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Not sure which path your essay should follow? Formatting an essay may not be as interesting as choosing a topic to write about or carefully crafting elegant sentences, but it’s an extremely important part of creating a high-quality paper. In this article, we’ll explain essay formatting rules for three of the most popular essay styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

For each, we’ll do a high-level overview of what your essay’s structure and references should look like, then we include a comparison chart with nitty-gritty details for each style, such as which font you should use for each and whether they’re a proponent of the Oxford comma. We also include information on why essay formatting is important and what you should do if you’re not sure which style to use.

Why Is Your Essay Format Important?

Does it really matter which font size you use or exactly how you cite a source in your paper? It can! Style formats were developed as a way to standardize how pieces of writing and their works cited lists should look. 

Why is this necessary? Imagine you’re a teacher, researcher, or publisher who reviews dozens of papers a week. If the papers didn’t follow the same formatting rules, you could waste a lot of time trying to figure out which sources were used, if certain information is a direct quote or paraphrased, even who the paper’s author is. Having essay formatting rules to follow makes things easier for everyone involved. Writers can follow a set of guidelines without trying to decide for themselves which formatting choices are best, and readers don’t need to go hunting for the information they’re trying to find.

Next, we’ll discuss the three most common style formats for essays.

MLA Essay Format

MLA style was designed by the Modern Language Association, and it has become the most popular college essay format for students writing papers for class. It was originally developed for students and researchers in the literature and language fields to have a standardized way of formatting their papers, but it is now used by people in all disciplines, particularly humanities. MLA is often the style teachers prefer their students to use because it has simple, clear rules to follow without extraneous inclusions often not needed for school papers. For example, unlike APA or Chicago styles, MLA doesn’t require a title page for a paper, only a header in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

MLA style doesn’t have any specific requirements for how to write your essay, but an MLA format essay will typically follow the standard essay format of an introduction (ending with a thesis statement), several body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

One of the nice things about creating your works cited for MLA is that all references are structured the same way, regardless of whether they’re a book, newspaper, etc. It’s the only essay format style that makes citing references this easy! Here is a guide on how to cite any source in MLA format. When typing up your works cited, here are a few MLA format essay rules to keep in mind:

  • The works cited page should be the last paper of your paper.
  • This page should still be double-spaced and include the running header of your last name and page number.
  • It should begin with “Works Cited” at the top of the page, centered.
  • Your works cited should be organized in alphabetical order, based on the first word of the citation.

APA Essay Format

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. This format type is most often used for research papers, specifically those in behavioral sciences (such as psychology and neuroscience) and social sciences (ranging from archeology to economics). Because APA is often used for more research-focused papers, they have a more specific format to follow compared to, say, MLA style.

All APA style papers begin with a title page, which contains the title of the paper (in capital letters), your name, and your institutional affiliation (if you’re a student, then this is simply the name of the school you attend). The APA recommends the title of your paper not be longer than 12 words.

After your title page, your paper begins with an abstract. The abstract is a single paragraph, typically between 150 to 250 words, that sums up your research. It should include the topic you’re researching, research questions, methods, results, analysis, and a conclusion that touches on the significance of the research. Many people find it easier to write the abstract last, after completing the paper.

After the abstract comes the paper itself. APA essay format recommends papers be short, direct, and make their point clearly and concisely. This isn’t the time to use flowery language or extraneous descriptions. Your paper should include all the sections mentioned in the abstract, each expanded upon.

Following the paper is the list of references used. Unlike MLA style, in APA essay format, every source type is referenced differently. So the rules for referencing a book are different from those for referencing a journal article are different from those referencing an interview. Here’s a guide for how to reference different source types in APA format . Your references should begin on a new page that says “REFERENCES” at the top, centered. The references should be listed in alphabetical order.

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Chicago Essay Format

Chicago style (sometimes referred to as “Turabian style”) was developed by the University of Chicago Press and is typically the least-used by students of the three major essay style formats. The Chicago Manual of Style (currently on its 17th edition) contains within its 1000+ pages every rule you need to know for this style. This is a very comprehensive style, with a rule for everything. It’s most often used in history-related fields, although many people refer to The Chicago Manual of Style for help with a tricky citation or essay format question. Many book authors use this style as well.

Like APA, Chicago style begins with a title page, and it has very specific format rules for doing this which are laid out in the chart below. After the title page may come an abstract, depending on whether you’re writing a research paper or not. Then comes the essay itself. The essay can either follow the introduction → body → conclusion format of MLA or the different sections included in the APA section. Again, this depends on whether you’re writing a paper on research you conducted or not.

Unlike MLA or APA, Chicago style typically uses footnotes or endnotes instead of in-text or parenthetical citations. You’ll place the superscript number at the end of the sentence (for a footnote) or end of the page (for an endnote), then have an abbreviated source reference at the bottom of the page. The sources will then be fully referenced at the end of the paper, in the order of their footnote/endnote numbers. The reference page should be titled “Bibliography” if you used footnotes/endnotes or “References” if you used parenthetical author/date in-text citations.

Comparison Chart

Below is a chart comparing different formatting rules for APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.

How Should You Format Your Essay If Your Teacher Hasn’t Specified a Format?

What if your teacher hasn’t specified which essay format they want you to use? The easiest way to solve this problem is simply to ask your teacher which essay format they prefer. However, if you can’t get ahold of them or they don’t have a preference, we recommend following MLA format. It’s the most commonly-used essay style for students writing papers that aren’t based on their own research, and its formatting rules are general enough that a teacher of any subject shouldn’t have a problem with an MLA format essay. The fact that this style has one of the simplest sets of rules for citing sources is an added bonus!

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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How To Write An Essay

Essay Format

Barbara P

Essay Format - An Easy Guide & Examples

11 min read

Published on: Nov 14, 2020

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

Essay Format

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Drafting a perfect college essay is very important for students' academics. And to write a perfect essay, its formatting is important.

An essay is a formal piece of writing. Any formal writing requires proper structure and formatting. You can not just jumble up information and expect your essay to be effective. Its clarity depends on the format you choose. 

This blog is written to give a better understanding of an essay format and the general guidelines of each type of format to present the gathered information in a disciplined way. 

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What is an Essay Format? 

An essay format is a way in which the information is organized for your essay. The format of an essay has a lot to do with the presentation of the text. If your essay is poorly structured or lacks a format, your readers will have difficulty understanding the main argument and the idea. 

Readers will never continue reading something that is confusing or gives the impression that a writer is sloppy. 

A standard format to write your essay or paper is the linear approach. In this, each idea is presented to make it easier for the readers to understand. If you know how to structure an essay, you are halfway through. 

Types of Essay Formats 

There are 3 basic formatting styles or types in which all essays and papers are formatted. They are:

Whether you are writing a research paper or a general academic essay, you have to choose a format to draft it. Students are often assigned a format by their instructors, so they should read the guidelines carefully. 

How to Write an Essay in MLA Format? 

MLA format style is quite common in the humanities world. Papers and essays that are to be written in this format should fulfill the following requirements. 

  • The font you are using should be Times New Roman in 12pt.
  • Double spacing. 
  • No extra space between the new paragraphs
  • One inch margin on both sides of the paper
  • Page number in the header.
  • Essay title in the center of the page.
  • Sources mentioned in “work cited” 

MLA vs. APA

Before we move to another common essay format APA, you should know that MLA and APA are different from each other.  

Look at the table below and know their differences and similarities. 

How to Write an Essay in APA Format? 

Unlike MLA format, the APA format is used for scientific papers and essays. Essays are written for behavioral or social sciences follow this format. Following are the guidelines for the American Psychological Association format:

  • Font or Text in Times New Roman 12pt
  • One inch margin (both sides)
  • Double spacing in the text
  • A short title on the upper left-hand corner in the header
  • The page number on the right in the header
  • A title page with the information, including the writer’s name, institution, instructor, and date.
  • Reference page (for the citation)

APA Format Essay Example

Chicago Essay Format 

Chicago style essay format is a bit similar to the other format style guides. This format includes;

  • Double spacing
  • Margins (one inch both left margin and right margin)
  • Times New Roman 12pt font size
  • Page number in the header
  • Footnotes on quoted and paraphrased passages 
  • An alphabetical arrangement of citations on the bibliography page. 

Chicago Format Essay Example

Basic Parts of an Essay Format 

A typical and general format that an essay uses is simple. Every type of essay can be written in that format. Following are the parts that an essay format is based on:

In order to make sure that your academic essay is effective, each of the parts should be drafted professionally. 

Here is an essay structure! 

Continue reading to understand each part in detail. 

