6 Tips for Writing Better Instagram Posts and Engaging Your Followers

By Devon Brown

Even though I take terrible photos, I was able to build an Instagram audience of over 6,000 followers who actually interact and comment on my posts, want to know how? Captions! For those of us who flunked photography, Instagram gives us 2,200 characters to redeem ourselves.  Here are some tips to help you write captions that will engage your friends, build your audience, and make sure your posts get noticed.

Learn the basics first with these BibMe grammar guides on verbs, adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, and other parts of speech. If you’re still looking for extra help after that, try the BibMe Plus check for grammar and plagiarism.

Pyramid opening

Most people view Instagram on their phones, which means you should design a post made to scroll. One way to catch a reader’s eye is to start small, very small. A single word is almost impossible not to read, follow that with a few more words of interest and you’ve got them hooked.

Pyramid Opening Example:



all my fault.

Go Long

Many Instagrammers keep their captions down to a few words, but if you want to build an audience that keeps coming back, go deeper. Tell a real story, why you took the photo and why you think others might like it.

The Real Deal

Social media is well known for its false depiction of real life. If you want to stand out in the crowd, in addition to going long, keep it honest. People know that life isn’t perfect. If you share your screw ups and hang-ups, with a sense of humor, people will connect to you and want to know more.

Use Emojis

This is not a term paper. A good Instagram caption is about interest, engagement and fun, which is basically the definition of an emoji. Emojis also allow your readers to imagine the words you would use. When people are able to put your thoughts in their own words, they will feel more connected to you.


Repeat readers are the best way to have an active and thriving account. A great way to get readers to come back is to tell a story with a cliffhanger because everyone wants to know what happens next.

Cliffhanger Example:

Everything was perfect until I told him the truth about my…



A great measure of a successful Instagram post is the number of comments it receives. If you want to get a lot of comments on your post, invite people to take part by asking a question. Make sure it’s a question that is easy to answer. The best questions allow people to share their opinions without too large of an emotional investment.


Good Question: Would you tell a truth that could ruin your relationship?

Bad Question: What truth have you told that ruined a relationship?

Note: Once you have built a strong community, you can and should ask more difficult questions, but keep in mind only a few brave souls will answer.

Instagram may be a photo-sharing app, but building community is at its core. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an extra 2,200 characters keeps people connected.  

Looking for an APA citation generator? Maybe you need help creating an MLA citation? Or perhaps you’d like to review an example of an annotated bibliography. BibMe has all of the above and more! Check it out today!

How it’s Possible to Accidentally Plagiarize

We all make mistakes. It’s simply a part of life. One school-related topic that is prone to its fair share of mistakes? Plagiarism. Believe it or not, it’s not hard to mistakenly plagiarize.

Accidental plagiarism is usually the result of being rushed, unorganized, or uninformed about the citation and research process. Whether it’s an accident or an intentional act of plagiarism, the consequences are essentially the same. It can result in a reprimand, failed grade, failed course, or even worse.

There is good news: if you know the causes of accidental plagiarism, you can easily avoid or fix it! Let’s learn three of the most common.

Cause 1:

Dropping research into a document and forgetting you didn’t write it

When scouring the Internet for information, most writers copy and paste information into a paper with the intent of citing it properly later. However, after hours and hours of searching and writing, it’s easy to forget that the copy and pasted text isn’t our own work. It can get lost in the shuffle and left without citations.


If you’re guilty of this, don’t worry, it’s an easy fix. Always make sure to include in-text or parenthetical citations as you’re working, not after. Cite as you write. That extra minute of adding citations while you’re researching could save your grade.

Cause 2:

Pitiful paraphrasing

Paraphrasing can be your BFF when it comes to writing research papers. But it does require time and effort. You have to think through another person’s idea, then rewrite it in your own words and writing style.

That means doing more than just substituting the original author’s words with synonyms, or chopping up a quote and replacing a small part of it with your own words. Both are mistakes and are considered plagiarism. Sometimes, rewriting an idea into something that is close to the original is also plagiarism.

Bottom line: A poorly written paraphrase results in accidental plagiarism.


