Learn the Standard Essay Format: MLA, APA, Chicago Styles
Being able to write an essay is a vital part of any student's education. However, it's not just about linearly listing ideas. A lot of institutions will require a certain format that your paper must follow; prime examples would be one of a basic essay format like MLA, the APA, and the Chicago formats. This article will explain the differences between the MLA format, the APA format, and the Chicago format. The application of these could range from high school to college essays, and they stand as the standard of college essay formatting. EssayPro — dissertation services , that will help to make a difference!
What is an Essay Format: Structure
Be it an academic, informative or a specific extended essay - structure is essential. For example, the IB extended essay has very strict requirements that are followed by an assigned academic style of writing (primarily MLA, APA, or Chicago):
- Abstract: comprised of 3 paragraphs, totaling about 300 words, with 100 words in each.
- ~ Paragraph 1: must include a research question, thesis, and outline of the essay’s importance.
- ~ Paragraph 2: Key resources, scope and limits of research, etc.
- ~ Paragraph 3: Conclusion that you’ve already reached in your essay.
- Table of Contents (with page numbers)
- ~ Research question
- ~ Introduction
- ~ Arguments
- ~ Sub-headings
- ~ Conclusion
- ~ Works cited (bibliography)
- ~ The research question is required
- Bibliography (Works Cited)
This outline format for an extended essay is a great example to follow when writing a research essay, and sustaining a proper research essay format - especially if it is based on the MLA guidelines. It is vital to remember that the student must keep track of their resources to apply them to each step outlined above easily. And check out some tips on how to write an essay introduction .
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How to Write an Essay in MLA Format
To write an essay in MLA format, one must follow a basic set of guidelines and instructions. This is a step by step from our business essay writing service
- Font : 12pt Times New Roman
- ~ Double spaced everywhere
- ~ No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs
- Heading : Example of the heading on the first page of the essay (upper left corner)
- ~ Your name (John Smith)
- ~ Teacher’s / Professor’s name (Margot Robbie)
- ~ The class (Depends on course/class)
- ~ Date (20 April 2017)
- Margins : One-inch margin on the top, bottom, left and right.
- Page Numbers : Last name and page number must be put on every page of the essay as a “header”. Otherwise, it would go in place of the text.
- Title : There needs to be a proper essay title format, centered and above the first line of the essay of the same font and size as the essay itself.
- Indentation : Just press tab (1/2 inch, just in case)
- Align : Align to the left-hand side, and make sure it is aligned evenly.
It’s important to remember that the essay format of MLA is usually used in humanities, which differs from other types of academic writing that we’ll go into detail later. For now, feast your eyes upon an MLA format essay example:
Essay in MLA Format Example
Mla format digital technology and health, mla vs. apa.
Before we move on to the APA essay format, it is important to distinguish the two types of formatting. Let’s go through the similarities first:
- The formatting styles are similar: spacing, citation, indentation.
- All of the information that is used within the essay must be present within the works cited page (in APA, that’s called a reference page)
- Both use the parenthetical citations within the body of the paper, usually to show a certain quote or calculation.
- Citations are listed alphabetically on the works cited / reference page.
What you need to know about the differences is not extensive, thankfully:
- MLA style is mostly used in humanities, while APA style is focused more on social sciences. The list of sources has a different name (works cited - MLA / references - APA)
- Works cited differ on the way they display the name of the original content (MLA -> Yorke, Thom / APA -> Yorke T.)
- When using an in-text citation, and the author’s name is listed within the sentence, place the page number found at the end: “Yorke believes that Creep was Radiohead’s worst song. (4).” APA, on the other hand, requires that a year is to be inserted: “According to Yorke (2013), Creep was a mess.”
Alright, let’s carry over to the APA style specifics.
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How to write an essay in apa format.
The APA scheme is one of the most common college essay formats, so being familiar with its requirements is crucial. In a basic APA format structure, we can apply a similar list of guidelines as we did in the MLA section:
- Spacing : Double-space that bad boy.
- Margins : One Inch margins on all sides.
- Page Numbers : Insert a header at the top left of every page that includes a shortened title of your essay, below 50 characters including punctuation. Slap a number in there too (top right corner).
- Title Page : Title of the paper, author’s name, institutional affiliation. Additional information may be required, such as course title, instructor name and date.
- Headings: All headings should be written in bold and titlecase. Different heading levels have different additional criteria to apply.
You can also ask us to write or rewrite essay in APA format if you find it difficult or don't have time.
Note that some teachers and professors may request deviations from some of the characteristics that the APA format originally requires, such as those listed above.
Note that some teachers and professors maybe have deviations to some of the characteristics that the APA format originally requires, such as those listed above.
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Essay in APA Format Example
Apa format chronobiology, chicago style.