1. Cover Or Title Page   

The cover or title page is the first page on which the topic of your paper or essay is presented. Along with this, the title page includes other information such as the name of the writer, instructor, institution, course, and the submission date.   2. An Abstract 

An abstract is a brief summary of your essay or research paper. It is usually a 300-word long paragraph and precisely presents the purpose of the essay, the main thesis statement, and the study’s design. 

3. Table Of Contents

When you are drafting a long essay or paper, a table of content is developed. In this table, headings and subheadings are presented along with their page numbers. The reader navigates your work using this table of content. 

4. Introduction 

An introduction is the first section of your essay. When writing a short essay of about 300 - 1000 words, a writer directly starts with an introduction after stating the essay topic. 

An introduction of an essay is as important as the body of it. The essay introduction discloses the main idea of the essay and attempts to motivate readers to read the essay. Apart from the presentation of the main idea, it also contains background information about the topic.

A writer then forms a thesis statement which is the main argument of an essay. A thesis statement is the essence of the essay, and all other information provided in the body of an essay justifies it and proves it.

5. Main Body 

The main body is the soul of an essay. Without it, the thesis statement will just be meaningless. The information you gather on the topic is presented in the body, which acts as evidence to prove the argument right or wrong depending on the writer. 

A format helps the body give a logical flow that walks the reader towards the end. The point to prove your argument is to persuade the reader that your thesis statement is right. Make sure you give a topic sentence to all your body paragraphs. 

6. Conclusion 

Then comes the conclusion part of the essay. This is the final verdict of an essay writer. In this, a writer avoids giving new ideas to the readers and tries to sum up the whole conversation. This is done by restating the thesis statement in different words and summarizing the key ideas. 

7. Appendix 

An appendix is formulated when a writer uses unusual terms, phrases, and words in the document. This is a list prepared to describe those unordinary words for the readers. 

8. Bibliography 

When gathering information for your essay or paper, a writer has to consult different sources. Therefore, when using such sources and information in your content, a bibliography is created to provide their references.

A bibliography is a reference list presented at the end of the essay where all the cited sources are given along with the details. 

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Formatting an Essay 

Formatting an essay means working on the essay structure. When writing an academic essay, make sure that every part is drafted according to format. Your title page, in-text citation, essay outline, and reference list should be following the chosen format. 

To understand the formatting of the different parts better, continue reading. 

  • Title Page Format 

According to the MLA style, the title page of an essay should be written in the following way:

  • Writing the name of the writer, course, instructor, and date. 
  • Double spacing between paragraphs
  • Institute’s name in the top center of a page
  • Title of your essay or paper
  • Font Times New Roman (12pt)

If you are using an APA style formatting for your essay, make sure to format your title page in the following way: 

  • Title written in all caps
  • The margin on both sides (1 inch)
  • 12pt font Times New Roman
  • Name of writer and institute

A title page is the first thing that an instructor sees in your assignment. Therefore, it is very important to form it in a neat format. 

  • First Page of an Essay 

Before you start writing your essay, format your first page. To do this, add a header in which you give your last name and the page number. Place the header on the right-hand corner of your page. 

Follow this for every page of your essay except the last page; the “work cited” page. 

On the left upper corner, write your name, instructor’s, course’s, and the date. Put the title in the center and use double-spacing throughout the essay. 

  • Cite According to Essay Format 

When you are conducting research for your essay, you will come across a lot of text which will complement your essay topic. Without knowing the consequences, people take the text from the internet and add it to the essay. 

Citing the source properly is essential. If you do not cite the sources properly, you will be accused of plagiarism, a crime in the writing world. Therefore, even if you are using other’s words in the form of quotation marks or rephrasing it, it needs to be cited to avoid plagiarism. 

Get to know which style of the in-text citations is recommended by your instructor and follow that. In APA format, the citation is done in the following way:

  • Give the author’s name (last name), followed by the publication date and the paragraph number of the original work. 

The other way is to cite in MLA style:

  • Give the author’s last name and the page number of the publication you are taking words from. 

Therefore, cite your sources according to the essay format and make your essay writing phase easy.   

  • Format The Bibliography

The last page of your essay is the “works cited” page. This page is written in the way presented below:

  • Sources are alphabetically arranged
  • Double spacing is used on the entire page
  • Hanging indention is also used. 

Essay Format Examples

There are several types of academic essays that students get assigned. No matter which type the essay is, it has to be properly formatted. Carefully examine the formats provided below for the different essay types:

Argumentative Essay Format

College Essay Format

Narrative Essay Format

Descriptive Essay Format

Scholarship Essay Format

Persuasive Essay Format

Essay Format for University

Expository Essay Format

Essay Format Template

Essay Format Outline

Writing a good essay includes the proper representation of the text. For this purpose, formatting is done. Unfortunately, when students rush to finish their assignments, they often end up with poorly formatted content. 

If you are out of time or having any issues in producing structured content for your essays, you can get help from professionals online. 

Writers at CollegeEssay.org provide high-quality writing services to students of every type and style of writing.

Get assistance from our AI essay generator tool to help you write flawless and ‘A’ worthy essays, term papers, and research papers.

Place your order today with our expert essay writing service and excel in your academic path!

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Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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Essay Writing Guide

Essay Format

Nova A.

Essay Format: A Basic Guide With Examples

10 min read

Published on: Sep 24, 2017

Last updated on: Dec 30, 2023

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Are you having trouble making your essay look just right? Lots of students find formatting tricky, so you're not alone. 

This guide is here to help you figure out how to format your essay. We've got examples of essays in APA, MLA, Chicago, and other styles to make it easier for you to learn.

So, keep reading – we've got you covered!

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What is an Essay Format?

An essay format refers to a set of guidelines that decides how the elements of your paper should be arranged. No matter what type of essay you’re writing, formatting is an essential step in the essay writing process.

The format guidelines cover the essay structure, title, citations, and the basic outline of the essay. 

When formatting a paper, there are certain things that you need to pay attention to. These include the structure of an essay, title page, works cited page, and citation styles . 

Here is a basic essay format template:

How To Format Essay in MLA Style

Formatting an essay in MLA style is a common requirement in many academic settings, particularly in the humanities. 

MLA provides guidelines for various aspects of your essay, from font and margins to citations and bibliography. Here’s an essay format MLA you can use as a reference:

MLA Essay Format Template

  • Title Page: MLA does not typically require a separate title page. Instead, place your title at the top of the first page, centered, and do not use bold, italics, or underline for the title. Below the title, include your name, the instructor's name, the course name and number, and the due date, each on a separate line, left-aligned.
  • Header and Page Numbers: Create a header with your last name and page number in the upper right corner of every page, half an inch from the top, and flush with the right margin. For example: Smith 1.
  • Margins and Spacing: Set all margins to 1 inch, and use double-spacing throughout the essay.
  • Font and Size: Use a legible font like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12.
  • Indentation: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches, which can be done automatically using the "Tab" key.
  • Paragraphs: Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks within sentences.
  • Title: Place the title of your essay (centered) at the top of the first page. Do not use bold, italics, or underlining for the title. Capitalize major words.
  • Citations: MLA uses in-text citations to acknowledge sources. When quoting or paraphrasing, include the author's last name and the page number (e.g., Smith 45).
  • Works Cited Page: At the end of your essay, include a separate page titled "Works Cited." List all sources alphabetically by the author's last name. Follow the specific MLA citation style for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).

Sample MLA Essay

MLA Format Paper - MyPerfectWords.com

How to Format Essay in APA

Formatting an essay in APA style is commonly used in the social sciences and psychology. 

APA provides a set of guidelines for various elements of your essay, including formatting, citations, and references. Here’s how to format essay in apa:

APA Essay Format Template

  • Title Page: The title page in APA includes: Title of the Essay (centered, bold, and in title case) Your Name (centered) Institutional Affiliation (centered) Running head: [Shortened Title] (flush left, in uppercase) Page Number (flush right)
  • Header and Page Numbers: Create a header with the title of your essay in all capital letters, followed by a colon and a shortened version of the title (up to 50 characters), in the upper left corner of every page. The page number should be in the upper right corner.
  • Font and Size: Use a clear and readable font like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12.
  • Paragraphs: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches. Use a hanging indent for references on the reference page.
  • Citations: Use in-text citations to acknowledge sources. Include the author's last name and the publication year (e.g., Smith, 2023) when quoting or paraphrasing.
  • Title: Use bold and title case for the title of your essay on the title page. On subsequent pages, use a shortened version of the title (in uppercase) as the header.
  • References Page: At the end of your essay, create a separate page titled "References." List all sources alphabetically by the author's last name. Follow the specific APA citation style for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).

