How to format an essay

Before ending your work session, remember to save back up copy to A:drive or flash drive.

  1. Click on the Microsoft Word icon on the computer screen
  2. After Microsoft Word loads, click on “Format” at the top of the screen and then on “Paragraph”
  3. In the “Paragraph” box, click inverted triangle next to “Line Spacing” and then click on “Double” from the drop down menu
  4. Click on “View” at top of screen and then click on “Header and Footer”
  5. You should now be in the “Header” box. Hold down the “Ctrl” button (on bottom of keyboard near the space bar), and press down the letter “R” once. The cursor should now be at the right hand side of the Header box
  6. Type short title of essay and press the space-bar once
  7. In the blue and gray “Header and Footer” box, click on the white page icon (the one with the single pound sign: ex. # ) on the extreme left
  8. Click on the “Close” button. You should now see your last name and the numeral 1 in a light gray in the upper right hand corner of your document (ex. Doe 1).
  9. Wipe the sweat off your brow
  10. Press enter until the center of the page, hold down the ctrl key and press E once: then type in your title
  11. Press enter twice and type first and last name (ex. Jane Doe)
  12. Go down to end and type your course name, number, and section (ex. English 021-06) and press the “Enter” key, type professor’s name, enter, and the date.
  13. Hold down ctrl and press the letter S. Two steps here:
    1. type in your full name and essay # (example: Emily Dickinson Essay #1)
    2. press the “Enter” key

    Before ending your work session, remember to save back up copy to A:drive or flash drive.

    How to Add a Works Cited or List of References Page

    1. Scroll or page down to the end of your last paragraph
    2. Hold down the “Ctrl” key (on bottom of keyboard near the space bar) and press the “Enter” key once
    3. You’ve just created a “hard page break” that will keep your Works Cited page separate from the rest of your essay.
    4. Four steps in one:
      1. hold down the “Ctrl” key (on bottom of keyboard near the space bar);
      2. press the letter “E” once (The cursor should now be at the middle of your screen);
      3. type “Works Cited” if using MLA citation or “References” if using APA (Note: do not bold or underline it); and
      4. press the “Enter” key

      Need Additional Assistance?

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      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.

      However, there are some generalized guidelines that we will be discussing in this blog.

      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 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

      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
      • Your name
      • 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.

      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.

      Body Paragraphs

      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.

      Paper Due? Why suffer? That’s our job! Click here to learn more.

      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:

      APA Format

      • 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.

      For example,

      “Darwin’s theory of evolution is false and inconsistent. (Taylor, 2018, p. 5).”

      MLA Format

      • Mention the author’s last name.
      • It is followed by the page number.

      For example,

      “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.

      For example,

      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.

      Paper Due? Why suffer? That’s our job! Click here to learn more.

      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.

      How to format an 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.

      Page Margins

      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.

      Capstone Editing

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      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.

      Document layout

      How to format an essay

      Typical layout for an essay is as shown here:

      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.

      Text formatting

      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 .


      UoH Harvard/APA

      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.

      UoH Footnotes

      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.

      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.

      An essay format is a guideline that define how your paper should be arranged. It covers all the heading of an essay like: the title page, essay outline , essay structure, conclusions, citations etc.

      How to Format an Essay?

      While formatting an essay, you need to have a title page, proper essay structure, text capitalization, proper citations, in-text citations and you need to know how to make a hook for an essay. Below are the guide for essay formatting.

      How to Create a Title Page?

        • Double-space your page. Do not use single-space.
        • Use 12-16 font size.
        • Write the name of your institution.
        • Another way: beneath the name of your institution, write the title of your essay.
        • Towards the bottom of your paper, write your name, the course name and number, the instructor’s name, and the due date.


        How to format an essay

        Introduction, Body, and Conclusion:

        All type of academic work, either it is a short essay or a dissertation, has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. In a five-paragraph essay, one paragraphs are for introduction and one for conclusion, while remaining three are for body part.

        In Text Citation:

        Whenever you are citing the work of someone else in your paper, you always have to use in-text citation in the text in order to show the reader from where you found the information.

        Reference Page:

        The Reference page is where you list all sources you used.

        • Arrange your sources in an alphabetical order.
        • If your reference takes more than two lines of text, write the second line of text to the right by one inch, and all other lines for the same reference after the second.
        • Materials taken from different types of media like: print, web, lecture, etc must be formatted differently.
        • Write the last name of the author. Place the title and then the publishing information

        There are many different ways to write references because there are many different references style. Read more about Referencing style

        The purpose of this section is make you aware of the expectations at Tyndale Seminary about the proper format to use in preparing your essays.


        1. Research papers should use footnotes or endnotes with bibliography (or parenthetical citations with reference list).

        a. Check your syllabus or with your professor about whether parenthetical citations or footnotes or endnotes are preferred for a given assignment (NB: the Turabian/Chicago style has all three models). Most professors strongly prefer that you use footnotes rather than endnotes.

