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from

(Author Last Name, Year)

Example: (Shillam, 2018)

(Author Last Name, Year, Section Name section, para. Paragraph Number if more than one paragraph in section)

Example: (Shillam, 2018, Message from the dean section, para. 2)

Created by an Unknown Author 

Title of page: Subtitle (if any). (Year website was last updated/published, Month Day if given). Website Name. URL

Example in which the content is unlikely to change over time (because the restaurant has closed) :

Jarra's Ethiopian Restaurant [Reviews]. (2012, November 9). Yelp.

Powell's City of Books [Reviews]. (2020, February 25). Yelp. Retrieved February 28, 2020, from

("Title," Year)

Example: ("Powell's City of Books," 2020)

("Title," Year, Section Name section, para. Paragraph Number if more than one paragraph in section)

Example: ("Powell's City of Books," 2020, Review Highlights)

Note: When there are no visible page numbers or paragraph numbers, you may cite the section heading and the number of the paragraph in that section to identify where your quote came from. In this example, there is only one paragraph under the specific heading, so no paragraph number is needed.

  • << Previous: Government & Legal Documents
  • Next: Biblical Sources >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 30, 2024 1:29 PM
  • URL:

Quoting and integrating sources into your paper

In any study of a subject, people engage in a “conversation” of sorts, where they read or listen to others’ ideas, consider them with their own viewpoints, and then develop their own stance. It is important in this “conversation” to acknowledge when we use someone else’s words or ideas. If we didn’t come up with it ourselves, we need to tell our readers who did come up with it.

It is important to draw on the work of experts to formulate your own ideas. Quoting and paraphrasing the work of authors engaged in writing about your topic adds expert support to your argument and thesis statement. You are contributing to a scholarly conversation with scholars who are experts on your topic with your writing. This is the difference between a scholarly research paper and any other paper: you must include your own voice in your analysis and ideas alongside scholars or experts.

All your sources must relate to your thesis, or central argument, whether they are in agreement or not. It is a good idea to address all sides of the argument or thesis to make your stance stronger. There are two main ways to incorporate sources into your research paper.

Quoting is when you use the exact words from a source. You will need to put quotation marks around the words that are not your own and cite where they came from. For example:

“It wasn’t really a tune, but from the first note the beast’s eyes began to droop . . . Slowly the dog’s growls ceased – it tottered on its paws and fell to its knees, then it slumped to the ground, fast asleep” (Rowling 275).

Follow these guidelines when opting to cite a passage:

  • Choose to quote passages that seem especially well phrased or are unique to the author or subject matter.
  • Be selective in your quotations. Avoid over-quoting. You also don’t have to quote an entire passage. Use ellipses (. . .) to indicate omitted words. Check with your professor for their ideal length of quotations – some professors place word limits on how much of a sentence or paragraph you should quote.
  • Before or after quoting a passage, include an explanation in which you interpret the significance of the quote for the reader. Avoid “hanging quotes” that have no context or introduction. It is better to err on the side of your reader not understanding your point until you spell it out for them, rather than assume readers will follow your thought process exactly.
  • If you are having trouble paraphrasing (putting something into your own words), that may be a sign that you should quote it.
  • Shorter quotes are generally incorporated into the flow of a sentence while longer quotes may be set off in “blocks.” Check your citation handbook for quoting guidelines.

Paraphrasing is when you state the ideas from another source in your own words . Even when you use your own words, if the ideas or facts came from another source, you need to cite where they came from. Quotation marks are not used. For example:

With the simple music of the flute, Harry lulled the dog to sleep (Rowling 275).

Follow these guidelines when opting to paraphrase a passage:

  • Don’t take a passage and change a word here or there. You must write out the idea in your own words. Simply changing a few words from the original source or restating the information exactly using different words is considered plagiarism .
  • Read the passage, reflect upon it, and restate it in a way that is meaningful to you within the context of your paper . You are using this to back up a point you are making, so your paraphrased content should be tailored to that point specifically.
  • After reading the passage that you want to paraphrase, look away from it, and imagine explaining the main point to another person.
  • After paraphrasing the passage, go back and compare it to the original. Are there any phrases that have come directly from the original source? If so, you should rephrase it or put the original in quotation marks. If you cannot state an idea in your own words, you should use the direct quotation.

A summary is similar to paraphrasing, but used in cases where you are trying to give an overview of many ideas. As in paraphrasing, quotation marks are not used, but a citation is still necessary. For example:

Through a combination of skill and their invisibility cloak, Harry, Ron, and Hermione slipped through Hogwarts to the dog’s room and down through the trapdoor within (Rowling 271-77).

Important guidelines

When integrating a source into your paper, remember to use these three important components:

  • Introductory phrase to the source material : mention the author, date, or any other relevant information when introducing a quote or paraphrase.
  • Source material : a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation.
  • Analysis of source material : your response, interpretations, or arguments regarding the source material should introduce or follow it. When incorporating source material into your paper, relate your source and analysis back to your original thesis.

Ideally, papers will contain a good balance of direct quotations, paraphrasing and your own thoughts. Too much reliance on quotations and paraphrasing can make it seem like you are only using the work of others and have no original thoughts on the topic.

Always properly cite an author’s original idea, whether you have directly quoted or paraphrased it. If you have questions about how to cite properly in your chosen citation style, browse these citation guides . You can also review our guide to understanding plagiarism .

University Writing Center

The University of Nevada, Reno Writing Center provides helpful guidance on quoting and paraphrasing and explains how to make sure your paraphrasing does not veer into plagiarism. If you have any questions about quoting or paraphrasing, or need help at any point in the writing process, schedule an appointment with the Writing Center.

Works Cited

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  A.A. Levine Books, 1998.

Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / MLA Website Citation

How to Cite a Website in MLA

If you are a student faced with creating an MLA website citation for the first time, you may be confused about where to begin. This guide is here to answer all of your questions and take the guesswork out of creating an MLA citation for websites.

All academic fields require students and researchers to document their sources. Those studying the humanities, including fields in language literature, will typically follow MLA format when structuring their papers as well as when documenting sources.

Citing your sources is a necessary part of any research paper or project. This element serves both to give credit to the researchers and authors whose work informed yours, as well as to preserve academic integrity. Any source that provided you with ideas or information that you have included in your work and which are not considered common knowledge must be included, including websites.

The Modern Language Association is not associated with this guide. All of the information, however, is based on the MLA Handbook, Ninth Edition as well as the MLA website, and is presented as guidance for students writing in this style.

If you are looking for help with APA format , our reference library can provide you with guidance for this and more styles .

What You Need

To cite a website, you should have the following information:

  • Title of source.
  • Title of the container ,
  • Other contributors (names and roles),
  • Publication date,
  • Location of the source (such as DOI, URL, or page range).

The Modern Language Association refers to these guidelines as “core elements” on page 105 of the Handbook. If your teacher has asked you to cite your sources in this format, these elements will form the foundation for each MLA website citation included in your MLA Works Cited list, as well as the entries for sources in any other format.

If one of the elements does not apply, students may omit it. Supplemental items may also be included when necessary. In addition to the supplemental details discussed below, a list of additional supplemental components can be found on the MLA website.

If it’s an APA citation website page or an APA reference page you need help with, we have many other resources available for you!

Table of Contents

This guide includes the following sections:

  • MLA9 Changes
  • Citing websites with an author
  • Citing websites with no author
  • Citing websites with no formal title
  • Citing social media websites
  • In-text citations

Changes to MLA Citation for Websites in Ninth Edition

In previous editions, students and researchers creating an MLA website citation were not required to include the URL. However, beginning with MLA 8, it is recommended that you include the URL when creating a citation for a website unless your teacher instructs you otherwise. Even though web pages and URLs can be taken down or changed, it is still possible to learn about the source from the information seen in the URL.

When including URLs in a citation, http:// and https:// should be omitted from the website’s address ( Handbook 195). Additionally, If you are creating a citation that will be read on a digital device, it is helpful to make the URL clickable so that readers can directly access the source themselves.

If the website’s publisher includes a permalink or DOI (Digital Object Identifier), these are preferable as they are not changeable in the same manner as URLs. Whether you include a URL, permalink, or DOI, this information should be included in the location portion of your citation.

Another change that occurred with the eighth edition that impacts how to cite a website in MLA is the removal of the date the website was accessed. While you may still find it useful to include this information or your teacher may request it, it is no longer a mandatory piece of your citation. Should you choose to add this optional information, you may list it after the URL in the following manner:

  • Accessed Day Month Year.
  • Accessed 2 May 1998.
  • Accessed 31 Apr. 2001.
  • Accessed 17 Sept. 2010.

For an overview of additional formatting changes in the ninth edition, including resources to help with writing an annotated bibliography , check out the rest of’s writing and citation guides, and try out our plagiarism checker for help with grammar and to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

MLA 9: Citing Websites With an Author

To make an MLA 9 citation for a website, you will need the following pieces of information:

  • author’s name
  • title of the article or page
  • title of the website
  • name of the publisher (Note: Only include the name of the publisher when it differs from the name of the website.)
  • date the page or site was published (if available)

Citing a Website in MLA

Place the author’s name in reverse order, the last name first, followed by a comma, and then the first name followed by a period. The title of the web page or article is placed in quotation marks, with a period before the end quotation. The title of the website is written in italics followed by a comma. If the name of the publisher differs from the name of the website, include it after the title. Immediately following the publisher is the date that the page or article was published or posted. Finally, end with the URL, permalink, or DOI, followed by a period.

View Screenshot | Cite your source

In-text website citation with one author

The in-text citation for a website with an author is reflected as the author’s last name in parentheses, followed by a period. Unless the website includes numbered paragraphs or sections, you should not include any additional information. For the website used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

Cite your source

An APA parenthetical citation is similar, except it also includes the year the source was published.

To learn more about formatting MLA in-text & parenthetical citations , be sure to check out the rest of’s resources and citation guides.

How to cite a website with two authors in MLA 9

According to Section 5.7 of the Handbook , for a website with two authors, place the authors’ names in the same order as the source (similar to an APA citation ). The first name should be formatted in reverse order as was done for a single author. The second name, however, is written as First Name Last Name and is followed by a period, as demonstrated in the template that follows:

In-text website citation with two authors

The in-text citation for a website with two authors should include both authors’ last names, in the order in which they are listed in the source and your works cited:

How to cite a website with three or more authors in MLA 9

For a source with three or more authors, you should place the authors’ names in the same order as the source. The first name is listed in reverse order and is followed by a comma and et al. Et al is the abbreviation for et alia, a gender-neutral Latin phrase meaning “and others.”

In-text website citation with 3+ authors

The in-text citation for a website with three or more authors should contain only the first author’s last name, followed by et al. ( Handbook 232):

Click on this page if you’re looking for information on how to create an APA in-text citation .

MLA 9 Citation for Websites with No Author

Sometimes, websites do not state who wrote the information on the page. When no author is listed, you may omit the author information from the MLA citation for the website and begin, instead, with the title ( Handbook 108).

Note about web pages by organizations/corporations:  Often, web pages are published by organizations or corporations with no author indicated. In these cases, you can assume that the publisher also authored the web page (like the example above). Since the author and publisher are the same in these cases, you can skip showing an author and just indicate the organization /corporation as the publisher ( Handbook 119 ).

In-text website citation with no author

The in-text citation for a website without an author is noted with the first noun phrase or words in the title in quotations and parenthesis, followed by a period. Unless the website includes numbered paragraphs or sections, you should not include any additional information. For the website used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

MLA 9 Citation for Websites Without a Formal Title

When citing a web page that does not include a formal title, it is acceptable to include a description of the page. Do not place the description in italics or quotation marks. Follow the description with the name of the website.

In-text website citation without a title

The in-text citation for a website without a formal title uses a shortened version of the webpage description for the in-text citation. Use the first noun phrase of the description from your Works Cited citation in parenthesis, followed by a period. For the website used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

MLA 9 Citation for Social Media Websites

In an increasingly digital world, social media platforms have become one of the most popular sources students turn to when writing a research paper. From Black history facts , to quotes from notable people, such as Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill , social media has become a mega influence in our world.

When citing social media in your work,  follow the same format as an MLA citation for a website. Here are some examples of ways you can cite various social media platforms in your work:

How to cite Twitter in MLA 9

Many notable individuals use Twitter as a platform to share intriguing ideas. It’s a shame Twitter was unavailable to long-gone scientists, authors, and presidents such as Albert Einstein , Mark Twain , and Abraham Lincoln . Luckily, we have the Twitter profiles of today’s great minds at our fingertips!

To cite a tweet, you will begin with the account holder’s name and their Twitter handle in square brackets, followed by a period ( Handbook 118). After this, in quotations, you should enter the full text of the tweet, including any hashtags. The publisher, Twitter, is then listed in italics, followed by the date the tweet was posted in day, month, year format. Finally, include a URL to the tweet followed by a period.

Note:  When the account name and username are similar, the username can be excluded from the citation. For example, if the account’s username was @FirstNameLastName or @OrganizationName.

In-text website citation of a Twitter post

The in-text citation for a Twitter post is reflected as the author’s last name in parentheses, followed by a period. For the tweet used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

How to cite Instagram in MLA 9

To cite an Instagram post, begin with the account holder’s name and their username in square brackets. In quotations, list the title of the photo, if it is given. If there is no title, write a brief description of the picture but do not place it in italics or quotation marks. The publisher, Instagram, is then listed in italics. Any other contributors (such as the photographer, if it is not the same as the account holder) are then listed, after which you will add the date the photo was published and the URL.

In-text website citation of an Instagram post

The in-text citation for an Instagram post is reflected as the author’s last name or the name of the account in parentheses, followed by a period. For the Instagram post used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

How to cite Facebook in MLA 9

To cite a Facebook post, begin with the account holder’s name or username. In quotations, list the title or caption of the post, if it is given. If there is no title or caption, write a brief description of the post, but do not place it in italics or quotation marks. Examples: Image of Malcolm X, or, Muhammed Ali headshot.

The publisher, Facebook, is then listed in italics, after which you will add the date posted and URL.

In-text website citation of a Facebook post

The in-text citation for a Facebook post is reflected as the author’s last name or the name of the account in parentheses, followed by a period. For the Facebook post used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

Social media and website comments

Citing the comments left on social media or a website begins with the commenter’s name or username. To indicate that you are citing a comment, follow the name with a period and then the words Comment on , followed by the title of the source (for example, the name of the article) in quotation marks. This is then followed by the title of the website in italics, and the publisher, if applicable. The date is then listed, followed by the URL, permalink, or DOI.

In-text citation of a social media comment

The in-text citation for a social media comment is reflected as the author’s last name in parentheses, followed by a period. For the post used in the example above, the in-text citation would be written as follows:

In-text Citations for Websites

In-text citations generally consist of parentheses and the last names of the authors or the first few words of the web page title.

Since there are no page numbers, unless the web page includes numbered paragraphs or sections, you don’t need to include any additional information.

When you have multiple authors, place them in the same order they are listed in the source.

MLA website in-text citations

If what you really need is an APA book citation or a reference for an APA journal , there are more guides on for you to explore.

Visit our EasyBib Twitter feed to discover more citing tips, fun grammar facts, and the latest product updates.


Solution #1: when and how to reference entire websites versus specific pages in mla.

Reference an entire website when your information comes from multiple pages or if you are describing the entirety of the website. If your information is only from one page, only cite the singular page.

Whole website, author known

  • Write the author’s name in last name, first name format with a period following.
  • Next, write the name of the website in italics.
  • Write the contributing organization’s name with a comma following.
  • List the date in day, month, year format with a comma following.
  • Lastly, write the URL with a period following.

Works cited example:

Night, Samuel. Food Creations , International Hypothetical Chefs’ Club, 21 May 2021,       

In-text example:

Whole website, author unknown

  • If there is no specific author, begin the citation by writing the website name in italics.

Food Creations , International Hypothetical Chefs’ Club, 21 May 2021,

( Food Creations )

Webpage, author known

If information is from only a few pages or the pages cover multiple topics, reference each page

  • If an author is named, write the author’s name in last name, first name format.
  • If a title is not provided, create your own description of the page.
  • List the title of the website in italics with a comma following.
  • Write the date that the page was created followed by a comma.
  • Lastly, list the URL followed by a period.