Sample APA Essay

APA Format Paper - MyPerfectWords.com

How to Format Essay in Chicago Style

Formatting an essay in Chicago style, often used in history and some other humanities disciplines, requires specific guidelines for citations and formatting. Here are the guidelines to format your essay in Chicago style:

Chicago Essay Format Template

  • Title Page: The title page in Chicago style includes: Title of the Essay (centered, in headline-style capitalization) Your Name (centered) Course Name and Number (centered) Instructor's Name (centered) Date (centered)
  • Margins and Spacing: Set all margins to 1 inch. Use double-spacing throughout the essay.
  • Page Numbers: Number pages in the upper right corner of each page, beginning with the first page of the main text (usually page 1). Page numbers should be in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
  • Paragraphs: Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches. Use a block paragraph style with no extra space between paragraphs.
  • Citations: In Chicago style, you have two citation options: footnotes and endnotes. In your text, place a superscript number (e.g., ^1) at the end of the sentence containing the cited information. Corresponding footnotes or endnotes should provide full citation details.
  • Title: Use headline-style capitalization for the title of your essay (e.g., "The History of Ancient Civilizations").
  • Bibliography: At the end of your essay, include a separate page titled "Bibliography." List all sources alphabetically by the author's last name. Follow the specific Chicago citation style for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).

Sample Chicago Essay

Chicago Format Paper - MyPerfectWords.com

Formatting In-Text Citations: APA, MLA, and Chicago Styles

An in-text citation is a brief reference within the body of your essay or research paper that indicates the source of information you have incorporated into your writing.

Each of the formatting style have a unique way for adding in-text citations:

In APA style, remember to include the author's last name, the publication date, and the page number (if applicable) within parentheses.

Example: "The impact of climate change on biodiversity is a growing concern (Smith, 2020, p. 27)."

In MLA style, provide the author's last name and the page number without any punctuation between them.

Example: "The impact of climate change on biodiversity is a growing concern (Jones 42)."

Chicago Style Format

The Chicago Manual of Style offers two distinct options for in-text citations:

  • Author-Date Style: In this approach, you place your citations within parentheses directly within the text. This style involves citing the author's last name and the publication date within the body of your text. Example: (Smith 2021) or "According to Smith (2021),..."
  • Notes and Bibliography Style: This style utilizes numbered footnotes or endnotes to provide citations. Instead of placing citations within the text, you include a superscript number at the end of the relevant sentence, which corresponds to a full citation located in a footnote at the bottom of the page (or endnotes at the end of the document). Example: Johnson argues that "the data is unconvincing."¹ Nevertheless, Smith contends that the study makes "a compelling case" for this plan of action.²

Each of these Chicago citation styles has its unique advantages and is chosen based on the requirements of the assignment or the preferences of the writer.

How to Determine What Format to Follow

Selecting the appropriate citation format for your academic writing is essential to ensure that your work meets the expected standards. To make an informed decision, consider the following factors:

Subject and Discipline

  • APA Style: Primarily used in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and education. It is also common in business and nursing disciplines.
  • MLA Style: Commonly employed in humanities disciplines, including literature, languages, and cultural studies. It's widely used for papers related to literature and the arts.
  • Chicago Style: Used in history, some social sciences, and certain humanities disciplines. Chicago offers both author-date and notes and bibliography styles, making it versatile for various subjects.

Professor's Instructions

Always adhere to your professor's specific instructions regarding citation style and writing convention . Professors may have preferences or requirements based on the nature of the course or assignment.

For instance, an English professor might prefer MLA for literary analysis, while a psychology professor may opt for APA to encourage familiarity with research norms. However, when formatting styles are not specified by the instructor, you can follow whatever is appropriate for your subject.

Institutional Guidelines

Your educational institution may have established guidelines or standards for citation formats. 

Check your institution's style guide or consult with academic advisors to ensure compliance with their specific requirements.

By considering the subject matter, your professor's preferences, and your institution's guidelines, you can confidently choose the appropriate citation style to enhance the clarity and professionalism of your academic writing.

Now that you've gained a solid understanding of the basics for three major formatting styles, you're well-prepared to tackle your essay formatting with confidence. 

Whether you're crafting an essay, a research paper, or any academic document, these formatting principles will help you present your ideas professionally.

If you find yourself in a time crunch, our expert writers are here to help you tackle your academic challenges in no time. 

With our essay writing service , you get reliable help with any type of assignment, even with tight deadlines. Our writers are sure to deliver you 100% original papers that meet your requirements. 

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  • Example of a great essay | Explanations, tips & tricks

Example of a Great Essay | Explanations, Tips & Tricks

Published on February 9, 2015 by Shane Bryson . Revised on July 23, 2023 by Shona McCombes.

This example guides you through the structure of an essay. It shows how to build an effective introduction , focused paragraphs , clear transitions between ideas, and a strong conclusion .

Each paragraph addresses a single central point, introduced by a topic sentence , and each point is directly related to the thesis statement .

As you read, hover over the highlighted parts to learn what they do and why they work.

Table of contents

Other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an essay, an appeal to the senses: the development of the braille system in nineteenth-century france.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

In France, debates about how to deal with disability led to the adoption of different strategies over time. While people with temporary difficulties were able to access public welfare, the most common response to people with long-term disabilities, such as hearing or vision loss, was to group them together in institutions (Tombs, 1996). At first, a joint institute for the blind and deaf was created, and although the partnership was motivated more by financial considerations than by the well-being of the residents, the institute aimed to help people develop skills valuable to society (Weygand, 2009). Eventually blind institutions were separated from deaf institutions, and the focus shifted towards education of the blind, as was the case for the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, which Louis Braille attended (Jimenez et al, 2009). The growing acknowledgement of the uniqueness of different disabilities led to more targeted education strategies, fostering an environment in which the benefits of a specifically blind education could be more widely recognized.

Several different systems of tactile reading can be seen as forerunners to the method Louis Braille developed, but these systems were all developed based on the sighted system. The Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris taught the students to read embossed roman letters, a method created by the school’s founder, Valentin Hauy (Jimenez et al., 2009). Reading this way proved to be a rather arduous task, as the letters were difficult to distinguish by touch. The embossed letter method was based on the reading system of sighted people, with minimal adaptation for those with vision loss. As a result, this method did not gain significant success among blind students.

Louis Braille was bound to be influenced by his school’s founder, but the most influential pre-Braille tactile reading system was Charles Barbier’s night writing. A soldier in Napoleon’s army, Barbier developed a system in 1819 that used 12 dots with a five line musical staff (Kersten, 1997). His intention was to develop a system that would allow the military to communicate at night without the need for light (Herron, 2009). The code developed by Barbier was phonetic (Jimenez et al., 2009); in other words, the code was designed for sighted people and was based on the sounds of words, not on an actual alphabet. Barbier discovered that variants of raised dots within a square were the easiest method of reading by touch (Jimenez et al., 2009). This system proved effective for the transmission of short messages between military personnel, but the symbols were too large for the fingertip, greatly reducing the speed at which a message could be read (Herron, 2009). For this reason, it was unsuitable for daily use and was not widely adopted in the blind community.

Nevertheless, Barbier’s military dot system was more efficient than Hauy’s embossed letters, and it provided the framework within which Louis Braille developed his method. Barbier’s system, with its dashes and dots, could form over 4000 combinations (Jimenez et al., 2009). Compared to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, this was an absurdly high number. Braille kept the raised dot form, but developed a more manageable system that would reflect the sighted alphabet. He replaced Barbier’s dashes and dots with just six dots in a rectangular configuration (Jimenez et al., 2009). The result was that the blind population in France had a tactile reading system using dots (like Barbier’s) that was based on the structure of the sighted alphabet (like Hauy’s); crucially, this system was the first developed specifically for the purposes of the blind.

While the Braille system gained immediate popularity with the blind students at the Institute in Paris, it had to gain acceptance among the sighted before its adoption throughout France. This support was necessary because sighted teachers and leaders had ultimate control over the propagation of Braille resources. Many of the teachers at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth resisted learning Braille’s system because they found the tactile method of reading difficult to learn (Bullock & Galst, 2009). This resistance was symptomatic of the prevalent attitude that the blind population had to adapt to the sighted world rather than develop their own tools and methods. Over time, however, with the increasing impetus to make social contribution possible for all, teachers began to appreciate the usefulness of Braille’s system (Bullock & Galst, 2009), realizing that access to reading could help improve the productivity and integration of people with vision loss. It took approximately 30 years, but the French government eventually approved the Braille system, and it was established throughout the country (Bullock & Galst, 2009).

Although Blind people remained marginalized throughout the nineteenth century, the Braille system granted them growing opportunities for social participation. Most obviously, Braille allowed people with vision loss to read the same alphabet used by sighted people (Bullock & Galst, 2009), allowing them to participate in certain cultural experiences previously unavailable to them. Written works, such as books and poetry, had previously been inaccessible to the blind population without the aid of a reader, limiting their autonomy. As books began to be distributed in Braille, this barrier was reduced, enabling people with vision loss to access information autonomously. The closing of the gap between the abilities of blind and the sighted contributed to a gradual shift in blind people’s status, lessening the cultural perception of the blind as essentially different and facilitating greater social integration.

