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How to Format an Essay Effectively – The Practical Approach

Formatting an essay properly helps in getting your point across clearly and professionally. It enables the reader to understand what you’re trying to convey, and it makes your argument look more logical.

Don’t worry if you are uncertain about how to format an essay like a pro. Since this exciting article covers everything in detail with practical examples to clear all your doubts. So, let’s get started.

Everything You Need to Know About Formatting an Essay

It’s important to know what essay writing style you’re using when formatting your essay. Most of the time, you’ll use MLA, APA, or Chicago style. Let’s try to understand each of them in detail.

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

This style of writing is commonly used in the humanities or liberal arts disciplines. Its rules are as follows:

Page Setup

  • Go for standard letter-size paper (8.5″ x 11″)

  • Ensure to maintain 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides

  • Use a readable font, like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12

Header

  • Place a header on the top right corner of each page (excluding the title page)

  • Include your last name and page number

  • Align the header to the right margin

Example:

Header: Smith – 1

Title Page (if needed)

The MLA Style usually doesn’t require a separate title page.

Title

  • On the first page, centrally align the title of your essay

  • Avoid underlining the tile or using bold and italics

  • Ensure to capitalize the first and last words of the title. Also, capitalize all major words in between.

Example:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Youths’ Mental Health

In-Text Citations

For attributing information to sources, include parenthetical citations within the text. Just follow this formula:

Format: (Author Page).

Example:

Let’s suppose the author of the book is Smith, and you are referring to its 45th page; the in-text citation will be:

(Smith 45).

Works Cited Page

  • Add a page at the end of your essay and title it as “Works Cited.”

  • List all the sources referenced in an alphabetical order

  • Write full publication details

For Example:

Page Title: Works Cited

Smith, Jane. “The Impact of Social Media on Youths’ Mental Health.” Social Behavior Journal, vol. 25, no. 3, 2020, pp. 45-60.

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APA Essay Formatting Guidelines

If you’re writing an essay or paper in the social sciences or sciences, you’ll need to use APA style. Let’s go through its rules for formatting an essay.

Page Setup

  • You have to use the standard letter-size paper (8.5″ x 11″)

  • 1-inch margins on all sides are important

  • Go with Times New Roman, Arial, or any other readable font

Header

  • You have to place a running head on the top left corner of all pages (excluding the title page)

  • Write “Running head:” and the precise version of your title (only 50 characters)

  • The page number will be on the top right corner

  • Ensure to keep the running head in the title case

Example

Running head: Social Media and Youths

Page Number: 1

Title Page

  • Add a separate title page having the title of your essay, your name, institution, and date

  • Ensure to align all the information centrally

Example

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Youths

Your Name: Ian Smith

Institution: XYZ University

Date: August 11, 2023

Title

  • Align the title of your essay centrally

  • Keep the whole title in the title case. Also, capitalize the first letter of each major word

Example

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Youths

In-Text Citations

  • Use the author’s last name and publication year for in-text citations

  • Include page numbers for direct quotations

  • Format: (Author, Year)

Example:

(Smith, 2020)

(Smith, 2020, p. 45)

References Page

  • Include a separate page titled “References” at the end of your essay

  • List, in alphabetical order, all the sources you referenced

  • Put in the full publication details

Example:

References:

Smith, I. (2020). The Impact of Social Media on Youths. Social Behavior Journal, 25(3), 45-60.

Chicago Style

Chicago style is commonly used in history, literature, and some social sciences for formatting essays, research papers, and academic works. Here’s how you can format your essay in Chicago Style.

Page Setup

  • Choose a standard letter-size paper (8.5″ x 11″)

  • Ensure 1-inch margins on all sides

  • Go with readable fonts, like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12

Example:

Page Size: 8.5″ x 11″

Margins: 1 inch on all sides

Font: Times New Roman

Font Size: 12

Title Page

A separate title page is not commonly required in Chicago style. If so, you should follow the instructor’s guidelines.

Title

  • Ensure to centrally align the title of your essay on the first page

  • The title must be in the title case. The first letter of each major word must be capitalized.

Example:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Youths’ Mentality

Footnote or Endnote Citations

  • To indicate citations, make use of superscript numbers

  • Corresponding footnotes or endnotes shall be at the bottom of the page or at the end of the essay

  • Ensure to include full source details in the endnotes or footnotes

Example:

Students are often distracted by the overuse of social media.^1

[At the bottom of the page or end of the essay] ^1 Jane Smith, “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mentality,” Social Behavior Journal 25, no. 3 (2020): 45-60.

Bibliography Page

  • Add a separate page titled “Bibliography” at the end of your essay

  • List all the sources you referenced in alphabetical order

  • Ensure to include full publication details

Example:

Bibliography:

Smith, Ian. “The Impact of Social Media on Youth’s Mentality.” Social Behavioral Journal 25, no. 3 (2020): 45-60.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of how to format an essay. It all depends on the writing style you are following. Every writing style has its own rule for formatting that you must adhere to.

You may even ask how to write an essay format. But as you know, formatting is something you do with the presentation of an essay, so you don’t write it.

Also, ensure to take care of any special requirements from your teacher regarding the formatting of your essay.

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