The usage of Chicago style is prevalent in academic writing that focuses on the source of origin. This means that precise citations and footnotes are key to a successful paper.
Chicago Style Essay Format
The same bullet point structure can be applied to the Chicago essay format.
- ~ Chicago style title page is all about spacing.
- ~ Down the page should be the title, with regular text. If longer than one line, double-spaced.
- ~ Next, in the very middle, center your full name.
- ~ Down the page - course number, instructor’s name and the date in separate double-spaced lines.
- Margins : Use one-inch margins apart from the right side.
- ~ Double spaced everywhere.
- ~ No extra spaces, especially between paragraphs.
- Font : Times New Roman is the best choice (12pt)
- Page Numbers
- ~ Last name, page number in the heading of every page on the top right
- ~ Do not number the title page. The first page of the text should start with a 2.
- Footnotes : The Chicago format requires footnotes on paraphrased or quoted passages.
- Bibliography : The bibliography is very similar to that of MLA. Gather the proper information and input it into a specialized citation site.
Tips for Writing an Academic Paper
There isn’t one proper way of writing a paper, but there are solid guidelines to sustain a consistent workflow. Be it a college application essay, a research paper, informative essay, etc. There is a standard essay format that you should follow. For easier access, the following outline will be divided into steps:
Choose a Good Topic
A lot of students struggle with picking a good topic for their essays. The topic you choose should be specific enough so you can explore it in its entirety and hit your word limit if that’s a variable you worry about. With a good topic that should not be a problem. On the other hand, it should not be so broad that some resources would outweigh the information you could squeeze into one paper. Don’t be too specific, or you will find that there is a shortage of information, but don’t be too broad or you will feel overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for help with your essay writing.
Start Research as Soon as Possible
Before you even begin writing, make sure that you are acquainted with the information that you are working with. Find compelling arguments and counterpoints, trivia, facts, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to gathering information.
Pick out Specific, Compelling Resources
When you feel acquainted with the subject, you should be able to have a basic conversation on the matter. Pick out resources that have been bookmarked, saved or are very informative and start extracting information. You will need all you can get to put into the citations at the end of your paper. Stash books, websites, articles and have them ready to cite. See if you can subtract or expand your scope of research.
Create an Outline
Always have a plan. This might be the most important phase of the process. If you have a strong essay outline and you have a particular goal in mind, it’ll be easy to refer to it when you might get stuck somewhere in the middle of the paper. And since you have direct links from the research you’ve done beforehand, the progress is guaranteed to be swift. Having a list of keywords, if applicable, will surely boost the informational scope. With keywords specific to the subject matter of each section, it should be much easier to identify its direction and possible informational criteria.
Write a Draft
Before you jot anything down into the body of your essay, make sure that the outline has enough information to back up whatever statement you choose to explore. Do not be afraid of letting creativity into your paper (within reason, of course) and explore the possibilities. Start with a standard 5 paragraph structure, and the content will come with time.
Ask for a Peer Review of Your Academic Paper
Before you know it, the draft is done, and it’s ready to be sent out for peer review. Ask a classmate, a relative or even a specialist if they are willing to contribute. Get as much feedback as you possibly can and work on it.
Before handing in the final draft, go over it at least one more time, focusing on smaller mistakes like grammar and punctuation. Make sure that what you wrote follows proper essay structure. Learn more about argumentative essay structure on our blog. If you need a second pair of eyes, get help from our service.
Read also our movie review example and try to determine the format in which it is written.
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- How to structure an essay: Templates and tips
How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates
Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.
Table of contents
The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.
There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.
Parts of an essay
The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.
Order of information
You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.
The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.
For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.
The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.
The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.
The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.
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The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.
A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.
Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.
- Thesis statement
- Discussion of event/period
- Importance of topic
- Strong closing statement
- Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
- Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
- Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
- High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
- Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
- Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
- Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
- Implications of the new technology for book production
- Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
- Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
- Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
- Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
- Summarize the history described
- Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period
Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.
There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.
In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.
The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.
- Synthesis of arguments
- Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
- Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
- Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
- Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
- Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
- Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
- Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
- Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
- Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
- Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
- Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
- Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go
In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.
The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.
- Point 1 (compare)
- Point 2 (compare)
- Point 3 (compare)
- Point 4 (compare)
- Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
- Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
- Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
- Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
- Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
- Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
- Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
- Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues
An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.
This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.
The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.
- Introduce the problem
- Provide background
- Describe your approach to solving it
- Define the problem precisely
- Describe why it’s important
- Indicate previous approaches to the problem
- Present your new approach, and why it’s better
- Apply the new method or theory to the problem
- Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
- Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
- Describe the implications
- Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
- Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
- Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
- Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
- Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
- Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
- Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
- Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
- This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
- This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
- It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
- Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it
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Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows. It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.
The essay overview
In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.
The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .
Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.
Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.
Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.
Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.
… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.
However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.
The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.
Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:
- The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
- The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.
It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.
You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.