Here’s a quick how-to guide to creating stellar paraphrases:

1. Read the original author’s idea, quote, or text. Fully grasp the meaning of it. If you’re not grasping the concept, ask a friend for help or use a search engine to read up on the difficult words.
2. After fully comprehending the original author’s information, put it to the side.
3. Write what you read, using your own style and words. It’s okay to take a peek back at the original author’s work, but try to develop your own synopsis!
4. Add an in-text or parenthetical citation, along with a full citation at the end of the project. If you need help formatting your APA citations or MLA citations, check out our fab guides!

Cause 3:

Forgetting to cite

There are so many rules to follow when it comes to research projects. Sources, deadlines, notes, introductions, thesis statements, the list goes on and on. So long in fact that sometimes a pretty important component is forgotten—citations!

Citations should be included in projects anytime another author’s work is referenced. So, if you’re reading through a paper and you come across a statistic, quote, or anything that isn’t common knowledge, a citation should be found nearby. If a piece of information is left hanging, it’s plagiarism.

Mistakes always happen, but when it comes to plagiarism, they’re preventable. Remember to cite as you write, paraphrase properly, and always include citations.

When your research is complete, don’t forget to run your writing assignment through a grammar and plagiarism checker, like the one available with BibMe Plus! This will help ensure that you didn’t miss a citation. You can also check your assignment for grammar errors like a misspelled pronoun, incorrect subject-verb agreement, an uncapitalized proper noun, and more!

3 Types of Plagiarism We Forget About

By Michele Kirschenbaum, Library Media Specialist

You’ve seen it in the news. A musician accused of stealing a song, a politician’s speech picked apart for being similar to another’s, or a plagiarism inquiry into a well-known scientist’s research report. No doubt, being accused of plagiarism is the worst. It’s embarrassing, totally humiliating, and undermines an individual’s talent and authority.

Learning how to prevent plagiarism (and citing in MLA and APA) is something you’ve probably spent time learning in school before. But, did you know there are a few, often overlooked ways to plagiarize? Check out these three types of plagiarism that tend to sneak into assignments:


You might be shocked when you read this, but you can plagiarize yourself! It sounds crazy, but it’s 100% true. Self-plagiarism is the result of recycling your own material without citing it.

It’s totally tempting to hand in a previously submitted research paper as a “new” project, but doing that means you’re not developing the fresh, current research your teacher expects. Also, if your research paper was picked up by an academic journal for publishing, it can become the property of the journal publication.

Can you reuse projects and information from previously written assignments? You sure can! You simply have to cite it the same way you’d cite other sources. Or, if there’s an old paper that would work perfectly for a new assignment, ask your teacher or professor if you can repurpose it and expand upon it in a new way. If you decide to do this, try out BibMe’s thesis citation form.

Poor paraphrasing or patchwriting

Ever tried rewriting an author’s sentence, but it ended up too close to the original? That’s exactly what patchwriting is. In a nutshell, it’s a poor attempt at paraphrasing. While it’s often an innocent mistake, patchwriting usually happens when a writer doesn’t completely comprehend the original author’s words. The writer uses the original author’s idea, but replaces the original text with synonyms. Even if the writer includes an in-text or parenthetical citation, if the paraphrase is too close to the original, then it’s patchwriting, resulting in plagiarism.

How do you paraphrase properly? Here are a few step-by-step guidelines:

  1. Take some time to fully comprehend the original author’s words or idea. If you’re having difficulty with comprehension, use a search engine to read up on tricky words or subject-specific language. Sometimes it helps to ask a friend to clarify what you’re reading.
  2. Once you’ve fully grasped the author’s meaning, put his or her words to the side, and rewrite what you’ve read. Use your own words and style of writing, but weave in the original author’s concepts and ideas.
  3. Include an in-text or parenthetical citation, along with a full text citation at the end of your project.

Here’s an example of a paraphrase that isn’t patchwriting:

Original text from the book, Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson:

“The very first problem the Ptolemies faced was acquisitions. Egypt boasted a long and distinguished culture, and there were books aplenty throughout the land—in Egyptian. There were Greek books to be bought in Athens and Rhodes and other established centers of Greek culture, but not in newly fledged Alexandria. The Ptolomies’ solution was money and royal high handedness.”


As a new, flourishing cultural center, The Library of Alexandria was in need of rich literature from other prominent areas. Where did the Ptolomies look? Greece. The Ptolomies used their money and power to obtain books from nearby Athens and Rhodes (Casson, 2002, p.34).

