College Essay Format: Do It Right

Posted on August 14th, 2015 Essay Writing
how to format a college essay

If you are a student just entering college, then you know that you are going to write your fair share of essays for a variety of classes. You might have a great grasp on the writing of your essays. You have developed the ideal process of selecting topics, doing any required research, brainstorming, and writing your outline prior to starting the actual writing process.

The one thing you need to know as well is how to format college paper. Your professors are going to require that you format your writing properly. So, it’s crucial to educate yourself on what essay formats your instructor will request. If you neglect to turn in a paper in the correct format, your professor may not even read what you worked so hard to write.

Formatting Styles for College Essays

There are two main formatting styles for college papers. Your professor may require that you use MLA style or APA style.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style. This is one of the most famous formatting styles for papers. It is ideal for courses related to the liberal arts and humanities. It is essential you know all of the details regarding formatting and citations. There is no title page necessary in MLA formatting.

APA (American Psychological Association) style. This style of formatting is the most popular when it comes to courses in the social sciences. The rules for in-text citations, reference page, and endnotes/footnotes are very particular. APA style essays require a title page.

Both of these formatting styles are very specific. Always verify what formatting style is necessary for the assignment.

Basic Page Formatting for College Essays

The following are basic formatting instructions for the majority of your college essays. They are easily set in Microsoft Word. The first thing that you need to start with is the margins, spacing, font size, and indentations. You have the ability to make these changes in the page layout option tab if you are using Microsoft Word.

  • Margins. Margins in your document should be 1 inch on all sides.
  • Spacing. You should double-space the text throughout the document, unless your professor requests something different. Regarding spacing within a written sentence, only place one space between the punctuation marks at the end of a sentence and the first letter of the new sentence.
  • Font. Unless otherwise specified by your professor, use a legible font such as Times New Roman for your essays. Use 12 pt. font size for the body of your text.
  • Indentations. When writing the body of your essay you will have to indent each new paragraph. Using the Tab key, you will indent the paragraph by ½ inches. A ½-inch indent by the Tab button is the same as five spaces.

MLA Style Specific Formatting

Unlike essays in APA style, the MLA style essays have no title page. The first page of your essay requires a heading. The following information is a requirement on the first page in the upper left corner: your name, instructor’s name, course/class, and the date.

Student Name
Mr. Professor
ENG 100
1 September 2015

Along with the heading, you are also required to place page numbers on all pages of your essay. The page numbers belong in the upper right corner of your essay. Insert the page numbers, which includes your last name and the page number, as if they were a header and not the body of your text. Example: Smith 2

The last thing to include in your essay is a title. On the first page of your essay, below your heading you will have a header. Center the header right above the first sentence of your essay. Do not underline, use bold, use italics, or use quotation marks on the title.

Title Page Format in APA Style

The following is how to format the title page in APA style. The first thing to do is create the running header. On the title page, you want to put a running header and the page number.
Example: Running head: TITLE OF ESSAY 1

The rest of your title page will include the following information:

  • Shortened title.
  • Student’s name.
  • School name.
  • Due Date. Verify if needed prior to turning in the document.

On each of the subsequent pages, it is necessary to include the title of the essay, minus the words “running head,” along with the page number. This information belongs in the header. The title on the left and the page number on the right.

When you are writing your essay, pay attention to what style of formatting is required and you will have the ability to format your essay perfectly. Never be afraid to ask questions if needed.

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