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Essay Writing Guide
Last updated on: Jun 16, 2023
Essay Format: Detailed Writing Tips & Examples
By: Nova A.
Reviewed By: Jacklyn H.
Published on: Jan 22, 2019
Essay writing is an inevitable part of a student’s life. Students dread it the most as they get overwhelmed with the thought of crafting several essays in a short amount of time.
What students don’t realize is that writing a good essay isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Academic essays are a product of grouping different ideas, arguments and presenting them logically with the help of a format.
So let’s begin with the blog!
On this Page
What is an Essay Format?
A proper essay format defines a set of guidelines that will be used to create an overall structure and how the elements of your paper will be arranged.
A standard format for essay writing follows a linear approach where each idea is presented to make it more reader-friendly. If you learn how to structure an essay effectively, half of the work will be taken care of.
The essay structure dictates the information presented to the reader and how it will be presented. Your professor defines the essay format that needs to be followed, as it is unique for a different essay.
Formatting an Essay - Standard Guidelines
To format an essay properly, you must have a proper structure, including an introduction, thesis statement, body of your essay, and conclusion. Also, a title page, works cited page, text capitalization, proper citations, and in-text citations using MLA or APA format.
Here, we have discussed the standard essay formatting guidelines that you should follow.
- The one-inch margin on all sides of the page.
- Line spacing (e.g., single spacing or double spacing).
- Specific font style and size like New Times Roman 12pt.
- Page headers containing the author’s last name, page numbers, and essay title.
- Heading and subheading.
- The indentation should be half an inch.
How to Format an Essay Title Page?
When writing a paper’s title page, keep in mind the following guidelines for different formatting styles:
MLA Style Essay Format
- Use double-spacing. Do not single-space your page
- Use 12 pt. font, Times New Roman font style
- Write your high school/college name centered and top
- Title of your essay, centered. Followed by a subtitle
- Your name, course name and number, your instructor’s name, and the submission date
Check out this video to learn how to setup your MLA format essay!
APA Essay Format
- Running head - TITLE 1 (written in ALL CAPS)
- 1” margins from all sides of the page
- Times New Roman, 12 pt. size font
- Title of your essay
- Name of your institute
Chicago Essay Format
- Center the title of your research paper.
- Center your name directly under the title.
- Your teacher's name, the course title, and the date should be written in three lines.
- Use Times or Times New Roman 12 pt font
- Do not put a page number
Formatting the First Page of an Essay
Consider the following tips to format the first page of your essay.
- Add the header to write your last name and the page number. The header goes on the right-hand corner of the page, leaving half-inch space from the top. This holds for all pages of the essay except for the works cited page.
- In the upper left-hand corner, state your name, instructor’s name, followed by the course, and the date.
- Write the title in the center.
- Use double-space and start writing the essay.
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Essay Outline Format
A typical essay is a five-paragraph essay with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Here, the body comprises three paragraphs that hold the main argument, ideas, and supporting evidence.
Once you get the hang of crafting such essays, writing longer, complex essays will become simpler. A 5 paragraph essay format looks like this:
- Start your introduction by introducing your topic, provide some background information on it.
- Use a linking sentence to connect it with the thesis.
- Your thesis statement should provide a description of the paper and the main argument.
- Keep the font size 12, Times New Roman.
In each body paragraph, highlight and discuss a separate idea. Start with a topic sentence and provide supporting facts and evidence to support it logically. And indent the first line of every body paragraph.
In this section, you summarize the entire paper and restate the thesis statement. Avoid introducing new ideas at this stage of the essay. Instead, give the reader something to ponder over or a call to action.
Don't forget to add the header and the page numbers to every page.
Have a look at the detailed blog about the essay outline to give you a better understanding.
Outline Your Way to Writing Excellence!
How to Cite an Essay?
It is necessary to cite different sources when using someone else’s words in your paper. It could be in the form of a direct quote, paraphrased, or summarized text. To avoid plagiarism and show the reader the authenticity of what you are talking about, you must cite your sources.
There are different citation styles and rules. Make sure to use the one specified by your teacher.
Here we will discuss in-text citations in APA and MLA format. With in-text citations, the sources are cited within the body paragraphs. Let’s have a look at how it is done:
- Author or publisher’s last name, followed by the date and paragraph number.
- List the author name or publisher, date, and page number.
- Include a comma after the author’s name and date.
“Darwin's theory of evolution is false and inconsistent. (Taylor, 2018, p. 5).”
- Mention the author’s last name.
- It is followed by the page number.
“Darwin's theory of evolution is false and inconsistent. (Taylor, p. 5).”
Chicago Style Format
- Mention the first name of the author, followed by the last name.
- Mention the title of the essay after this.
Albert Einstein, The Meaning of Relativity, (p. 44–45).