Full text citation at the end of the assignment:

Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World. Yale UP, 2002, p. 34.

Including full-text citations and forgetting in-text citations

What goes together like peanut butter and jelly? Peas and carrots? Chips and salsa? Let’s give it up for the beautiful duo of in-text and full-text citations. Where there’s one, there has to be the other. Unfortunately, students and scholars sometimes forget to include the total package in their work. Many are guilty of including only full text citations at the end of a project. While that’s helpful, that’s only half the battle.

In-text and parenthetical citations are found in the body of a project, next to a direct quote or paraphrase. They provide readers with a quick glimpse as to who created the original idea, when it was created, and sometimes the page number, depending on the citation style being used. Readers can quickly see the origin of the quote or paraphrased information, and continue reading the research paper, without disturbing the natural flow of the writing.

The in-text citation in the research paper corresponds with the full citation at the end of the assignment.

Here’s an example of an MLA citation in the body of a project :

In the beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that the father’s business is somewhat corrupt, when young Tabby shares, “Daddy likes to have business talks outdoors, away from prying ears” (Egan 32).

The full MLA citation at the end of the assignment looks like this:

Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach, Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Remember, if you include a full citation at the end of the project, there should be a brief citation in the actual text of the paper. And vice versa. Always include both. Don’t leave one citation without its trusty old friend.

Next time you’re prepping for research paper, keep these pesky plagiarism villains at bay. Being accused of plagiarism is pretty embarrassing, but it’s 100% preventable.

When your research is complete, don’t forget to run your writing assignment through a plagiarism checker, like the one you can find right here on BibMe Plus! This will help you not miss a citation or accidentally pick up text from your research. You can also check your assignment for grammar errors like a misspelled pronoun, incorrect subject-verb agreement, an uncapitalized proper noun, and more!

5 Ways to Finish a Paper

And they lived happily ever after.

It’d be awesome if all papers could end that simply. However, be it a 500-word essay, a detailed research paper, or a 10-page report, there are a few fundamental rules when finishing a paper. All good conclusions are a summary of the paper’s main points, they never bring in new information, and they always leave the reader with something to think about based on the facts. Papers with the best grades also take it a step further.

For that extra edge, check out our five ideas for finishing a paper. In all our examples, we’ll assume you wrote a paper on the benefits of improving school lunch programs in the United States.

Don’t forget to finish up by proofreading your paper! BibMe Plus offers a handy grammar and spell check (and MLA and APA format citing tools) you can use 24/7.


You do not have to create every sentence in your paper yourself. In fact, some of the most important information can come from an expert on the subject, a public figure or any individual that plays a strong role in the story you are sharing. Quotes can help you finish with emotion.

Example quote ending:

“We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because, in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children” (Obama).

If you have a bibliography, add a citation for your quote source. It doesn’t matter if it is in MLA format or another style, it’s a good practice to always create citations for information you’ve used.


If you really want your readers to agree with your ideas, end your paper with a question. The best question allows your readers to think for themselves but also leads them to the conclusion you want.

Example question ending:

If the nutrition and quality of school lunches can be improved without budget increases, is there any good reason for them to remain the same?  


You’ve probably seen this type of ending a lot in commercials. Instead of only providing information, you ask your reader to do something. Phrases like: call now, text, and reply are pretty familiar, but any phrase using a command will work.

Example action ending:

Now that you know the benefits of better school lunches, talk to your principal to see what you can do to make a change in your community.


Forecast statements usually begin with the words “when” or “if.” This ending allows the writer to present a theory about the future based on the facts discussed in the paper.

Example forecast ending:

When new school lunches are first introduced, it will take a lot of time and effort to see change nationwide, but each school that succeeds will serve as inspiration to the next. One day, lunches of fatty, processed food will be history.

Big picture

Your paper should focus on a very specific subject, but one way to end your work is to give an example of how your topic could impact the larger world around it. When writing this type of ending, you have to be very careful not to introduce entirely new information.  

Example big picture ending:

The fight to change school lunches is not only about the daily nutrition of our nation’s children, it is an investment in a healthier America for generations to come.

Now that we’ve taught you a few new ways to end your paper, which will you choose?