The Braille system also had important cultural effects beyond the sphere of written culture. Its invention later led to the development of a music notation system for the blind, although Louis Braille did not develop this system himself (Jimenez, et al., 2009). This development helped remove a cultural obstacle that had been introduced by the popularization of written musical notation in the early 1500s. While music had previously been an arena in which the blind could participate on equal footing, the transition from memory-based performance to notation-based performance meant that blind musicians were no longer able to compete with sighted musicians (Kersten, 1997). As a result, a tactile musical notation system became necessary for professional equality between blind and sighted musicians (Kersten, 1997).

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Bullock, J. D., & Galst, J. M. (2009). The Story of Louis Braille. Archives of Ophthalmology , 127(11), 1532. https://​doi.org/10.1001/​archophthalmol.2009.286.

Herron, M. (2009, May 6). Blind visionary. Retrieved from https://​eandt.theiet.org/​content/​articles/2009/05/​blind-visionary/.

Jiménez, J., Olea, J., Torres, J., Alonso, I., Harder, D., & Fischer, K. (2009). Biography of Louis Braille and Invention of the Braille Alphabet. Survey of Ophthalmology , 54(1), 142–149. https://​doi.org/10.1016/​j.survophthal.2008.10.006.

Kersten, F.G. (1997). The history and development of Braille music methodology. The Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education , 18(2). Retrieved from https://​www.jstor.org/​stable/40214926.

Mellor, C.M. (2006). Louis Braille: A touch of genius . Boston: National Braille Press.

Tombs, R. (1996). France: 1814-1914 . London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Weygand, Z. (2009). The blind in French society from the Middle Ages to the century of Louis Braille . Stanford: Stanford University Press.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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most popular essay format

An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Bryson, S. (2023, July 23). Example of a Great Essay | Explanations, Tips & Tricks. Scribbr. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/example-essay-structure/

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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Paper Types / How to Write an Essay

How to Write an Essay

So you’ve finished writing your essay. Now you can breathe a sigh of relief, close down your computer, and head out to celebrate with friends, right? Right! But after you’ve enjoyed that movie or milkshake, take a few more minutes to give your paper a final look before you hand it in. Doing so could help you avoid critical errors or weak organization that could eat away at your grade.

Guide Overview

  • Reread the assignment
  • Perfect the pacing
  • Correct simple mistakes
  • Avoid plagiarism
  • Learn for next time

1. Reread the assignment

It’s easy to get carried away when writing an essay. You’ve had an idea that you’re excited about, the words start to flow, and soon you’re congratulating yourself on a job well done. However, while being grabbed by an idea is great, writing in the throes of inspiration can also mean mistakes. These could include not actually answering the question or interpreting the essay prompt properly, including information that isn’t relevant to the prompt, or being so focused on getting it done that you don’t include enough content to support your argument fully.

Make sure to check your essay against the original assignment and ask yourself: Does my paper truly and completely answer this question?

2. Perfect the pacing

Getting the pacing wrong could mean an essay that’s rambling, disjointed, lacking in essential detail, or just not engaging. Check that your paper is properly paced and book-ended by a clear introduction and conclusion.

As a general guide, the introduction and conclusion should each form around a fifth of your essay, with the essay body making up three-fifths. Check that your word count roughly fits these margins to get a perfectly paced essay. If it doesn’t, consider whether a section has too much detail or not enough. In the case of a long introduction, for example, is all of the information necessary? If so, should some of it be in the first paragraph of the paper body instead? A simple edit is often all that’s needed to correct pacing problems, resulting in an essay that flows much better.

3. Correct simple mistakes

Thoroughly proofreading can help ensure your essay is free of grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes you might have missed the first time. Nothing’s worse than losing points for small errors! So take the time to reread your essay with fresh eyes, or ask a friend or writing tutor to take a pass.

Citations can be the trickiest part of formatting. Make sure you’re citing in the correct style for your subject. If you’re unsure, ask your teacher, professor or TA. MLA style (Modern Language Association) and APA style (American Psychological Association) are among the most popular styles, with the former favored by humanities subjects and the latter favored by science subjects. Formatting guidelines for APA, MLA and Chicago style format can be found online, if your teacher doesn’t provide them.

4. Avoid plagiarism

It’s vital that any material you quote or paraphrase within your essay be properly referenced using the required citation format. Failure to reference your sources, even unintentionally, amounts to plagiarism, which can lead to a failing grade or an even more severe sanction from your school. When you check your essay, remember that even ideas that you haven’t directly quoted need to be referenced.

Look back through your source material or your notes as you check your essay. This will enable you to clearly see if you’ve used any material unintentionally, without referencing the source.

Actually creating the citations for a works cited page (or an annotated bibliography ) should be the easy part. After you’ve verified the correct citation style for your class, make sure you have all the required information, then feed that information into the EasyBib citation generator. You’ll also need to create in text citations that correlate to the full citations listed on your works cited page .

5. Learn for next time

Hopefully, the above final checking process should result in a good grade. But whatever the outcome, use it as an opportunity to gather feedback and make improvements on your next essay. If you’re disappointed with your grade, or don’t understand the feedback your teacher has given you (or if they haven’t given any), don’t be afraid to approach them to discuss where you went wrong and how you can prevent losing points in the future.

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A Complete Essay Format Guide

25 June, 2020

11 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

So, you’ve crafted your essay. Congratulations! The hard part is truly over. Now comes the time to choose the proper essay format. It is no longer about your content, but rather about the way you arrange it. You do it to meet your school’s requirements.

Essay Format Guide

In this guide, we will focus on common formatting styles:

  • APA essay format;
  • MLA essay format;
  • Harvard format essay, and
  • Chicago essay format.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to business.

What is an Essay Format?

An essay format is the structure and the general guidelines of an essay that keep its content organized and well-structured.

The primary purpose of the college essay format is to help the readers follow main ideas behind the content without stumbling upon its structure. It is not a daunting task to deal with. It is a great way to organize your thoughts for the target audience to understand what you were trying to say in the first place.

Moreover, at least 10% of your grade depends on the proper essay format . Thus, it is in your best interests to stick to the guidelines and use correct essay format.

And it is also true in case you want to get into a college of your dream. Half of the success is in proper college application essay format. So, don’t miss your chance!

Educational institutions require different essay formats. Therefore, to get the highest grades, one must know the difference between types of essay formats and follow the guidelines when working on a piece.

In just a bit, you will find out the difference between the APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA format for essays.

Types of Essay Formats

Here are four most common types of essay formats, as we have mentioned above.

They all have their specifics, and each school has its own requirements. However, MLA remains the top essay format. We don’t say that it’s the best essay writing format. However, it is the most popular one.

And unless you have clear instructions on what essay format to use in your paper, you’d rather opt for an MLA format essay.

The essay format style has nothing to do with the complexity of your paper. The argumentative essay format at your school depends on the preferences of your tutors, not on the academic level of the paper. So, don’t fall victim to this silly idea.

How to Format a College Essay

To get the highest grade, a student has to know how to format an essay in accordance with these requirements. Here’s an example of how essay formats might differ.

The Difference Between MLA and APA Essay Formats

We’ll give more details on each of these essay formats later in the guide, but for now, let’s see what differences one should know about when it comes to these two formats.

  • The list of works used in the paper is called differently in APA and MLA formats (“ References ” and “ Works cited ” respectively). And even though both of them list works used in the essay alphabetically, with MLA, the name of the author is written in full, while with the APA, only the first letter of his name is mentioned following the last name.
  • In general, APA essay format is mostly used in papers on social studies , while the MLA essay format is typically the top choice for other subjects .
  • Finally, in case you are adding citations inside the text and mention the author within the quote, MLA essay format requires you to add a number of the page you found the quote on at the end of the sentence while in case of the APA essay format you need to mention the year . Here is an APA format essay example with the quote: “Bill Gates (1985) stated that young people would have no problem finding a good job as long as they view computers as tools.”

These might seem like insignificant differences. Yet, when it comes to grading your paper, the tutor will look closely at each of these essay format requirements to see how well you did your homework.

Now that you understand the differences between MLA and APA essay formats let’s go into specifics of each one of them.