To know more regarding the differences between these two citation formats, we have a detailed guide on APA vs. MLA that will help you clarify the concepts further.
How to Draft the Works Cited Page?
Once you are done writing your essay, the last page is for the works cited. Here you enlist all the sources used to write the essay.
- Arrange the sources in alphabetical order.
- Use double spaces for the entire list.
- Use hanging indention.
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Essay Format Examples
To increase your understanding of the format required for different essay types and formats, we have added a few examples. Below are sample essays with the proper essay format that you can use.
College Essay Format Template
MLA Format Essay Example
Short Essay Format Example
Essay Format For University
Different types of Essays Format:
Argumentative Essay Format
Persuasive Essay Format
Narrative Essay Format
Expository Essay Format
Compare and Contrast Essay Format
Descriptive Essay Format
If you are still confused about the essay writing format, it is advisable to seek professional assistance. The expert essay writers at 5StarEssays.com are equipped to draft an essay according to different formatting styles.
All you have to do is to reach out to them and request ‘ write an essay for me ’ In return, you will get an A-grade-worthy paper in no time.
Place your order now and get rid of all your academic worries.
As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.
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How to Format an Essay
Last Updated: August 26, 2022 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Carrie Adkins, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Carrie Adkins is the cofounder of NursingClio, an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog that connects historical scholarship to current issues in gender and medicine. She completed her PhD in American History at the University of Oregon in 2013. While completing her PhD, she earned numerous competitive research grants, teaching fellowships, and writing awards. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 79,001 times.
You’re opening your laptop to write an essay, knowing exactly what you want to write, but then it hits you—you don’t know how to format it! Using the correct format when writing an essay can help your paper look polished and professional while earning you full credit. There are 3 common essay formats—MLA, APA, and Chicago Style—and we’ll teach you the basics of properly formatting each in this article. So, before you shut your laptop in frustration, take a deep breath and keep reading because soon you’ll be formatting like a pro.
Setting Up Your Document
- If you can’t find information on the style guide you should be following, talk to your instructor after class to discuss the assignment or send them a quick email with your questions.
- If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts.
- Most word processors default to 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins.
- Do not change the font size, style, or color throughout your essay.
- Change the spacing on Google Docs by clicking on Format , and then selecting “Line spacing.”
- Click on Layout in Microsoft Word, and then click the arrow at the bottom left of the “paragraph” section.
- Using the page number function will create consecutive numbering.
- When using Chicago Style, don’t include a page number on your title page. The first page after the title page should be numbered starting at 2.  X Research source
- In APA format, a running heading may be required in the left-hand header. This is a maximum of 50 characters that’s the full or abbreviated version of your essay’s title.  X Research source
- For APA formatting, place the title in bold at the center of the page 3 to 4 lines down from the top. Insert one double-spaced line under the title and type your name. Under your name, in separate centered lines, type out the name of your school, course, instructor, and assignment due date.  X Research source
- For Chicago Style, set your cursor ⅓ of the way down the page, then type your title. In the very center of your page, put your name. Move your cursor ⅔ down the page, then write your course number, followed by your instructor’s name and paper due date on separate, double-spaced lines.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Double-space the heading like the rest of your paper.
Writing the Essay Body
- Use standard capitalization rules for your title.
- Do not underline, italicize, or put quotation marks around your title, unless you include other titles of referred texts.
- A good hook might include a quote, statistic, or rhetorical question.
- For example, you might write, “Every day in the United States, accidents caused by distracted drivers kill 9 people and injure more than 1,000 others.”
- "Action must be taken to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving, including enacting laws against texting while driving, educating the public about the risks, and giving strong punishments to offenders."
- "Although passing and enforcing new laws can be challenging, the best way to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving is to enact a law against texting, educate the public about the new law, and levy strong penalties."
- Use transitions between paragraphs so your paper flows well. For example, say, “In addition to,” “Similarly,” or “On the other hand.”  X Research source
- A statement of impact might be, "Every day that distracted driving goes unaddressed, another 9 families must plan a funeral."
- A call to action might read, “Fewer distracted driving accidents are possible, but only if every driver keeps their focus on the road.”
- In MLA format, citations should include the author’s last name and the page number where you found the information. If the author's name appears in the sentence, use just the page number.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- For APA format, include the author’s last name and the publication year. If the author’s name appears in the sentence, use just the year.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- If you don’t use parenthetical or internal citations, your instructor may accuse you of plagiarizing.
- At the bottom of the page, include the source’s information from your bibliography page next to the footnote number.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Each footnote should be numbered consecutively.
- If you’re using MLA format , this page will be titled “Works Cited.”
- In APA and Chicago Style, title the page “References.”
- If you have more than one work from the same author, list alphabetically following the title name for MLA and by earliest to latest publication year for APA and Chicago Style.