Before you begin writing, build up your grammatical knowledge with our guides on different parts of speech. Review our examples of interjections, list of determiners, conjunction definition, and other helpful resources.

9 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

By Amanda Marie Clark

The research paper can be intimidating for even the most well-seasoned writer. Working on such a big task isn’t exactly what most of us want to do with our out-of-class time. But you can own that process and come out with a paper you’re proud of. Let’s break up that research paper into steps and make your life a whole lot easier.

1. Choose a topic

You might think this step is common sense, but sometimes that first step is the hardest. Even if your teacher gives you a general subject or topic, you still need to narrow it down.

For example, say your teacher assigns a research paper on volcanoes, that’s a huge topic to cover! Are you looking at why volcanoes erupt? Maybe you’re doing a survey of all the active volcanoes in the world, or are talking about what happens when they die. Obviously, you need to zero in on one thing.

2. Gather sources

So you have a topic. Great! Now it’s time to gather all of your sources. Make sure that you diversify. Prime example: try not to have your sources all be websites or all be authored by the same person. Strong research is built upon diverse sources, authors, observations, and experiments all supporting (or disproving) the same concept. Your teacher will thank you.

Aside from just websites, maybe look at a book, a journal article, videos, maps, etc. That will help you build a good basis for an excellent research paper.  

Don’t forget: make sure your sources are reliable! Consider the credibility of your sources. That includes factors like credibility, relevance, currency, authority, and purpose.

3. Write the bibliography

Waiting to do your bibliography when you’re at the end of writing your paper seems like a good idea, but actually doing them as you gather sources is the way to go.

Why? Because the last thing you want to do is go back through your paper to identify information you need to cite, while also trying to remember where the information came from. Worse still, if you miss or forget to cite a source, it could be considered (accidental) plagiarism. Yikes!

Whether it be in APA or MLA format, the easier and smarter way is to make your citations from the get-go. Also, doing it at the beginning of a project means you will still have steam to properly format and proofread your paper at the end.

4. Take notes

All right, on to the meaty part. After you have your topic and sources, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start taking notes.

So what’s the solution? I found that having a separate page for every source helped. But you might try graphic organizers like T-charts or Cornell notes. Some students also like writing all of their notes with bullets.  

There are many approaches to choose from. So once you find a strategy that works for you, go with it.

5. Write your thesis

Some people like writing their thesis right after finding their topic. This helps them set up a research strategy.

Others like writing the thesis after researching and taking notes. The information gathered helps them look at the topic more clearly and puts them in a better-educated place to come up with a thesis.

Either way is fine as long as it works for you. Just remember that a thesis is a crucial element to a research paper and needs to be done before working on your outline.

You can also think about your thesis as you narrow down your topic and begin to research.

Let’s stick with that volcano paper example. You could form a question like: “How are volcanoes formed?” This allows you to research an answer that you can use as the basis of your thesis.

For more information on how to form a thesis read 4 Simple Steps to Writing a Good Thesis Statement.

6. Write an outline

Outlines help a lot! They get your thoughts in order and provide starting points for writing. When you start to expand on them, the ideas should flow.

An outline organizes your thoughts in note formation. Start by brainstorming the main ideas of each paragraph’s topic sentence and then jot down the main ideas around each topic.  

There are many ways to create a research paper outline. An easy way to approach one is to use numbers for each of your main paragraphs and letters for specific points within each paragraph.

An outline also breaks down the structure of your paper. So your introduction, body paragraphs, and concluding paragraphs should be in their proper places and good to go.

7. Write a rough draft

Next, sit down and start typing a rough draft based on the outline. The outline is the blueprint to your paper; build out each section based on it. Don’t worry too much about punctuation or making total sense, just get some thoughts in full sentences on paper.

Seriously, type and push those thoughts forward while trying not to press backspace.

8. Move on to the second, third…drafts

Now you can get analytical. Go through and start fixing your draft up. 

Try to make sure that everything in your paper relates to your thesis. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

Look for concrete details. That means if you made a claim, support it with research.

After looking over your second draft, take a breather. Don’t try to correct it again for a little while. Your brain needs a break. Go jogging, do some yoga, watch a movie, or sleep on it (if it’s not due the next day). Then go back and reread it.

Repeat this process a couple of times.

