Essay writing is a significant part of every student’s academic life. Writing such essays isn’t all about putting your ideas together and compiling them on a piece of paper. It is a technical process that requires varied skills and knowledge to ensure the final paper meets the required standards and guidelines. As part of writing the essay, students need to present the final paper in a correct essay format, and that is why this write-up features a formal essay format and everything you need to comprehend to bring out a well-formatted essay. Keep reading.

What does essay format mean?

An essay standard format is simply a set of guidelines that represents how your final paper should come out.

The basic elements that make up an essay format include the essay header format, a basic essay structure (the introduction, main body, & conclusion), and citations. Different essay types require different formatting approaches, and that is why as a student, always make it a habit to always read and comprehend the set guidelines while formatting your essay to meet all the requirements.

Types of essay format

The following are the basic types of essay formats commonly applied to different essays.

APA Essay Format

Also known as the American Psychological Association, the APA essay format style is mostly applicable to research papers, especially those revolving around social sciences and behavioral sciences. Therefore, the APA is used for those papers that require in-depth research, and they have specific guidelines to follow as described below:

  • Standard font: Times New Roman, size 12
  • Line-spacing option: double-spaced
  • Page numbers: put the header at the top left on every page along with a short title of the paper, well-punctuated. Include a number at the top right corner of the page.
  • Margins: on all sides, use 1-inch margins
  • Title Page: in your title page, include the author’s name & institutional affiliation. Based on the teacher’s requirements, you can include the course title, the tutor’s name, and the date.
  • Headings: use title case in all headings and bold them. Based on the heading level, you will be instructed on how to apply the heading.

MLA Essay Format

Designed by the Modern Language Association, the MLA essay format is one of the common essay formats for college students. Originally, this format style was developed for students undertaking literature and language disciplines, but it now cuts across different essay papers, including humanities.

MLA is one of the simplest essay format styles; it follows a standard essay format with the following basic guidelines:

  • Font: Times New Roman, size 12
  • Line spacing option: include double spaces. Avoid extra spaces in between paragraphs.
  • First-page heading: in the first page, include your name, tutor’s name, class (course or class), and date.
  • Margins: use a 1-inch margin on the right, left, bottom, and top
  • Title: your title should be centered just above the first line of the essay. The font and size should match that of the essay itself.
  • Alignment: align your essay evenly to the left side
  • Indentation: use ½ inch when indenting
  • Page Numbers: include last name and page numbers on every page as a header

When citing your paper in MLA style, consider the following:

  1. The citation page should be the last page of your essay
  2. Double-space the citation page and include the header with your last name and page number
  3. Always include the phrase “works cited” at the top and center it.
  4. Arrange your cited works in alphabetical order

The Chicago Style

Also known as the Turabian style, the Chicago style’s main focus is on the source of origin. Therefore, footnotes and correct citations are the basics of a Chicago style. This style follows the guidelines below:

  • Font: Times New Roman, not less than size 10
  • Line spacing option: double-spacing
  • Title page: center, the title in capital letters, your name, course name, and date.
  • Use footnotes at the bottom of the page
  • Margins: 1-1.5-inch on both sides
  • Indentation: ½ inch
  • Page Numbers: include page numbers (upper right corner of each page) minus the title page

How should an essay be formatted? Pro tips

  1. Read the guidelines well

Before you begin formatting your paper, make sure you understand the basic guidelines and know the appropriate formatting style to apply to your essay.

  1. Review an essay structure example

Should you get stuck at formatting your essay using a certain style, be sure to check a professional example and get a picture of how you need to format your essay.


Have you been struggling with formatting your essays? Use this guide and realize how easy it is to format your paper in different styles.