- Double-space the references page like the rest of your paper.
- Use a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) if your citations are longer than one line. Press Tab to indent any lines after the first.  X Research source
- Citations should include (when applicable) the author(s)’s name(s), title of the work, publication date and/or year, and page numbers.
- Sites like Grammarly , EasyBib , and MyBib can help generate citations if you get stuck.
You might also like.
- ↑ https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/392149/WE_Formatting-your-essay.pdf
- ↑ https://content.nroc.org/DevelopmentalEnglish/unit10/Foundations/formatting-a-college-essay-mla-style.html
- ↑ https://camosun.libguides.com/Chicago-17thEd/titlePage
- ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/page-header
- ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
- ↑ https://www.uvu.edu/writingcenter/docs/handouts/writing_process/basicessayformat.pdf
- ↑ https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/cruzmayra/basicessayformat.pdf
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html
- ↑ https://library.menloschool.org/chicago
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Essay writing: Formatting
- Analysing questions
- Planning & drafting
- Revising & editing
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Essays are formal documents and should look professional Advice from the Skills Team
Whilst there are no hard rules about how you format essays, there are some conventions and common practices that are best to follow. If you use the settings on this page, you will produce an acceptably formatted essay.
Margins - between 2 cm and 2.54 cm (1 inch) all around.
Line spacing - either 1.5 or double-line spacing.
Paragraph spacing - either 1 clear line between or at least 8 pt space after each paragraph (more if double-line spaced)
Alignment - left aligned (fully justified with a straight right-edge is not recommended as this reduces readability and accessibility). Some longer essays may require subheadings which should also be left-aligned.
Indents - no indents on first lines of paragraphs are needed.
It is also good practice to put your student number and module number in the header of the document and a page number at the bottom of the page.
Font - the default font that comes with MS Word (currently Calibri) is fine for academic work. You may see persistent advice in handbooks that suggests you should use Times New Roman or Arial. If you prefer these, you can change it - but this is no longer a requirement.
Font size - fonts should be 11 or 12 point.
Font style - headings and subheadings, if they are required (most essays will not use them), are usually formatted in bold and should be at least 2 point sizes larger than the standard text. Underlining should be avoided as this is seen as rather dated. Some text can be formatted in italics - see our page Italics, when to use them , for guidance.
Shorter quotations in the text do not need to be italicised and should have double-quotations marks "like this" to indicate they are direct quotations. Longer quotations (what counts as this differs depending on your referencing style) should be created in their own paragraph, single spaced and indented by 1cm from both left and right margins:
Graduate attributes for employability are described as:
a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy. (Yorke, 2006)
The main change in this definition compared to the earlier definition of graduate attributes from Bowden (2000) is that that the attributes are no longer ...
Your reference list should be in alphabetical order (by author surname) and single line spaced. There should be a clear line space (or at least 6 pt space) between each reference. All references should be left-aligned with no indentation. For information about how to format individual references, see the Harvard Hull Referencing Guide.
Your reference list should be in alphabetical order (by first author surname) and single line spaced. All references should be left-aligned and have a hanging indent (all but the first line are indented by approx. 1cm). For information about how to format individual references, see the Footnotes Hull Referencing Guide.
Other referencing styles
Please see your individual departmental guidance.
We provide here a Microsoft Word template that can be used for your essays. It has the correct layout and formatting, including useful styles.
- Essay template
Download this template to somewhere you can access easily. When you click to open it, it will open a new document based on the template , leaving the original intact.
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Basic essay structure
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Organise your essays to demonstrate your knowledge, show your research and support your arguments.
Essays are usually written in continuous, flowing, paragraphed text and don’t use section headings. This may seem unstructured at first, but good essays are carefully structured.
How your assignment content is structured is your choice. Use the basic pattern below to get started.
An essay consists of three basic parts:, introduction.
The essay itself usually has no section headings. Only the title page, author declaration and reference list are written as headings, along with, for example, appendices. Check any task instructions, and your course or unit handbook, for further details.
Content in assignment introductions can vary widely. In some disciplines you may need to provide a full background and context, whereas other essays may need only a little context, and others may need none.
An introduction to an essay usually has three primary purposes:
- To set the scene
- To tell readers what is important, and why
- To tell the reader what the essay is going to do (signposting)
A standard introduction includes the following five elements:
- A statement that sets out the topic and engages the reader.
- The background and context of the topic.
- Any important definitions, integrated into your text as appropriate.
- An outline of the key points, topic, issues, evidence, ideas, arguments, models, theories, or other information, as appropriate. This may include distinctions or contrasts between different ideas or evidence.
- A final sentence or two which tells the reader your focal points and aims.
You should aim to restrict your introduction to information needed for the topic and only include background and contextual information which helps the reader understand it, or sets the scene for your chosen focal points.