Also consider having someone proofread your paper, or even running it through an automated tool like the BibMe Plus grammar checker. It’ll catch the typos and small grammar errors you just didn’t see. Then finish off with a lovely typed, final draft.

9. Hand it in with pride

Lastly, hand in that sparkling, finished research paper with pride because you just gave it your all. And I bet you learned a lot about volcanoes too!

Before you begin typing, refresh your grammar knowledge with our guides on relative pronouns, coordinating conjunctions, prepositions, and other parts of speech.

How to Use Thanksgiving Break Productively

TGFT: Thank goodness for Thanksgiving! Whether you’re spending your break with friends or family, the time off is a nice respite from school. But between forkfuls of pie, you can actually make great use of your school vacation by getting ahead on schoolwork and even making progress toward securing that summer job/internship—yes, that timeline is sneaking up already.

Here are six things you can do over Thanksgiving break to help you return to class feeling ready to take on finals week and secure the perfect summer internship.

Get ahead on schoolwork

Chances are, you have long-term assignments or projects due sometime after Thanksgiving. Get ahead on work—and save yourself from stress down the line—by using your break to complete these. It could be as small as brainstorming research paper topics, or as consuming as finishing an entire presentation. Just target a few assignments you’d like to work on, and bring your books with you if you’re traveling for the holiday. This way, when finals week comes up, you’ll be able to focus on prepping for exams rather than on finishing projects.

Update your resume

Haven’t had the opportunity to add your fall internship or new leadership position to your resume? Now’s your chance. Summer internship and job opportunities for many fields begin to open up in November—so Thanksgiving marks a great moment to ready your resume for the job search.

Start your summer internship/job search

Thanksgiving is early to start your internship or job search—but it’s not too early. Get ahead of the game by scoping out when your target companies begin their recruiting cycles. Add important dates—like application openings and deadlines—to your calendar, so that you’re able to have everything in before the due date.

Pro tip
: Cover letters and writing samples can be time-consuming to craft, and Thanksgiving is a great time to work on them both! If writing isn’t your strong suit, this grammar and
plagiarism checker can help review your letter so you send it off with more confidence.

Catch up on missed readings

If you’ve managed to fall behind in any of your classes, it’s not too late to catch up before finals week begins! If you’re leaving school for the holiday, shove those textbooks into your carry-on suitcase or toss them in the backseat of the car before you head out of your dorm room for the break. Take careful notes that will help you when it comes time to study for final exams.

Pro tip: if you’re doing readings for a research paper, start citing sources as you take notes. It’ll make it MUCH easier later when you write your paper and need to create an
MLA works cited, an annotated bibliography, or a reference list in APA format or Chicago style format.

Get some extra sleep

Yes, you read that tip right! Feeling tired after completing the majority of the fall semester? Now’s the time to get the sleep you haven’t recouped since midterm season. Try getting a full eight hours of sleep every night during the break—and try to wake up naturally, not from the sound of a buzzing alarm. That way, you’ll go into finals season feeling refreshed, rather than burnt-out.

Take some me-time

Thanksgiving break provides a good time to get ahead for the quickly approaching finals week, but it also marks an opportunity to finally take a breather after making it through the majority of a busy semester. Sprawl out on the couch and watch a few Thanksgiving episodes of “Friends,” or go for a jog in the park. Thanksgiving break is a break, after all, and self-care is important. After completing most of the fall semester, you’ve earned some time for rest and relaxation before hunkering down for finals week.

Want to step up your writing game? Learn more about subject-verb agreement, what a predicate adjective is, how to use demonstrative pronouns, and other grammar points with BibMe’s grammar guides!

Bounce Back From a Bad Paper Grade

Nothing’s more frustrating than getting a bad grade on a paper, especially if you thought you nailed it until you saw the offending mark.

But if you get a bad grade on a paper, there’s no need to write off the class itself—you can get your overall grade back up with a better performance on the next assignment. Try the tips here to help you bounce back from that bad grade!

Turn your next paper in with more confidence by running it through the BibMe Plus grammar and
plagiarism check. It’ll suggest writing edits and flag unintentional plagiarism. You can also start building your grammar knowledge with our guides on pronouns, prepositions, adverbs, and other parts of speech.