Blake, Evan. “Best Southern Macaroni Recipe.” Food Creations , International Hypothetical Chefs’ Club, 21 May 2021,

Webpage, author unknown

If an author is not named, write the name of the page in quotation marks with a period following.

“Best Southern Macaroni Recipe.” Food Creations , International Hypothetical Chefs’ Club, 21 May 2021,

(“Best Southern Macaroni Recipe”)

Solution #2: Referencing a conversation on social media in MLA

The in-text citation should identify the author and talk about the format (e.g., video, post, image, etc.) in prose.

Lilly West’s photo of traditional Japanese sweets shows an example of nature influencing Japanese design.

The basic structure of a works-cited reference for social media stays the same no matter the format or the social media service (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Here are works- cited-list entry guidelines:

  • The name is listed in last name, first name format with a period following. If an organization, just write the organization’s name as it’s usually presented.
  • If the username is very different from the author’s real name, include it in brackets after the user’s real name but before the period.
  • Write the title, post text, or description of the post in quotation marks. End it with a period.
  • Write the website name in italics with a comma afterward.
  • List the day, month, and year that the post was created followed by a comma.
  • List the URL followed by a period. Leave out “https://” and “http://”.

Facebook example:

West, Lily. “Kyoto Japanese sweets.” Facebook , 30 May 2021,

Twitter reference example:

West, Lily [@lilianhypotheticalwestbest]. “Kyoto Japanese sweets.” Twitter, 30 May 2021,

Instagram reference example:

West, Lily [@lilianhypotheticalwestbest]. “Kyoto Japanese sweets.” Instagram , 30 May 2021,  

Solution #3: How to cite a social media post without a title or text

If there is no text or title where the title element usually goes, instead describe the post without quotation marks. Example:

West, Lily [@lilianhypotheticalwestbest]. Photo of traditional Japanese sweets on a green plate. Instagram , photographed by Bethany Lynn, 30 May 2021,

Solution #4: How to cite a social media post with a long title or text

If the text is very long, you can shorten it by adding ellipsis at the end of the text. Example:

West, Lily [@lilianhypotheticalwestbest]. “Nothing is better in life than feeling like all of the effort you’ve invested has finally. . . .” Twitter, 17 Feb. 2021,

  • Works Cited

MLA Handbook . 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Published October 31, 2011. Updated June 5, 2021.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • In-text Citations
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Sample Paper
  • MLA 8 Updates
  • MLA 9 Updates
  • View MLA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all MLA Examples

when talking about a website in an essay

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It’s 100% free to create MLA citations. The EasyBib Citation Generator also supports 7,000+ other citation styles. These other styles—including APA, Chicago, and Harvard—are accessible for anyone with an EasyBib Plus subscription.

No matter what citation style you’re using (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), the EasyBib Citation Generator can help you create the right bibliography quickly.

Yes, there’s an option to download source citations as a Word Doc or a Google Doc. You may also copy citations from the EasyBib Citation Generator and paste them into your paper.

Creating an account is not a requirement for generating MLA citations. However, registering for an EasyBib account is free, and an account is how you can save all the citations you create. This can help make it easier to manage your citations and bibliographies.

Yes! Whether you’d like to learn how to construct citations on your own, our Autocite tool isn’t able to gather the metadata you need, or anything in between, manual citations are always an option. Click here for directions on using creating manual citations.

If any important information is missing (e.g., author’s name, title, publishing date, URL, etc.), first see if you can find it in the source yourself. If you cannot, leave the information blank and continue creating your citation.

It supports MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, and over 7,000 total citation styles.

If there is no author, the title becomes the website page’s identifier.

In-text example (no author): ( Honey Bee Medley )

Works cited example (no author): Honey Bee Medley . Hivemind Press, 2018,

If there is no publication date, include an accessed date instead.

Works cited example (no author, no date): Honey Bee Medley . Hivemind Press, Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.

If there is no title, briefly describe the source.

Works cited example (no author, no date, no title): Collage of honey bees. Hivemind Press, Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.

To cite a website that has no page number in MLA, it is important that you know the name of the author, title of the webpage, website, and URL. The templates for an in-text citation and works-cited-list entry of a website that has no page number, along with examples, are given below:

In-text citation template and example:

You can use a time stamp if you are referring to an audio or video. Otherwise, use only the author’s surname.

(Author Surname)

Works-cited-list entry template and example:

Author or Organization Name. “Title of the Webpage.” Website Name . Publication Date, URL.

Dutta, Smita S. “What is Extra Sensory Perception?” Medindia . 16 Nov. 2019, .

Abbreviate the month in the date field.

MLA Citation Examples

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MLA Formatting Quotations

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When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced .

Short quotations

To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page number (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the in-text citation, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation.

Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage, but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.

For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:

When using short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash). If a stanza break occurs during the quotation, use a double slash ( // ).

Long quotations

For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1/2   inch  from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come  after the closing punctuation mark . When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples :

Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration: They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)

When citing long sections of poetry (four lines of verse or more), keep formatting as close to the original as possible.

In his poem "My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke explores his childhood with his father:

The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. We Romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. (qtd. in Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue 202)

When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. If you cite more than one paragraph, the first line of the second paragraph should be indented an extra 1/4 inch to denote a new paragraph:

In "American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement," David Russell argues,

Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .

From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widening number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)

Adding or omitting words in quotations

If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text:

If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipses, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:

Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless they would add clarity.

When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:

Introducing Sources

Signal phrases.

A signal phrase is a short introduction phrase that indicates that a quote or paraphrase is coming. By introducing a quotation or paraphrase with a signal phrase, you provide an effective transition between your own ideas and the evidence used to explore your ideas.

One of the best ways to let readers know more about your source is to use a signal phrase. Signal phrases help readers “move from your own words to the words of a source without feeling a jolt” (Hacker 406). A writer uses signal phrases to avoid dropped quotations, smoothly leading the reader into the source’s ideas.

How to Use a Signal Phrase

Signal phrases provide a seamless transition from the writer’s thoughts to a source’s thoughts and can provide details about the source that highlight credibility and expertise.

Avoid dropped quotations:

Did you know that some bread batters should be hand mixed? “This light mixing technique produces quick breads with a lovely open crumb” (Greenspan 2).

Instead, use a signal phrase :

Did you know that some bread batters should be hand mixed? According to Dorrie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours , “This light mixing technique produces quick breads with a lovely open crumb” (2).

Signal Phrase Examples

In the words of noted psychologist Carl Jung, “…”

As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead noted, “…”

Kanye West, Grammy award-winning songwriter and rapper, says, “…”

“…,” claims reality-TV star Hulk Hogan.

Authors Amy Tan and Tobias Wolfe offer two unique perspectives on growing up: “…” (Hacker 408)

Verbs in Signal Phrases

Choose an appropriate verb to create your own signal phrase that will make your source’s position clear (Hacker 408).

Work Cited [MLA]

Hacker, Diana. Instructor’s Edition: Rules for Writers. 5th ed . Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Learn more about "Using Quotes Effectively" by reviewing this handout .

Learn more about the "Quote Sandwich" by reviewing this handout .

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Enchanting Marketing

Writing advice for small business

How to Write Conversationally: An (Almost) COMPLETE Guide with 18 Examples

by Henneke | 221 enchanting opinions, add yours? :)

How to write conversationally

She’s reading her draft post.

And she doesn’t like the tone of her writing at all.

Why is it so hard to engage her readers?

Helena is an expert in climate change, and she’d like to write in a conversational tone …

As if she’s explaining climate change to a friend while sipping an ice tea at the town plaza. The pigeons are strutting around her, bobbing their heads and pecking at the crumbs on the pavement.

But, somehow, her writing always sounds too academic, too formal, too difficult, too stuffy, too boring.

What can she do?

How to write conversationally

Some say …

Just write like you talk.

But it doesn’t always work like that.

Yes, when you write a quick email or social media update, it’s possible to jot down your thoughts as if you’re actually chatting on the phone.

But when writing long-form content or when you’re still figuring out your ideas, writing in a conversational tone is more challenging. A draft often sounds writerly, and you have to massage it until it becomes more informal.

As Elmore Leonard suggested:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Want to know how?

How to edit a writerly text

To turn a formal text into a friendly conversation, follow 3 steps:

Take out the writerliness

See techniques 1 – 4 below >>

Turn your writing into a conversation

See techniques 5 – 8 below >>

Add an air of casualness (optional)

See techniques 9 – 14 below >>

Shall I show you?

I. Take out the writerliness

The basis of conversational writing is a simple text so readers can follow your ideas with ease:

  • Eliminate complicated sentences >>
  • Avoid the passive voice >>
  • Replace writerly words >>
  • Use transitional words often >>

Here are some examples …

1. Eliminate complicated sentences

Complicated sentences are a sure sign of writerliness.

So, keep your sentences simple and mostly short. The occasional long sentence is fine—as long as each sentence is easy to read.

For instance, Elizabeth Strout uses a conversational tone in her book Lucy by the Sea , and she doesn’t shy away from a long sentence:

He was seventy-one years old then, but he, kind of, I think, must have been plunged into some sort of midlife crisis, or older man crisis, with the loss of his much younger wife moving out and taking their ten-year-old daughter, and then his half-sister’s not wanting to see him and his finding out that his mother had not been who he’d thought she had been.

When I read Strout’s sentence, it’s almost like I can hear her talk. Can you, too?

The sentence above is easy to read because it starts with its core ( he was seventy-one years old ) and then expands. Moreover, filler phrases ( kind of, I think ) add a casual tone.

So, the key to conversational writing is not to keep all your sentences short but to keep your sentences simple. Communicate your ideas tiny step by tiny step.

2. Avoid the passive voice

Pay attention to everyday conversations, and you’ll note that most sentences use the active voice:

I went to the shops to get the groceries. I cooked a colorful stirfry with lots of veggies and prawns. We had dinner together.

The passive voice feels more writerly, less natural:

The groceries were purchased by Henneke. A colorful stirfry was prepared, and dinner was eaten.

I wouldn’t say that. Would you?

So, if you want to sound less writerly, try to avoid the passive voice.

3. Replace writerly words

Only use jargon if you’re writing for an expert audience who use that jargon themselves, too.

Otherwise, please …

Skip the posh words and gobbledygook.

Use everyday words instead.

For instance, jeans manufacturer Hiut Denim describes what they do in short sentences, using simple words:

We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We will just do our best to conquer our bit of it. So each day we will come in and make the best jeans we know how.

Note the everyday expressions above: That’s it; no kidding ourselves; we will just do our best; our bit of it.

Not sure which words to use?

Think of a face-to-face conversation with one of your favorite readers. What words would you use then?

Gobbledygook filled vs conversational writing

4. Use transitional words often

Soooo …

When we talk, we use transition words to string our thoughts together.

Those transition words tend to be simple: When, if, and, but, or, because, so .

However, when we try to impress with our writing, we use more writerly transitions such as: Therefore, in contrast, additionally, furthermore, nonetheless, thus, subsequently, in conclusion.

Copywriter Gary Halbert is known for his conversational style, and the casual phrase anyway is one of his favorite transition words. It makes his writing sound as if he’s chatting to you. This is from his book The Boron Letters :

So anyway, today I’m going to start by telling you about a little trick that will improve your copywriting.
Anyway, a couple paragraphs back I wrote: “and if you can find a way to use it, you can dramatically increase your sales volume.” Now, compare that to this: “and if you can find a way to use it, you can make yourself a bushel of money!” Isn’t that a lot more powerful? You bet! The words “dramatically increase your sales volume” do not even begin to conjure up the visual imagery of “a bushel of money.”

Transition words create flow and help readers follow your text from one sentence to the next.

Moreover, if you choose simple transition words and use them often, your text will sound more conversational.

II. Turn your writing into a conversation

The 4 techniques below are the essence of conversational writing:

  • Remember who you’re writing for >>
  • Address your reader with the word you >>
  • Ask questions >>
  • Add personal comments (optional) >>

Here’s how …

5. Remember who you’re writing for

Good writing is a conversation with your reader.

And to make your conversation meaningful, remind yourself who you’re writing for. Who are they? What do they want to know? What’s their reaction to your writing?

When they shake their head because they disagree, you can counter their objections. When they don’t understand a phrase, you can replace or explain it. When a question pops up in their mind, answer it.

It can be hard to write a first draft with your reader in mind. Just formulating your thoughts is challenging enough.

So, once you’ve written that draft, try distancing yourself a little from yourself as the writer. Try not to be too precious about your words, and read them through the eyes of your reader. How can you make your text clearer and more engaging?

The better you can imagine your reader’s reaction, the more engaging your conversation with them will be.

Always remember who you're writing for

6. Address your reader

In a face-to-face situation, you talk a bit about yourself, right?

And you also address the person you’re talking to?

Well, it’s the same in conversational writing. You address your reader with the word you , and you talk a little about me .

For instance, Mark Manson’s blog reads like a conversation with his readers because he addresses readers directly. This is from a blog post about feelings :

Look, I know you think the fact you feel upset or angry or anxious is important. That it matters. Hell, you probably think that because you feel like your face just got shat on makes you important. But it doesn’t. Feelings are just these … things that happen.

If you want to have a conversation with your reader, don’t create a monologue. Use the words you and your more often than the words me , my , and I .

7. Ask questions

Questions are probably my favorite conversational writing technique . For instance, here’s how I open a blog post on editing a sentence :

Do you ever wonder how others edit their writing? Me, too. So, picture my delight when I came across a fabulous example of revision … By a bestselling author!

And I start the sales page for the Enchanting Copywriting course like this:

Do you ever find yourself staring at a blank sheet? Struggling to find the right words to sell without feeling sleazy? You’re not alone. Persuasive writing is probably one of the most precious skills anyone in business can possess. But at school, we’ve not learned the art of persuasion. We’ve not learned how to write compelling content. We’ve not learned how to sell without feeling pushy.

Want to engage your readers?

Ask questions. Ask them whether they’re struggling with the problem you’re helping them solve. Or ask them whether they’d like to achieve that aim you can help them with.

Of course, asking questions only works if you understand your reader and if you know what’s bothering them and what they’re dreaming off.

To write more conversationally, imagine having a chat with your favorite reader

8. Add personal comments

I discovered this trick for conversational writing only recently …

Add a personal comment between parentheses.

This technique is not widely used but it works like a dream.

The following snippet is from the memoir It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort:

This is for people who have been through some shit—or have watched someone go through it. This is for people who aren’t sure if they’re saying or doing the right thing (you’re not, but nobody is).

Above, McInerny Purmort first addresses her readers as a crowd ( This is for people who … ); it sounds less conversational.

But then she adds a comment between parentheses, addressing her reader directly ( you’re not, but nobody is ). That’s when it feels she’s talking with you.

As we’ve seen so far, to write conversationally, first edit your text so it’s simple and clear.

Next, turn your writing in a conversation with your reader: Know who you’re having a conversation with, address them with the word you , ask them questions, and if you like, add personal comments between parentheses.

Lastly, there’s one more optional step …

III. Add an air of casualness

Not all conversational writing needs a casual tone.

So, think about your readers. What’s the right tone for a conversation with them?

Then, try the following techniques:

(this is a safe technique that almost anyone can use)

(uhm … maybe not for everyone)

< waves hello >

(in mucho moderation)

(if you muuuuust)

Let me show you some examples …

9. Use contractions

Contractions merge two words together. It’s what we do when we speak all the time.

For example:

Using contractions is probably the most common and easiest technique for informal writing.

10. Try interjections

For more casualness, try interjections such as Phew. Duh. Whoah! Yay! Yikes. Ugh.

I occasionally use interjections in my writing:

What’s the most boring punctuation mark? I used to think that award should go to parentheses. They seem to smell like math exams in sweaty classrooms. Ugh.
Has it happened to you, too? In your mind, you’ve composed your next article. Perhaps while walking your dog or on your commute. You feel excited, because you know exactly what you want to write, and you think your readers will love it. Yay!

Even Apple uses interjections sometimes. For instance, when they write about the iPhone 14 :

Water resistance. (Phew.)

Interjections are shortcuts to expressing emotions.

Use them in moderation.

when talking about a website in an essay

11. Use filler words

When we talk, we use filler phrases to give us time to think or to add emphasis.

Filler phrases include: I mean, you know, actually, so, yeah, well, sure enough, here’s the thing, why bother, hang on, like.

