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How to Format an Essay Properly: Examples of Formatting

Written by Bonnie Adair
Posted: September 12, 2021
Last update date: March 22, 2024
9 min read

Definition of a Perfect Essay Format

A big challenge facing new college students is understanding the rules of academic writing. The numerous citation styles, formatting options and courses can overwhelm a first-year student. In university, lecturers teach you to properly reference previous literature and how to navigate bibliographies and module handbooks.

Students find that the proper essay format can be time-consuming as there are various options and standard essay examples to follow. An extra item to add to your to-do list when you’ve procrastinated most of the deadline away.

Common types you’ll need to master are argumentative, narrative, comparison, and the English basic essay format. So where do you start on the journey to essay perfection? You can start here with this manual. PapersOwl knows it can be tricky to figure out how to write an essay. So, we’ve put together this how-to guide to ensure you are prepared for any college assignment and can get it done right the first time.

Your module coordinator for each class you take will have two categories to direct you on how to write your papers. The first is the citation style. Some examples are APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard and depending on the discipline you study.

These guides instruct you on how to title your papers, have font requirements, reference your sources, and plan a good essay outline, among other things. The second is the type of academic essay format you need. Some papers may carry a particular theme or style to support this goal and include specific sections to meet your essay formatting requirements. There are a few parts of the structure, so let’s look.

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Essay Structure

A structure of an essay is a series of guidelines that determine how your paper should be arranged. As a rule, all essays will have an introduction and a conclusion. Essays that flow follow the introduction, body, and conclusion method. In the opening of your essay, the goal is to set up what you will discuss so it’s easy to follow.

It’s critical to be interesting yet appropriate so you don’t devalue your work. Provide information, but do so in a way that encourages the reader to continue. Most introductions will close with a thesis statement that encompasses the body of your paper. So, the first paragraph, where you introduce your subject and include a thesis statement is typical.

The body of your paper may differ. Research papers, for instance, will include information related to the methods and results of your work. A typical one will have three body paragraphs highlighting a few points supporting your thesis. In all essays, the conclusion gives a verdict on the body of the paper and provides a few points to go home with.

When plotting out the format of the essay, there are some tricks to improve your workflow. Using lists is a great way to break up long-winded text into scannable information that jumps out to the reader. You can write the headings first: an introduction, thesis statement, body of your essay, and conclusion. You can also use lists for setting definitions. It is important to provide a terminology list to ensure that everyone in your audience is kept in the loop and can understand the terms you are using. This is especially important when writing college essays for money, as it is essential to ensure that the reader is able to comprehend the information you are conveying. To create a terminology list, identify any terms that may be unfamiliar to your reader and provide a brief explanation of each. This will help to avoid any confusion and make sure your message is effectively communicated.

Simple Essay Format Requirements

Getting used to essay formatting can take time and patience. We’ve listed out some typical requirements depending on your discipline. The following items are compliant with APA or MLA, two of the most popular types you’ll come across in your homework assignments. We’re discussing essays that usually consist of a five-paragraph essay with an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Size of paper: The volume of your essay is given in a word count. In business, one page is 500 words, whereas, in academia, a page is typically 275 words double-spaced.

Font type and font size: The suggested [read: required] font for your tasks is a 12-point Times New Roman font. You’ll see the word “suggested” in the different style guides. We advise that if your university suggests something, you should follow it.

Spacing: APA and MLA both require double-spaced text, hence the shorter word count per page. This allows your professor to mark up your essay layout with ample space.

Margins: Both types require 1” margins all around your paper.

Header: MLA does not require a particular header, but APA uses what is called a running head. Headers will contain a shortened title, less than 50 characters, and the page number.

The difference between MLA and APA essay format

When students first encounter these styles, they often wonder why it makes a difference which guidebook to use. Both formats share many similarities and have the means to cite references, so what’s the correct format for an essay?

The critical difference between the two is that the APA format cares about when things happen. You’ll find the APA citation is more strict regarding dates. This is because, in the social sciences, research can be rendered obsolete. Imagine a study on homosexual relationships from the 19th century, for example. Academic writing formats from this period is different and could send a reader on the hunt for information that isn’t relevant. Adding the date of publication helps fellow scholars reference the modern era.

MLA, on the other hand, considers essay formats to be timeless and has a focus on who and where. Typical for an English-format essay. A lot of literature is considered timeless, and little significance is considered for the era it was written.

APA includes:

  • The author’s last name
  • The date of publication
  • (Exception!) Quotations include page numbers for reference

MLA includes:

  • The author’s last name
  • Page number

Essay in MLA Format

How to format an essay? Formatting guidelines can take a lot of work to wrap your head around. Let’s break down the MLA format for the essay first. It can be hard to visualize an MLA essay format, so we recommend you check out a few before trying your own. A proper structure is critical. It’s the standard format for essays in English courses. When formatting an essay, it’s essential to ensure you match your format for an essay with the required citation style of a standard essay format.