1. Don’t Panic

Remember: One bad grade doesn’t define you. It can be difficult to keep a level head after you receive an unfortunate mark, but it’s important to try your best. Take a minute to be upset, and feel free to vent to a friend or family member. However, make sure to take time to cool down so you don’t end up blowing up at your professor.

Try to use that frustration as motivation to do better. Below are a few strategies you can use.

2. Read Over the Comments

If your professor or teaching assistant left detailed comments on your paper, don’t ignore them. Read through all of the suggestions carefully so you can get an idea of what needs to be improved. Use those remarks to inform your future writing, and analyze whether there’s a common theme among all of your mistakes.

2. Talk to Your Professor

Getting a bad mark on a paper can be frustrating, but you shouldn’t take out those frustrations on your teacher. Take the time to talk to your professor and discuss what you did right, what you did wrong, and how you can improve. For subsequent essays, you could meet with your professor or a teaching assistant in advance to come up with a game plan. If you’re intimidated to speak with your professor, see if your college has a writing center. A writing center’s main purpose is to effectively help you work on your writing and papers.

3. Reflect Upon the Situation

Think back to when you initially wrote the paper, and figure out what went wrong. Did you spend an adequate amount of time on the essay? Did you try writing your paper with the TV blaring? Reflect upon how you ended up writing the essay you wrote, and try to figure out what you can do to improve the writing process.

4. Get Some Perspective

For a student who did especially well in high school, a C+ on a research paper might seem like a unsurmountable disappointment. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a C is average. Ask your professor if there’s a curve for the class.

5. Have a Friend Read Over the Next Paper

While you should trust your own instincts when it comes to paper writing, it’s also helpful to have a pal in your class read over your paper before giving it to your professor for review. If you have a friend who did well on the paper you bombed, ask them if you can read over what they wrote to get a better sense of what your professor is looking for.

6. Pay Mind to Spelling and Grammar

Although spelling and grammar may seem relatively unimportant, they can make a big difference when it comes to your final paper grade. For your next paper, make sure to carefully comb through the essay, and make sure to at least run it through spell check before sending it off.

Stressed about creating citations for your paper? BibMe has your back! It’s the APA and MLA citation generator you’ve been looking for. If you need another style like Harvard, Chicago style format, and others, BibMe has thousands of styles to choose from.

Sweet and Spooky Superstition Origins

Whether you’re the logical type who only knocks on wood at front doors, or wary individual who wouldn’t dream of scheduling a job interview on Friday the 13th, Halloween is a time when superstitions take center stage. No matter where you are on the superstitious-versus-skeptical spectrum, these beliefs can teach us a lot about history and culture. So here’s a little Halloween history lesson on the origins of six of the most-common superstitions.

It’s pretty traumatizing to see your well-researched paper marked up with red edits everywhere! Perfect your paper before turning it in with the BibMe Plus grammar and anti-plagiarism tool. Or start off slow by learning the basics of verbs, pronouns, nouns, interjections, and more!

Fear of Friday the 13th

Fridays make most of us go “Woo hoo!” since it’s the end of the school or work week. But, for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, Fridays are something to fear when they happen on the 13th day of the month.

Friday has long been considered bad luck because it is the day of the week Jesus died. In Britain and ancient Rome, Friday was also known as Hangman’s Day because it was usually when prisoners sentenced to death were hanged. Fear of the number 13, or triskaidekaphobia, can likewise be associated with Christianity because Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. Numerologists also say 13 gets a bad rap because it falls directly after 12, which is considered a complete number—there are 12 months in a year, 12 signs in the zodiac, 12 numerals on a clock, etcetera. So the number 13 is beyond complete, which is freaky, especially when it falls on a Friday.

It’s Bad Luck to Walk Under a Ladder

How can something so average be so intimidating? It’s scary enough to make most of us walk around—and not under—a ladder without even realizing it. Well, it all started in Egypt.

In ancient Egypt, the triangle—the shape formed by a ladder leaning against a wall—was considered sacred because it represented the trinity of the gods. So traipsing  through the triangle was blasphemous. Later, Christians adopted the superstition, applying it to the Holy Trinity. And because there was a ladder propped against Jesus’ cross, they equated a leaning ladder with betrayal and death.

