Which 10 essay formatting features should I check?
This is the second and final lesson about Essay Formatting. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Review the concept of essay formatting at university
– Introduce 10 formatting features that are normally important
– Complete the related lesson worksheets to improve English proficiency and academic knowledge
Formatting an academic assignment involves changing the design and layout of that document to suit a set of rules. Having discussed what formatting is, why universities have strict formatting rules, and how students can find out which rules are expected at their institution, this second and final lesson explores the ten most common essay-formatting features. Paying careful attention to each of these in turn should help you submit a well-formatted essay, ensuring that you don’t lose any marks over simple errors such as using the wrong font type or size.
Feature 1: Cover Pages
A cover page is a special document that’s dedicated to the particular assignment you’re submitting, attached to the very beginning of your work so that it’s clear to your assessor which paper they’re marking. If being used, a cover page may include your name, your student number, the title of your assignment (i.e., the essay question) and details about the institution – such as the university logo or rules.
Feature 2: Headers and Footers
Headers and footers are the spaces at the very top and bottom of a page that contain the same information across all pages in a document. If you write your name in one header for instance, then your name will be visible in the header of every page (usually in a much smaller font than found in the main text). The most common information contained within headers and footers are:
- (found in the header) name, student number, module name, module code, assignment title
- (found in the footer) page numbers, institution name, institutional disclaimer
Feature 3: Contents and Appendices
In bigger assignments such as dissertations, research projects and theses, you may be asked to include a contents list and appendix. A contents list will come at the beginning of a document and will contain details of the various headings and subheadings used throughout that text, offering page numbers for quick access. An appendix on the other hand, appendices plural, is placed at the back of an assignment and contains any additional information that might be useful for your assessor, such as raw data, questionnaires and surveys.
Feature 4: Headings and Subheadings
When adding headings and subheadings to your essay, make sure that these titles are used logically and that their font size is larger than the main text. You may also wish to use bold or underlining (be consistent) as this will help headings stand out, better signposting your assignment for the reader.
Feature 5: Fonts and Font Sizes
In fact, when it comes to font types and sizes, you should attempt to be consistent across your essay, using different sizes for different features but the same font throughout. Common font sizes for the main text of an essay are between 11-14pt while headings are usually around 14-20pt. As for font types, the most commonly used are the ones that are easiest to read. These are: ‘Arial’, ‘Calibri’, ‘Courier’, ‘Times New Roman’ and ‘Verdana’.
Feature 6: Line and Margin Spacing
Similarly, the spacing of your lines and margins is also a requirement of many university formatting guidelines. For each line of text, you may be asked to either set a specific spacing size such as ‘1.11sp’ or ‘1.44sp’ or you may have to set your spacing to something like ‘single’, ‘multiple’ or ‘1.5’. Most word processors will have these options. For margins (the blank space to the left and right of the page), you may see words such as ‘wide’, ‘normal’ or ‘narrow’ to indicate pre-set widths, or you may be asked to set your margins more precisely – such as to ‘1.27cm’.
Feature 7: Indentation and Line Breaks
Also important is how you identify to your reader where one paragraph ends and another begins. There are two common ways of doing this depending on the rules of your institution. The first is indentation, which is when you press ‘tab’ on your keyboard before the first word of a paragraph to indent the first sentence by a centimetre or two (this should be done for every paragraph except the first). A line break, on the other hand, is when there’s a line or two of space placed between one paragraph and another to indicate where each paragraph begins and ends. Both indentation and line breaks can be seen in the examples below:
Feature 8: Text Justification
Justification of your text is also important, of which there are four types: ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘centre’ and ‘full’. Justification is an indication of which way the text aligns, and in academia only left and full justification are generally used:
Feature 9: Word Counts
Also important is the inclusion of an accurate word count at the very end of an essay, just before the reference list. However, because not all essay features are included within a word count, it’s important that you count your words correctly throughout your document. The following table provides some guidance:
Feature 10: Referencing
The final formatting feature involves paying careful attention to referencing, such as the formatting of your citations and reference lists. A reference list may need to be ordered correctly, for example, alphabetically and chronologically, and the references themselves will need a keen editorial eye for punctuation and italics. Ultimately, because these formatting rules depend on the style of referencing being used, and because this is a fairly complex topic, we recommend you visit our section on referencing features and referencing challenges to find out more.
Great work on finishing this short course on essay formatting. Are you ready to complete our Lesson Worksheets to check your knowledge and improve your English proficiency? You might also wish to study a related course on essay writing too.
Lesson 2 explores the topic: Which 10 essay formatting features should I check? Our Lesson 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.
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