        2. There are two main purposes for footnotes/endnotes – “reference” and “content”

        a. Footnotes/endnotes are required whenever you are drawing upon or quoting from other authors. Failure to acknowledge your sources constitutes plagiarism and is a very serious matter.

        b. Footnotes/endnotes should be used to show the source of an idea, when that idea does not originate with yourself, even when you are putting the idea in your own words.

        c. Footnotes/endnotes are not needed when an idea comes from you or when the information is common knowledge.

        d. When in doubt, err on the side of caution by using a footnote/endnote.

        e. You may use a single footnote/endnote to cover a number of factual claims, rather than using one for every sentence in a whole paragraph or section. (Such a practice is tedious). E.g., in a footnote/endnote, you might say: “In this paragraph, the biographical details about William Tyndale are drawn from David Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 2-8.”

        3. Reference footnotes provide documentation about where the information was obtained (Vyhmeister, 62-63).

        a. Used “to indicate that there is authority behind the statements made, in order to strengthen the researcher’s assertions.”

        b. Used “to help the scholar who is looking for information on the topic to easily find the material referred to.”

        c. Used “to honestly admit intellectual indebtedness to another author.”

        4. Content footnotes “provide information that could disrupt or unnecessarily complicate the text” (Vyhmeister, 63).

        a. Used to “point out a contrast or discrepancy.” In this case, a footnote would be used to engage in a more detailed discussion than necessary, and would be an interesting digression from the argument.

        b. Used to “give further explanation.”

        c. Used to “indicate sources for further study.” For example: additional biblical citations with similar texts or ideas which the reader might consult.

        d. Practical tip: “Since many readers do not read footnotes, the text should make sense without content footnotes” (Vyhmeister, p. 63).

        5. Use proper format for footnotes/endnotes and bibliography.

        Using SBL Style

        The Biblical Studies department uses SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) citation format exclusively. (Library resources related to SBL style.)

        • The SBL Handbooks of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999) [Library Location: Reference; Call number: PN 147 .26 1999; see also the SBL Handbook of Style student supplement]

        SBL style is derived from Turabian/Chicago style, so you may also want to consult the following:

        • Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). [Library Location: Reference; Call Number: PN 147 .T8 2007]
        • The Chicago Manual of Style Online

        The SBL Handbook of Style contains all the information needed to properly cite

        • books of the Bible
        • various ancient sources (e.g., rabbinic works)
        • current theological journals.

        It also explains

        • how to deal with words in foreign languages
        • how to transliterate from other languages. (i.e., represent Greek or Hebrew words in English)

        The SBL Handbook of Style is aimed at a primary audience of “authors” who are submitting “manuscripts” for publication. However, the style and principles are applicable to student essays.

        The SBL and Turabian style books are available for purchase in our bookstore, and are found in the Reference section of the Library.

        You may also choose to employ citation software, e.g., as available with Word in Office 2007. While these programs save time, they vary in quality. Students must be able to review the citations for accuracy and completeness.

        Zotero is a citation tool that can work as a plug-in with your Firefox browser as well as Word.

        Presentation on theme: “How to format an essay.”— Presentation transcript:

        1 How to format an essay

        3 Introduction Begins very broadly; talks about something general to get the reader’s attention. Often starts with a “hook.” Begins to get specific about halfway down. What appears at the “point” of the triangle?

        4 Thesis statement Tells the reader the focus of your paper.
        Should make a clear, strong statement. Should encompass the main points that you’ll be writing about. Since there are three body paragraphs, make sure the main idea of each body paragraph appears in your thesis.

        5 The Body Paragraph: Layout
        Topic Sentence Major Support 1 Minor Support 1 Minor Support 2 Major Support 2 Major Support 3 Clincher

        6 The Topic Sentence One sentence.
        Should clearly support the thesis statement. Must be supportable. Should cover the main point of the paragraph.

        7 Major Supports One sentence.
        Must be supportable, NOT a self-evident fact. “Christopher does not like brown and yellow.” “One thing that makes Christopher’s life difficult is the fact that he does not like brown and yellow.” Must clearly support the topic sentence. Try the “because” test: Topic Sentence because Major Support

        8 Minor Supports The Minor Supports are the part of the paragraph where you use evidence from the book to support your ideas. May be more than one sentence. The FIRST MINOR mentions a specific example from the book, like something a character says or does.

        9 Minors Continued The SECOND MINOR analyzes the example.
        This means that after you give the example, you explain HOW it supports the major. Make sure you tie it back in to the topic sentence to keep your paragraph focused.

        10 Clincher The clincher is where you “wrap up” your paragraph.
        You never want to end on an example; always remind the reader what your main point was.