How to Write an Essay in MLA Format

The basic guidelines for the MLA essay format are the following:

  • Font : Times New Roman
  • Size of the font : 12pt
  • Margins : 1-inch margin on all the sides of the pape
  • Header : Each page should have a header that will contain the author’s last name and a page number
  • Alignment : To the left-hand side
  • Spacing : Double
  • Indentation : Yes, at the beginning of each paragraph
  • Title : The title comes on the first page at the same font size as the rest of the text, only aligned to the center of the page.
  • Footnotes : Not required

When explaining to you how to start an essay in MLA format, we have to mention that every piece begins with a heading. Place it in the upper right corner, and make sure to include the following facts into it:

  • Your first and last name;
  • Your tutor’s (or professor’s) name;
  • The course you’re taking;

Here is a good MLA essay format example of the headline:

“Mark Snow Jonathan Brown Psychology September 24, 2018.”

If you need more information on the MLA essay format , check our recent guide on this topic.

How to Write an Essay in APA Format

This essay format is also quite common. Its main requirements include but are not limited to:

  • Margins : 1-inch margin on all the sides of the paper
  • Header : Each page should have a header that will contain the title of the paper and a page number. Note that in this essay format the title cannot exceed 50 characters.
  • Title : The title comes on the first page at the same font size as the rest of the text. With it, according to this essay format guidelines, a student must mention his full name and the educational establishment he is currently studying at.

In this case, the APA essay format example of the cover page will look like this:

“Foreign Language Education: How to Teach English to Adults” Mark Snow Yale University”

To find more details on this essay format, please read our complete guide to APA essay format.

Chicago Style Essay Format

Requirements for this essay format include but are not limited to:

  • Font : Times New Roman (unless your tutor specified a different one)
  • Font size : 12pt
  • Margins : 1-inch margins on sides, top, and bottom;
  • Header : Each page should have a page number at the top right corner and your last name. Don’t put a number on the title page.
  • Indentation : 1/2″ indent for paragraph beginnings
  • Footnotes : Required

A title page in case of this essay format starts with a title of your paper placed ¼ page down from the top. Then ½ page down from top comes your full name followed by the course number, the name of the professor and due date at the bottom of the page. You should write each of these points in separate lines with double spacing.

Take a look at this essay format example of a cover page if you need brighter examples to clarify the subject.

Harvard Format

Last but not least is the Harvard essay format . Here are the requirements for this essay writing format:

  • Font : Times New Roman or Arial
  • Header : Each page should have a short version of the paper’s title and a page number in the top right corner with exactly five spaces in between them.
  • Alignment : To the left-hand side.

The cover page in the Harvard essay format is very specific.

The title of your essay should be capitalized and written ½ page down. Then you have to go three lines down to place the author of the work (no capitalization here). From there, you have to go four more lines down to mention the class you are taking first and the tutor’s full name in the next line. Finally, this essay format requires you to specify the name of the educational establishment, its location, and the due date in the following lines.

It doesn’t matter what paper you are writing using this essay format. The structure stays the same.

Here is an example of the compare and contrast essay format. Feast your eyes on it:

Essay Outline Format

Apart from sticking to the requirements of these essay formats, students should also pay close attention to following the essay writing guidelines when it comes to its outline.

Thus, the scholarship essay format, as well as the persuasive essay format, are only considered correct if the text contains all the essential components.

Any essay should have the following structure.

Related Posts: Essay outline | Research Paper outline

Over to You

These are four common essay formats every student should know. Use this guide as a cheat sheet whenever needed.

And in case you don’t want to deal with essay formats, you can always trust us with this important task. Our Online Essay Writer service is your best choice when it comes to excellent essay writing services and perfect essay format.

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How to Format an Essay

Last Updated: August 26, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Carrie Adkins, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Carrie Adkins is the cofounder of NursingClio, an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog that connects historical scholarship to current issues in gender and medicine. She completed her PhD in American History at the University of Oregon in 2013. While completing her PhD, she earned numerous competitive research grants, teaching fellowships, and writing awards. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 80,054 times.

You’re opening your laptop to write an essay, knowing exactly what you want to write, but then it hits you—you don’t know how to format it! Using the correct format when writing an essay can help your paper look polished and professional while earning you full credit. There are 3 common essay formats—MLA, APA, and Chicago Style—and we’ll teach you the basics of properly formatting each in this article. So, before you shut your laptop in frustration, take a deep breath and keep reading because soon you’ll be formatting like a pro.

Setting Up Your Document

Step 1 Read over the assignment’s guidelines before you begin.

  • If you can’t find information on the style guide you should be following, talk to your instructor after class to discuss the assignment or send them a quick email with your questions.
  • If your instructor lets you pick the format of your essay, opt for the style that matches your course or degree best: MLA is best for English and humanities; APA is typically for education, psychology, and sciences; Chicago Style is common for business, history, and fine arts.

Step 2 Set your margins to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for all style guides.

  • Most word processors default to 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins.

Step 3 Use Times New Roman font.

  • Do not change the font size, style, or color throughout your essay.

Step 4 Change your font size to 12pt.

  • Change the spacing on Google Docs by clicking on Format , and then selecting “Line spacing.”
  • Click on Layout in Microsoft Word, and then click the arrow at the bottom left of the “paragraph” section.

Step 6 Put the page number and your last name in the top right header for all styles.

  • Using the page number function will create consecutive numbering.
  • When using Chicago Style, don’t include a page number on your title page. The first page after the title page should be numbered starting at 2. [4] X Research source
  • In APA format, a running heading may be required in the left-hand header. This is a maximum of 50 characters that’s the full or abbreviated version of your essay’s title. [5] X Research source

Step 7 Use a title page with APA or Chicago Style format.

  • For APA formatting, place the title in bold at the center of the page 3 to 4 lines down from the top. Insert one double-spaced line under the title and type your name. Under your name, in separate centered lines, type out the name of your school, course, instructor, and assignment due date. [6] X Research source
  • For Chicago Style, set your cursor ⅓ of the way down the page, then type your title. In the very center of your page, put your name. Move your cursor ⅔ down the page, then write your course number, followed by your instructor’s name and paper due date on separate, double-spaced lines. [7] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Step 8 Create a left-handed heading for MLA Style essays.

  • Double-space the heading like the rest of your paper.

Writing the Essay Body

Step 1 Center the title of your paper in all style formats.

  • Use standard capitalization rules for your title.
  • Do not underline, italicize, or put quotation marks around your title, unless you include other titles of referred texts.

Step 2 Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) for all styles.

  • A good hook might include a quote, statistic, or rhetorical question.
  • For example, you might write, “Every day in the United States, accidents caused by distracted drivers kill 9 people and injure more than 1,000 others.”

Step 4 Include a thesis statement at the end of your introduction.

  • "Action must be taken to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving, including enacting laws against texting while driving, educating the public about the risks, and giving strong punishments to offenders."
  • "Although passing and enforcing new laws can be challenging, the best way to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving is to enact a law against texting, educate the public about the new law, and levy strong penalties."

Step 5 Present each of your points in 1 or more paragraphs.

  • Use transitions between paragraphs so your paper flows well. For example, say, “In addition to,” “Similarly,” or “On the other hand.” [12] X Research source

Step 6 Complete your essay with a conclusion.

  • A statement of impact might be, "Every day that distracted driving goes unaddressed, another 9 families must plan a funeral."
  • A call to action might read, “Fewer distracted driving accidents are possible, but only if every driver keeps their focus on the road.”

Using References

Step 1 Create parenthetical citations...

  • In MLA format, citations should include the author’s last name and the page number where you found the information. If the author's name appears in the sentence, use just the page number. [14] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For APA format, include the author’s last name and the publication year. If the author’s name appears in the sentence, use just the year. [15] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • If you don’t use parenthetical or internal citations, your instructor may accuse you of plagiarizing.

Step 2 Use footnotes for citations in Chicago Style.

  • At the bottom of the page, include the source’s information from your bibliography page next to the footnote number. [16] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • Each footnote should be numbered consecutively.

Step 3 Center the title of your reference page.

  • If you’re using MLA format , this page will be titled “Works Cited.”
  • In APA and Chicago Style, title the page “References.”

Step 4 List your sources on the references page by author’s last name in alphabetical order.

  • If you have more than one work from the same author, list alphabetically following the title name for MLA and by earliest to latest publication year for APA and Chicago Style.
  • Double-space the references page like the rest of your paper.
  • Use a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) if your citations are longer than one line. Press Tab to indent any lines after the first. [17] X Research source
  • Citations should include (when applicable) the author(s)’s name(s), title of the work, publication date and/or year, and page numbers.
  • Sites like Grammarly , EasyBib , and MyBib can help generate citations if you get stuck.