Here’s how Sara Gibbs ends her book Drama Queen: One Autistic Woman and a Life of Unhelpful Labels :

Right . . . Well, it’s getting late and I’ve got to get dinner on. Ah, crap, you’re never going to believe that. You know I’m not the one who cooks dinner. OK, uh . . . I think my cat is asking for me. No? I have to go; my husband’s on fire. God. Fine, you’ve got me. I have no idea how to end this book. I’m as good as getting out of conversations as I am at instigating them. I will leave you with these words – which I recently blurted out before hanging up on a confused GP’s receptionist: ’K, love you, bye!

As Tony Hoagland points out in his book The Art of Voice , filler words can be key to creating a voice that connects. They can create a sense of warmth, of companionship. A voice sounds more real.

But, of course, filler words make your writing less concise. And, as you can sense in the snippet by Gibbs above, a lot of filler words make writing exhausting to read.

So, think about what works for you and your audience. And, also, read your writing aloud. Does it flow naturally or does it become exhausting?

It’s up to you to find the balance between being concise and being more chatty.

12. Add gestures

Your keyboard doesn’t allow you to put hand gestures into a text.

Or does it?

< shrugs shoulders >

So, this is the trick:

You can put hand gestures or facial expressions between angled brackets.

< raises eyebrows >

It’s like putting emoticons into words.

Angled brackets can also be used to < checks notes > create a pause in your writing. Here’s Ann Handley in a recent newsletter :

You think you have a handle on a problem or a situation or a topic. You sit down to write: hands hover over laptop, claws ready to clack the keys, itching to go! Let’s GO! < seconds pass > < is it a minute already? > Your mind wanders.

Putting gestures or other comments between angled brackets can add personality to your writing. But always consider: Is this the right tone for the conversation you’re having? Or do you prefer a more concise conversational style?

Oh, and if you don’t like angled brackets, you can use *asterisks* instead.

Or, if you want to create a pause, just adding an ellipsis (…) is a neat trick, too.

when talking about a website in an essay


I’m a little hesitant to mention this technique.

Because it should be used sparingly. Very sparingly.

ALL CAPS is a bit like shouting.

But the thing is this: When we talk, we can whisper, or shout, or sing.

And we can’t do that in our writing.

So, how can we emphasize our words instead?

My preferred method is to choose stronger words: Emotional words (such as despair, joyful, enchanting ) or sensory words (such as dazzling, gloomy, prickly, sweet ).

But sometimes, you may want to use ALL CAPS for extra emphasis.

For instance, Ramit Sethi occasionally uses ALL CAPS on his sales pages, like here :

There are tons of books, courses, and articles about confidence. “How to be confident at work!” “How to stop being shy on dates!”, “How to make everybody at a party love you!” The list goes on and on. The #1 piece of advice in all these materials is: “Just be yourself!” VOMIT.

And Joe Tracini also uses ALL CAPS occasionally in his memoir Ten Things I Hate About Me :

I’m scared. Terrified, really. I’m scared of what you’ll think of me, because even though I don’t know you, I don’t want to disappoint you, and I am desperate to be liked by EVERYBODY AT ALL TIMES. (Seriously. If I’m in a shop and I think the person on the till doesn’t like me, I will spend the rest of that day thinking I’ve ruined their afternoon, then worrying and wondering about how I could’ve been a better customer.)

Used sparingly, ALL CAPS can mimic the emphasis you’d add to a couple of words when talking. It’s like raising your voice.

Moreover, research indicates that putting one or two words in ALL CAPS makes it easier to understand something at a glance.


Using ALL CAPS for longer texts reduces readability.

So, be careful: ALL CAPS can quickly be too much, and your writing tone becomes shouty.

14. Elongate your vowels

Pleeeaaaase, explain to me …

Why do we drag out our vowels?

Elongating vowels creates a more casual tone by mimicking our intonation when we talk. You may think this technique is only for teenagers on social media but even Apple uses it on their website :

The looongest battery life of any iPhone. Ever.

And Wil Reynolds writes in a blog post about SEO and AI disruption :

SEO has been “dead” or “dying” since before I got started in 1999. Mayyyyybe it’s just an industry that changes a lot.

I sometimes elongate vowels on Twitter , too:

Pleeease … Don’t tell me to write like I talk. In writing, you can’t use hand gestures & facial expressions. So, writing has to be stronger than spoken language.

You can also lengthen certain consonants. Dammmmmnnn. What a messss.

So, this is an interesting technique, most commonly used on social media. Elsewhere, use in moderation or not at all. There is a risk your tone becomes unprofessional.

Always consider who your reader is and what tone is appropriate for your conversation with them.

How casual should your writing be?

Your objective is not to make your writing as conversational and casual as possible.

Think about the topic you’re discussing with your reader.

Consider your reader’s reaction and what feelings crop up when they’re reading your text.

Also, think about the context. Social media tends to be most casual, email comes next. And blogs tend to be more conversational than books but that’s also a matter of personal preference.

Sometimes, simple and clear writing is your aim.

Sometimes, you want to go a step further and turn your text into a conversation or make the tone more informal.

How casual is your conversation with your reader?

Cup of tea? Slice of cake?

PS This is a completely refreshed and expanded version of an article originally posted on January 14th, 2014. The new version was published on August 29th, 2023.

Recommended reading on conversational writing:

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Reader Interactions

Leave a comment and join the conversation cancel reply.

when talking about a website in an essay

December 15, 2023 at 4:00 am

Thanks, for this very insightful post. I think that people, looking for guidance in their writing, will definitely not leave empty. I have personally gained useful tips and suggestions, that will help me in my writing. This post will add value to the newbie’s writing, like me, and even some of the more mature writers.

when talking about a website in an essay

December 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

I’m glad you found it useful, Rupert.

when talking about a website in an essay

October 31, 2023 at 9:46 pm

Faaaaantastic! Learnt LOADS. Thanks.

November 1, 2023 at 9:00 am

Yay! I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

October 21, 2023 at 9:13 am

This made me laugh and all the tips are helpful. Happy Belated Birthday. It’s never too late to celebrate your beauty Henneke and to be grateful for all you are and all you share! You give me hope and inspiration and skill.

October 23, 2023 at 10:37 am

Thanks so much, Andrea. This was a fun post to write.

when talking about a website in an essay

October 18, 2023 at 4:09 pm

For someone who has stalled on writing for a while due to so many things, bereavement being one. Reading this has truly inspired me, I’ve taken notes and I can’t wait to practice all that you shared. Very informative and useful tips. I believe you’ve just eased the burden I felt at the thoughts of going back to writing. Thank you Henneke!

October 18, 2023 at 4:56 pm

I’m sorry about your bereavement, Bukky. I hope you’ll get back to writing soon and will find joy in writing again.

when talking about a website in an essay

September 11, 2023 at 3:33 pm

I haven’t even finished reading, and just have to say how truly helpful this is! Our company just rebranded our voice/tone, and “conversational” is our latest descriptor of how we should be writing (I’m a copywriter). I thought I knew how, but am quickly realizing how hard it is when writing about tech products. Thank you for making this so approachable and easy to understand. I have a post-it note handy with notes from your blog to keep on my desk! 🙂

September 13, 2023 at 6:58 am

Thank you, Marissa. That’s lovely feedback. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

September 8, 2023 at 6:29 pm

Thank you so much Henneke. You’re a whole institution, trust me. 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼❤️🤗 Thank you

September 13, 2023 at 6:57 am

Thank you, Nnenna. I just enjoy writing, sharing and connecting with lovely people like you.

when talking about a website in an essay

September 4, 2023 at 9:53 pm

Happy belated birthday, Henneke. I hope you’re feeling well. As usual, you never disappoint me with how you display your knowledge — much appreciated.

September 5, 2023 at 4:21 pm

Thank you, Dom. That’s lovely feedback. And I appreciate your birthday wishes.

when talking about a website in an essay

September 4, 2023 at 10:07 am

Thank you very much Henneke for this long topic! I’ve already read the first version before and now I see new stuff you added. There is such information that I can’t remember all!! I feel I need to read that again from time to time to assimilate that. And Happy Birthday in late! 🤗

September 5, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Thanks so much, Alexandra. No need to remember it all. Just pick a new technique or two that appeal to you, and start practicing. When you feel you want to try something different, you can always come back. But you know that already 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

September 2, 2023 at 12:53 pm

Great read. In order to make the writing *even more* conversational, we might also use:

– emojis, to underline the message or suggest the opposite (yeah, right… 🙄), but used sparingly. – animated GIFs. Again, to make the point in a funny, relatable way. Maybe instead of writing gestures, we might show ’em 🙂 – larger or colored characters, to emphasize a short sequence of words. However, I’d use this technique sparingly, depending on context (I woulnd’t use it in B2B communication, but it’s ok when writing to young moms).

Apart from those, I think your list is all-inclusive 🙂

September 3, 2023 at 10:34 am

Thanks so much for adding these suggestions, Radu. Fab.

when talking about a website in an essay

August 30, 2023 at 10:14 pm

Thank you Henneke for your precious article. Vero useeeeeeful! And… Happy Birthday from Italy. Maurizio

August 31, 2023 at 9:43 am

Sooooo glad you find this useful, Maurizio.

And thank you for your birthday wishes 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

August 30, 2023 at 8:37 pm

Thank you! Happy Birthday!🎉🎊🎈🎂

August 31, 2023 at 9:42 am

Thank you so much, Shauna. 🎉

when talking about a website in an essay

August 30, 2023 at 4:31 pm

Hi Henneke, Very handy article. I love all the different ways you have picked up on to make writing sound like a real conversation – all the umms and errs. And you’ve made me realise that although I say ‘anyway’ all the time, I would never dream of writing it. So now I need to think about that, along with so and however. Thanks.

August 30, 2023 at 5:11 pm

It’ll probably be interesting to experiment and see whether you like it when you add “anyway” to your writing, and what frequency feels right.

Writing will never quite be the same as speaking. It’ll always be more concise, more structured, and a little stronger. But when we allow ourselves to be a bit more conversational, we can let our personality shine through a little more.

happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 30, 2023 at 8:29 am

Happy birthday!

Brilliant piece; saved for future reference. Thank you.

August 30, 2023 at 11:08 am

Thank you so much, Beverley. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 29, 2023 at 9:25 pm

I just finished a youth book on the 23rd Psalm that’s woven in a young girl’s life while studying it. She narrowly survived bullets randomly fired at the March 6, 2023 shooting in Allen Texas, at the Outlet Mall.

I’m mostly pleased with the book, but wished I had read—no studied, this article before starting. I tried to make the book conversational. I doubt that I succeeded. Do I rewrite with this article in mind? Probably not, since the parents of the girl have approved it. BUT, this will be a go-to on my next book.

Thanks for this article. It truly is helpful

August 30, 2023 at 11:10 am

I think that’s a wise decision. It’s easy to be tempted to keep improving a book but as it’s approved already, it’s probably better to start your next project.

Best wishes to the girl who survived the shooting.

when talking about a website in an essay

August 29, 2023 at 8:04 pm

This is not a blog post.

But a Bible on conversational writing.

What else can I say?

Best wishes,

August 29, 2023 at 8:41 pm

As I was working on it, I was wondering whether it was bit too much!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 29, 2023 at 5:49 pm

This landed in my inbox at the perfect time. Have a first draft of my next newsletter and it reads kind of stiff. Ugh. Your tips totally inspire me to bring it to life. Thanks, Henneke.

August 29, 2023 at 6:16 pm

Yay! That makes me happy, Fiona. Thank you. Happy editing!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 29, 2023 at 12:54 pm

I started and couldn’t stop reading your article. And, I missed my train. Not to worry, I gained more from your item than my meeting with the bank manager. Thanks. Is it OK to use conversational writing on my website pages?

August 29, 2023 at 1:01 pm

Oops. I’m sorry you missed your train!

And yes, you can use conversational writing on your website. Just consider who is reading your website and what the right tone is to engage them.

when talking about a website in an essay

April 18, 2023 at 12:09 pm

Hi, Can you share if a conversational tone can be used in a coffee table book?

April 18, 2023 at 4:01 pm

Sure. Why not? It depends how you want to position your coffee table book.

when talking about a website in an essay

October 21, 2022 at 5:47 pm

You got me in awe! I just can not stop myself from reading it till the end + I want to read more !

October 22, 2022 at 4:23 pm

Thank you, Shafeeq. That’s a lovely compliment 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

August 12, 2022 at 1:03 pm

Great tips for chatting through writing.

Way too many bloggers and online marketers forget that human beings sit on the other side of the computer or phone. There are other humans out there reading our content and engaging us from their laptops and phones. Keeping this idea in mind urges me to be chatty, to write how I speak and to converse with fellow human beings by a Blogging From Paradise, my emails and through social media too.

We want to chat with people online not speak to them.

August 12, 2022 at 4:26 pm

Yes, so true. Conversational writing is not just for blog writing, but also emails and social media. It even works for books!

when talking about a website in an essay

April 27, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Beautiful flow. Your message arrives home with perfect clarity and conciseness. Thumbs up Henneke.

April 27, 2021 at 6:56 pm

Thank you, Deniz. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

September 18, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Do you have any YA novel suggestions which are written using conventional tone. I would be very interested in this. Thanks

September 18, 2020 at 5:40 pm

I don’t read a lot of YA novels. The only one I can remember reading “recently” is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I read that almost two years ago but if I remember correctly, that used a conversational tone. I’m sure there are many many more.

when talking about a website in an essay

August 29, 2020 at 6:55 pm

This is great. I just wrote a conversational piece today. I wanted to double check if I was on the right track. This post was insightful.

I have jotted down points like checking if it looks like writing. I am going to revisit the piece tomorrow with fresh mindset and your overall tips.

Thank you so much. This was a great read and helpful in a practical way. 🙂

August 29, 2020 at 8:08 pm

I’m glad this has been helpful to you, Kavya, and I like your idea of revisiting your writing tomorrow (rather than today) to check whether it sounds like writing. Happy editing!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 27, 2020 at 6:43 am

Wow! The post itself is written in a conversational tone. Flows well and easy to connect with. Thanks for this.

August 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm

Thank you, Martin. I’m glad you enjoyed this.

when talking about a website in an essay

August 5, 2020 at 3:58 am

I love this! It guided me to a nice, relaxed way of blogging. This approach will allow readers to get comfortable on my blog.

August 5, 2020 at 9:39 am

Thank you, Tayler. Happy blogging!

when talking about a website in an essay

June 29, 2020 at 4:17 pm

That was a real good post about writing good stuff.Writing is an art and you are an artist in true sense.Your writing style kept me hooked till end of the article.And I was compelled to write a comment to you. Way to go ??

June 29, 2020 at 6:20 pm

Thanks so much for your comment (and your compliment!), Preeti 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

June 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm

That’s great!! I think you are a fantastic writer , I like this. Good writing has a strong voice, where you can hear the writer as if they were talking to you.

June 2, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Thank you, Amit. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

April 23, 2020 at 11:40 am

I never knew before that writing something, that too conversationally also exists. I meet new people everyday as a part of my job. I love talking to new people. And yes, asking questions definitely gets the other person involved. Thank you for such an awesome topic. I hope these tips will help me better in effective communication with my clients. Thanks and keep on giving us more.

April 23, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Asking questions is a much underrated skill. I’m glad you’ve discovered the power of questions already. Thank you for stopping by, Mihir.

when talking about a website in an essay

March 9, 2020 at 10:19 am

I accidentally clicked on the link to your site, I liked it very much . Signed up for your free course.

March 9, 2020 at 7:35 pm

I hope you’ll enjoy the snacks, Sergey! Thank you for joining 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

January 24, 2020 at 5:44 pm

I loved the way you presented the ideas. I am a fan of your writing thank you. I bookmarked this post so, I can read it daily and improve my writing skills.

January 26, 2020 at 10:04 am

Thanks so much, Vijay. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

November 28, 2019 at 11:35 am

This is amazing….!! I just got a reply from a company to write casual content, I was so confused… How am I going to do… but now I feel a little bit confident… I hope I can write well… Wish me luck….:)

November 28, 2019 at 4:56 pm

I’m glad this post is useful to you, Sandhya. Happy writing!

