How can I format an essay? This question is often asked by students and writers. Preferred essay formats differ across universities and subjects, but there are some general guidelines:
- Use an easy-to-read sans serif font such as Times New Roman.
- A 12 pt font size is the standard, but some universities allow 11 pt fonts.
- Use 1.5-line spacing. Single line spacing can be difficult to read.
- Use 2.54 cm margins for all sides.
- If using headings, which is unusual in essays, ensure that you do not have any orphans (i.e., headings that sit at the bottom of the page, while the following paragraph appears on the next page).
- While this is a useful guide to formatting essays, it is crucial that students check their university or unit guidelines. Some disciplines have strict essay formatting rules that may differ from the general guidelines. For example, in behavioural sciences, essays may have to be presented in APA format, which differs greatly from the generally accepted guidelines. APA formatting includes double spacing, indented first paragraphs and a running head.
Usually, essays do not have headings. While formal reports require headings, essays are usually undivided bodies of writing that include an (unlabelled) introduction, body and conclusion. However, the reference list or bibliography should have a heading and begin on a fresh page.
Page numbers are a useful inclusion, but again, students should clarify with their unit chair or lecturer. Another useful inclusion is a footer that lists the student’s name, identification number and subject code. While the electronic submission process adopted by most universities has lessened the risk of unfortunate mix ups, an identifying footer provides an extra layer of protection.