Essay Format for Beginners 

Essay format is not the most important part of the paper. Unlike content, which is usually worth 40-70% of the grade, the format is only 10% of overall success. Nevertheless, this aspect of the writing process can indeed make a difference and be the decisive factor in whether you will receive A or B and even whether you will pass or not. Reading this article, you will find out how such insignificant but powerful things as margins, headings, essay layout, indentations, etc., may be used for own advantage and creating a visually attractive piece of writing.

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Importance of Formatting

Students usually succumb to the temptation of procrastination and start writing a paper at the very last minute. When the essay is ready, the deadline is about to expire. Being tired and afraid to miss the chance to submit the paper, students ignore formatting and provide untidy and chaotic papers. However, just as people are always judged by what they wear first, your essay is primarily evaluated based on how it looks. Professor first scans the paper and only then starts reading.

If the paper does not look neat, the instructor will definitely know that you were in a rush. Besides, he/she might think that you do not care much about his/her subject and do not take the assignments seriously. Obviously, these are not the things that will be beneficial for you or your grade. On the contrary, a good-looking paper might make the professor less strict and forgiving when there are some issues with the content. When he/she is not sure what grade to put, B or C, for example, a proper format will be an argument in your favor.

When Formatting is Correct

Formatting is considered appropriate when it conforms to the rules of one of the formatting styles, namely MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard. Usually, professors specify which style to use in the requirements to an essay. In case such information is absent, use MLA or APA since they are the most commonly used ones. These styles are applied to ensure consistency and simplify reading. Thus, if an essay is formatted in APA, it will look the same way regardless of who wrote it, a college student or a person holding a Master's degree.

The guidelines that each of the styles provides are different, but they concern the same elements of the paper. They are spacing between the lines, intervals between paragraphs, margins, page numbers, headers and footers, indentation, font as well as its size, referencing, in-text citations, etc. These rules can be found in guides that each of these styles has. There are their hard copies, but it is much easier to find relevant information on the Internet. You should search for data regarding each of the mentioned aspects specifically, but a few general essay format rules can be found here.

  • Page Numbers

Each paper of your essay should have a page number. In most cases, the numbers should be in the upper right corner of a page placed half an inch from the right margin and the top. To avoid the situation when one of the pages is lost irretrievably in a pile of other papers, put your surname near the page number, for instance, "Johnson 1." Do not use Roman numeral, i.e., II, III, IV, even if they seem more complicated. Keep your essay simple when it comes to formatting and, thus, use Arabic figures (1, 2, 3...), do not underline page numbers or put a period after them.

  • Spacing and Margins

Set one-inch margins at the top, bottom, both left and right sides. Moreover, make sure to use double-spacing unless required differently. Such a large amount of space is needed for your professor to be able to leave comments and recommendation regarding your writing. Without feedback, you will not manage to improve and advance your writing skills in any way. Moreover, double-spacing simplifies the reading process and prevents eyes strain.

Spaces between the words and paragraphs. There should be only one space between words in a sentence. Spaces should also be properly used with punctuation marks. Do not put space before comma, period, colon, and semicolon but always insert it after all of them. Until recently, it was required to put two spaces after a period at the end of the sentence. However, currently, it is not obligatory, which saves a great deal of time for you. Still, you might want to ask your professor regarding this requirement just in case he/she turns out to be a conservative. The intervals between paragraphs are not required if you use double-spacing.

  • Indentation

Each professor has own preferences regarding indentation. Some of them love it when a paragraph is left-flushed while others want it to be indented by half an inch. If your instructor does not specify what indentation he/she is willing to see in your essay, you may ask. If you decide not to ask, just be consistent throughout the paper. It means that if you start with left-flushed paragraphs, they should be as such at the end of the essay as well. Block quotes, i.e., those that are rather long, require indentation. They should be indented by an inch from the left margin. If you use spaces to make indentation, seven spaces equal to half an inch while ten will do for an inch.

  • Titles

There is very high likelihood that you will use titles in your essay, for instance, that of a book under review or source, which you use as a reference. The formatting of titles differs for long and short works. If it is a long full-size text, e.g., a play, book, newspaper or journal title, it should be in italics if your essay is typed or underlined if the paper is handwritten. Short works, such as poems, and those that are a part of some bigger containers, e.g., an article in a newspaper or a magazine, a chapter in a book, should be presented in quotation marks. If you have doubts whether a specific text qualify as a long or short work, consult a style guide.

  • Capitalization

In headings and titles, you will have to use capitalization. While it is obligatory in titles, it may or may not be used in headlines. The recommendation is, however, not to use it if it is not mandatory. There are other ways that allow emphasizing an idea but obstruct reading less. In titles, capitalization should be used carefully as well. The first letter of a word should be capitalized unless it is: a) an article (the, a, an); b) a conjunction (but, and, etc.); c) a preposition (on, in, of, over, at, etc.). If a titles start with the word that is subject to the exception, capitalize it anyway.

  • Table of Contents

Usually, a table of content is not required since as a student, you will not write too long essays. Nerveless, it is very lengthy and has many sections, it is appropriate and even necessary to provide a table of contents. You will have to include an introduction, body with each section and subsection being named, conclusion, and, of course, References or Works Cited page. Each part of the table of contents should be assigned a page number.

  • Ending an essay

Creativity might be relevant in the content of an essay, but it is definitely redundant when it comes to essay format. You might be tempted to write "the End" or "Thank you for your attention" after the last sentence. However, there is a high probability that it will annoy your professor. He/she might not understand that you did it to make the essay less mundane or to express happiness that you feel upon completing the daunting task. Therefore, do not add anything at the end.

  • Binding

Make sure that pieces of paper with your precious essay on them are strongly bound. If you ignore this step and submit the paper not joint together, be ready to the fact that some pages will be lost or scrambled. You may use a stapler or a paper clip to make sure your professor reads the entire text, not only the passages that he/she managed to find. Such a simple thing as binding or its absence may be the reason of your A or F grade.

How to Make It Right

There are two ways you can actually ensure that your paper has a proper essay format. First, you should start writing an essay as early as possible, create a schedule, and have at least a couple of days in it devoted to formatting. Then, you will need to find information about the style and use only reliable online sources. With proper guidelines at hand, you will have to spend hours and hours of looking for a rule that you specifically need and correcting formatting. The second approach is easier, less time-consuming, and much less stressful. You may just ask us, people who deal with such things as formatting every day, to help make your essay look perfect. Place an order at, indicate that you want the service of format editing, pay a reasonable price, and relax while professionals do the job for you.

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