PS Consider asking your client for examples of conversational writing they like because the interpretation of what kind of writing is conversational may differ from company to company.

when talking about a website in an essay

November 14, 2019 at 5:46 am

Hi Henneke,

Thank you for providing us with these useful writing tips. I often struggle with making my technical content look more informal and interesting but haven’t succeeded. With your tips, I am sure I can improve gradually.

Thanks and keep on giving us more

November 14, 2019 at 7:41 pm

I’m glad you found this useful, Amos.

Especially with technical texts, it can be useful to edit with your reader in mind. If the reader is an expert, it’s fine to use technical terms because they’d use those terms in a conversation, too. But if the reader isn’t, then it can be hard work to simplify your text to make it understandable.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it.

when talking about a website in an essay

September 11, 2019 at 7:30 am

Beautiful tips. I spend half of my day reading your tips… You are seriously to the point and have informative tips. I love it. I write small blogs but with long sentences and I learn a great deal of munching wisdom about how to clean up my writing. I think I will make a few changes in my website. I love your recipes….

September 11, 2019 at 8:25 am

Thank you so much, Jim. I’m delighted you’re enjoying my blog. Happy writing! 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

May 13, 2019 at 11:50 am

Cut the “writerliness” — now I have a name for this!

It feels like you live in my head (in a non-creepy way, of course) because when I revert to using passive voice or pompous-sounding words, I can almost hear you saying, “You might want to change that ?”

Thanks for your example from Ann Handley’s newsletter, I really enjoyed reading her conversational tone.

May 13, 2019 at 6:28 pm

I’m glad I don’t sound creepy when you hear me suggesting a change 😀

The word “writerliness” isn’t in the dictionary, but I think we should get it added 😉

Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

March 7, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Thank you Henneke. I love it.

March 7, 2019 at 7:03 pm

Thank you, Firdaos.

when talking about a website in an essay

March 7, 2019 at 1:50 pm

I think a conversational tone works really well for blogs and other types of writing.

I think voice is the key to a good writer, and it is not exactly the same thing as tone. Good writing has a strong voice, where you can hear the writer as if they were talking to you.

Yes, voice is not the same as tone, even though many people use them as synonyms.

If you’d read a transcript from an interview with me, you’d notice that I talk quite differently from the way I write. It’s not like I’m a different person when I write and when I talk, and you can recognize the same personality—no matter whether I talk or write, but there’s still a big difference in the way I write and talk. Unfortunately, it’s hard to edit your talking. 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

March 7, 2019 at 12:12 pm

I’m hooked. Each of your articles is helpful. I love your work. Thanks.

March 7, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Thank you, Olusegun. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

March 4, 2019 at 3:47 pm

I had read this earlier. I came back to read it again 🙂 This gold!

The first place I ever heard of ‘writerliness’ but it makes a lot of sense.

March 4, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Writerliness isn’t in the dictionary. I made it up. But writerly exists and simply means “of, relating to, or typical of a writer” (according to Merriam-Webster). So, the meaning I use is a little more specific, but it seemed the best way to express this idea that writing has specific characteristics that make it sound like writing.

Thank you for coming back to reread and comment 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 26, 2019 at 11:39 am

Love this!!

I especially like the advice about counting how many times i mention; me, I & us.

You are spot on, i’m going to keep the reader in mind as much as possible, i wanted to be the best conversationalist possible!

February 26, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Thank you, Nick. And nice to see your picture now! 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 24, 2019 at 5:52 pm

Excellent advice, Henneke. Your conversational tone kept me reading. Many blog posts lose me after the first couple of paragraphs.

February 25, 2019 at 4:56 pm

I’m glad I kept you reading. Thank you for stopping by, Kathy 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 23, 2019 at 7:31 pm

I love this post! I enjoyed how you made your points come across. Thank you, Henneke!

February 23, 2019 at 7:34 pm

Thank you, Hank!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 22, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Great post! I adore your writing style and generous tips for those of us wishing to improve our communications. I recommend your blog to my clients. Thank you for all that you do and share. Breathe joy!

February 22, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Thank you so much, KC, for your lovely comment and for recommending my blog to your clients. I appreciate it. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 21, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Came here from LinkedIn. Now I know what you meant by the tea remark. An amazing article Henneke. You’ve broken down such a complex problem into the simplest form possible. And like always, your artworks are amazing.

February 22, 2019 at 10:39 am

Yes, we’re all having tea together here. I’m glad you were able to join, too. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 21, 2019 at 9:06 am

Hi Henneke Great post. I am writing a conversational piece at the moment and found this very helpful. Thank you. Sue Kingham

February 22, 2019 at 10:29 am

I’m glad this was helpful, Sue. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 21, 2019 at 4:41 am

Wow it does not seem that long since I read a similar advice, from you, crazy how four years can seem like four months. or was it fife month? I do love your posts about quitting the fancy writing, I’m certainly not that fancy type. Thank you Henneke

It was actually five years ago when I posted the original version. I can hardly believe I’ve been writing here for so many years. Crazy, eh?

when talking about a website in an essay

February 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm

I, too, have read this one before, felt inspired and benefited, and commented already. But. This time you really got through to my “straight A+ in English” brain. How did you do that? 😀 So, thanks very much for the re-do, and … … I noticed Henrietta is sitting on the “h”. So I’d be one seat beyond, on the “k” when I read, here. It really felt that personal. <3

February 20, 2019 at 7:41 pm

Yes, the K is there waiting for you—I drew it in the last picture. And you can put your feet on the M if you like. Shall I make you a tea or a coffee? 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 20, 2019 at 4:39 am

Good reminder Henneke – conversational writing also very apt for how-to books. Paul, wet and steamy Sydney

February 20, 2019 at 9:30 am

Yep, conversational writing works for books, too. It seems that blogs (and email) have spearheaded to drive to conversational writing but it’s used more and more in books, too. Stay cool!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 20, 2019 at 3:21 am

What a fantastic article, brilliantly summing up the topic. A perfect snapshot of the copywriter’s job. Love the infographic!

February 20, 2019 at 9:29 am

Thank you so much, Kate. I enjoyed drawing the pictures of Henrietta and her ideal reader on the typewriter 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Yes, this is what conversational feels like. I find myself learning to write shorter posts these days. This was certainly a great read. I have shared with my team, I shouldn’t take in the awesomeness alone.

February 20, 2019 at 9:28 am

Thank you so much for sharing this with your team, Mary. I appreciate it. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 10:49 pm

I’ve read this post before, but I love it and totally concur. I picked up something new this time. Your distinction about writing as you write rather than as you speak got my attention this time. I hadn’t picked up on that before, but it really makes a lot of sense. Going forward, I think that will be very helpful in my writing. Thanks for yet another great idea.

That point about conversational writing not being the same as writing as you speak wasn’t worked out in the old version. I expanded it quite a lot. (And I also edited it so it sounds more like the way I write now rather than five years ago.)

Thank you for stopping by again, Gordon!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 10:29 pm

Your email arrived in my Inbox at precisely the right time . . . when I am beginning to overhaul my Web site. Good reminders of how you can win over business not by being formal and intellectual, but by being more concise and casual. Thank you appearing in my life.

February 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

I’m glad this email arrived at the right time. Good luck with overhauling your website! Such projects can feel a bit intimidating.

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Hi Henneke I loved this, however, when I went to say thank you in the comments I felt like I missed a really good part FIVE YEARS AGO. I have so many writing hang-ups at the moment, this helps at least one.

love alwaz mike

February 20, 2019 at 9:25 am

I’m sorry you missed out five years ago, but I can reassure you this new version is a lot better! 🙂

Do you have any specific writing hang-ups I can help with?

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm

Brilliant, Henneke! I read many copywriting and business books but few write as well as you do. The list of these writers such as Dan Kennedy, Ted Nicholas, Seth Godin, Drayton Bird and many others simply don’t write as clearly and succinctly as you do. Robert Ringer and Andy Maslen aren’t among those – they write well and are always interesting. It seems to me that ‘if it isn’t interesting it won’t be informative’ (don’t know where I read that!). Thanks again.

February 19, 2019 at 8:38 pm

Wow. That’s a big compliment. Thank you, Paul ?

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 6:35 pm

You always hit the nail on the head–wham! Also want you to know your Enchanting Marketing “class” is proving so helpful. I write fiction stories not content marketing but believe me, I appreciate the help you give. Besides, your book recommendations are terrific. Don’t know how you’re able to do so much and give so generously to so many hungry birds! (I’m allowed one exclamation point–right?)

February 19, 2019 at 8:37 pm

I’m so happy to know that you’re finding the Write It, Don’t Fight It course helpful! Thank you so much for stopping by, Patrica. I appreciate it.

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

I so agree, Henneke! Writing that feels conversational is still writing. It still takes work! I used to think, to warm and friendly, just transcribe a real conversation. That did not work! My transcribed interviews just seemed to lay there like a sack of potatoes. Your editing steps are essential! They’re like the chopping and cooking that turns a heap of words into something wonderful (like french fries). Your article says it best. A conversational tone is deliberate. It’s your choice of a few deft cuts, some heat and some sharp sensory spices that delight eaters – er – readers like me.

February 19, 2019 at 5:35 pm

I read a book a couple of years ago. It was a business book but the author also writes poetry which surprised me because the book didn’t feel like it was written by a poet who appreciates words. There was something lazy about the writing. Later I discovered that he’d dictated the book. Dictating helped him overcome writer’s block. The editing was pretty good so it wasn’t noticeable at first but still it something was slightly “off.” So, yes, as you say, the conversational tone is deliberate and takes some work.

Thank you for stopping by, Joanne!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 3:18 pm

What can I say? Written so nice and concise. Pour me another cuppa!

February 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Coffee or tea? 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 1:33 pm

As always, Henneke, a wonderful post. I love the freshness of your post structure. So different to the Google formula of H1 to H10 or whatever.No table of contents or video as is deemed so vital by big bloggers. Thank you for an entertaining post.

February 19, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for your lovely compliment, Poovanesh. I prefer to put my readers first (and I’ve found that works quite well for Google, too).

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Nailed it! Your drawings drive the point home perfectly. (And, of course, I ❤️the ?!) ?

February 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

The dog loves you, too 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Very inspiring. Thank you.

February 19, 2019 at 1:26 pm

My pleasure 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Brilliant as usual Henneke. Thanks for the salient reminder. I guess you could say: “Don’t be boring!”.

February 19, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Yes, that helps, too. 🙂

Good to “see” you again, Ray!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Henneke, you’ve come up with another Classic. It’s on my wall. In front of my desk.

And it’s the first thing I read every day.

And while you at it, thank Kerstin for me.

February 19, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Conversational writing is one of my favorite topics. I was nervous about revisiting the old post but I’m glad I did (and it changed more than I had envisioned). 🙂

Thank you for your comment, Lee, and happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 11:56 am

I felt like your favourite reader, so you nailed it. And I’m looking forward to drink tea with you one day .. ha ha (but not kidding). Your imagery is so funny e.g. “Send difficult words to the naughty corner and throw a party for simple words.” Ha ha. All the best, Tine

February 19, 2019 at 12:14 pm

One day we’ll drink tea together! 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 19, 2019 at 11:49 am

Henneke you know your stuff

Thank you, Jacqueline. 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

March 21, 2018 at 5:30 pm

I thank you very much and love everything you send me, I love illustration and I will not forget it.

March 23, 2018 at 11:51 am

Thank you, Samar. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 12, 2018 at 3:28 am

Good Article and explained nicely, what needs to be taken care to make the writing as conversational writing

February 12, 2018 at 9:51 am

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Harish. Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

September 9, 2017 at 11:38 am

This post is great. The point about short paragraphs is the one that resonates most with me.

I hire a professional writer to write our blog, and at times, I have to go in and break up 6-10 sentence paragraphs. I hate seeing it!

The web and content format is changing so dramatically, nobody wants to read a wall of text these days!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 16, 2017 at 7:28 pm

This is an excellent article. I’ve just noticed that I use exclamation rather than questions far too much in my writing. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong?

February 16, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Thank you for stopping by, Derek.

when talking about a website in an essay

April 25, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Just a suggestion: maybe you can add some definite heuristics as well.. such as some effective techniques that have been proven to work.. say for reducing content length, I’d say change from “in order to” to just “to”.. something like that

when talking about a website in an essay

March 11, 2016 at 3:58 am

Great tips! I’ve just one question: how do you handle clients who insist that conversational writing is not ‘professional’? Had a recent client who insisted, in a snooty curl-in-the-lip manner, that they are a premium brand dealing with professional readers, and so things like contractions, short sentences, using 1st/2nd pov etc. are improper.

Problem is, the style they want would bore even the most stone-hearted tax accountant to tears :-/

I suppose my real question is: Can premium B2B branding still be portrayed through a more humane, conversational writing?

March 14, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Yes, that’s tricky. You still have to respect the brand voice, even if you don’t agree with it. With some clients you can adjust the guidelines for tone of voice, but others are pretty set in their ways.

To me, B2B is also writing for people, and yes, it can be portrayed in a more conversational way of writing, but not all brand managers like that. Of course, depending on who you’re talking to, your language may be more technical as you write using the same terms your audience uses.

when talking about a website in an essay

January 19, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Hi there! I have always been hesitant to use “you” as it may sound preachy. Everyone I talk to says it’s best to write in 1st person. What do you think?

Also, agree on white space and editing. So much easier to read.

Learning forward!

January 19, 2016 at 5:02 pm

I use “you” a lot in my blog posts, and it doesn’t feel preachy to me 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

September 18, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Going through the comments section I realized that I went through a lot of conversational writing. Most of the writers were perhaps not aware of it. Awesome post 🙂

September 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm

when talking about a website in an essay

September 3, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Thank you Henneke, this post is going to help me begin my blogging journey!

September 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Great! Happy blogging!

when talking about a website in an essay

August 19, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Thank you Henneke, this is a sweet post. I already hankered for more.

August 19, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Thank you, Felix. Nice to meet 🙂

Happy reading!

when talking about a website in an essay

April 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Beautiful tips. I spend half of my day reading your tips… You are seriously to the point and have informative tips. I love it. I write small blogs but with long sentences and I learn a great deal of munching wisdom about how to clean up my writing. I think I will make a few changes in my website. I love your recipes…. 🙂

April 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I love your phrase “munching” 🙂

Happy reading and happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

July 14, 2014 at 7:41 am

Yes, thank you for your answer and for the examples!

July 13, 2014 at 7:31 am

Hi Henneke, I totally agree with you on this. But I’ve got a question: I’m working for a Dutch university. One of my tasks is to write texts for the university website. My target audience are prospective students. I would love to change the way we, as a university, talk to our readers. Because, frankly, I think all our copy is totally boring, generic and abstract (“Are you innovative and interested in current issues? Then you should enroll in programme X.”). I can’t seem to persuade my bosses of the need to switch to personalized writing though, because – as they put it – it’s important that as many secondary education pupils as possible should recognize themselves in our texts. And ofcourse its true that people have many different reasons to choose a particular education. So, my question is: is it even possible for organizations with so many different target audiences with such divergent interests to find a personal tone of voice in their writing? And if so, how would you tackle this problem? Thanks in advance for your advice, I really appreciate it!

July 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Hi Evelyne – that’s an excellent question and can be a tricky problem when people are stuck in old-fashioned writing.

I’d say the first thing to make sure is that your bosses understand the differences between how people read on the web vs how they read an academic paper or a book. This will help them understand the importance of using white space, short sentences, short paragraphs, and simple words.

When you need to appeal to a wider audience, you want to keep your word choice fairly neutral – you can’t add personality by using slang as not everyone will understand it (unless you do for instance specific case studies to appeal to specific groups of students).

Dropbox and Evernote are good examples of companies who appeal to a wide audience, but sound human in their writing. They do this by simplifying their writing, keeping content concise, and focusing strongly on benefits rather than features.

Does this help?

