Essay Format Tips from Experienced Teachers

Essay Format Tips from Experienced Teachers - preview

Your college or University is going to give you technical instructions on everything you need to know about the essay outline format for your next essay, but there are things you are not told, and there are things you may have missed. We have a wide range of teachers and ex-professors on our writing staff, so we had them gather together to pool their knowledge. Here is what they came up with as their top essay format tips.

Essay Format Tips

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Save Document Templates with The Formatting Already Set Up

Have you ever read advice that is so obvious that you kick yourself for not thinking of it before? Saving various document files as templates is just that sort of advice. There are students out there that tinker with their page formats, margins, and such every time they write their best essay. Here is what you do:

  • Learn how to set document templates
  • Set a file full of document templates for each class and subject
  • Create a file for each type of essay
  • Set document templates within those files for different essay types
  • In addition to those templates, have a template for each formatting type

Now, whenever you have an essay, you go to the appropriate file, you start up the template, and you need never worry about the technical side of formatting again (e.g. you need not worry about getting the right spacing, margins, font, etc., because the template does it all for you).

For example, let’s say that you have a History research paper due in APA essay format. You go to the folder that you labeled “History,” and in that folder, there should be a folder called “Research papers.” You enter that folder, and you should see a bunch of different document templates for each format/style such as Chicago, MLA, etc. They, you select the one called “APA” and you now have all your technical formatting done for you.

Common MLA Format Essay Mistakes

Your professor or teacher will have issued directions on how to format your essay with an MLA style. You may have been asked to buy books on the subject, or the college/university you attend may have issued their own directives because they have their own version of each writing style that accommodates their intranet and essay delivery system. Teachers do not notice when you get it right, they notice when you get it wrong, so here are a few common mistakes you should avoid.

There are so many rules on quotations that students often get them wrong. The rules change depending on how many lines/verses you are using, so you should make “Quotation style checking” part of your regular proofreading process until you know the MLA format essay rules off the top of your head. A similar problem occurs with citations, and it is especially important that you get your citations right because they build your essay’s credibility.

Your reference lists should have the same page number and one-inch margins and last name as the rest of your paper. However, Harvard MLA format citations and reference lists are arranged alphabetically, so be careful if you are using an MLA format essay template to be sure you are using the right one.

Students are often unaware that MLA discourages extensive endnotes and extensive explanatory notes. However, MLA style bibliographic notes are fine, but the rules for your college or University may state you need such notes on a separate page at the end of your essay. Also, the 2009 edition of the MLA style says you should use italics for larger works instead of underlining them, and quotation marks should be used for shorter works

Common APA Essay Format Mistakes

Writing your header incorrectly is a common mistake. Many students forget to put the header on the title page, they forget to make it a running header, or they format it incorrectly. The running head should be a shortened version of your title, and the title page should have the label “Running Head” before the shortened title. The page numbers should be justified on the right and be 12 point font Times New Roman.

Many students get it wrong when they are citing multiple sources. The mistakes are so common and diverse that they are too numerous to mention here. Your first step is to check the guidelines that your University or college gives you because they may differ from the norm. You need to learn the different rules for one author, two authors, three, four, five, six or more authors.

Quoting or paraphrasing an original source is often done incorrectly because it needs to include a page number. Since there is no page number online, you need to give a paragraph number, or an overarching heading plus paragraph number, or an abbreviated heading in quotes and paragraph number.

On a similar note, there are many times when an in-text citation doesn’t match the reference lists. This is a common mistake because of habits taught by other writing styles. Citing things in-text are often done incorrectly because there are so many rules on citing, such as how you put the date after a name if it is mentioned in the text, but you put the name and date in parentheses after the sentence if a name is not mentioned directly in a sentence.

What College Essay Format Should I Use for Online Submissions?

These days, a college essay may be submitted online or via an intranet system, and in most cases, you are able to submit your document as a whole by saving it and sending it. In many cases, there is no need for your text to ever leave your word processor document. However, there are things such as scholarship and college applications that are submitted online with text boxes. Students are sometimes confused as to the best scholarship essay format or best college application essay format. Luckily, when you are dealing with text boxes, the font and formatting are stripped from your text, so you do not have to worry too much about it.

