Formatting can make up to 15% of your grade, so watch it close.
Correct essay format plays an important role in the overall project success. Proper layout of your essay usually takes around 10% of the overall grade. Formatting alone is unable to ace or fail your paper; however it can make a difference between an A- and a B-grade, or between a D- and an F-grade. Besides making an essay more readable, proper formatting trains student to be attentive to details and to follow fixed academic standards. The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of the correct layout and arrangement of your scholarly paper. It will discuss such important formatting aspects as: paper selection; correct use of margins; title page formatting; page numbering and paragraphs; spacing between lines; indentation; titles of books, magazines, newspapers, or journals; capitalization; table of contents; end of essay and binding your paper.
Use only clean sheets of good quality 8.5" x 11" white paper. Text should be typed on one side only. Do not put any perfume or cologne on the sheets, neither try to decorate the sheets of paper; remember: it's an academic piece of writing. The text of your paper should be double spaced. Approved fonts in MLA include Times New Roman and Arial; font size 12. Approved font for APA is Times New Roman font, size 12, double spaced.
Pay close attention to what your instructor wants you to do. Margins may be different throughout APA, MLA, Harvard referencing styles, so adhering to your professor's instructions is crucial. We will be using MLA format example in this article, as this is the most commonly used format. Normally margins of your essay should be 1" (2.54 cm) at the top, bottom, left and right sides of each and every page. 1" equals to fourteen typed spaces. Exception is made for page numbers which are placed 1/2" (1.27 cm) from the top upper-right hand corner, flushed to the right margin.
A title page is not essential for an essay unless specifically requested by your teacher. The MLA Handbook provides a general guideline on referencing and documenting sources. In case of conflict, you should always follow guidelines set down by your teacher. In some cases, your teacher might prefer that the first page is not numbered. Should this be the case, start numbering at page 2.
Double-space after the date. On a new line, center the title of your essay. If you have a long title, double-space between lines of the title.
Double space again and center the title. Don't underline your title or put it in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case, not in ALL CAPITAL letters.
Use quotation marks and underlining or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text, e.g.,
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play
- Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
Double space between the title and the first line of the text. Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow their guidelines.)
Numbering Pages and Paragraphs
Pages should be consecutively numbered, with numbers put in the upper right hand corner, flushed with the right margin and 1/2" from the top. It's highly advisable that you type your last name just before the page number in case the pages get misplaced. On page 5 of your essay, for example, your top right-hand corner should show: Jackson 5.
For the main body of your paper only Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and not I, II, III, IV, V) are to be used. No fancy decorations are to be used together with a page number – keep it simple. And remember, there is no period after the page number.
Spacing between Lines
In order for your teacher/professor to be able to leave comments your entire paper should be double spaced; don't forget to use 1-inch margins on all sides – this is for your teacher's comments too.
Spacing between Words
In general, leave one space between words and one space after every comma, semi-colon, or colon. Traditionally, two spaces are required at the end of every sentence whether the sentence ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation mark. Although it is not wrong to leave two spaces after a period, it is quite acceptable nowadays to leave only one space after each punctuation mark. However, NO space should be left in front of a punctuation mark.
If typed on a computer, indent your essay with 7 spaces or half an inch (1/2") at the beginning of each paragraph. Indent set-off quotations 10 spaces or one inch (1") from the left margin. Your instructor may give you a choice to indent or not to indent your paragraphs. Whichever one you choose to use, you must be consistent throughout your essay. If you are NOT indenting, you will start each paragraph flush to the left margin. It is essential that you double-space between lines and quadruple-space between paragraphs. Set-off quotations should still be indented 14 spaces or one-inch (1") from the left margin.
Titles of Books, Magazines, Newspapers, or Journals
When used within the text of your paper, titles of all full-length works such as novels, plays, books, should be underlined, e.g. Shakespeare's Theater. Put titles of shorter works in quotation marks: newspaper, journal, and magazine articles, chapters of books, or essays, e.g.: "Giving Back to the Earth: Western Helps Make a Difference in India."
For all title citations, every word, except articles ("a", "an", "the"), prepositions (such as "in", "on", "under", "over"), and conjunctions (such as "and", "because", "but", "however"), should be capitalized, unless they occur at the beginning of the title or subtitle, e.g.: "And Now for Something Completely Different: A Hedgehog Hospital." For complicated details on how to cite titles and quotations within titles, sacred texts, shortened titles, exceptions to the rule, etc. please consult the MLA Handbook.
Writing an Essay in All Capital Letters
Do not write everything in capital letters – simply capitalize when necessary. Unnecessary capitalizing will eventually lead to such problems as: reducing reader comprehension, slowing down reading and consequently - causing irritation.
Table of Contents
A short essay requires no Table of Contents. However, if your written report is getting lengthy, it may be helpful to include a Table of Contents showing the page number where each section begins. A Table of Contents may include the following sections: Introduction, Body (use main section headings), Conclusion (or Summary), Works Cited (or References), along with the corresponding page number where each section begins.
End of Essay
No special word, phrase or fancy symbol is needed to mark the end of your essay. A period at the end of your last sentence is all that is needed.
Binding Your Essay
Sheets of paper should be stapled at the upper left-hand corner. Use a paper clip if no stapler is available. Do not use a pin or fold the paper. If this is a serious paper you might want to have your paper bound. NEVER hand in your essay in loose sheets even if the sheets are numbered and neatly placed in an envelope or folder.
Essay writing is an “art” that needs time and practice to perfect. Don’t beat yourself up if it proves difficult at first, it’s normal. To become an excellent writer, you will need to be persistent and resilient.
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