How to Professionally Format an Essay

How to Professionally Format an Essay

Oh, if only writing an academic paper was easy. But no. It comes with so many rules, instructions, and requirements that they can make your head spin. Why does it have to be like that, though? Why does academic writing have so much complexity? Well, the answer is right in front of you. It’s academic. Hence it must be completed within the established norms and models. Academia loves good-old standards, and it follows them religiously. 

So, when you are submitting a paper, you must take care of its structure, size, format, and purpose. Among all those things, the rules on formatting an essay come as the most strict and serious. You should follow them precisely, or else you risk lowering your grade or even get an accusation of plagiarism. Hence, the guidelines and rules are there for a reason, and you better learn more about them right now. So what does the essay format mean, and how to follow it? Let’s find out!

What Is the Essay Format?

To know how to do a paper, you must know how to write a header for an essay, what layout should look like, and how to cite your references. That is what a good essay format is for. It is basically a guide on how to make your paper. It is responsible for how it should look from the first page to the last one. Hence, everything from how to put your name on an essay to how to name your page with references depends on the format of an essay. 

Moreover, an essay format is responsible for every little detail of your work. It determines the margins around the pages, fonts, spacing between lines and paragraphs, and else. Yet, some students still mess with it or neglect the basic rules and expectations of the assigned formatting.

Have you ever wondered what does an essay looks like without formatting? The answer to that will be that it just doesn’t look like anything. A proper essay format determines how your work is built and organized. It is not just there to make your lives harder. So it is there to make sure your ideas are easy to follow and your writing style is orderly and coherent. Thus, it carries huge importance for the overall success of your work. In addition, it determines how your readers will perceive it. Once you remember the basic rules of formatting, you will also benefit from them. You will see how more organized and focused your ideas are once they are executed in a proper manner. However, such skill comes only with practice. 

How to Properly Format an Essay?

So, as now you understand what it is and why it is so important, let’s see how you can achieve perfection in this field. First and foremost, you must learn that there is more than just one format for essay writing. In most parts of the world, academics use either MLA or APA writing styles to format papers. So, every time you wonder, “what should an essay look like?” you should think of both these formatting styles. Either way is a professional essay format that you should master to perfection before your writing assignments start coming at you. 

The main differences between these two styles are in small details. The text itself will differ only a little, mainly in regards to citing. The execution of your work, on the other hand, is what will change the most here. For example, even how to write your name on a college paper in APA and MLA styles will be different. Let’s explore those two examples for more context. 

How to Format an Essay in APA?

APA writing style is rather popular in academic writing. It's often used in social sciences, like sociology. This style is simplistic and minimal. For instance, when referencing an in-text citation, you only put an author’s name and the year of the publication. 

  1. Make your font 12pt if you are using Times New Roman. Sometimes, instructors leave the type of font for students to choose.
  2. Have a separate page for a title. It should only have the name of the work, the student’s name, the course, the instructor’s name, and the date. This information should be in the center, with the title slightly above the rest of the lines.
  3. When starting the text, repeat your paper’s title by putting it in the center of the page. Start the introduction right after it.
  4. The headers in APA must include the title of your work. It must be placed in the left corner of the page. On the right, insert page numbers.
  5. APA is less strict with margins. One inch-margins are the most common option. However, your instructor can suggest different instructions, so pay attention.
  6. Use double-space throughout the text.
  7. Often, it is aligned to the left. However, there are exceptions for the alignment in the center.
  8. The final page with references is simply titled References.

Remember these simple rules, and you will master every paper in APA style that you’ll ever receive. 

How to Format an Essay in MLA?

MLA is a common writing style for students in humanities. It has more specific rules to follow and likes attention to the smallest details. 

  1. Use a 12pt font. The common choice here is Times New Roman.
  2. You should not have a separate title page. Your title and additional information come right before the text. Here is an example of an essay format of a title page in MLA style: 

Student name

The instructor's name

Name (or code) of the class

The date


  1. Headers: In MLA, you should write down your last name near the page numbers. Your name should be on the left to the numbers but in the right corners alongside them.
  2. Your text should be double-spaced.
  3. No extra spaces between paragraphs.
  4. Have a one-inch margin on all sides of the paper, including top and bottom.
  5. 1/2 inch indentation at the beginning of each paragraph (you can just use Tab for the right indentation).
  6. The text should be aligned to the left.
  7. Your in-text citations must mention the author’s name and the page number where you have taken the given reference.
  8. Use the title Work Cited on your final page with the references list. 

As you can see, the given style is more strict, with almost no room for deviation. This can be a good thing since you should remember these norms easily. 

Also, both styles use only in-text citations, no footnotes, or else is common here. Hence, you must consider the logical flow of thought every time you insert a citation and reference in your text. 

How to Structure

When structuring a paper, make sure you follow all the right steps of your format. Pay attention to the headings and page numbers. Have the title of your paper in the center of your text, right before the introduction. Don’t leave out any references without proper citing. Such a mistake will fail you during the plagiarism check. Also, be sure to have a well-formatted references list at the end of your work. Finally, place all your references in alphabetical order for an easier search. 

Your goal here is to present a coherent, well-organized text. Therefore, any error or misstep in your structure will be very visible right away. Hence, if you forget to separate a page into paragraphs or miss an indentation, your readers will be rather confused by what you were trying to do there. 

To Sum up 

As you can see, the main difference between these two formats lies in spacing, indentation, and citation. You just have to put a note for yourself on how to make a layout in both cases. With time (and experience), you won’t have issues remembering those differences. As for the rest of it, you simply have to double-check your formatting during the proofreading and editing stages of your work. It is your last opportunity to check each in-text citation, correct the title page, or fix the layout.