Formatting Resources

most popular essay format

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Write a Reflection Paper

  • ↑ https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/392149/WE_Formatting-your-essay.pdf
  • ↑ https://content.nroc.org/DevelopmentalEnglish/unit10/Foundations/formatting-a-college-essay-mla-style.html
  • ↑ https://camosun.libguides.com/Chicago-17thEd/titlePage
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/page-header
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
  • ↑ https://www.uvu.edu/writingcenter/docs/handouts/writing_process/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/cruzmayra/basicessayformat.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://library.menloschool.org/chicago

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How to format and structure a college essay: A definitive guide

Bonus Material: Download 30 essays that worked for Princeton

Are you a rising high school senior preparing for the admissions process and aiming for one of those coveted spots at selective universities? Are you looking for help figuring out how to structure your college admissions essay to maximize your chances of acceptance?

 We’ve guided countless students through the application process to acceptances at the country’s most selective colleges. In this blog post, we’ll share some of our proven advice on how to structure and format your college admissions essay to make the best impression on admissions officers.

We’ve also included a set of 30 successful college application essays that helped students get into Princeton. There are few better resources to help your brainstorming than essays that you know worked!

Download Thirty Essays that Worked for Princeton

Jump to section:

What makes a successful college essay Types of College Essay Formats The Narrative Essay Format and Example The Montage Essay Format and Example The “I am…” Essay Format and Example The Creative/Artistic Format and Example Next Steps

What makes a successful college essay?

You can think of a college essay’s effectiveness as being made up of two things: the content, and the narrative structure. In other words, you need to have a strong topic, but you also need to structure and format the way you write about that topic in a specific way. Without the right format, even the most unique and moving topic won’t wow the admission committee.

We’ve written extensively about our step-by-step process for ensuring that you have the right topic in our post on the Diamond Strategy here . It’s a proven method for topic selection, and we encourage everyone to read it and use it.

Your choice of topic is going to heavily influence what format will work best for your college essay. Below, we’ll go into several specific college essay formats (with successful college admissions essay examples!), and we’ll discuss when to use each one.

Types of College Essay Formats

In this post, we’ll talk about four kinds of structures or formats that have been proven to work again and again for successful college admission essays.

most popular essay format

  • The Narrative – best if you want to describe one key moment in your life.
  • The Montage – best if you have an eclectic mix of interests/experiences.
  • The “I am…” – best if you have an identity or belief that’s important to you.
  • The Creative/Artistic – Best if you have an unusual topic and like taking risks.

Remember: although each of these formats can be broken down into something like a template, it will always get its power from the specifics of your story and your experiences. Take a look at any of these successful college essays that worked and you’ll see that, no matter the format, the key to each is tons and tons of specific detail.

Also remember that these formats are not always interchangeable : if you want to write about what you learned from a pivotal moment in your life, you’ll probably want The Narrative and not, say, The Montage. 

The Narrative Essay Format and Example (best if you want to describe one key moment in your life).

The Narrative Essay format is one of the most popular and one of the most commonly seen on “Essays that Worked” blogs–and with good reason! This essay structure lets you tell a detailed story, keeping admissions counselors engaged while also conveying key insights about you as an applicant.

Here are the typical components of a Narrative Essay:

  • Start in the middle of the story
  • Show personal growth
  • Reflect on what’s changed

So what does it look like? Let’s take a look at an actual sample essay from our Thirty College Essays that Worked for Princeton and break it down.

1 – Start in the middle of the story (media res)

Drop the reader right into the middle of a crucial moment, describing it like a scene in a film or movie.

most popular essay format

To him, I was a stranger. He could not recall that I had fervently cared for him every day for the past five weeks. As I laughed at his trademark joke for the third time that day, he felt a familiar, but unidentifiable gratitude. When I mentioned a detail about his past, he blushed, realizing that I, a perceived stranger, knew him better than himself. The only recollection he had of me was of a girl with an unmatched dedication to his happiness. This man was one of the patients I encountered during my volunteer internship at Expressions, a hospital program for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Notice how this begins the story with no preamble. If your essay topic is about a major event in your life, one of the strongest ways to begin your college essay is by jumping right into it.

2 – Zoom out

Once you’ve hooked the reader with your story, zoom out and provide more context and background information. How did you get there? What brought you to that moment?

On the second day of the internship, I strode through the door, eager to delve into my new daily responsibilities. As I approached the patients, I anticipated, somewhat naively, a chorus of welcomes and friendly receptions. But instead, I was met with puzzled glances and polite, but reserved greetings. I realized that no one remembered who I was. For the next several minutes, I questioned my purpose in a program where I could not permanently impact the participants. What motivation did I have to go beyond mediocrity when, no matter the quality of my service, I would be forgotten? But it was that morning, as I poured each patient a cup of coffee, smiled, and reintroduced myself, that I constructed my personal motto: “Initiative requires no incentive.” Throughout the rest of the day, I found motivation through mundane, yet meaningful moments, like helping a patient complete a crossword or color a picture. It was in those moments that I learned that dedication is not derived from a desire to make memorable change, but from a will to contribute to your community no matter the reward.

You want to maintain a high level of detail and specificity, but you also want to zoom out enough to make sure your reader understands the background and context of your story. This essay does that perfectly by explaining the internship and the student’s initial involvement. More importantly, it shows us what the student was thinking at the beginning, which provides an opportunity for growth and learning.

3 – Show personal growth/development/change

The narrative works because it’s about how you, as a student, college applicant, and human, have changed and grown through the experience you describe. So the next part of your essay should describe some element of change as it develops through this story. Take a look below:

Over the next few weeks, I discovered that because the patients had no recollection of the past, they cherished the present moment. It was this principle of mindful existence that taught me to love the moments of doing, rather than linger in the memories of “I have done.” To fulfill this principle, I sought to paint each moment with cheer and consideration. Through all their bursts of frustration, shivers of discomfort, and tears of untraceable nostalgia, I strove to offer warmth and support. On several occasions, I brought in my tutu and pointe shoes and performed a ballet variation. As I taught the participants ballet steps, the room rang with laughter and amusement. Hoping to inspire the creativity I find so empowering, I also orchestrated events from poetry slams to watercolor classes to recipe exchanges. By incorporating my individuality into the program, I reinvented my role as a volunteer, a community member, and an individual.

This process of “discovery” is one of the keys to the Narrative Structure. This college essay format is designed to let you bring out the personal growth that accompanied this event. In the body paragraphs, the author shows how she developed and “reinvented” her role through this experience.

4 – Reflect on what’s changed

As you bring your essay to a close, you should actively reflect on what has changed throughout this narrative. The closing can be short and sweet, and often refers back to the original story you told in the first paragraph.

most popular essay format

On my last day at the program, I was leading a jewelry-making activity, when I noticed one of the participants becoming agitated. She was, among all the group members, the patient in the most advanced stage of memory loss and the patient I accompanied most often. I drew up a chair next to her and offered my help. Her head, previously hunched over scattered bracelet pieces, slowly lifted and her eyes turned to meet mine. As her eyes flickered across my face, I saw in her expression that she was searching for a thought, creeping to the forefront of her mind. Then, carefully she said, “Your name is Dana, right?” It had been nearly a year since she had remembered the last five minutes, yet she had remembered my name. As I smiled and nodded, she began to tear up, and we both silently rejoiced in the realization that she had momentarily overcome her disease. In that instant, my continuous acts of compassion, whether previously forgotten or anonymous, came to fruition. Service became more than the completion of routine tasks or the collection of volunteer hours; it became the responsibility to foster hope and prosperity within my community, the nation, and humanity.

This final paragraph beautifully brings the entire essay to a close: it recalls the opening paragraph, but now gives it a new and more positive spin. It also tells the admissions committee what this student has learned through this narrative. This student comes away from the experience with a new understanding of service.

This is one of the best examples of a successfully executed college essay in the Narrative style. It hooks the reader in from the beginning, making us want to figure out what’s going on. Then, it gives us the context we need to understand how the writer got to this point and who they are. Most importantly, it concludes the narrative by showing real, impressive personal growth in the student’s perspective on the world, ending with a reflection on what this writer values and brings to a college.

Yours will look different, of course. But if you want to understand why the narrative essay structure works, this impactful essay is a great place to start.

You can find more successful narrative essay examples in our Thirty College Essays that Worked for Princeton .

The Montage Essay Format and Example (best if you have an eclectic mix of interests/experiences)

The Narrative Structure is great if your essay topic can be conveyed through a single crucial moment or experience. But what if you want to show the admissions committee at your dream university some aspect(s) of your personality that can only be conveyed through multiple moments?

Here are the key elements of a Montage Essay:

  • Introduce your theme
  • Present a series of snapshots related to the theme
  • Tie the snapshots to the theme

That’s the kind of topic the Montage Essay Format is designed for. You won’t go into as much detail as you would in the Narrative Essay. Instead, you will present the admissions committee with a series of snapshots from your life, all connected by a common theme.

most popular essay format

These snapshots can be actual events, or they can be creatively selected items from your life that tell universities something about you–you might create a montage of what’s on your bookshelf or what kind of bumper stickers are on your car, for example.

