The Essay Format: Tips from an English Teacher

Despite what you may think otherwise, following your instructor’s preferred essay format is vital. Reservations about strictly following this type of style is understandable, and you may even think that it’s downright silly. However, adherence to the most popular and extensively used academic styles, such as the APA or MLA, helps students keep their written work organized, tidy, and completely plagiarism-free. That is an important reason why you should follow given instructions. 

What’s an essay format?

APA essay format? MLA essay format? Harvard essay format? 

Before plunging into the discussion about the essay format, it is important to understand its nature. An essay format is a succession of guidelines. It determines the arrangement of your paper, covering the title page and basic essay structure, down to the essay outline, conclusion, and even citations.

How do you format an essay?

As you begin formatting your paper, remember that you need to have a title page. Also take note that you will need a properly prepared essay structure, appropriate capitalization of text, in-text citations, and citations to be written on the bibliography/reference page/works cited page. Learning to write a hook, or simple looking for great hook ideas for your essay is also crucial, below is a guide on writing a proper essay format, presented step-by-step for optimum retention:

Creating the Title Page

Below is a list of things your title page must have. Think of it as a checklist, so come back to it to ensure you have everything you need:

  • Refrain from using single-space. Your title page must always be double-spaced.
  • Times New Roman is the best font to use, with a 12 font size.
  • Remember to write the name of your academic institution. 
  • Three spaces beneath the name of your institution, place the title of your paper.
  • Near the bottom of your paper is where you write your name, the name and number of the course, your instructor’s name, and the due date.

Your essay's title page format.

Your Essay’s First Page

You must first structure the initial page of your paper before you begin the writing process. Read the requirements listed below:

  • The header to your essay on the right-hand corner should be half an inch below the top edge of the paper. This must be done for every page of the paper, with the exception of the works cited page.
  • The upper left hand corner of your paper is where you shall place the heading.
  • Insert the title of your essay an inch below the top edge of your paper, and make sure it is centered.
  • Directly beneath the title is where you begin writing the first paragraph of your title.

Your Essay’s Introduction, Body, and Conclusion

Each type of academic work, whether just a simple short essay or a complex dissertation, must come with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The five-paragraph essay format contains two paragraphs devoted to the introduction and conclusion, while the other three are dedicated to the main body, where the bulk of your essay will be. Here, arguments are presented, followed by evidence that support said arguments. As soon as you master writing a standard five paragraph essay format composed of these parts, writing any other kind of essay format becomes much easier, no matter the length. The following are some tips to consider when writing your essay:

  • Remember to use 12 font size and the font style Times New Roman.
  • Your introductory paragraph, should contain and clearly state the main idea/thesis statement of your paper.
  • Your essay’s main body should support your ideas in a logical and coherent way. Ensure that you cite evidence you have found in the research process. Your transition must be smooth and sensible from paragraph to paragraph.
  • The conclusion is where you wrap up your paper, which can be done by bringing all your main points together. This part can also serve as an opportunity to resolve all problems you have addressed in your essay or implications arising from your arguments. Just remember to not introduce any new ideas or topics to the paper in your conclusion – all of those should have been done prior.

The In-Text Citation

Irrespective of academic style on which your essay format relies on, each time you cite the work of someone else in your written work, make sure to use in-text citation in the text, which shows the reader where you have found the information. Follow the examples below for reference: (insert visuals)

Reference Page

The reference page is where you create a list of all the information you have cited. The name for this page depends on the academic style used. It is important that you get this correctly, in order to avoid being accused of plagiarism. Remember the following tips below as you piece your essay format together:

  • Your sources should be listed in an alphabetical order.
  • Should you find that your reference takes up more than two lines of text, indent the second line of text to the right by an inch, and then do the same for all other lines following the same reference.
  • The materials you’ve gathered from different forms of media, such as web, print, lecture, etc., are formatted differently. 
  • List the references as follows: First write the last name of the author followed by his first name. Immediately follow this with the title and then the publishing information. 
  • As mentioned, there are various ways to list your references, as there are currently so many different types of media. It is vital that you consult a style guide to determine the best style for your utilized media.

The Standard Essay Format

The standard essay format follows standard formatting rules, which you can find below:

  • Certain page margins (for example: 1 inch)
  • Line spacing (for example: Double spacing), along with specific rules about spaces between paragraphs (for example: No spaces)
  • Page headers (which contains either author’s last name, shortened title, and the link)
  • Some types of fonts (for example: 12 size, Times New Roman)
  • The headings and subheadings (Remember: the headings of different levels usually vary in formatting style and font size)
  • Page numbers (usually added in page headers)
  • Indentation (typically about 5 spaces or half an inch)

Structuring an Essay

A direct approach to structuring the essay is introducing the thesis statement in the last sentence of the introduction. The use of introduction must convey context or show the importance of the topic, along with capturing attention of the reader, drawing them in.  Each succeeding paragraph of the main body then begins with a topic sentence, which should support or address the thesis statement. A few sentences supporting the topic sentence should follow, and then ends with a paragraph-concluding sentence, or a transitioning sentence, to connect it to the next paragraph. Finally, the conclusion must highlight your essay’s key points to further emphasize the validity of your thesis statement. Writing an effective outline should make the writing process easier.

Writing a Good Essay

Apart from having a clear and efficient essay structure, there are some fundamental requirements to remember if you wish to write a good essay. Ensure a logical flow of content by incorporating smooth transitions. The use of compelling evidence is also essential, so make sure you obtain them from trustworthy sources, so learning how to evaluate online sources is necessary. A bulk of your written work depends on how alluring and persuasive your researched information is, so your focus on delivering quality content is tantamount.

Things to Remember When Writing and Conducting Research

The writing process, as hard as it is, the essay format and structure can be just as tricky. Even the best writers still encounter problems from time to time, so here are some useful tips to follow to get the most out of the whole process:

  • Know the topic like the back of your hand. There is no such thing as too much knowledge when it comes to writing, so do as much reading as you can on your topic. As you read, list down the names of author(s) and publishing information of materials you plan to use, so that compiling them alphabetically in the cited works page will be easier.
  • Do not skip the pre-writing. It is tempting to begin writing as soon as you have necessary information, but do not skip this part. Pre-writing is also called brain dump. This is where you brainstorm ideas for your essay, and where the best, the most powerful, and most unique ideas are born. To do this, write down every single word and thought that comes to your mind. Do this for an hour, and soon enough you’ll find yourself writing entire lines of text.
  • Just continue writing. To complete your task, simply sit down and do the work. The key to good writing is to just simply write away, so it is crucial that you work with commitment and discipline. Set aside a few hours of your day for your paper.
  • Do not procrastinate. Essays due should not be put aside until the last minute, as you are bound to come up with something subpar. Again, commitment and discipline is necessary. 
  • Always check your work. Even the best of writers commit mistakes. There will be grammar and stylistic mistakes in your paper, so ensure that you go over your work and double-check. 

Remember these tips!

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