Application websites do not make it difficult for students, and if you make a formatting mistake, you will not be the first student to do it. Even if you are submitting your text online with text boxes, you must write your essay/text on a word processor document. This allows you to check and save your text, after which, you may copy and paste your text into the text boxes.

How to Format an Essay Depending Upon Each Essay Type

As mentioned repeatedly in this article, you must always defer to whatever your professor and your college/University say about each type of essay format. Colleges and Universities have their own variations on the rules for various reasons. The most common reasons are because they need formatting that matches their online submission system, and they sometimes need certain formatting standards because it helps their plagiarism checkers do their job. Here is how to format a college essay depending on what type of essay is being written.

  • Argumentative Essay Format

Your introduction need only be two paragraphs long, and it must contain a purpose. It may also contain something to draw the reader in and may contain background information. Different essays have required elements such as the name of the book if you are arguing about a book. The next section is the background paragraph, then you start the argument and counter augment sections. Your first conclusion paragraph sums things up, and the second part relates what has been learned with the purpose of your essay.

  • Narrative Essay Format

A narrative essay has the most fluid format. So long as you have an introduction and a narrative ark, then you are doing okay. Some professors ask that your narrative essay has some sort of hook in the introduction. The final section need not be a conclusion, but the reader should understand why you decided to take them on the narrative story arc.

  • Personal Essay Format

A personal essay is one of the few essays where you can confidently take a first-person perspective. Some professors allow you to pick your own essay type and format type, and others force you into a certain type of format such as a 5-paragraph format. A personal essay needs an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you make claims that you can prove, then you also need a reference section/bibliography.

  • Expository Essay Format

You need an introduction with a hook, which is a reason for a reader to keep reading. The introduction should contain a topic sentence, and briefly state three or more main ideas that will be explained later. The body must contain at least three paragraphs, and each paragraph must state or refer to the topic sentence and each must have some sort of supporting details. At the end of your essay, the conclusion must rewrite and restate the three or more main written in the introduction, and it may end with a strong statement if desired.

  • Persuasive Essay Format

It must start with an introduction that clearly states what the essay writer wishes to convince the reader of. The body must contain at least one persuasive argument that is backed up with evidence or reasoning (or both). A good persuasive essay will then attack its own points with reasoning and/or evidence, and will then refute, agree, or agree to disagree with the counter-argument. The essay ends with a conclusion and a bibliography/reference section. The conclusion should bring together what has been learned in the essay to make a final persuasive point.

Look at Examples and See How Other People Do It

Your professors may tell you to read certain books, such as the Chicago style essay format reference book. They want you to keep them as references, so you know what to do when you need something such as a Chicago essay format or if you need an APA essay format template. But sometimes a written description is just not enough, so make sure you look at examples of the formats and essay styles in action.

Do not look at examples on articles such as these, look at actual essays to see how actually essay writers have done it. Check two or three to see if the same rules have been followed. It is far easier to look at something like an APA format essay example for a complex essay with numerous references and sources than it is to sift through pages of format descriptions.

Submit Your Work Early and Ask for Help

The best advice ever is to submit your essays early to your professor. Many professors allow for a period where he or she will check your work and send it back for amendments. It is times like this when small errors such as formatting errors may be fixed. Sometimes, your error may be as small as the wrong type of line spacing, or a misunderstanding about how arguments and counter-arguments should be laid out.

Secondly, ask for help if you have come across a situation that isn’t extensively written about. For example, the formatting and style for liberal arts papers are so well documented that there are actually books on things such as MLA, APA, Harvard styles and formats. However, there are plenty of scenarios that are not as well documented, such as the common app essay format, the graduate school essay format, and the SAT essay format. Your professor or the administration staff will give you written instructions, but if they are not clear, or you are not sure, start asking for help. You may feel dumb having to ask for help when others don’t ask, but you won’t look so dumb when you get your scholarships, pass your applications, and get your internships.

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