ESSAY FORMAT 101: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO FORMAT AND STRUCTURE YOUR ESSAY
Choosing the right essay format can get a little tricky (and frustrating), but it’s an important step in making sure you organize your paper properly. Your professor will be grading you on the format and structure of your essay, so it’s important that you do it right to avoid losing out on easy marks or minor mistakes.
If you’re new to university or college life, you will definitely have some questions about writing your essays and papers. It doesn’t take long to figure out that a post-secondary level paper is quite different from the papers you were used to writing in high school. The standards are much higher, and your essays should reflect this in everything from the content to the references page.
Even if you aren’t new to the post-secondary academic world and you just need some help starting your next essay or assignment, it’s helpful to get a refresher so you know you’re on the right track.
Use this guide to help you choose the right essay format for your next assignment and start getting organized.
THE BASIC ESSAY FORMAT
The basic essay format most college and university students use is the 5-point or 5-paragraph method. Essentially, you have a paragraph for your introduction, a paragraph for your conclusion, and three body paragraphs in the middle discussing each major point in your thesis statement.
This type of format can be used for most types of essays, but there are certain papers that might require you to switch up the structure a little bit. For example, if you’re writing a personal reflection essay, you don’t need to follow this structure the same way and can take a more liberal approach to your body paragraphs.
Additionally, if your paper is longer (think over five pages), you’ll require more than five paragraphs. You can still organize them by main point, but this way you can be more specific with each argument you make.
We’ll talk more about how you should structure each paragraph within your essay, but before we get to that we’re going to explain how to format your essay for different referencing styles.
FORMATTING FOR REFERENCING STYLES
The specific essay format you use will also be determined by the referencing style you’re using. Certain referencing styles have certain guidelines you’ll need to follow, especially when it comes to title pages, citations, and identifying information.
Regardless of the style you use, fonts should be kept to the standard Times New Roman. As a general rule, most guidelines recommend that if you’re going to deviate from Times New Roman, you should choose a font that has a noticeable contrast between the italics and regular font. However, it’s best to play it safe and just use Times New Roman.
Use size 12 for your font, and a one-inch margin on all sides regardless of the style of your paper. Always double-space your paper unless your professor has specifically asked you to use single spacing. If you’re using a title page, don’t try to get fancy and underline or bold your title.
While there are plenty of referencing styles out there that you might need to use at one point in time, we’re going to go over basic formatting rules for the three most common styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago Style.
MLA ESSAY FORMAT
Papers written in MLA style don’t require a title page. Instead, you include all of your essay and publication details on the first page of your paper.
Your header should be in the top right corner of each page, with your last name and the page number. In the top left of your first page, you should include the following publication details, each on its own line: Your full name, your professor’s name, your course name, and the due date. The next line should include your essay title centred in the middle of the page. Then, you can start your essay on the next line.