An Introduction to Essay Format: Definition, Samples, Difficulties


As soon as you receive an essay assignment and start planning the writing process, it’s always essential to consider the required essay format. It is traditionally indicated by the professor in the home tsk prompt, among other requirements, such as the topic, word/page count, the number of sources to be used, and mandatory readings.

So, what should you do if you have no clue about essay formatting? One option is to contact our company, saying, “please write my essay reviews.” If you follow this path, you can be sure that the task will be performed quickly and competently. But if you wish to tackle the challenge on your own, please read on to learn all the formatting ins and outs.

Here you’ll find much valuable information about the formatting process and examples of formatting in various academic styles.

Essay Format Put Simply

When we talk about format, we typically mean the essay layout students should follow when organizing their assignments on paper. However, formatting is not only about the layout; it also relates to how you cite the external evidence in-text and how you report the external evidence sources at the end of the paper in your bibliography.

So, essay format is essentially about these things:

  • Size of paper (typically A4 or 8.5 x 11’’).
  • Font size and type (typically 11 or 12 Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier).
  • Indentation (typically left).
  • Margins (typically 1” on all sides; the larger left-side margin for long works, like dissertations, to simplify binding).
  • Line spacing (single- or double-spaced).
  • In-text referencing.
  • Full list of used sources at the end of the paper.

Take into account all these aspects not to lose the vital grading points. Professors are usually strict regarding referencing as they check the students’ diligence and attention to detail by the way they complied with all formatting conventions.

How to Write an Essay in MLA Format

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, and accordingly, the style is most often used for language, liberal arts, and social sciences works. Here the emphasis is made on the author and page number of the source, which is more important for literary analysis.

The basic conventions of using the MLA essay format are:

  • Indicating the author and the page number in parentheses (e.g., Johnson 45).
  • Indicating the title of the source if no author is known (e.g., “Encyclopedia of Writing” 345).
  • Indicating the author only if there is no pagination in the source (e.g., Northrop).

The year of publication is not indicated in the in-text references. The page with references is also called differently – in MLA, it is the Works Cited page.

As for the source referencing, the typical MLA quotes look as follows:


Elliott, Ann. Introduction to MLA Referencing. Springer, 2020. Print.


Elliott, Ann. “Introduction to MLA Referencing.” The Journal of Referencing, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-2.


Elliott, Ann. “Introduction to MLA Referencing.” Encyclopedia of Writing, 2018.

Accessed September 1, 2020.

The Differences Between MLA &. APA

The first difference coming to mind when comparing MLA and APA is the essay layout.

While margins, line spacing, and font preferences are typically the same for both styles, the MLA format essays don’t have a title page. An APA paper starts with a title page on which the full name of the essay is indicated, followed by the student’s name and institution’s name. But in the MLA papers, there are only a couple of lines indicating the student’s name, course name, professor’s name, and submission date. The header is indented to the left, followed by the essay title and the text.

In terms of referencing sources, MLA and APA also differ. MLA is based on the author-page number style of citation, while APA follows an author-date approach. Here is an essay format example of two styles to illustrate the point – we intentionally use one excerpt with different referencing approaches to show the distinctions between the two styles.

APA proper essay format

For decades, international commercial arbitration has been used as an alternative to traditional litigation (Horn, 2020). Its benefits are numerous, including the “speed and efficiency of commercial dispute resolution unattainable in state courts” (Johnson, 2020, p. 23). On the other hand, as Todd (2015) noted, the parties should understand the risks of resorting to arbitration as they voluntarily refuse their universal right to a fair trial, entrusting the decision to a private party.

MLA proper essay format

International commercial arbitration has been used for decades as an alternative to traditional litigation (Horn 524). Its benefits are numerous, including the “speed and efficiency of commercial dispute resolution unattainable in state courts” (Johnson 23). On the other hand, as Todd noted, the parties should understand the risks of resorting to arbitration as they voluntarily refuse their universal right to a fair trial, entrusting the decision to a private party (21).

Writing in APA Format

Completing an essay in the APA essay writing format is not complicated. This one is traditionally considered the easiest formatting type that is super-easy to master.

Here are the basics:

  • Indicate an author and the publication date (e.g., Johnson, 2001; Johnson & Johnson, 2020).
  • Add a page number if you include a direct quote (e.g., Johnson, 2001, p. 25).
  • Order the authors’ names alphabetically if you mention several in one sentence (e.g., Amanda, 2005; Berk, 2016; Cory, 2020).


Johnson, K. (2020). An introduction to referencing. Routledge.


Johnson, K. (2020). An introduction to referencing. American Journal of Referencing, 24(5), 1-12.


Johnson, K. (2020). An introduction to referencing. The Referencing Portal.

Chicago Manual of Style

Speaking about Chicago, one should note that it’s the most complicated of all discussed essay formats. This is because Chicago referencing can involve the use of both in-text citations and footnotes, while the latter is often a challenge for novice students to master. Besides, Chicago is rarely used for class assignment referencing, being more common in published research.

Anyway, if you happen to come across this formatting style, here is a quick guide to Chicago essentials:

  • Indicate the author, date of publication, and page number (e.g., Johnson 2008, 35).
  • This formatting example is universal for all source types, except for those that don’t have numbered pages.
  • The reference list contains full names of the authors, and years are indicated without parentheses.

Here is an example of a Chicago-style reference:


Allan, Bob, and Amanda Rodriguez. 2019. An Encyclopedia of Referencing. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.


Allan, Bob, and Amanda Rodriguez. 2019. “An Encyclopedia of Referencing.” American Journal of Referencing 25, no. 3 (January): 1-12.


Allan, Bob, and Amanda Rodriguez. 2019. An Encyclopedia of Referencing.

More Writing Tips from Pros

Now that you have learned to navigate through the multitude of essay formats existing in academic writing today, it’s time to proceed to complete your paper.

Here is a couple of pro tips we have reserved for you.

Think of the Format Early

Take notes of the vital data from the sources you’re using. You may forget to note the page from which you took the information, and after completing the essay, you suddenly remember that it is an MLA assignment. Thus, you’ll need to spend extra time going back to your sources and find the page numbers.

Take the Format Seriously

If you want to get an A for the assignment, sticking to all conventions is vital. Tutors reduce the mark by 5-10% if some vital components are missing.

Opt for the Universal Rules

If you’re unsure which format you need, stick to the universal rules of page organization, margins, spacing, etc. Indicate both the year of publication and the page number not to lose essential information out of sight. It’s easier to remove something later instead of searching for the same data again.

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