  • Font Size: 12pts Times New Roman
  • Spacing: use double spaces
  • No double spacing between paragraphs
  • Heading: Put the heading on the first page of the essay. Your essay prompt, your name, your Professor’s name, your class for this essay and the date.
  • Margins: The top, bottom, left and right of the page must have a one-inch margin.
  • Page Numbers: add the header to write your last name and the page number.
  • Title: Format it by entering the title centered and above the opening line of your paper in the same font and size of the essay itself.
  • Indentation: A half inch, and you can press “tab” to indent with each new paragraph.
  • Align: Alignment is to the left side of the page and even throughout.

APA Essay Format

  • Title Page: Also known as cover. Add the essay’s title, your name and university. Usually, it’s a good idea to insert the date, course title and instructor name here too.
  • Headings: Put your proper heading for essay in bold and titlecase, unless your instructor has other requirements.

Chicago Style

This essay writing format differs from the others, as the Chicago essay format involves footnotes instead of in-text citations. It’s useful to look at the formatting of standard citation styles like the Chicago style format essay and Chicago format title page before you start writing your essay.

  • Title Page: The Chicago Style essay format loves space. So, halfway down the page insert your title with regular text. If it’s a long title, ensure it is double-spaced.
  • Center your full name in the middle
  • Below, enter your college course title, instructor’s name and the date in separate double-spaced lines.
  • Margins: The one-inch margin on all sides of the page.
  • Spacing: Double space the entire essay.
  • Leave no extra spaces, particularly between paragraphs and before punctuation.
  • Font Size: 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Page Numbers: Last name and page number in the heading of each page at the top right-hand side of the document. (Not just the heading on the first page of an essay!)
  • No numbering of the title page. The text’s proper first page should start at 2.
  • Footnotes: Paraphrased or quoted passages must have footnotes.
  • Bibliography: Similar to MLA, you gather the proper information of your citations and add it to the bottom of your page, using the “footnote” option in Word.
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How to Format Title Page in Essay

MLA does not mandate a title page and it should not be included unless specified by your instructor. Simply put your name, teacher’s name, the course, and the date in your essay. That’s all there is to it. With APA, it’s different; title pages are required. Your title page will include at the top your running head, preceded by the words “running head”. It will also include the page number on the right side of the running head with your short title on the left of your essay. Then in the dead center, state your name, course, institution, and date. The Chicago style essay format also uses title pages in essay writing.

Different Fonts in Essay – How to Use Them?

You must comply with the academic paper format when dressing up your font. We may habit-bolding any points we want to reinforce or using italics to have words stand out. According to the APA style guide, you should use italics for the work titles and never use quotation marks. You should also be careful with bold-faced text and reserve it for your paper’s organizational headings. You may also use italics when using technical words where the meaning of a word may be confused. Using the proper format consistent with other academic work will ensure your text is easy to read, so do not deviate from best practices.

Citing Sources in Essay: How to Format Citations Properly

Depending on your paper, you may need to reference various resources. Your text should always identify the content owner whenever possible. Here are some examples of citations in APA format:

How to format song titles in an essay?

Songwriter F.M. (Copyright year). Song title [Recorded by F.M. Last (performer’s name/musical group)]. On Album title [Medium of recording]. City, State of label: Record label name.

Turner, T. (1987). Where do we go? [Recorded by Tina Turner]. On Cassette Tape. Los Angeles, California: Do Right Records.

Format of movie titles

Producer, A. (Producer), & Director, A. (Director). (Release Year). Title of motion picture [Motion Picture]. Country of Origin: Studio

Roanoke, J. (Producer), & Mills, A. (Director). (2004). First Strike [Motion Picture]. United States: Miramax

Citing the title of a book in your essay

Last, F. M. (Year Published) Book. City, State: Publisher

Cortez, H. (1967). The Liquidators. New York, NY: Penguin House.

Format a poem

Cleveland, J. (1972). To the state of love or the senses festival. In H. Gardner (Ed.), The metaphysical poets (pp. 218-220). Harmonsworth: Penguin

Hardy, T. (1930). The collected poems of Thomas Hardy (4th ed.). London: Macmillan

Play title format

Playwright last name, First initial. (Year published). Play title. In Editor first initial. Last name (Ed.), Publication Title (Page numbers). Publication City: Publisher.

Miranda, L. (2016). Hamilton: an American musical. In J. McCarter (Ed.), Hamilton: the revolution (pp. 11-18). New York: Grand Central Publishing

Generate Citations
Journal article
Newspaper article
Book section or chapter
Encyclopedia article
Magazine article

How to Format Quotes in Essay?

Formatting quotes is another excellent resource for your paper essay format. When referencing other research, you can include direct quotes and cite them properly to give your work more authority. APA and MLA differ in their methods for quotes in an essay, so be sure to look at examples before writing your perfect academic essay. Short quotes in MLA formatting should encapsulate the text with quotation marks indicating the author and page number.

With APA, you should not use quotes and italicize the text with a lead-in statement, such as Jones stated in 2009, direct quotation, for example.

Understanding essay formatting styles is a large part of the university experience. Follow the advice in this guide to improve your skills and get better grades. Feel free to use this essay format example as a template when writing future papers. You’ll get started quickly and have more time to fine-tune your work. Moreover, here you can find original essays for sale written by professional writers who are ready to help you with your academic needs. In the end, if you need a hand, professional writers for hire are here to serve your academic needs.

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