The primary tool for predicting infectious disease spread and intervention effectiveness is the mass action susceptible-infected-recovered model of Kermack & McKendrick. Its usefulness derives largely from its conceptual and mathematical simplicity; however, it incorrectly assumes that all individuals have the same contact rate and partnerships are fleeting. In this study, we introduce edge-based compartmental modelling, a technique eliminating these assumptions. We derive simple ordinary differential equation models capturing social heterogeneity (heterogeneous contact rates) while explicitly considering the impact of partnership duration. We introduce a graphical interpretation allowing for easy derivation and communication of the model and focus on applying the technique under different assumptions about how contact rates are distributed and how long partnerships last.