April 16, 2014 at 2:41 am

Henneke, Just now got here, for some unknown reason, and as I read your post, I realized who I would write to, immediately. When I first began blogging, I followed a lovely young woman who inspired me, totally, with her great posts. I wondered how she did everything she did, and why she bothered to visit my site. Then she was attacked on fb, and decided to take a break. My heart was broken, because I saw her as a sort of bloggy mom. although I was old enough to be HER mom. After reading this post, I realize she is who I should write my posts for, sort of in her memory, although she is very much alive and has another new baby to show for her time off. I can constantly visualize her, as I always have, but never did write for/to her. Also, I have noticed on my other site, that when I write advice letters to people whose names I have changed, but whose situations are real, my posts REALLY resonate with people. That’s just what you are talking about, I think…

April 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

Yep, when you write for one person rather than for a crowd of readers, your writing becomes more “real”. Readers will notice it in your writing voice. And they all feel like you’re writing for them personally.

when talking about a website in an essay

February 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm

This was a nice post, Henneke. I love this quote.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. ~ Elmore Leonard

I think that in all aspects of our digital communications, we need to be more conversational. If there is no personal feel or touch, then what is the point? On that note, I included your post in my roundup of the month’s best SEO, social media, and content marketing.

February 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Yep, conversational writing works in all digital communication. Thank you for stopping by, Ben, and for including my article in your roundup. Much appreciated 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

February 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

In preparation for launching my own blog I’ve start reading posts like these, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helping. Before doing any research into it all I would be writing in a style that might sit somewhere in between this and sleazy sales person, unintentionally of course.

Maybe I should re-consider the copy on my website as well? (see what I did there? :D)

So, thank you again 🙂

February 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm

You’re a quick learner, Sean 🙂

Good luck with launching your blog!

when talking about a website in an essay

February 1, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Hello Henneke,

I am a first-time reader, and found your guest post from one of my Facebook groups. I really enjoy your writing style, and I can see where some of my blog posts have fallen flat. Thank you for sharing the “how” of storytelling in such an enchanting manner.

February 1, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Hi Holly, Welcome & thank you for taking the time to comment on your first visit. I appreciate it 🙂 Glad to hear you find my blog posts useful!

when talking about a website in an essay

January 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm

You are a writer–and a darn good one. And I can picture a Kindle children’s book with those super cute pictures. Now you just need a story and title to go with it! 😉

January 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Thank you, Penelope. 🙂

Maybe one day I can write and illustrate a children’s book for grown-ups. 😉

February 20, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Oh, yes. Do! Don’t you think a children’s book on how to become a writer would be great? I can imagine if there’d been such a book when I was enjoying writing assignments the MOST in grade school. Wouldn’t you love to cause a child to have courage and begin far earlier than I did? A MUST!!! 😀

January 29, 2014 at 12:34 am

Ok, Henneke. You are going to have to take on the title of “artist” along with writer. Are you up for that? 😉

Now you’ve got me wondering how many questions I have in my posts. I’m gonna go count ’em now. Thanks for germinating and sprouting all these new ideas in my head!

January 29, 2014 at 9:59 am

An artist?!? Not sure I’m quite ready for that yet. I’ve barely got used to the idea of calling myself a writer. 😉

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January 23, 2014 at 6:15 am

Dear Henneke,

It is this time I am grateful. Thank you for your generous contributions over time. You have truly enriched my life with a well-toned understanding of writing a Blog.

January 23, 2014 at 11:47 am

You’re welcome, Joel. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

January 21, 2014 at 10:58 am

Thank you Henneke 🙂

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January 17, 2014 at 3:49 am

Once again, awesome post, and so completely relevant!

I really like the idea of writing to one reader. As soon as I’m writing to a crowd, I can’t write at all. But I have this ongoing fear that if I write to one reader…my favorite reader…my ideal reader…I’ll connect with such an infinitesimal group of people.

I want to write about writing and marketing. Marketing with soul, you know. Because I feel like anything done with love, with real authenticity, with the soul, is infinitely better. But I’m finding it difficult to take the leap to even do that myself.

Thanks so much, Melissa

January 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

Yes, I so agree with you about writing with the soul. You’ll find that if you write for one reader it becomes much easier to write with soul and personality.

In a way having an ideal reader is just a “trick” to make your writing more engaging. Don’t worry about connecting just with one reader or a few. When you write for one person, it doesn’t mean that only one person will feel you’re talking with them. Many people will feel you’ve written the post especially for them, because many people are struggling with the same problems and challenges as your ideal reader.

Does that help?

January 18, 2014 at 3:42 am

It’s still a little scary, but your words help a lot! Thanks a bunch.

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January 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hi again, love your drawings. Please note my website is not operating at the moment. I had to remove the files. So at the moment I am reworking everything. Give me a couple of days and I will get back to normal. You see this is the case with novices, mistakes, mistakes and more mistakes. I hope when I have restored the site it will be better in many ways. Also I hope eventually to start a blog that is why I read as much as I can. Your site I enjoy very much. That drawing has again just ‘pinged’ in my mind, so clean cut very striking. I shall have some of my own art, rather conventional, on my site when it is re-published, you might take some time to view. Thanks again for more interesting material, Tom

January 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm

We all make mistakes, Tom. It’s human 🙂

Good luck with reworking your site!

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January 15, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Wow, I feel truly honoured to have inspired this post. It’s fantastic and really great advice as always. I just read all the comments you got for this post – looks like I’m not the only one struggling with this particular point. Happy new year, Henneke, and thank you so much for your great blog. xx

January 15, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Thank you so much for all your great comments last year, Kerstin. You inspire me to keep writing. 🙂

Happy new year to you, too!

when talking about a website in an essay

January 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for the tips. I use “You” a bit more than I should in my posts, as in “You are loved” opposed to “I love you.” Will work on it:)

January 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Great! I hope you enjoyed the cake 😉

Thank you for stopping by, Clara.

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January 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Great post, Henneke! Love how you flipped the idea of writing like you talk and rather to edit your text so it doesn’t sound like writing. Great way to think of it.

January 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Thank you, Jonas. This is really how it works for me. I have to edit out the gobbledygook and undulating sentences to make a text more conversational.

Good to see you here! 🙂

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January 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

H. firstly, what a great drawing! You should definitely keep going. Thank you also for giving me permission to use but, because, and at the start of sentences. Whilst I’ve let go of other writing formalities, these have been particularly hard to let go. And sometimes it just feels right to start a sentence this way. Really enjoying reading your posts.

January 15, 2014 at 10:15 am

Thank you so much, Caroline. And good to see you’ve given yourself permission to start a sentence with And . You deserve a big slice of cake. 🙂

Just tell that high school teacher to shut up with his old-fashioned advice 🙂

January 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Nomnomnom 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

January 15, 2014 at 4:13 am

Hi! I just stumbled upon your work and I’m totally hooked!

I’m a marketer in the Philippines. Like you, English is not my native language, but it’s the language I use to reach customers. (Here English is unofficially the language of business.)

You make me want to go back and improve everything I’ve done in the past. Now I know how to do it. Thank you!

January 15, 2014 at 10:12 am

Welcome, Rhea. It’s so nice to have people from across the world joining the conversation here. I hope you took a big slice of the cake 😉

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January 14, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Henneke, I love your illustration . Congratulations! I’m proud of you

January 14, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Thank you, Louie. As one of my most loyal readers you deserve a real slice of cake some time!

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January 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm

As part of my New Year’s plan to get a handle on my e-mail in-box I have unsubscribed from most of the e-mail lists I have been on. But, I love receiving your e-mails because I feel exactly the way you describe in your post when I see yours come in. Thanks for your clear, helpful, engaging, and very personalized writing!

January 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I feel honored that you’re still allowing my emails in your inbox. Thank you. I’ll do my best to keep rewarding you with a slice of cake each week 🙂

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January 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Another great post. I’m definitely guilty of not asking enough questions and not focusing enough on the reader.

– Steve

P.S. The cartoon was cute as well

It’s easy to forget the reader – you can’t see him yawning, glancing at his cellphone, or fidgeting in his seat as a sign that you’re rambling on too much. A face-to-face conversation is much easier.

Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

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January 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Hi Henneke, Excellent article. You do write very conversationally, so you are walking the walk.

I cringe everytime I see an exclamation mark because I feel as if I’m being “screamed at.” And besides, it takes away from prudent use of it!!!! So many !!!! in our lives, it feels like so much noise!

I love the picture of Henrietta & Arthur!!!! (Those are sincere) Mary

January 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I once wrote that using more than one exclamation mark – in an email or blog post – is a crime against enchantment. I still believe this is true.

And yes, I do my best to walk the walk. Thank you so much, Mary 🙂

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January 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Really helpful. Thank you! Learned a lot this week. And I’m particularly motivated as I did a survey of respondents last week and when asked what I could improve, a few of them said my grammar! I couldn’t agree more.

Interesting to read your comment about your native Dutch coming out – my New Zealand comes out too. I try and catch it, because people don’t understand me when I use words like “niggle” (irritate), “puke” (throw up) or “pash (kiss),” but they still occasionally slip through.

This language business is awfully fun. And I love reading your emails each week. Thanks again, Lisa (PS: Have you read “On Writing” by Stephen King? Am reading at the moment, again. Very inspiring.)

January 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Yes, language is fun. I sometimes use British words without realizing they’re specific to British-English and others might not get them.

I like the word “niggle” – it’s also used over here. I’m surprised people don’t know the word “puke” – I see it used quite a lot in blog posts. “Pash” sounds nice, but is new to me 🙂

Yes, “On Writing” is one of my faves, too. Have you read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott? That’s inspirational, too.

Good to see you again!

January 14, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Ooh, thanks, I haven’t read that one. Will check it out.

And, yeah I was surprised about those words too. (“Pash” is what a NZ young person might call kissing, more than just a peck. A fun word to use!) Have a great week:)

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Henneke, I see that asking questions is so important, and I enjoy “talking” to you, answering the questions in your text. I will do it in our next post, thanks for pointing out.

January 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Always good to have you around for tea and cake 😉

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January 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Love this article Henneke! Your drawing is amazing as well. I look forward to seeing more of them 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your tools and knowledge. I especially found the use of question marks very helpful. Conversational copy is something that *seems* like it should be so easy…but it can be hard to retrain ourselves and unlearn what we’ve learned in school. But, we must adapt, right? 🙂

January 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Yes, I think that’s the mistake many people make – conversational copy *seems* easy because it’s so easy to read. But the truth is that it’s damn hard work to eradicate gobbledygook and to make each sentence flow naturally.

Thank you for stopping by, Kristy. I appreciate it! 🙂

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January 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Hi, Henneke, You write the best emails with great headlines that always make me want to read your posts.

Why don’t you teach a headline class?? Blog post writing class??

I would take it and I’m sure some of your other readers would also! Sue

Hi Sue, thank you so much. Stay tuned – I’m developing a blog writing e-course.

I’m hoping to have an early bird list live before the end of February. 🙂

PS Isn’t it wonderful how two question marks (“??”) indicate a pleasant amount of impatience?

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I love the idea of adding questions in a blog post to engage the reader even more. Do you think this would apply to product descriptions as well?

January 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm

P.S. Love the illustration!

January 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Thank you 🙂

Good to see your (new?) avatar!

January 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

That’s a good question! You made me think … Most product descriptions might be too short to include questions. Questions might sound unnatural as you don’t have enough time to really start a conversation. But if you write longer product descriptions it can work.

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January 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

A great post. Thank you so much. Loved the *3* essential tools you gave me. I could even ‘hear’ some dialect in your post, eh? Congratulations Henneke!

January 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

You might be hearing my Dutch accent 😉

I used to be dead-nervous about using “Dutchisms” (phrases inspired by Dutch – my native language) in my blog posts, but I’ve now decided that’s part of my charm.

Thank you, John.

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm

H. Passive sentences are some of my challenges. How do you feel about checking your writing via ? Keeps me on my finger tips. sQs Your advocate in Delray Beach FL

January 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I haven’t used this particular tool, but I have used the readability stats that Microsoft Word shows (if you tick the right box and do a spelling check). I’ve been a bit sloppier with this recently, but a year ago I would religiously check:

(a) the average number of words per sentence – I would go back to chop up long sentences and tighten my text when my average was over 14 words per sentence

(b) passive sentences – even if I had only 1% of passive sentences, I would try rephrasing the passive sentence. Occasionally I’d be happy to leave a passive sentence.

February 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Looks for the word “are” – it is not active. It is sitting on the couch. So are all verbs of “being.” If you catch one, try to change it. Example: “Passive sentences are some of my challenges” is more powerful as, “Passive sentences challenge me.” Whenever you can find the verb form of a noun, use it and remove “is” or “are.” Happy writing!

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm

‘Sleazy salesmen use exclamation marks. Good conversationalists use question marks.’ >> That is a world famous quote by Henneke D, did you know that?

January 14, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Somehow it feels like it has taken me a year to write these two sentences. They just clicked into place yesterday. To me they express the essence of good writing.

January 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Of effective writing, for sure!

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Henrietta looks very happy today! :))) Just a question: when you talk about “your favourite reader” why is it a “she”? Is it like boats, planes… and always feminine? Bit confused.

January 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I’m not sure who’s happier – Henrietta herself or her dog Arthur? 😉

Your reader can be a “she” or a “he”. It depends on who you like working with most.

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January 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Truth is… I’m thinking about unsunbscribing from a blog for feeling that they care not for their readers.

The writing is good, so are the ideas — but their emails are nothing but links to the day’s post (ok, not much harm in that), while I see no answers on their blog comments, nor any real interaction on their FB page.

It’s only talk, talk, talk, or rather write-and-post-it, and I even think that even their blog commenters have tailed away lately.

January 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Yes, you make an excellent point. Readers can sense it immediately when writers don’t care and when they’re insincere.

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January 14, 2014 at 11:59 am

You did it. I’m really waiting for the next slice of your home-made cake. 🙂

January 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Thank you, Paul 🙂

Don’t tell anyone, but the truth is that in real life I’m not so good at baking cakes – I prefer cooking a delicious meal!

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January 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

Thanks Henneke, another keeper of a blog post. makes a lot of sense. Time for me to head off to the local cafe and write up the first draft of my next newsletter I think… Oh, and really like your illustrations, VERY cute doggie!

January 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Yes, that’s a good idea. I’m sure writing in a local cafe can make your content livelier, too!

Thank you for stopping by, Lynne 🙂

when talking about a website in an essay

January 14, 2014 at 11:31 am

Can’t agree more! This is really good advice. And I love your illustration, Henneke!

January 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Thank you, Lucy. The book Leonardo’s Swans sounds interesting!

January 14, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Thank you for the link to the photos, Henneke. I’m feeling super inspired now! Have to do something like this with my paintings.

when talking about a website in an essay

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I never saw myself as a writer, but in my early forties, I learned how to write and discovered the joy of writing. Now, I’d like to empower you to find your voice, share your ideas and inspire your audience. Learn how I can help you

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73 Essay Hook Examples

essay hook examples and definition, explained below

An essay hook is the first one or two sentences of your essay that are used to grab the reader’s attention and draw them into your discussion.

It is called a hook because it “grabs” the reader and doesn’t let them go! It should have something in there that makes the reader feel curious and intrigued, compelling them to continue reading.

Techniques for Good Essay Hooks

Here are a few techniques that you can use to write a good essay hook:

  • Use a Quotation : Sometimes, a relevant quotation from a well-known author or expert can help establish the context or theme of your essay. Next time you’re conducting research for an essay, keep an eye out for a really compelling quote that you could use as your hook for that essay.
  • Start with a Statement that is Surprising or Unusual: A surprising or unusually statement will draw a reader in, making them want to know more about that topic. It’s good if the statement contradicts common knowledge or reveals an insight about your topic that isn’t immediately obvious. These can be particularly good for argumentative essays where you’re putting forward a controversial or compelling argument as your thesis statement .
  • Tell a Brief Anecdote : A short, interesting story related to your topic can personaize the story, making it more than just a dry essay, and turning it into a compelling narrative that’s worth reading.
  • Use Statistics or Facts: Interesting, surprising, or shocking facts or statistics work similarly to surprising statements: they make us want to know more about a topic. Statistics and facts in your introductions are particularly useful for analytical, expository , and argumentative essays.
  • Start with a Question: Questions that make the reader think deeply about an issue, or pose a question that the reader themselves has considered, can be really effecitve. But remember, questions tend to be better for informal and personal essays, and are generally not allowed in formal argumentative essays. If you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use questions in your essays, check with your teacher first.

Below, I’ll present some examples of hooks that you could use as inspiration when writing your own essay hook.

Essay Hook Examples

These examples might help stimulate your thinking. However, keep in mind that your essay hook needs to be unique to your essay, so use these as inspiration but write your own essay hook that’s perfect for your own essay.

1. For an Essay About Yourself

An essay about yourself can be personal, use “I” statements, and include memories or thoughts that are deeply personal to you.