In most essays you will have a considerable range of options for your focus. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability to select the most relevant content to address your focal points.
There are some exceptions. For example, if an assignment brief specifically directs the essay focus or requires you to write broadly about a topic. These are relatively rare or are discipline-specific so you should check your task instructions and discipline and subject area conventions.
Below are examples of an opening statement, a summary of the selected content, and a statement at the end of the introduction which tells the reader what the essay will focus on and how it will be addressed. We've use a fictional essay.
The title of our essay is: 'Cats are better than dogs. Discuss.'
To submit this essay you also would need to add citations as appropriate.
Example of opening statements:
People have shared their lives with cats and dogs for millenia. Which is better depends partly on each animal’s characteristics and partly on the owner’s preferences.
Here is a summary of five specific topics selected for the essay, which would be covered in a little more detail in the introduction:
- In ancient Egypt, cats were treated as sacred and were pampered companions.
- Dogs have for centuries been used for hunting and to guard property. There are many types of working dog, and both dogs and cats are now kept purely as pets.
- They are very different animals, with different care needs, traits and abilities.
- It is a common perception that people are either “cat-lovers” or “dog-lovers”.
- It is a common perception that people tend to have preferences for one, and negative beliefs about and attitudes towards, the other.
Example of closing statements at the end of the introduction:
This essay will examine both cats’ and dogs’ behaviour and abilities, the benefits of keeping them as pets, and whether people’s perceptions of their nature matches current knowledge and understanding.
Main body: paragraphs
The body of the essay should be organised into paragraphs. Each paragraph should deal with a different aspect of the issue, but they should also link in some way to those that precede and follow it. This is not an easy thing to get right, even for experienced writers, partly because there are many ways to successfully structure and use paragraphs. There is no perfect paragraph template.
The theme or topic statement
The first sentence, or sometimes two, tells the reader what the paragraph is going to cover. It may either:
- Begin a new point or topic, or
- Follow on from the previous paragraph, but with a different focus or go into more-specific detail. If this is the case, it should clearly link to the previous paragraph.
The last sentence
It should be clear if the point has come to an end, or if it continues in the next paragraph.
Here is a brief example of flow between two summarised paragraphs which cover the historical perspective:
It is known from hieroglyphs that the Ancient Egyptians believed that cats were sacred. They were also held in high regard, as suggested by their being found mummified and entombed with their owners (Smith, 1969). In addition, cats are portrayed aiding hunters. Therefore, they were both treated as sacred, and were used as intelligent working companions. However, today they are almost entirely owned as pets.
In contrast, dogs have not been regarded as sacred, but they have for centuries been widely used for hunting in Europe. This developed over time and eventually they became domesticated and accepted as pets. Today, they are seen as loyal, loving and protective members of the family, and are widely used as working dogs.
There is never any new information in a conclusion.
The conclusion usually does three things:
- Reminds your readers of what the essay was meant to do.
- Provides an answer, where possible, to the title.
- Reminds your reader how you reached that answer.
The conclusion should usually occupy just one paragraph. It draws together all the key elements of your essay, so you do not need to repeat the fine detail unless you are highlighting something.
A conclusion to our essay about cats and dogs is given below:
Both cats and dogs have been highly-valued for millenia, are affectionate and beneficial to their owners’ wellbeing. However, they are very different animals and each is 'better' than the other regarding care needs and natural traits. Dogs need regular training and exercise but many owners do not train or exercise them enough, resulting in bad behaviour. They also need to be 'boarded' if the owner is away and to have frequent baths to prevent bad odours. In contrast, cats do not need this level of effort and care. Dogs are seen as more intelligent, loyal and attuned to human beings, whereas cats are perceived as aloof and solitary, and as only seeking affection when they want to be fed. However, recent studies have shown that cats are affectionate and loyal and more intelligent than dogs, but it is less obvious and useful. There are, for example, no 'police' or 'assistance' cats, in part because they do not have the kinds of natural instincts which make dogs easy to train. Therefore, which animal is better depends upon personal preference and whether they are required to work. Therefore, although dogs are better as working animals, cats are easier, better pets.
Download our basic essay structure revision sheet
Download this page as a PDF for your essay structure revision notes
Better Essays: Signposting
Paragraphs main body of an assessment
How Should I Format My University Essay ?
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How should i format my university essay.
Students are often unsure of exactly how they should format their essays, assignments and reports for university if they haven’t been given specific or precise guidelines by their lecturers or tutors.
Luckily, there is a standard way to format essays for university that is generally accepted across Australian and New Zealand universities. This article will explain what you need to do to follow those most commonly accepted guidelines.
Your font should be Times New Roman or Arial. Don’t use anything fancy, and avoid Calibri and Cambria. Even though Word has set these as the default fonts, they are generally not the preferred font to use at university.