        11 Some grammar and style basics
        Don’t use first person (I, we, us) or second person (you) in a formal essay. Verbs should be in present tense. “Christopher would get upset whenever somebody touched him” “Christopher gets upset whenever somebody touches him”

        12 Let’s try writing an outline for a sample essay.
        Thesis: You treat me like a kid even though I’m very responsible, and I want to work together to figure out how I can have more freedom. There are three main ideas in this thesis statement, so it lends itself clearly to a five-paragraph essay.

        13 Topic sentence: you treat me like a kid.
        Major (reason the topic sentence is true): You are too controlling Minor (Specific example supporting the major): I have a curfew of 9:00 Minor (How the example supports the major and ties to the topic sentence) This micro-managing of my time makes me feel like you don’t think I’m mature enough to handle being out late.

        14 Topic Sentence: You treat me like a kid.
        Major: You don’t trust me. Minor: Last week, you wouldn’t let me go over my friend’s house because her parents weren’t home. Minor: It feels like you don’t trust me to make grown-up decisions.

        15 Topic sentence: You treat me like a kid.
        Major: You don’t listen to me like an adult. Minor: When I explained why I wanted to stop taking violin lessons, you told me that I’d thank you later. Minor: I felt like you weren’t treating my opinions like they mattered.

        16 Clincher You don’t act like I’m mature or like my opinions matter, which is the same way you’d treat a kid. The clincher takes aspects of the ANALYSIS of your paragraph, and ties it back to the topic sentence.

        17 Next two body paragraphs
        Thesis: You treat me like a kid even though I’m very responsible, and I want to work together to figure out how I can have more freedom. What are the other two main ideas in this essay?

        18 Next two topic sentences
        I’m very responsible I want to work together to figure out how I can have more freedom. With your partner, come up with three reasons (majors) that would support each of those topic sentences. What examples would you use to support them?

        Published on November 6, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk. Revised on January 3, 2022.

        This article reflects the APA 7th edition guidelines. Click here for APA 6th edition guidelines.

        The 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual provides guidelines for clear communication, citing sources, and formatting documents. This article focuses on paper formatting.

        Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines:

        • Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides.
        • Double-space all text, including headings.
        • Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches.
        • Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).
        • Include a page number on every page.

        How to format an essay

        Table of contents

        1. How to set up APA format (with template)
        2. APA alphabetization guidelines
        3. APA format template [Free download]
        4. Page header
        5. Headings and subheadings
        6. Title page
        7. Abstract
        8. Table of contents
        9. Reference page
        10. Tables and figures
        11. Frequently asked questions about APA format

        How to set up APA format (with template)

        APA alphabetization guidelines

        References are ordered alphabetically by the first author’s last name. If the author is unknown, order the reference entry by the first meaningful word of the title (ignoring articles: “the”, “a”, or “an”).

        Let an expert format your paper

        Our APA formatting experts can help you to format your paper according to APA guidelines. They can help you with:

        American Psychological Association (APA) format is commonly required at the college level for many subjects within the social sciences. Therefore, it is beneficial to understand the basics of the style. All sections of the paper must be typed double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman with 1-inch margins on standard-sized paper.

        Title Page

        The title page includes the title, the author’s name and the name of the institution. The title must be centered in the upper half of the page with the author’s and institution’s names each on their own lines underneath. In the header of the page, as well as all pages of the essay, include a running head — a shortened version of the title with 50 characters or fewer — in capital letters in the top right corner and page number in the top left corner.

        Abstract and Body of Paper

        After the title page is the abstract. This page contains the title “Abstract” centered at the top, followed by a one-paragraph summary of the essay that is 150 to 250 words long. Do not indent the first sentence of the abstract paragraph. However, all other paragraphs in the body of the paper should be indented. Keywords relating to the essay can also be included after the abstract paragraph in italics. The body of the paper begins on the next page after the abstract with the title of the essay centered at the top.

        Citations and Reference Page

        Place in-text citations in parentheses at the end of a sentence, before the period. Include the last names of the source authors in alphabetical order, followed by the publication year. A citation for a source with two authors looks like this:

        (Berry & Harlow, 1993)

        Also include the page number in the citation if a direct quote is used: (Berry & Harlow, 1993, p. 29)

        Citations on the reference page differ slightly depending on the type of source, but must include author names, title of source, page number or web URL and publication date. For example, a reference to a journal article would be formatted like this:

        Author Last Name, First Name. (Year). Title of article. Tittle of Journal, Volume Number(Issue Number), Pages

        Scruton, R. (1996). The eclipse of listening. The New Criterion, 15(3), 5-13.

        Italicize the title of the journal and volume number. All lines of the citation after the first should be indented.

        • Online Writing Lab: General Format
        • Online Writing Lab: Reference List: Basic Rules
        • Online Writing Lab: Reference List: Articles in Periodicals

        Based in Gatineau, Canada, Kat Walcott has been writing entertainment and informative articles since 2008. Her work has appeared in major publications including Her Campus, Equals6 and Uppercase. She holds an honors diploma in social science from Heritage College and is currently majoring in communication studies and minoring in sexuality studies.