1 – Start with the unifying thread or theme

Give us a bit of context for whatever unites the montage by setting it up. Alternatively, you can just jump right into one of the montage moments (like in the Narrative Format). The best option here will depend on your specific essay.

We can see an example from our collection of thirty actual sample essays below:

“You know nothing, Jon Snow” Being an avid Game of Thrones fanatic, I fancy every character, scene, and line. However,Ygritte’s famous line proves to be just slightly more relatable than the incest, corruption, and sorcery that characterizes Westeros. Numerous theories explore the true meaning of these five words, but I prefer to think they criticize seventeen-year-old Jon’s lack of life experience. Growing up in a lord’s castle, he has seen little about the real world; thus, he struggles to see the bigger picture until he evaluates all angles. Being in a relatively privileged community myself, I can affirm the lack of diverse perspectives —and even more, the scarcity of real-world problems. Instead, my life has been horrifically plagued by first world problems.

This introductory paragraph opens with something creative and catchy, then explains the purpose. It also sets up the montage that will follow: “the first world problems.”

2 – Present the montage!

Naturally, this is the biggest part of the Montage Format. The pieces of your montage can be short (as in the below example) or fairly long. The most important thing is that they are detailed, unique, and come together to tell the university admissions officers something about you.

most popular essay format

I’ve written a eulogy and held a funeral for my phone charger. I’ve thrown tantrums when my knitted sweaters shrunk in the dryer. And yes, I actually have cried over spilled (organic) milk. Well, shouldn’t I be happy with the trivial “problems” I’ve faced? Shouldn’t I appreciate the opportunities and the people around me? Past the “feminism v. menimism” and “memes” of the internet, are heartbreaking stories and photos of life outside my metaphorical “Bethpage Bubble.” How can I be content when I am utterly oblivious to the perspectives of others? Like Jon Snow, I’ve never lived a day in another person’s shoes. Fewer than three meals a day. No extra blanket during record-breaking winter cold. No clean water. I may be parched after an intense practice, but I know nothing of poverty. Losing a loved one overseas. Being forced to leave your home. Coups d’état and dictatorial governments. I battle with my peers during class discussions, but I know nothing of war. Denial of education. Denial of religion. Denial of speech. I have an endless list of freedoms, and I know nothing of oppression. Malaria. Cholera. Cancer. I watch how Alzheimer’s progresses in my grandmother, but I know nothing of disease. Living under a strict caste system. Being stereotyped because of one’s race. Unwarranted prejudice. I may be in a minority group, yet I know nothing of discrimination. Flappers, speakeasies, and jazz. Two world wars. Pagers, hippies, and disco. I’m barely a 90’s kid who relishes SpongeBob episodes, and I know nothing of prior generations. Royal weddings, tribal ceremonies, and Chinese New Years. I fast during Ramadan, but I know nothing of other cultures. Hostile political parties. Progressive versus retrospective. Right and wrong. I am seventeen, and I know nothing of politics.

This montage is really a list of the first-world problems of the writer and the things the writer “knows nothing” about. In writing this list, however, the student is making clear that they’re aware of the limits of their own experience, and that kind of self-reflection is crucial for a winning college essay.

3 – Tie the moments of the montage together

Each montage essay must end by clearly drawing a lesson. The question every admissions officer will be asking is: what do all of these moments tell us about you?

Is ignorance really bliss? Beyond my community and lifetime exists myriad events I’ll never witness, people I’ll never meet, and beliefs I’ll never understand. Being unexposed to the culture and perspectives that comprise this world, I know I can never fully understand anyone or anything. Yet, irony is beautiful. Embarking on any career requires making decisions on behalf of a community, whether that be a group of students, or a patient, or the solar system. I am pleased to admit like Jon Snow, I know nothing, but that will change in college.

This reflection really doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. In just a few sentences, this author shows us why the montage matters: this student understands the limits of their experiences and knowledge, and, most importantly, is eager and willing to work to overcome them.

For more successful college application essays like this, check out our collection of actual sample essays below:

The “I am…” Essay Format (best if you have an identity or belief that’s important to you)

This format is the most direct way to approach a personal essay. By using this structure, you will directly present the admissions officers with some crucial aspect of your personality, background, or interests.

This essay format is best for students who want to highlight a particular quirk, lifelong challenge, or important aspects of their demographic background.

This kind of essay generally follows this structure:

  • A surprising “I am…” statement
  • Explanation of the statement with specific examples
  • Reflection on how this has shaped you

Like all college admissions essays, this will require you to be specific and detailed. But, it might not involve much of an actual story or narrative (though it can!). Take a look at the breakdown of the example below to see how it’s done.

most popular essay format

1 – Start with a surprising “I am…” statement

This essay structure depends on hooking your reader’s attention from the first line, so you want to start with something memorable, unexpected, and maybe even a bit confusing. Though often this means saying “I am…” it could just as easily be “I believe…” or “I have…”

I am an aspiring hot sauce sommelier. Ever since I was a child, I have been in search for all that is spicy. I began by dabbling in peppers of the jarred variety. Pepperoncini, giardiniera, sports peppers, and jalapeños became not only toppings, but appetizers, complete entrées, and desserts. As my palate matured, I delved into a more aggressive assortment of spicy fare. I’m not referring to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the crunchy snack devoured by dilettantes. No, it was bottles of infernal magma that came next in my tasting curriculum.

Here’s a classic example of how to start. “Hot sauce sommelier” is unusual and quirky enough that it holds the reader’s attention. Admissions officers will want to keep reading to see why this matters.

2 – Expand on the “I am…”

This can take different forms: you can explain how you came to be, say, a hot sauce sommelier. Or you can tell us what that looks like in your everyday life. It’ll depend in large part on what your individual story is, but the key is specifics, specifics, specifics.

Despite the current lack of certification offered for the profession which I am seeking, I am unquestionably qualified. I can tell you that a cayenne pepper sauce infused with hints of lime and passion fruit is the perfect pairing to bring out the subtle earthy undertones of your microwave ramen. I can also tell you that a drizzle of full-bodied Louisiana habanero on my homemade vanilla bean ice cream serves as an appetizing complement. For the truly brave connoisseur, I suggest sprinkling a few generous drops of Bhut Jolokia sauce atop a bowl of chili. Be warned, though; one drop too many and you might find yourself like I did, crying over a heaping bowl of kidney beans at the dining room table. Although I consistently attempt to cultivate the rarest and most expertly crafted bottles of molten spice, like an oenophile who occasionally sips on five dollar bottles of wine, I am neither fussy nor finicky. I have no qualms about dousing my omelets with Cholula, dipping my tofu in pools of Sriracha, or soaking my vegetarian chicken nuggets in the Frank’s Red Hot that my mom bought from the dollar store. No matter the quality or cost, when gently swirled, wafted, and swished; the sauces excite my senses. Each initial taste, both surprising yet subtly familiar, has taught me the joy of the unknown and the possibility contained within the unexpected.

Check out all specific details the writer uses in this portion of the essay! These moments both show the student’s skill as a writer and, more importantly, convey their very real passion for hot sauce. It doesn’t matter that it’s a little bit silly: what matters is showing the university that this student is dedicated to something .

3 – End by reflecting on how this aspect of your identity shapes who you are as a person and student

As always, these essays have to end with a bit of introspection: you’ve told us the story, now explain why it matters, as this student does.

My ceaseless quest for piquancy has inspired many journeys, both gustatory and otherwise. It has dragged me into the depths of the souks of Marrakech, where I purchased tin cans filled with Harissa. Although the chili sauce certainly augmented the robust aroma of my tagine, my food was not the only thing enriched by this excursion. My conquest has also brought me south, to the valleys of Chile, where I dined among the Mapuche and flavored my empanadas with a smoky seasoning of Merkén. Perhaps the ultimate test of my sensory strength occurred in Kolkata, India. After making the fatal mistake of revealing my penchant for spicy food to my friend’s grandmother, I spent the night with a raw tongue and cold sweats. I have learned that spice isn’t always easy to digest. It is the distilled essence of a culture, burning with rich history. It is a universal language that communicates passion, pain, and renewal. Like an artfully concocted hot sauce, my being contains alternating layers of sweetness and daring which surround a core that is constantly being molded by my experiences and adventures. I’m not sure what it is about spiciness that intrigues me. Maybe my fungiform papillae are mapped out in a geography uniquely designed to appreciate bold seasonings. Maybe these taste buds are especially receptive to the intricacies of the savors and zests that they observe. Or maybe it’s simply my burning sense of curiosity. My desire to challenge myself, to stimulate my mind, to experience the fullness of life in all of its varieties and flavors.

most popular essay format

This student makes clear to colleges why this aspect of their personality matters. It has helped them learn and travel; it shows the student’s desire to “challenge” themselves and to “stimulate their mind,” which is exactly what a top-tier university is looking for.