Your essay should be at least 1.5 line spaced, and often double spacing is preferred. This is to give your grader enough room to make corrections or write comments for you in the spaces in between, if they are grading on hard copy. If they are grading electronically, that spacing just makes the document easier to read on screen.
For an essay or assignment, in which you might only have one to three levels of headings, you might follow these guidelines:
Heading 1 (Centred, bold, size 14)
Heading 2 (left aligned, bold, size 12)
Heading 3 (left aligned, bold and italics, size 12)
You can either use a first-line indent of 1.27 cm at the start of each paragraph or you can use a line space between each paragraph, but don’t use both.
Keep your margins set as the default used by Word, or at a minimum 2.54 cm all around. If your tutor or lecturer is grading on paper, they might appreciate a 4 cm left-hand margin so they have more room to write comments for you in the margins.
If you need any further assistance with essay editing, you can read more about our professional editing service . Capstone Editing is always here to help.
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- Academic Skills
- Essay writing
Six top tips for writing a great essay
An essay is used to assess the strength of your critical thinking and your ability to put that thinking into an academic written form. This resource covers some key considerations when writing an essay at university.
While reading a student’s essay, markers will ask themselves questions such as:
- Does this essay directly address the set task?
- Does it present a strong, supported position?
- Does it use relevant sources appropriately?
- Is the expression clear, and the style appropriate?
- Is the essay organised coherently? Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?
You can use these questions to reflect on your own writing. Here are six top tips to help you address these criteria.
1. Analyse the question
Student essays are responses to specific questions. As an essay must address the question directly, your first step should be to analyse the question. Make sure you know exactly what is being asked of you.
Generally, essay questions contain three component parts:
- Content terms: Key concepts that are specific to the task
- Limiting terms: The scope that the topic focuses on
- Directive terms: What you need to do in relation to the content, e.g. discuss, analyse, define, compare, evaluate.
Look at the following essay question:
Discuss the importance of light in Gothic architecture.
- Content terms: Gothic architecture
- Limiting terms: the importance of light. If you discussed some other feature of Gothic architecture, for example spires or arches, you would be deviating from what is required. This essay question is limited to a discussion of light. Likewise, it asks you to write about the importance of light – not, for example, to discuss how light enters Gothic churches.
- Directive term: discuss. This term asks you to take a broad approach to the variety of ways in which light may be important for Gothic architecture. You should introduce and consider different ideas and opinions that you have met in academic literature on this topic, citing them appropriately .
For a more complex question, you can highlight the key words and break it down into a series of sub-questions to make sure you answer all parts of the task. Consider the following question (from Arts):
To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?
The key words here are American Revolution and revolution ‘from below’. This is a view that you would need to respond to in this essay. This response must focus on the aims and motivations of working people in the revolution, as stated in the second question.
2. Define your argument
As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument.
Consider these two argument statements:
The architectural use of light in Gothic cathedrals physically embodied the significance of light in medieval theology.
In the Gothic cathedral of Cologne, light served to accentuate the authority and ritual centrality of the priest.
Statements like these define an essay’s argument. They give coherence by providing an overarching theme and position towards which the entire essay is directed.
3. Use evidence, reasoning and scholarship
To convince your audience of your argument, you must use evidence and reasoning, which involves referring to and evaluating relevant scholarship.
- Evidence provides concrete information to support your claim. It typically consists of specific examples, facts, quotations, statistics and illustrations.
- Reasoning connects the evidence to your argument. Rather than citing evidence like a shopping list, you need to evaluate the evidence and show how it supports your argument.
- Scholarship is used to show how your argument relates to what has been written on the topic (citing specific works). Scholarship can be used as part of your evidence and reasoning to support your argument.
4. Organise a coherent essay
An essay has three basic components - introduction, body and conclusion.
The purpose of an introduction is to introduce your essay. It typically presents information in the following order:
- A general statement about the topic that provides context for your argument
- A thesis statement showing your argument. You can use explicit lead-ins, such as ‘This essay argues that...’
- A ‘road map’ of the essay, telling the reader how it is going to present and develop your argument.
"To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?"
Historians generally concentrate on the twenty-year period between 1763 and 1783 as the period which constitutes the American Revolution [This sentence sets the general context of the period] . However, when considering the involvement of working people, or people from below, in the revolution it is important to make a distinction between the pre-revolutionary period 1763-1774 and the revolutionary period 1774-1788, marked by the establishment of the continental Congress(1) [This sentence defines the key term from below and gives more context to the argument that follows] . This paper will argue that the nature and aims of the actions of working people are difficult to assess as it changed according to each phase [This is the thesis statement] . The pre-revolutionary period was characterised by opposition to Britain’s authority. During this period the aims and actions of the working people were more conservative as they responded to grievances related to taxes and scarce land, issues which directly affected them. However, examination of activities such as the organisation of crowd action and town meetings, pamphlet writing, formal communications to Britain of American grievances and physical action in the streets, demonstrates that their aims and actions became more revolutionary after 1775 [These sentences give the ‘road map’ or overview of the content of the essay] .