  • Question: “Have you ever met someone who could turn even the most mundane events into a thrilling adventure? Let me introduce myself.”
  • Anecdote: “The smell of freshly baked cookies always takes me back to the day when I accidentally started a baking business at the age of nine.”
  • Intriguing Statement: “I’ve always believed that you haven’t truly lived until you’ve read a book upside down, danced in the rain, or taught a parrot to say ‘I love pizza.'”
  • Quotation: “As Mark Twain once said, ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’ That’s a philosophy I’ve embraced in every aspect of my life.”
  • Humorous Statement: “I’m a self-proclaimed ‘professional chocolate tester’ – a title that’s not only delicious but also requires extreme dedication.”
  • Start with your Mission Statement : “My life motto is simple but powerful: be the person who decided to go for it.
  • Fact or Statistic: “According to a study, people who speak more than one language tend to be better at multitasking . As a polyglot, I certainly live up to that statistic.”
  • Comparison or Metaphor: “If my life were a book, it would be a blend of an adventurous novel, a suspense thriller, and a pinch of romantic comedy.”
  • Personal Revelation: “Ever since I was a child, I’ve had an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. It’s an unusual skill, but one that has shaped my life in many ways.”
  • Narrative: “The day everything changed for me was an ordinary Tuesday. Little did I know, a single conversation would lead me to discover my true passion.”

2. For a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay often explores personal experiences, feelings, and thoughts. So, your hooks for reflective essays can usually be more personal, intriguing, and engaging than other types of essays. Here are some examples for inspiration:

  • Question: “Have you ever felt as though a single moment could change your entire life? This essay is going to explore that moment for me.”
  • Anecdote: “I was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking at the vast emptiness, and for the first time, I truly understood the word ‘perspective’.”
  • Bold Statement: “There is a part of me that is still trapped in that room, on that rainy afternoon, holding the letter that would change everything.”
  • Personal Revelation: “The first time I truly felt a sense of belonging wasn’t in a crowded room full of friends, but in the quiet solitude of a forest.”
  • Intriguing Statement: “In my life, silence has been a teacher more profound than any words could ever be.”
  • Quotation: “Einstein once said, ‘The only source of knowledge is experience.’ Now, looking back, I realize how profound that statement truly is.”
  • Comparison or Metaphor: “If my life is a tapestry, then that summer was the vibrant thread that changed the entire pattern.”
  • Narrative: “As the train pulled out of the station, I realized I wasn’t just leaving my hometown, I was leaving my old self behind.”
  • Philosophical Statement: “In the theater of life, we are both the actor and the audience, playing our part and watching ourselves simultaneously.”
  • Emotive Statement: “There is a sort of sweet sorrow in remembering, a joy tinged with a hint of sadness, like the last notes of a beautiful song.”

For an Argumentative Essay

Essay hooks for argumentative essays are often the hardest. This type of essay tends to require the most formal type of academic writing, meaning your hook shouldn’t use first person, and should be more based on fact and objectivity, often at the expense of creativity. Here are some examples.

  • Quotation: “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.’ If Jefferson were alive today, he would likely feel that this meed for a well-informed citizenry is falling well short of where he would aspire.”
  • Provocative Statement: “Despite what romantic films may portray, love at first sight is merely a myth perpetuated by society. This essay will prosecute the argument that love at first sight is a myth.”
  • Statistical Fact: “According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading psychological disability worldwide. Yet, mental health is still stigmatized and often overlooked. This essay will argue that depression should be seen as a health issue, and stigmatization of depression causes serious harm to society.”
  • Comparison: “Much like an unchecked infection, climate change, if left ignored, can spread far beyond what it is today, causing long-term economic and social problems that may even threaten the longevity of humanity itself.”
  • Contradiction : “While we live in an era of unprecedented technological advancements, millions around the world are still denied basic internet access.”
  • Bold Declaration: “Animal testing is not only ethically unacceptable, but it also undermines the progress of medical research.”
  • Challenging Belief: “Despite popular belief, the automation of jobs is not a threat but an opportunity for society to evolve.”
  • Quotation: “George Orwell wrote in ‘1984’, ‘Big Brother is Watching You.’ In our modern society, with the advancement of technology, this is becoming more of a reality than fiction.”
  • Intriguing Statement: “Despite countless diet fads and fitness trends, obesity rates continue to rise. This argumentative essay will argue that this is because medical practitioners’ approaches to health and weight loss are fundamentally flawed.”
  • Statistical Fact: “Research reveals that over 90% of the world’s plastic waste is not recycled. This alarming figure calls for a drastic change in social attitudes towards consumption and waste management.”
  • Challenging Assumption: “Society often assumes that progress and growth are intrinsically good, but this is not always the case in the realm of economic development.”
  • Contradiction: “Western society upholds the value of freedom, yet every day, members of society cede personal liberties in the name of convenience and security.”
  • Analogy: “Like an overplayed song, when a news story is repeated too often, it loses its impact. In the era of digital media, society is becoming desensitized to critical issues.”
  • Relevant Anecdote: “In a village in India, the arrival of a single computer transformed the lives of the residents. This small anecdote underscores the importance of digital inclusion in today’s world.”
  • Call to Rethink: “In a world where success is often equated with financial wealth, it is time for society to reconsidered what truly constitutes a successful life.”

For a Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay examines two issues, looking at both the similarities and differences between them. A good hook for a compare and contrast essay will immediately signal to the reader the subjects that are being compared and why they’re being compared. Here are sine ideas for hooks for a compare and contrast essay:

  • Quotation: “As Charles Dickens wrote in his novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. This could equally apply to the contrasting dynamics of urban and rural living.”
  • Provocative Statement: “Despite popular belief, cats and dogs have more in common than society tends to think.”
  • Comparison: “Comparing being an only child to growing up with siblings is like contrasting a solo performance with an orchestral symphony.”
  • Contradiction: “While many view classic literature and contemporary fiction as worlds apart, they are more akin to two sides of the same coin.”
  • Bold Declaration: “Android and iPhone may compete in the same market, but their philosophies could not be more different.”
  • Statistical Fact: “Statistics show that children who grow up reading books tend to perform better academically than those who do not. But, the jury is out on how reading traditional books compares to reading e-books on screens.”
  • Quotation: “As Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, ‘Sooner or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.’ This statement can be used to frame a comparison between short-term and long-term thinking.”
  • Provocative Statement: “Democracy and dictatorship are often seen as polar opposites, but are they are not as different as they seem.”
  • Comparison: “Climate change and plastic pollution are two major environmental issues, yet they demand different approaches and solutions.”
  • Contradiction: “While traditional classrooms and online learning are seen as separate modes of education, they can often blend into a cohesive learning experience.”
  • Bold Declaration: “Though both based on merit, the structures of capitalism and socialism lead to vastly different societal outcomes.”
  • Imagery: “The painting styles of Van Gogh and Monet can be contrasted as a stormy sea versus a tranquil pond.”
  • Historical Reference: “The philosophies of the Cold War-era – capitalism and communism – provide a lens to contrast economic systems.”
  • Literary Comparison: “The dystopian societies portrayed in George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ serve as contrasting visions of the future.”
  • Philosophical Question: “Individualism and collectivism shape societies in distinct ways, but neither one can truly exist without the other.”

See Here for my Guide on Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay

For a Psychology Essay

Writing an engaging hook for a psychology essay involves sparking the reader’s interest in the human mind, behavior, or the specific psychology topic you’re discussing. Here are some stimulating hooks for a psychology essay:

  • Rhetorical Question: “How much control do we truly have over our own actions?”
  • Quotation: “Sigmund Freud once said, ‘Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.’ This essay will explore whether this is universally true.”
  • Provocative Statement: “Contrary to popular belief, ‘venting out’ anger might actually be fueling the fire of fury.”
  • Comparison: “Just as an iceberg reveals only a fraction of its bulk above water, conscious minds may only be a small piece of who humans truly are.”
  • Contradiction: “While it may seem counterintuitive, studies show that individuals who are more intelligent are also more likely to suffer from mental health issues.”
  • Bold Declaration: “Despite advances in technology, understanding the human brain remains one of the final frontiers in science.”
  • Statistical Fact: “According to a study by the American Psychological Association, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Yet, mental health continues to be a topic shrouded in stigma.”

For a Sociology Essay

Writing an engaging hook for a sociology essay involves sparking the reader’s interest in social behaviors, cultural phenomena, or the specific sociology topic you’re discussing. Here are ideas for hooks for a sociology essay:

  • Quotation: “As Karl Marx once noted, ‘Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex.’ Sadly, society has not made much progress in gender equality.”
  • Provocative Statement: “Social media, initially created to connect people, is ironically leading society into an era of unprecedented isolation.”
  • Comparison: “Comparing society to a theater, where each individual plays a role, it is possible to start to see patterns and scripts embedded in daily interactions.”
  • Contradiction: “While people often believe that technology is bringing society closer together, evidence suggests that it’s actually driving a wedge between people, creating ‘digital divides’.”
  • Bold Declaration: “Human societies are constructed on deeply ingrained systems of inequality, often invisible to those benefiting from them.”
  • Statistical Fact: “A recent study found that women still earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. This stark wage gap raises questions about equality in the workforce.”

For a College Application Essay

A college essay is a personal statement where you can showcase who you are beyond your grades and resume. It’s your chance to tell your unique story. Here are ten potential hooks for a college essay:

  • Anecdote: “At the age of seven, with a wooden spoon as my baton, I confidently conducted an orchestra of pots and pans in my grandmother’s kitchen.”
  • Provocative Statement: “I believe that life is like a game of chess. The king might be the most important piece, but it’s the pawns that can change the entire course of the game.”
  • Personal Revelation: “It wasn’t until I was lost in a foreign city, armed with nothing but a map in a language I didn’t understand, that I truly discovered my love for adventure.”
  • Intriguing Question: “Have you ever wondered how it feels to be part of two completely different cultures, yet wholly belong to neither?”
  • Bold Declaration: “Breaking a bone can be a painful experience. Breaking stereotypes, however, is an entirely different kind of challenge.”
  • Unusual Fact: “I can recite the periodic table backwards while juggling three tennis balls. It’s a strange talent, but it’s a perfect metaphor for how I tackle challenges.”
  • Quotation: “As Albert Einstein once said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ This quote has defined my approach to learning.”
  • Narrative: “It was a cold winter’s day when I first discovered the magic of turning a blank page into a world full of characters, stories, and ideas.”
  • Metaphor: “Like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, my high school years have been a period of profound metamorphosis.”
  • Humorous Statement: “Being the youngest of five siblings, I quickly learned that the best way to be heard was to become the family’s unofficial lawyer.”

Conclusion: The Qualities of a Good Essay Hook

As I wrap up this article, I want to share a few last tips on qualities that a good essay hook should have. Keep these tips in mind when writing your essay hook and using the above essay hook examples:

First, relevance . A good hook should be directly relevant to the topic or theme of your essay. The hook should provide a preview of what’s to come without giving too much away.

Second, Intrigue. A great hook should make the reader want to continue reading. It should create a question in the reader’s mind or present a fascinating idea that they want to know more about.

Third, uniqueness. An effective hook should be original and unique. It should stand out from the many other essays that the reader might be going through.

Fourth, clarity. Even though a hook should be captivating and original, it should also be clear and easy to understand. Avoid complex sentences and jargon that might confuse the reader.

Fifth, genre conventions. Too often, my students try to be so creative in their essay hooks that they forget genre conventions . The more formal an essay, the harder it is to write the hook. My general approach is to focus on statistics and facts, and avoid rhetorical questions , with more formal essay hooks.

Keep in mind that you should run your essay hook by your teacher by showing them your first draft before you submit your essay for grading. This will help you to make sure it follows genre conventions and is well-written.


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

When To Italicize – The Rules You Need To Know

Updated: December 23, 2022

Published: June 30, 2020


English has a lot of grammatical rules to keep in mind. From the usage of commas to capitalization, knowing how to write properly is an important skill to hone for those in school and beyond. Whether you are writing research papers or formal letters, you’ll come across instances of italicization. Knowing when to italicize is an important skill to master.

Let’s take a look at how italics came to exist and when to italicize. With this guide, you’ll soon be an italics pro!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The history behind italics.

Italics is when a typeface is slanted to the right. Like this!

Italics are used to distinguish words from other parts of the text and draw attention. Like underlining, it can create emphasis; therefore, you wouldn’t want to both underline and italicize the same word. Yet, underlining and italicizing may often be used interchangeably.

Underlining was the precursor to italicizing. Once word processors and printers became more sophisticated to handle italics, it has become a popular alternative to underlining.

When To Italicize

With this being said, using italics isn’t always a choice of personal preference. There are rules and guidelines to follow to know when to italicize. Let’s take a look at some of the rules!

7 Rules For Italics

1. emphasis.

Want a word or phrase to stand out in a block of text? Try writing in italics. Example: I went to grab pizza with friends today. It was so delicious that I ate an entire pie. (Notice how you read the word “so” with more emphasis than the rest of the words in that statement).

2. Titles Of Work

The titles of works should be italicized (or underlined). Examples include:

  • Books – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Newspapers – The Los Angeles Times
  • Movies – The Dark Knight
  • Magazines – People
  • Plays – A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Works of Art – Frida Kahlo’s The Two Fridas
  • TV/radio programs – Friends
  • CDs/albums – Drake’s Views

3. Articles

Based on the above, you may be questioning, “Are articles italicized?” Articles are shorter forms of work. As such, they are put into quotation marks rather than italicized. For example, you could write something like: In his article “A Mystery Explained” for The New York Times, the author exposed the details of the crime.

4. Foreign Words

If you’re writing in one language but you want to introduce a word in another language, you may consider italicizing it. For example, “The word for war in Spanish is guerra.”

5. Names Of Trains, Ships, Spaceships

Words that are names of transportation vehicles (with the exception of cars) are italicized. For example, the space shuttle Challenger is in italics.

6. Words As Reproduced Sounds

If you want to write out the way something sounds, then you can leverage italics. To depict, “The bees went bzzz in my ear.” This doesn’t mean that you would write verbs that are sounds in italics. (i.e., “There was a loud thud.”)

7. Words As Words

When you are writing a word to use it as a word for reference, then you can put it in italics. For example, “He defined close in context of the situation as being within 6 feet of each other.”

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Examples for when to use italics.

There are various writing formats that have slightly different rules. When you’re writing a scholarly paper, you may be advised to write in MLA format or APA format.

The MLA format may allow for interchangeability between italics and underlines. In the APA format, these are some examples of when to use and when not to use italics — and they aren’t always in line with the examples above. In APA format, for example, you should not use italics just for emphasis.

So before writing any scholarly paper, it’s useful to double check the rules for italics according to the specific guidelines.

Use Italics

  • First introduction to a new term – i.e., “ Communism is defined as, ‘ a form of government…’”
  • Titles of book and web pages – i.e., “ Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson”
  • English letters used as math symbols – i.e., “Solve for the variable x .”
  • Anchors of scale – i.e., “Rate your experience on a scale of 1 ( extremely dissatisfied ) to 10 ( extremely satisfied )”
  • First use of words in a different language – i.e., “She was the crème de la crème .”

Do Not Use Italics

  • For the title of book series – i.e., “the Dan Brown series”
  • Punctuation around italics – i.e., “( extremely dissatisfied )”
  • Words from foreign languages that are in the dictionary of the language you are writing – i.e., “per se”

Things To Remember

This list of rules and exceptions can feel overwhelming. And there’s still more to learn and remember on top of the points above! Keep in mind:

  • Don’t italicize the titles of songs, chapters in books, or poems. Instead, use quotations. For example, you could write: On the Drake album Views, I really like the song “Fire & Desire.”
  • Don’t italicize religious texts – i.e., the Torah or the Koran. Instead, these are capitalized.
  • Don’t underline and italicize together like this . (That sure is painful to read!)

Although there is a lot to remember when it comes to what to italicize, the good news is that you can always research whether or not something should be italicized online or refer back to this list!

Italics Or Not? That Is The Question

As a student, it’s important to fine tune your grammar skills now so that when you graduate and enter the workforce, you can produce exemplary work every time!

As mentioned, when writing research papers or any other academic paper, your professor will share what standards they want you to abide by. Whether it’s MLA or APA formats, you can look up the rules for when to italicize before and during the writing process.

