format of an essay
Margins: According to the MLA, your essay should have a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, left, and right. However, for this course, just keep the default margins in Word.
Fonts: Your essay should be word processed in 12-point Times New Roman fonts.
What you need to know about the differences is not extensive, thankfully:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A common structural flaw in college essays is the “walk-through” (also labeled “summary” or “description”). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with “time” words (“first,” “next,” “after,” “then”) or “listing” words (“also,” “another,” “in addition”). Although they don’t always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay’s thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example (“In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil”).
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it’s important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you’re anticipating your answer to the “why” question that you’ll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: “To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . .” Then say why that’s the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the “what” question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: “The next thing my reader needs to know is . . .” Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you’ve mapped out your essay.
Now it’s time to fill in each section of your essay outline. For those lazy to read, here goes a short video:
An alphanumeric outline is the most common one, but you are welcome to use a decimal outline structure if it seems clearer and more comfortable for you. Also, feel free to use complete sentences or just brief phrases for each section of your essay outline.
An essay format is a series of guidelines that determine how your paper should be arranged. It covers the title page, basic essay structure, essay outline, your conclusions, citations, etc.
- List your sources in alphabetical order.
- If your reference takes up more than two lines of text, indent the second line of text to the right by one inch, and all other lines for the same reference after the second.
- Materials taken from different forms of media (print, web, lecture, etc.) must be formatted differently. Here is an example of how to write a reference from a book with the format guidelines.
- Write the last name of the author followed by his first name. Place the title and then the publishing information as indicated above.