Essay Format Guidelines - What an Unit Essay Assignment Should Contain

Essay formatting is an important part of completing and presenting a writing assignment. When an instructor gives a low score on an essay, a student may complain, “I didn’t know what she wanted.” So in order to demonstrate what a formatted, edited professional-looking, essay should look like, this mini essay works as an example. The standard format for most essay assignments includes a heading, a title, the essay text itself, and a bibliography page. Include a cover sheet if your instructor asks for one, or if you are using APA style formatting for your course.

The essay heading should contain your name, the course number, title, and section, and the name of the assignment. Without your name, course information, and assignment information, your instructor will have a difficult time figuring out who turned in the essay, and to which class the essay belongs. Also, without the assignment name, your instructor will find it difficult to give you credit for the assignment. Finally, be sure you turn your assignment in on time. Turning in late assignments could result in a lower grade.

The title is another important feature of an essay that students often overlook. A title is a rhetorical element that gives the reader some idea of what the essay is about. The title may be one word, or it may be more complex. Some titles are presented in two parts separated by a colon: the first defines the subject; the second part explains the essay’s purpose. All major words in a title are capitalized, but prepositions in a title may be left in lower case. You may be tempted to augment the title to give a creative look to your paper, but doing so will only detract from your message. So, never underline or put quotes around your essay’s title. Underlining is reserved for the titles of books or other works cited in your text, while quotes indicate the words of someone else. Also, never write the title in bold or all capitals. Use a consistent style throughout so your reader will focus on your ideas and not on distracting elements.

The essay text should contain an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. The text margins should be set at 1 inch on all sides, just as you see in this example. Also, lines of the text should be double-spaced, making the essay easy to read and give room for marginal comments and correction suggestions. If the essay is presented on two or more pages, all pages except the first page should be numbered. Type size is usually 12-point font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Check with your instructor for approval before using a different font or font size in your paper. The text you see here is plain 12-point Arial, representing what most instructors prefer. No matter how tempted you are to add a creative touch, do not use italics or fancy fonts. (Note: italics may be used for non-English words or for book titles as indicated by style manuals such as MLA or APA.)

It is important to format your papers currently. A full page of typed, double-spaced text should have one inch margins and no extra white space. Images, tables, graphs, title pages, and reference pages do not count in your required page totals.

For any essay assignment, follow all of your instructor’s format directions precisely. Such directions are not simply arbitrary requirements. Rather, formatting instructions are designed to give students practice in creating a consistent, pleasing visual presentation for assignments. Such practice will serve you well should you ever wish to submit an essay for professional publication. So follow this format, make sure you have edited thoroughly, and you are sure to turn in an essay that is not only well written, but a pleasure to read.

Essay Check List
Make sure your essay contains the following:

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