Then, when you edit, be sure to check all your usages of underlines, italics, and quotation marks to ensure they are implemented correctly!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, getting college essay help: important do's and don’ts.

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College Essays


If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.


Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.


Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.


A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.


What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )


Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.


If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?


Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.


  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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I thought my son loved our family trips. Now I see I was just being selfish

Kinsey Gidick taking a selfie with her son and husband

My son had disappeared. While I strained to catch every third sentence from our Beefeater tour guide at the Tower of London, Wells, my 8-year-old, had walked off. Finally I looked down and spotted him sitting outside our scrum of tourists. “Mom, I can’t hear anything he’s saying,” Wells stage-whispered. My suggestion to “just scooch closer” was met with a dramatic eye roll. “I’ll just wait over here until the tour’s over, Mom,” he said, stomping off. 

“He’ll thank me for this later,” I thought as I spun around and tried to rejoin the tour, smug in the knowledge that I was fulfilling a dream to show my boy one of western civilization’s most important historic sites.

Kinsey Gidick's son looking through a fence on vacation

Flash forward three months later: Like a Pop-Tart sprung from a toaster, I watch Wells fly above the Caribbean Sea. My husband has just launched him from an inflatable blob bobbing off the shore of Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa on the northwest corner of Saint Lucia. Nearby, on a floating trampoline, a pair of elementary school-aged sisters from Rochester, New York — my son’s new best friends — cheer his aerial acrobatics. He Evil Knievels his way along the resort’s massive floating Splash Island waterpark, then races back to the girls, the three falling into a heap of giggles. 

I have never seen my only child so happy on vacation . 

That’s when it suddenly struck me: Maybe I’ve been approaching the whole family travel thing all wrong.

blue ocean with bounce balloons in the water and kids playing

I’ve always dismissed amusement-related trip activities in favor of educationally enriching attractions, believing I was expanding my son’s horizons. Give me that Tower of London tour over go-karts or Dave & Busters any day. Yet, in the bright light reflected off the West Indies sand, it all seemed so clear; this instinct primarily satisfies my own travel preferences. I thought I was unveiling the riches of the world to my kiddo. But really, the only wanderlust bucket list I’ve cared about is my own.

I thought I was unveiling the riches of the world to my kiddo. But really, the only wanderlust bucket list I’ve cared about is my own.

In my experience, this is all too easy to do as the mother of an only child. In many ways, having an only — a booming demographic that accounts for the fastest-growing family unit in the United States  — is a boon for travel enthusiasts. From a math perspective alone, the cost benefits are overwhelming. Just ask any family of five who has flown internationally lately. 

My husband and I have used this to our advantage by taking our little trio on trips from Burlington, Vermont, to the Scottish Highlands and stopping at every historic site, museum or nerdy literary landmark on the way. My husband is a high school history teacher who never met a historic plaque he didn’t pull over to read. I grew up in a family of thespians who spent hours doing community theater. We’re like the poster kids for liberal arts education. So naturally, when we travel, we follow culturally stimulating itineraries. For instance, when we took our son on his first international trip to England last summer, we bypassed the London Eye, the city’s enormous Ferris wheel that Wells begged us to ride, to expose him to “Hamilton the Musical” (second row, center seats, of course). Did he cry during the second act because he’d lost a souvenir in the lobby during intermission? Yes. Did I feel it was more important for him to power through his snuffles to experience a once-in-a-lifetime West End-caliber production? I did. 

And our old-timey all-the-timey journey didn’t end there. We made him climb Hadrian’s Wall. We hiked in the rain to Lindisfarne Castle and visited more battlefields than I care to recall. Don’t get me wrong, our son is a trooper. After a rock star usher at “Hamilton” recovered said souvenir after curtain, Wells told us he loved the play. He showed genuine amusement at most of the sites we took him to. That’s all that any parent could want: to see their child share and appreciate some of their interests. But I’m beginning to realize that in our enthusiasm to raise our own young Indiana Jones, a very privileged position — one might say the very definition of #firstworldproblems that I try to never take for granted — we may have overlooked opportunities for our boy to participate in more good old-fashioned holiday fun.

Take Disney World. When my husband and I found out that I was pregnant, we made a pact that we’d save up our pennies to take our kid abroad long before we succumbed to the magnetic pull of the legendary house of mouse.

Take Disney World . I shudder to type those words. When my husband and I found out that I was pregnant, we made a pact that we’d save up our pennies to take our kid abroad long before we succumbed to the magnetic pull of the legendary house of mouse. Sure, the thought of the crowds and long lines is off-putting, but it’s the concept of spending precious vacation days on amusement rides when that time could be spent seeing the Parthenon or, say, Venice that genuinely haunts us. It  is  a small world, after all, and we only have so much time to see it! Nope, no D-word for us. 

Try explaining that policy to a third grader, though. Kids talk, and it wasn’t long into our son’s elementary school career before he had heard about the most magical place on Earth. No surprise, the stories his friends relayed of their visits to the Florida amusement park sounded like, well, the most magical place on Earth! Now, picture me, his loving mother, attempting to throw shade on his Tinkerbell pixie dust-laced dreams. I tried very hard to make a compelling argument that exploring the Tuscan countryside (our travel plan for this summer) was far more exciting than any stomach-churning trip up Space Mountain. 

“Yes, honey, I know spinning on a high-speed roller coaster in the dark sounds fun, but what if you could see the Italian island where Napoleon was imprisoned instead?”

Kinsey Gidick's husband and son on vacation. Her son is sitting on the floor with his head resting in his lap.

My boy wasn’t buying it. And maybe it’s time I stop deluding myself, too. Even I had a laugh launching myself into the ocean off Splash Island last November. No, I didn’t learn anything about the biodiversity of the surrounding ocean while flinging myself into the sky like a maniacally laughing, sunburnt Raggedy Ann. Nor did the hours spent listening to my son holler, “Mom, watch!” while he climbed a two-story inflatable iceberg illuminate Saint Lucia’s rich past or cultural heritage. But the saltwater-sprayed bounce-a-thon did result in a heady endorphin rush rarely available in my daily life, one we were at leisure to enjoy as a family; an experience that was made that much sweeter by the smiles and appreciative hugs I got from my son for being a good sport and answering in the affirmative again and again what we all know is childhood’s most fleeting question: “Mom, will you play with me?”

So, will I be marching Wells through Florence’s cathedrals and Lucca’s Roman walls this summer? Of course. But when we get back, I am reconsidering a potential August trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I hear the theme park’s 46-year-old Loch Ness Monster roller coaster will reopen this summer. Maybe we can squeeze in a lesson on Pictish mythology after the 100-foot plummet.

Kinsey Gidick is a freelance journalist based in central Virginia. Her work has been published in the  New York Times ,  Washington Post ,  Travel + Leisure ,  Garden & Gun ,  BBC Travel ,  Atlas Obscura ,  Roads & Kingdoms , and Anthony Bourdain's  Explore Parts Unknown , among others.

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Announcing TGC’s 2024 Essay Contest for Young Adults

Writers aged 16–22 can get published and win $500.

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The Gospel Coalition announces its 2024 essay contest, inviting young adults (ages 16–22) to explore and write about God’s faithfulness, their relationship with technology, and their heart for full-time ministry in our secular age.

Winning authors will receive a prize, and their essays will be published on TGC’s website. In addition, every writer who submits an essay will receive a coupon code for $50 off the Gen-Z registration for our TGC25 conference .

Essay Requirements

Each 800–1,000 word essay must be original, previously unpublished, and must respond to one of the following three prompts. With each of these prompts, contestants should draw from their own experiences and convictions, and use Scripture to support their conclusions. (Want examples? Read the winning essays from 2022 and 2023 .) Contestants must give permission to TGC to publish their work, and each essay will be judged by TGC’s editorial team.

Submissions will be accepted from June 1 to July 1 and winners will be announced on September 2, 2024.

1. When did the Lord love you by not giving you what you wanted?

Many of us have unfulfilled desires. When was a time you saw the Lord’s love and kindness when he withheld something from you? What was it that you wanted and how did you see the Lord’s faithfulness through not giving it to you? Tell us what you learned from your experience, especially considering that our culture tells us we deserve to have all our desires fulfilled.

2. How has the gospel changed your relationship with your phone?

Today, phones are considered a necessity rather than a luxury. How does the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ change how you view your phone and how you use it? How has your phone been a hindrance and how has it been an asset to your relationship with the Lord? Tell us what you’ve learned in navigating how to use your phone for the glory of God.

3. Why are you considering full-time ministry?

There’s a greater need than ever for young people to pursue full-time ministry. Why are you considering making ministry your vocation? Tell us your heart behind it, why you think it’s important, and what influences in your life have led you to move forward in this direction.

The contest winner will receive $500; second place will receive a $100 gift card to the TGC bookstore; third place will receive an assortment of books. The winning essays will be published on TGC’s website, as will any other essays the judges select.

Read the full contest rules and upload your essay. Questions? Contact [email protected] .

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#2444: The Breath of God

Althea's car stalled on a highway up thar in Maine. Then a kindly old priest happens by and offers to 'breathe into her gas tank'. Lo and behold, the car starts again! Click and Clack sermonize on this miracle and other automotive lessons from the good book of the Best of Car Talk. Get access to hundreds of episodes in the Car Talk archive when you sign up for Car Talk+ at

Government launches new campaign to get you to talk to your kids about consent

The federal government will be encouraging parents to talk with children of all ages about consent with a new campaign launching today.

Ads on social media, billboards and television will direct parents towards a new website,, where they can read discussion guides for how to discuss consent with their kids.

Research commissioned by the government to guide the consent campaign found that while parents see consent as something important to discuss with their children, two in five wouldn't intervene if they saw or overheard a non-consensual act.

Eighty-six per cent of the 2,031 participants agreed adults should be speaking more about consent with young people but a majority weren't confident in actually doing so.

A third of adults said they believed the importance of consent had been "blown out of proportion," which researchers said presented another roadblock to conversations with kids.

Three questions about consent on a black background, the phrases are in purple, blue and orange.

What will the campaign involve?

Ads for Consent Can't Wait will be rolled out on billboards, social media and television, featuring questions like 'Is a kiss consent to more?' and 'What if we've been drinking?' urging parents who don't know the answers to head to

There's a 20-page guide for adults to talk to children of varying ages about consent, using prompts like "Even if your friends said yes to the wrestling game, if someone says 'stop', you have to stop straight away … Can you think of a time you needed to stop a game?"

A government booklet with conversation prompts to talk about consent with children and young people of varying ages.

There is also a 13-page guide for how to speak with other parents about talking to young people and consent, with conversation starters including "how do you talk to your kids about awkward topics?" and "at what point during a sexual encounter are you meant to ask for consent?"

The government's panel advising on the campaign included Sydney Medical School's Dr Melissa Kang (who formerly wrote the Dolly Doctor column ), Laurel House sexual assault service's Kathryn Fordyce and consent campaigner Chanel Contos, among others.

'We're living in a divided society'

According to the research conducted by marketing data company Kantar Public for the government, Australians are more aware of discussions around consent than a few years ago but not everyone is on the same page about what it actually means.

Researchers said this was due to confusion around what constitutes consent, how to approach the topic with young people and general discomfort around issues to do with sexual violence.

"There seems to be such a blurry line for what constitutes as consent," said one participant.

A government booklet with information about consent and conversation starter prompts to use with other parents.

"The conversations and the rhetoric you hear every day … it's like, 'what?'."

Another participant said "we're living in a society that still has this stigma … we're living in a divided society."

But while many participants said they felt the issue had been "blown out of proportion" 77 per cent said it was personally important to them and even more think adults need to talk with young people about it.

Campaign comes amid criticism

The new campaign comes amid criticism of the federal government by frontline violence workers for not investing enough in women's safety services.

The budget included funding over two years for a "rapid review" of best practice for preventing violence against women including sexual violence.

But frontline services, legal centres and sexual violence response organisations said the government must do more with some labelling Labor's claim of substantially boosting funding to women's safety as "trickery and deception."

Consent Can't Wait follows the Stop It At The Start campaign, which encouraged parents to teach children respectful attitudes to help stop violence against women, started by the former Coalition government in 2016 and continued by Labor.

That campaign will continue alongside Consent Can't Wait, though researchers from the University of Technology Sydney have questioned how effective such campaigns are in having an impact on rates of sexual, family and domestic violence.

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Commencement 2024

Honorary degree recipient Ken Burns gives the Commencement address during the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony

Honorary degree recipient Ken Burns delivers the Undergraduate Commencement speech at Brandeis University's 73rd Commencement Exercises on May 19, 2024.

Brandeisian, love it.

President Liebowitz, Ron, Chair Lisa Kranc, and other members of the board of trustees, Provost Carol Fierke, fellow honorees, distinguished faculty and staff, proud and relieved parents, calm and serene grandparents, distracted but secretly pleased siblings, ladies and gentlemen, graduating students of the class of 2024, good morning.

I am deeply honored and privileged that you have asked me here to say a few words at such a momentous occasion that you might find what I have to say worthy of your attention on so important a day in all of your lives. Thank you for this honor.

Listen, I am in the business of history. It is not always a happy subject on college campuses these days, particularly when forces seem determined to eliminate or water down difficult parts of our past, particularly when the subject may seem to sum an anachronistic and irrelevant pursuit, and particularly with the ferocious urgency this moment seems to exert on us. It is my job, however, to remind people of the power our past also exerts, to help us better understand what's going on now with compelling story, memory, and anecdote. It is my job to try to discern patterns and themes from history to enable us to interpret our dizzying and sometimes dismaying present.

For nearly 50 years now, I have diligently practiced and rigorously tried to maintain a conscious neutrality in my work, avoiding advocacy if I could, trying to speak to all of my fellow citizens. Over those many decades I've come to understand a significant fact, that we are not condemned to repeat, as the saying goes, what we don't remember. That is a beautiful, even poetic phrase, but not true. Nor are there cycles of history as the academic community periodically promotes. The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes to be specific, got it right, I think. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun. What those lines suggest is that human nature never changes or almost never changes. We continually superimpose that complex and contradictory human nature over the seemingly random chaos of events, all of our inherent strengths and weaknesses, our greed and generosity, our puritanism and our prurience, our virtue, and our venality parade before our eyes, generation after generation after generation. This often gives us the impression that history repeats itself. It does not. "No event has ever happened twice, it just rhymes," Mark Twain is supposed to have said. I have spent all of my professional life on the lookout for those rhymes, drawn inexorably to that power of history. I am interested in listening to the many varied voices of a true, honest, complicated past that is unafraid of controversy and tragedy, but equally drawn to those stories and moments that suggest an abiding faith in the human spirit, and particularly the unique role this remarkable and sometimes also dysfunctional republic seems to play in the positive progress of mankind.

During the course of my work, I have become acquainted with hundreds if not thousands of those voices. They have inspired, haunted, and followed me over the years. Some of them may be helpful to you as you try to imagine and make sense of the trajectory of your lives today.

Listen, listen. In January of 1838, shortly before his 29th birthday, a tall, thin lawyer prone to bouts of debilitating depression addressed the young men's lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. "At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?" He asked his audience, "Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the earth and crush us at a blow?" Then he answered his own question. "Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time or die by suicide." It is a stunning, remarkable statement, one that has animated my own understanding of the American experience since I first read it more than 40 years ago. That young man was of course Abraham Lincoln, and he would go on to preside over the closest this country has ever come to near national suicide, our civil war, and yet embedded in his extraordinary, disturbing, and prescient words is also a fundamental optimism that implicitly acknowledges the geographical forcefield two mighty oceans east and west and two relatively benign neighbors north and south have provided for us since the British burned the White House in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key.

Lincoln's words that day suggest what is so great and so good about the people who happen to inhabit this lucky and exquisite country of ours. That's the world you now inherit: our work ethic and our restlessness, our innovation and our improvisation, our communities and our institutions of higher learning, our suspicion of power. The fact that we seem resolutely dedicated to parsing the meaning between individual and collective freedom; What I want versus what we need. That we are all so dedicated to understanding what Thomas Jefferson really meant when he wrote that mysterious phrase, "The pursuit of happiness". Hint, it happens right here in the lifelong learning and perpetual improvement this university is committed to.