Walking under a ladder is also thought to be bad luck because it resembles a gallows. In fact, criminals sentenced to death in 17th century England were forced to walk under a ladder on their way to the hangman. Finally, there are perfectly practical reasons for not strolling under a ladder, which could hold a handyman and heavy tools or wet brushes and buckets of paint.

A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Brings Bad Luck

This superstition seems to also have roots in ancient Egyptian culture, where people revered cats of every color and actually thought a black cat crossing your path was a harbinger of good luck to come. But black felines fell out of favor in the Middle Ages, when many thought the animals served as “familiars” of witches or were witches in cats’ clothing—certainly not something you’d want to cross. Puritans brought the belief to America, where black cats and witches are still seen as partners in Halloween decorations and Hollywood productions.

Knocking on Wood Helps Ward Off Bad Luck

“I haven’t failed a test this semester, knock on wood.”

“Yes! I found the perfect study spot no one else knows about yet, knock on wood.”

These days, we knock on wood after talking about some fortunate event or circumstance to keep their good luck going. The origins of this practice date back to a time when trees were worshipped or mythologized in many cultures. For instance, pagans in Europe practiced noisy rituals in the forest to chase evil spirits away and to keep those spirits from catching wind of good luck and turning it sour. Other tree worshippers laid their hands on a tree when asking for a favor from the gods that lived inside it or to give thanks for a run of good fortune. Over time, these superstitions have evolved into knocking on any wooden surface to keep bad luck at bay.

Finding a Four-Leaf Clover Is Good Luck

The common clover has long been seen as a sign of good things to come, with the Celts viewing it as a symbol of spring and rebirth. Later, Saint Patrick used it as a visual to explain the balance between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while converting people to Christianity across Ireland.

But the more rare four-leaf clover has an equally storied history. Druids, who were the educated class among ancient Celts, believed carrying one allowed them to spot demons and ward off evil spirits. Some even believe that Eve carried a four-leaf clover from the Garden of Eden when she left. So people who find a four-leaf clover today are carrying a little piece of paradise in their pockets.   

Breaking a Mirror Brings Seven Years of Bad Luck

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, are you bad luck after all?”

Sure, sharp shards of glass are dangerous, but why do some people believe breaking a mirror will bring bad luck long after the glass is swept away? The origin of the superstition dates back to the days when people thought mirrors provided a reflection of not just physical features, but your soul. So if you broke a mirror, you’d also do damage to yourself. Though seven is considered a significant and often lucky number in many cultures, it’s bad luck in this case because the Romans believed a person’s health ran in seven-year cycles. Therefore, it would take that long for your soul to repair itself and help you shed your shattered luck.

So if you plan to attend a Halloween party this year, be careful not to break any mirrors while donning your costume. If you do, maybe you should keep an eye out for four-leaf clovers to help turn your luck around.

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How to Cite Your Teacher’s (or Anyone’s) Email

In today’s world, it’s super common for teachers to communicate with students via email. Assignments and papers are often submitted this way, and lecture notes can be easily shared with the entire class all at once. So, how would you cite this type of communication in your paper?

To cite an email from your teacher, you should make note of the following pieces of information:

  1. Your teacher’s name
  2. Title/subject of the email
  3. Recipient’s name (You!)
  4. Date sent

Below, we present the citation structure and an example in MLA, APA, and Chicago style format.

Need help citing other types of sources? Check our our helpful guides on BibMe.org, such as this one, on how to write an annotated bibliography.


Structure for MLA style:

Teacher’s Last Name, First Name. “Subject Line of Email.” Received by Your First Name Last Name, Date Sent.


Olsen, Mary. “Re: Midterm Homework Assignment.” Received by Jonas Bonds, 15 Mar. 2015.


In APA style, no personal communication is included as an entry in your reference list. Instead, parenthetically cite your teacher’s name, the phrase “personal communication,” and the date of the communication as an in-text citation.


(Teacher’s First Initial. Last Name, personal communication, date sent).

(E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).


Like in APA style, you do not need to include a reference in your bibliography for personal communications like emails. Instead, include the reference as a footnote at the bottom of the page.


  1. Teacher’s First Name Last Name, e-mail message to class, Date sent.


  1. Patricia Burns, e-mail message to class, December 15, 2008.

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10 Next-Level Study Tips for Acing Tests

By Caleigh Propes

Sometimes studying can be rewarding, but usually it’s just really tiring! Most of us dread those hours going over facts for a history exam or working out problems for a math quiz. Use the tips below to make studying just a little bit easier, and see your confidence skyrocket!

