Basic Essay Formats
Professors require certain format for their essays, because that is what they want. It is your job to study the style guide that you have been given, or to do the research to find out exactly what the format “rules” are. There are loads of Internet sources for format styles, with lots of examples, so you should have no difficulty getting it right. And, remember this: professors ask for specific styles for a reason. You don’t need to know the reason – you just need to do it if you want a top grade. No matter how good your essay might be, if you have not followed the format specifications, your grade will be lower.
Below are the basics of the two most common college essay formats - MLA and APA.
- Use Times New Roman – 12 pt. font
- Margins should be 1-inch all around
- Double-space the text
- Indent the first line of each paragraph
- There is no separate title page. All of your title information is placed in the upper left hand corner of the first page, which each item on a separate line, double-spaced. In this order, place your information:
Date of Submission
- The title of your essay should be centered, double-spaced below the left-hand information. You then double space and begin the text of your essay.
- Each page of you essay should be noted in the upper right hand corner, beginning with page 1. Starting with page 2, the upper right hand corner pagination should include your last name and then the page #.
- 12 pt. Times New Roman Style
- 1-inch margin on all sides
- Double-spaced with indented first lines of every paragraph
- You will need a separate title page with very specific format.
- In the upper left corner, you will need to place a shortened form of your title. This is going to be a running header, so be certain you set it up through your word processing program.
- In the upper right-hand corner will be your page numbers. Your title page is page #1.
- Centered halfway down the page will be your longer title, under that your name, and under that the name of your school, all centered.
Occasionally a professor will have his own unique format for college essay writing preference. Humor him/her and use that format – it will be worth a better grade.
There are other format styles – Chicago, Harvard, and Turabian to name a few – but it is rare that they will be required in undergraduate coursework. And today, MLA is becoming the preferred style.
Your best bet is to get a style guide for the format or look up the style online – you’ll find plenty of examples. A college essay format may not seem important to you, but it is to your professors!