But the isolation of those two oceans has also helped to incubate habits and patterns less beneficial to us: our devotion to money and guns and conspiracies, our certainty about everything, our stubborn insistence on our own exceptionalism blinding us to that which needs repair, especially with regard to race and ethnicity. Our preoccupation with always making the other wrong at an individual as well as a global level. I am reminded of what the journalist I.F. Stone once said to a young acolyte who was profoundly disappointed in his mentor's admiration for Thomas Jefferson. "It's because history is tragedy," Stone admonished him, "Not melodrama." It's the perfect response. In melodrama all villains are perfectly villainous and all heroes are perfectly virtuous, but life is not like that. You know that in your guts and nor is our history like that. The novelist, Richard Powers recently wrote that, "The best arguments in the world," — and ladies and gentlemen, that's all we do is argue — "the best arguments in the world," he said, "Won't change a single person's point of view. The only thing that can do that is a good story." I've been struggling for most of my life to do that, to try to tell good, complex, sometimes contradictory stories, appreciating nuance and subtlety and undertow, sharing the confusion and consternation of unreconciled opposites.

But it's clear as individuals and as a nation we are dialectically preoccupied. Everything is either right or wrong, red state or blue state, young or old, gay or straight, rich or poor, Palestinian or Israeli, my way or the highway. Everywhere we are trapped by these old, tired, binary reactions, assumptions, and certainties. For filmmakers and faculty, students and citizens, that preoccupation is imprisoning. Still, we know and we hear and we express only arguments, and by so doing, we forget the inconvenient complexities of history and of human nature. That, for example, three great religions, their believers, all children of Abraham, each professing at the heart of their teaching, a respect for all human life, each with a central connection to and legitimate claim to the same holy ground, violate their own dictates of conduct and make this perpetually contested land a shameful graveyard. God does not distinguish between the dead. "Could you?"

[Audience applauding]

"Could you?" A very wise person I know with years of experience with the Middle East recently challenged me, "Could you hold the idea that there could be two wrongs and two rights?"

Listen, listen. In a filmed interview I conducted with the writer James Baldwin, more than 40 years ago, he said, "No one was ever born who agreed to be a slave, who accepted it. That is, slavery is a condition imposed from without. Of course, the moment I say that," Baldwin continued, "I realize that multitudes and multitudes of people for various reasons of their own enslave themselves every hour of every day to this or that doctrine, this or that delusion of safety, this or that lie. Anti-Semites, for example," he went on, "are slaves to a delusion. People who hate Negroes are slaves. People who love money are slaves. We are living in a universe really of willing slaves, which makes the concept of liberty and the concept of freedom so dangerous," he finished. Baldwin is making a profoundly psychological and even spiritual statement, not just a political or racial or social one. He knew, just as Lincoln knew, that the enemy is often us. We continue to shackle ourselves with chains we mistakenly think is freedom.

Another voice, Mercy Otis Warren, a philosopher and historian during our revolution put it this way, "The study of the human character at once opens a beautiful and a deformed picture of the soul. We there find a noble principle implanted in the nature of people, but when the checks of conscience are thrown aside, humanity is obscured." I have had the privilege for nearly half a century of making films about the US, but I have also made films about us. That is to say the two letter, lowercase, plural pronoun. All of the intimacy of "us" and also "we" and "our" and all of the majesty, complexity, contradiction, and even controversy of the US. And if I have learned anything over those years, it's that there's only us. There is no them. And whenever someone suggests to you, whomever it may be in your life that there's a them, run away. Othering is the simplistic binary way to make and identify enemies, but it is also the surest way to your own self imprisonment, which brings me to a moment I've dreaded and forces me to suspend my longstanding attempt at neutrality.

There is no real choice this November. There is only the perpetuation, however flawed and feeble you might perceive it, of our fragile 249-year-old experiment or the entropy that will engulf and destroy us if we take the other route. When, as Mercy Otis Warren would say, "The checks of conscience are thrown aside and a deformed picture of the soul is revealed." The presumptive Republican nominee is the opioid of all opioids, an easy cure for what some believe is the solution to our myriad pains and problems. When in fact with him, you end up re-enslaved with an even bigger problem, a worse affliction and addiction, "a bigger delusion", James Baldwin would say, the author and finisher of our national existence, our national suicide as Mr. Lincoln prophesies. Do not be seduced by easy equalization. There is nothing equal about this equation. We are at an existential crossroads in our political and civic lives. This is a choice that could not be clearer.

Listen, listen. 33 years ago, the world lost a towering literary figure. The novelist and storyteller, not arguer, Isaac Bashevis Singer. For decades he wrote about God and myth and punishment, fate and sexuality, family and history. He wrote in Yiddish a marvelously expressive language, sad and happy all at the same time. Sometimes maddeningly all knowing, yet resigned to God's seemingly capricious will. It is also a language without a country, a dying language in a world more interested in the extermination or isolation of its long suffering speakers. Singer, writing in the pages of the Jewish Daily Forward help to keep Yiddish alive. Now our own wonderfully mongrel American language is punctuated with dozens of Yiddish words and phrases, parables and wise sayings, and so many of those words are perfect onomatopoeias of disgust and despair, hubris and humor. If you've ever met a schmuck, you know what I'm talking about. [audience laughs] Toward the end of his long and prolific life, Singer expressed wonder at why so many of his books written in this obscure and some said useless language would be so widely translated, something like 56 countries all around the world. "Why," he would wonder with his characteristic playfulness, "Why would the Japanese care about his simple stories of life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe 1,000 years ago?" "Unless," Singer paused, twinkle in his eye, "Unless the story spoke of the kinship of the soul." I think what Singer was talking about was that indefinable something that connects all of us together, that which we all share as part of organic life on this planet, the kinship of the soul. I love that.

Okay, let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out, here comes the advice. Listen. Be curious, not cool. Insecurity makes liars of us all. Remember, none of us get out of here alive. The inevitable vicissitudes of life, no matter how well gated our communities, will visit us all. Grief is a part of life, and if you explore its painful precincts, it will make you stronger. Do good things, help others. Leadership is humility and generosity squared. Remember the opposite of faith is not doubt. Doubt is central to faith. The opposite of faith is certainty. The kinship of the soul begins with your own at times withering self-examination. Try to change that unchangeable human nature of Ecclesiastes, but start with you. "Nothing so needs reforming," Mark Twain once chided us, "As other people's habits." [audience laughs]

Don't confuse success with excellence. Do not descend too deeply into specialism. Educate all of your parts, you will be healthier. Do not get stuck in one place. "Travel is fatal to prejudice," Twain also said. Be in nature, which is always perfect and where nothing is binary. Its sheer majesty may remind you of your own atomic insignificance, as one observer put it, but in the inscrutable and paradoxical ways of wild places, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self regard.

At some point, make babies, one of the greatest things that will happen to you, I mean it, one of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry, I mean really worry, about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating, I promise. Ask your parents.

[Audience laughs]

Choose honor over hypocrisy, virtue over vulgarity, discipline over dissipation, character over cleverness, sacrifice over self-indulgence. Do not lose your enthusiasm, in its Greek etymology the word enthusiasm means simply, "god in us". Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Denounce oppression everywhere.

Convince your government, as Lincoln understood that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts.

[Audience cheering]

They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country; They just make our country worth defending.

Remember what Louis Brandeis said, "The most important political office is that of the private citizen." Vote. You indelibly... [audience applauding] Please, vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship, and most important, our kinship with each other when you do. Good luck and godspeed.

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Guest Essay

Jamie Raskin: How to Force Justices Alito and Thomas to Recuse Themselves in the Jan. 6 Cases

A white chain in the foreground, with the pillars of the Supreme Court Building in the background.

By Jamie Raskin

Mr. Raskin represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He taught constitutional law for more than 25 years and was the lead prosecutor in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Many people have gloomily accepted the conventional wisdom that because there is no binding Supreme Court ethics code, there is no way to force Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas to recuse themselves from the Jan. 6 cases that are before the court.

Justices Alito and Thomas are probably making the same assumption.

But all of them are wrong.

It seems unfathomable that the two justices could get away with deciding for themselves whether they can be impartial in ruling on cases affecting Donald Trump’s liability for crimes he is accused of committing on Jan. 6. Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, was deeply involved in the Jan. 6 “stop the steal” movement. Above the Virginia home of Justice Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, flew an upside-down American flag — a strong political statement among the people who stormed the Capitol. Above the Alitos’ beach home in New Jersey flew another flag that has been adopted by groups opposed to President Biden.

Justices Alito and Thomas face a groundswell of appeals beseeching them not to participate in Trump v. United States , the case that will decide whether Mr. Trump enjoys absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, and Fischer v. United States , which will decide whether Jan. 6 insurrectionists — and Mr. Trump — can be charged under a statute that criminalizes “corruptly” obstructing an official proceeding. (Justice Alito said on Wednesday that he would not recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases.)

Everyone assumes that nothing can be done about the recusal situation because the highest court in the land has the lowest ethical standards — no binding ethics code or process outside of personal reflection. Each justice decides for him- or herself whether he or she can be impartial.

Of course, Justices Alito and Thomas could choose to recuse themselves — wouldn’t that be nice? But begging them to do the right thing misses a far more effective course of action.

The U.S. Department of Justice — including the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, an appointed U.S. special counsel and the solicitor general, all of whom were involved in different ways in the criminal prosecutions underlying these cases and are opposing Mr. Trump’s constitutional and statutory claims — can petition the other seven justices to require Justices Alito and Thomas to recuse themselves not as a matter of grace but as a matter of law.

The Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland can invoke two powerful textual authorities for this motion: the Constitution of the United States, specifically the due process clause, and the federal statute mandating judicial disqualification for questionable impartiality, 28 U.S.C. Section 455. The Constitution has come into play in several recent Supreme Court decisions striking down rulings by stubborn judges in lower courts whose political impartiality has been reasonably questioned but who threw caution to the wind to hear a case anyway. This statute requires potentially biased judges throughout the federal system to recuse themselves at the start of the process to avoid judicial unfairness and embarrassing controversies and reversals.

The constitutional and statutory standards apply to Supreme Court justices. The Constitution, and the federal laws under it, is the “ supreme law of the land ,” and the recusal statute explicitly treats Supreme Court justices as it does other judges: “Any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The only justices in the federal judiciary are the ones on the Supreme Court.

This recusal statute, if triggered, is not a friendly suggestion. It is Congress’s command, binding on the justices, just as the due process clause is. The Supreme Court cannot disregard this law just because it directly affects one or two of its justices. Ignoring it would trespass on the constitutional separation of powers because the justices would essentially be saying that they have the power to override a congressional command.

When the arguments are properly before the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Sonia Sotomayor will have both a constitutional obligation and a statutory obligation to enforce recusal standards.

Indeed, there is even a compelling argument based on case law that Chief Justice Roberts and the other unaffected justices should raise the matter of recusal on their own, or sua sponte. Numerous circuit courts have agreed with the Eighth Circuit that this is the right course of action when members of an appellate court are aware of “ overt acts ” of a judge reflecting personal bias. Cases like this stand for the idea that appellate jurists who see something should say something instead of placing all the burden on parties in a case who would have to risk angering a judge by bringing up the awkward matter of potential bias and favoritism on the bench.

But even if no member of the court raises the issue of recusal, the urgent need to deal with it persists. Once it is raised, the court would almost surely have to find that the due process clause and Section 455 compel Justices Alito and Thomas to recuse themselves. To arrive at that substantive conclusion, the justices need only read their court’s own recusal decisions.

In one key 5-to-3 Supreme Court case from 2016, Williams v. Pennsylvania, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained why judicial bias is a defect of constitutional magnitude and offered specific objective standards for identifying it. Significantly, Justices Alito and Thomas dissented from the majority’s ruling.

The case concerned the bias of the chief justice of Pennsylvania, who had been involved as a prosecutor on the state’s side in an appellate death penalty case that was before him. Justice Kennedy found that the judge’s refusal to recuse himself when asked to do so violated due process. Justice Kennedy’s authoritative opinion on recusal illuminates three critical aspects of the current controversy.

First, Justice Kennedy found that the standard for recusal must be objective because it is impossible to rely on the affected judge’s introspection and subjective interpretations. The court’s objective standard requires recusal when the likelihood of bias on the part of the judge “is too high to be constitutionally tolerable,” citing an earlier case. “This objective risk of bias,” according to Justice Kennedy, “is reflected in the due process maxim that ‘no man can be a judge in his own case.’” A judge or justice can be convinced of his or her own impartiality but also completely missing what other people are seeing.

Second, the Williams majority endorsed the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct as an appropriate articulation of the Madisonian standard that “no man can be a judge in his own cause.” Model Code Rule 2.11 on judicial disqualification says that a judge “shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” This includes, illustratively, cases in which the judge “has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party,” a married judge knows that “the judge’s spouse” is “a person who has more than a de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding” or the judge “has made a public statement, other than in a court proceeding, judicial decision or opinion, that commits or appears to commit the judge to reach a particular result.” These model code illustrations ring a lot of bells at this moment.

Third and most important, Justice Kennedy found for the court that the failure of an objectively biased judge to recuse him- or herself is not “harmless error” just because the biased judge’s vote is not apparently determinative in the vote of a panel of judges. A biased judge contaminates the proceeding not just by the casting and tabulation of his or her own vote but by participating in the body’s collective deliberations and affecting, even subtly, other judges’ perceptions of the case.

Justice Kennedy was emphatic on this point : “It does not matter whether the disqualified judge’s vote was necessary to the disposition of the case. The fact that the interested judge’s vote was not dispositive may mean only that the judge was successful in persuading most members of the court to accept his or her position — an outcome that does not lessen the unfairness to the affected party.”

Courts generally have found that any reasonable doubts about a judge’s partiality must be resolved in favor of recusal. A judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” While recognizing that the “challenged judge enjoys a margin of discretion,” the courts have repeatedly held that “doubts ordinarily ought to be resolved in favor of recusal.” After all, the reputation of the whole tribunal and public confidence in the judiciary are both on the line.

Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit emphasized this fundamental principle in 2019 when his court issued a writ of mandamus to force recusal of a military judge who blithely ignored at least the appearance of a glaring conflict of interest. He stated : “Impartial adjudicators are the cornerstone of any system of justice worthy of the label. And because ‘deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges,’ jurists must avoid even the appearance of partiality.” He reminded us that to perform its high function in the best way, as Justice Felix Frankfurter stated, “justice must satisfy the appearance of justice.”

The Supreme Court has been especially disposed to favor recusal when partisan politics appear to be a prejudicial factor even when the judge’s impartiality has not been questioned. In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. , from 2009, the court held that a state supreme court justice was constitutionally disqualified from a case in which the president of a corporation appearing before him had helped to get him elected by spending $3 million promoting his campaign. The court, through Justice Kennedy, asked whether, quoting a 1975 decision, “under a realistic appraisal of psychological tendencies and human weakness,” the judge’s obvious political alignment with a party in a case “poses such a risk of actual bias or prejudgment that the practice must be forbidden if the guarantee of due process is to be adequately implemented.”

The federal statute on disqualification, Section 455(b) , also makes recusal analysis directly applicable to bias imputed to a spouse’s interest in the case. Ms. Thomas and Mrs. Alito (who, according to Justice Alito, is the one who put up the inverted flag outside their home) meet this standard. A judge must recuse him- or herself when a spouse “is known by the judge to have an interest in a case that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.”

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts assured America that “judges are like umpires.”

But professional baseball would never allow an umpire to continue to officiate the World Series after learning that the pennant of one of the two teams competing was flying in the front yard of the umpire’s home. Nor would an umpire be allowed to call balls and strikes in a World Series game after the umpire’s wife tried to get the official score of a prior game in the series overthrown and canceled out to benefit the losing team. If judges are like umpires, then they should be treated like umpires, not team owners, fans or players.

Justice Barrett has said she wants to convince people “that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.” Justice Alito himself declared the importance of judicial objectivity in his opinion for the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overruling Roe v. Wade — a bit of self-praise that now rings especially hollow.

But the Constitution and Congress’s recusal statute provide the objective framework of analysis and remedy for cases of judicial bias that are apparent to the world, even if they may be invisible to the judges involved. This is not really optional for the justices.

I look forward to seeing seven members of the court act to defend the reputation and integrity of the institution.

Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He taught constitutional law for more than 25 years and was the lead prosecutor in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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