The body of the essay develops and elaborates your argument. It does this by presenting a reasoned case supported by evidence from relevant scholarship. Its shape corresponds to the overview that you provided in your introduction.
The body of your essay should be written in paragraphs. Each body paragraph should develop one main idea that supports your argument. To learn how to structure a paragraph, look at the page developing clarity and focus in academic writing .
Your conclusion should not offer any new material. Your evidence and argumentation should have been made clear to the reader in the body of the essay.
Use the conclusion to briefly restate the main argumentative position and provide a short summary of the themes discussed. In addition, also consider telling your reader:
- What the significance of your findings, or the implications of your conclusion, might be
- Whether there are other factors which need to be looked at, but which were outside the scope of the essay
- How your topic links to the wider context (‘bigger picture’) in your discipline.
Do not simply repeat yourself in this section. A conclusion which merely summarises is repetitive and reduces the impact of your paper.
Although, to a large extent, the working class were mainly those in the forefront of crowd action and they also led the revolts against wealthy plantation farmers, the American Revolution was not a class struggle [This is a statement of the concluding position of the essay]. Working people participated because the issues directly affected them – the threat posed by powerful landowners and the tyranny Britain represented. Whereas the aims and actions of the working classes were more concerned with resistance to British rule during the pre-revolutionary period, they became more revolutionary in nature after 1775 when the tension with Britain escalated [These sentences restate the key argument]. With this shift, a change in ideas occurred. In terms of considering the Revolution as a whole range of activities such as organising riots, communicating to Britain, attendance at town hall meetings and pamphlet writing, a difficulty emerges in that all classes were involved. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the extent to which a single group such as working people contributed to the American Revolution [These sentences give final thoughts on the topic].
5. Write clearly
An essay that makes good, evidence-supported points will only receive a high grade if it is written clearly. Clarity is produced through careful revision and editing, which can turn a good essay into an excellent one.
When you edit your essay, try to view it with fresh eyes – almost as if someone else had written it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you clearly stated your argument in your introduction?
- Does the actual structure correspond to the ‘road map’ set out in your introduction?
- Have you clearly indicated how your main points support your argument?
- Have you clearly signposted the transitions between each of your main points for your reader?
- Does each paragraph introduce one main idea?
- Does every sentence in the paragraph support that main idea?
- Does each paragraph display relevant evidence and reasoning?
- Does each paragraph logically follow on from the one before it?
- Is each sentence grammatically complete?
- Is the spelling correct?
- Is the link between sentences clear to your readers?
- Have you avoided redundancy and repetition?
See more about editing on our editing your writing page.
6. Cite sources and evidence
Finally, check your citations to make sure that they are accurate and complete. Some faculties require you to use a specific citation style (e.g. APA) while others may allow you to choose a preferred one. Whatever style you use, you must follow its guidelines correctly and consistently. You can use Recite, the University of Melbourne style guide, to check your citations.
- Germov, J. (2011). Get great marks for your essays, reports and presentations (3rd ed.). NSW: Allen and Unwin.
- Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for students in Higher Education [online]. Retrieved January 2020 from http://www.uefap.com
- Williams, J.M. & Colomb, G. G. (2010) Style: Lessons in clarity and grace. 10th ed. New York: Longman.
* Example introduction and conclusion adapted from a student paper.
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English Composition 1
The proper format for essays.
Below are guidelines for the formatting of essays based on recommendations from the MLA (the Modern Language Association).
- Fonts : Your essay should be word processed in 12-point Times New Roman fonts.
- Double space : Your entire essay should be double spaced, with no single spacing anywhere and no extra spacing anywhere. There should not be extra spaces between paragraphs.
- Heading : In the upper left corner of the first page of your essay, you should type your name, the instructor's name, your class, and the date, as follows: Your Name Mr. Rambo ENG 1001-100 18 January 2022
- Margins : According to the MLA, your essay should have a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, left, and right.
- Page Numbers : Your last name and the page number should appear in the upper right corner of each page of your essay, including the first page, as in Jones 3 . Insert your name and the page number as a "header." Do not type this information where the text of your essay should be.
- Title : Your essay should include a title. The title should be centered and should appear under the heading information on the first page and above the first line of your essay. The title should be in the same fonts as the rest of your essay, with no quotation marks, no underlining, no italics, and no bold.
- Indentation : The first line of each paragraph should be indented. According to the MLA, this indentation should be 1/2 inch or five spaces, but pressing [Tab] once should give you the correct indentation.
Putting all of the above together, you should have a first page that looks like the following:
Copyright Randy Rambo , 2022.