1. Make a Playlist

While jamming to your favorite top 40 songs might make studying more fun, studies show that classical music is actually better to listen to while studying. Try making a playlist of softer piano or string quartet pieces to make you relaxed and give your brain a boost while studying. Also, putting in your headphones will block out any outside noises that could be distracting you. 

2. Consider Your Timing

Think about your own habits. Are you a nocturnal night owl or an eager early riser? Both have benefits—early risers may have more energy, but night owls often have study spaces to themselves. Use your own natural rhythms to your advantage, and plan your studying around when you work best. This may mean getting up earlier or sleeping in later, so make sure you prepare by getting adequate rest the night before a big day of studying.

3. Eat Brain Food, Not Junk Food

Eating while studying can be the best thing ever, but it depends on what you choose to nosh on. Some foods are great study snacks that can keep you energized, while others will make you feel sluggish and heavy. Try eating snacks like air-popped popcorn, fruits and vegetables, and nuts to get the boost you need. Avoid candy, chips, and other empty calories that will make you crash. If you need some caffeine, try green tea. It is full of anti-oxidants and won’t leave you crashing like sugary lattes or energy drinks.

4. Check Online for Materials

If you are taking a class with a lot of other students, it is likely that some of them have posted study resources online, especially if this course is offered year after year. These materials could help compliment your own notes or resources. Also, you can always be proactive and reach out to friends in your class to make a shared study guide.  

5. Cite Sources AS You Study

For any project that requires academic sources (like a research paper), be smart about how you handle them and keep a list of sources from the start. It’s easiest to make a bibliography and add to it as you go along, rather than waiting until the end when you may forget an in-text citation or accidentally lose track of a source. Websites like BibMe are great for making citations in APA, MLA, Chicago style format, and other styles.

6. Use Website Blockers

It’s super easy to lose time looking through Instagram or your Facebook feed when you should really be studying. If you’re guilty of this, try using a website blocker app on your computer. You can set which websites you want to block and for how long. You are sure to have a more productive study session if you unplug for a little while, so give this a try if you need just a little nudge to keep yourself on track. Keeping your phone out of reach helps too! 

7. Don’t Study in Your Bed or on Your Couch

Your room can be a really convenient place to study. After all, it’s your home away from home! However, nothing is more tempting during a full day of studying than a nap, and staying away from your bed while studying can prevent you from a three-hour detour. Studies even show that students that study in their beds are more likely to have lower GPAs! 

8. Set Goals

If you have a big exam coming up, it is important to plan out your studying. Think at least a week in advance, and pencil in times each day with specific benchmarks for your progress. For example, you may want to study three concepts a day or one chapter a day, depending on how your course is broken up. Setting goals and planning in advance will give you confidence, ensure that you have all of the material covered, and keep you from scrambling at the last second.

9. Know When to Study With Friends

Studying with friends can be great! However, it might be better to spend your first few days studying alone, making sure to master each concept. When you feel more confident, consider making a study group to review all of the concepts a few days before a big test. Here, each person can try to explain a concept to the group. After all, the best way to know if you have a topic mastered is to see if you can explain it! Think about choosing classmates with similar work ethics, even if you aren’t best friends. This will help you stay on track and work hard without the distraction of a friend who is a little bit behind you in their progress.

10. Go the Extra Mile

Teachers often hold review sessions or office hours before tests, so make sure to put these dates in your calendar and attend if possible. Teachers are also usually open to meeting with students one-on-one or answering questions via email, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Studying on your own is not always enough, and with the expert at your disposal, don’t be shy! Go the extra mile and use any bonus opportunities to your advantage.

If you’ve got a big test in your future, don’t freak. Studying is a process that can be long and daunting, but once you’ve got it down, it’s so rewarding. With these strategies and a positive attitude, you are sure to ace your next exam and make yourself proud.

Writing instead of studying? Get a little writing help with the grammar and plagiarism checker available with BibMe Plus! If you’re still in the beginning stages of writing, brush up on grammar with our guides on prepositional phrases, possessive pronouns, interjections, and other parts of speech.