The Creative/Artistic Format (Best if you have an unusual topic and like taking risks)

I’m cheating a little bit here: by definition, there’s no real format to these Creative/Artistic Essays. These are the most unique, the toughest to pull off, and the riskiest essays. But for certain students, they’re undoubtedly the right choice.

Although these essays aren’t as easy to bulletpoint out as the above, creative personal essays will always contain the following elements:

  • A unique gimmick
  • Meaningful information about the writer’s life or identity
  • A mature reflection

most popular essay format

The Creative/Artistic Essays make your essay stand out to colleges, but require careful planning and editing to pull off. If you’re an artist type, or, alternatively, if you feel your application needs something to separate you from the pack, these can be the right choice.

Consulting with one of our expert college essay coaches can be the best way to ensure that your Creative/Artistic Essay helps and not hurts your application.

Below is a successful example, and some analysis of why this essay works:

“Is it bigger than a breadbox?” “Yes.” I have always been tall, decidedly tall. Yet, my curiosity has always surpassed my height. Starting at a young age, I would ask countless questions, from “How heavy is the Earth?” to “Where does rain come from?” My curiosity, displayed in questions like these, has truly defined me as a person and as a student. Therefore, it is not surprising that I became transfixed the first time I played 20Q (the electronic version of Twenty Questions). Somehow, a little spherical device guessed what I was thinking. The piece of technology sparked my curiosity and instilled in me a unique interest in 20Q. This interest would later reveal valuable character traits of mine while also paralleling various facets of my life. “Does it strive to learn?” “Yes.” I became determined to discover how 20Q guessed correctly. After some research, I discovered artificial intelligence, more specifically, artificial neural networks—systems which learn and improve themselves. This idea fascinated me. I wanted to learn more. I read avidly, seeking and absorbing as much information as I could. When given the opportunity years later, I signed up for the first computer programming class available to me. I found myself in an environment I loved. I would stay after class, go in during free periods, make my own apps, and work over Cloud-based IDEs. I prized the freedom and the possibilities. “Is it driven?” “Yes.” After my introduction to 20Q, I began to play Twenty Questions (the traditional parlor game) and became determined to rival the guessing accuracy of the artificial intelligence. At first I was mediocre. However, through long car rides with family, good-natured yet heated competitions with friends, logical strategy, and time, I became more effective. I discovered the “secrets” to success: practice and perseverance. “Does it apply what it learns?” “Yes.” As 20Q implements what it learns, so do I. Throughout high school, I applied the “secret” of practice to my basketball career. I spent countless hours sharpening my skills in 90° summer heat to 20° late-winter cold, countless afternoons playing pickup games with my friends, and countless weekends traveling to AAU basketball tournaments. As a result, I became a starter for my school’s varsity team. I applied another “secret,” this time the “secret” of perseverance, by dedicating myself to physical therapy after knee surgery in order to quickly return to football. Later that year, I became the first player in my grade to score a varsity touchdown. “Does it attempt to better itself?” “Yes.” Once I became proficient at Twenty Questions, I strengthened my resolve to become masterful. To do so, I needed to become a skillful inquisitor and to combine that with my analytical nature and interpersonal skills, all of which are vital for success in Twenty Questions. Because I had been debating politics with my friends since the 8th grade, I recognized that debate could sharpen these skills. I began to debate more frequently (and later more effectively) in English and government class, at the lunch table and family gatherings, and whenever the opportunity presented itself. This spurred in me an interest for how public policy and government work, leading me to attend Boys State and receive a nomination for The United States Senate Youth Program. “Does it think deeply?” “Yes.” So far, I have realized that thriving at Twenty Questions, just like life, is all about tenacity, rationality and interpersonal skills. I have found that, as in Twenty Questions, always succeeding is impossible; however, by persevering through difficulties and obstacles, favorable outcomes are often attainable. As I have become better at Twenty Questions, so too have I improved in many other aspects of my life. Nonetheless, I realize that I still have unbounded room to grow. And much like 20Q, I will continue to learn throughout my life and apply my knowledge to everything I do. “Are you thinking of me?” “Yes.” Source: Johns Hopkins Essays that Worked

Framing this essay as a round of 20 questions is the kind of risky creative move that, in this case, can really pay off.

It works here because it isn’t just being creative or artsy for the sake of it: this format really allows the student to express multiple important aspects of their personality as it relates to their application.

You’ll notice that, like most creative essays, it combines elements of the other essay formats. But it does so in a unique way that can’t be replicated: nobody else can write a 20 Questions style essay without ripping off this author.

If you can find a creative idea like this one that lets you express unique elements of your story or personality in a fun, attention-grabbing structure, then this option might be the best one for you.

You should think of the steps outlined in this blogpost as the middle of the essay writing process. First, you need to brainstorm and select your topic (see our guide on that here) . Then, based on that topic, you can use this post to identify what structure and format will work best for crafting your essay.

If you’ve settled on an essay format, it’s time to move on to actually writing the essay itself. We recommend starting by reviewing some of the past successful essays linked below and by first reading our post on the Diamond Strategy for topic selection.

Of course, there’s no substitute for professional help: our expert essay coaches have helped countless students with brainstorming, topic choice, organization, crafting, and final touches on essays that have helped these students gain admission to Ivies and other elite colleges. If you’re interested in working with one of our college essay coaches, reach out to us here !

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How to Format an Essay: Best Complete Guide for All Students

All students have to write academic papers. Some assignments can be informal. For example, teachers may ask students to answer questions or make up prompt dialogs with only content requirements. If a student needs to write an essay, a dissertation, a course paper, or any other written task, there surely will be formatting requirements. And while most know how to format an essay and need no explanation of what an essay margin is, loads of their peers wonder, “I need someone to write essay for me ‘cause I am stuck.” We’re here to help you move from the dead point.

What is the Essay Format?

It is the way students have to reflect on their content on a paper. In other words, it is the ‘appearance’ of formal writing. Spacing, margins, font, word order, and other visual details matter.  If your task is to format your essay properly, you should be aware of the five most popular formatting styles.

What is MLA Format for an Essay?

When one starts writing a paper, it is essential to use a good writing tool. As a rule, Google Docs or Microsoft Word suits you best. They let students set the required parameters and create an assignment without the need to keep in mind all MLA details or desperately think, “Who can write my paper for me because MLA format is just too tough?”.

Speaking about the page layout, one should provide the following settings.

  • The first parameter to set is one-inch margins. They should surround the text from all sides.
  • The second thing to choose is Times New Roman and tick size 12.
  • The spacing to choose is doubled.
  • Select the left-side orientation of the text. Moreover, don’t forget that the right side must be ragged. This requirement is for the main text. The title page has other text orientations.
  • The indent of the first word in a paragraph must be 0.5-inch for the text and the Works Cited section for all lines. Another requirement is 1 inch for quotes.
  • Page numeration must be on all pages and placed in the top right corner. Students need to type their surname before the number.
Note! Tutors should mention whether a student can print the paper on one or both sides of an A4 paper. Another detail to specify is the title page. Traditionally, it is not required.

MLA paper format template:

MLA paper format template

The next tip to remember is citations. Learners must use in-text quotes at the end of the sentence and put a full stop after the last word. There is no need to mention the author in parentheses if you have already used it in the sentence. Nevertheless, it is necessary to mention the cited page.

Another section is the bibliography page. It goes after the main text, and students number it. The text requirements are the same. The used literature should be ordered alphabetically. If a source has no author, one should pay attention to the title. No need to create a separate list.

As it has been said, there is no title page. So, students type their first and last names, people or companies who will check the paper, subjects, and dates (for example, 4 June 2022) in the top left corner. The heading of the paper is center-oriented with all words being capitalized.

MLA reference sample:

MLA reference sample

APA Format Essay Example

If a student’s task is to prepare APA information essay format, there will be three things to regard:

  • a title page,
  • content page(s) of an essay,
  • a list of used literature.

The first elements to regard are fonts, spacing, page numbering, and margins.

Margins are standard. As a rule, Office Word and Microsoft Word already have the pre-set 1-inch margins that correspond to most college requirements, including APA formatting.

The font differs depending on the chosen essay elements. Speaking about the presentation of the core information (content), a student should use either Times New Roman 12 or size 11 of Calibri, Georgia, or Arial. It is important to use only one font and size for one essay. If a student writes footnotes, the font size will be 10. Students need font sizes 8, 10, 11, 12, or 14 to write captions for figures and tables.

Spacing is also traditional. It is doubled. The only extra thing to do is to delete extra spacing before or after paragraphs if the writing tool has them in standard settings.

Page numbering is done in the upper right corner for all essay parts.

APA sample to study:

APA Format for Essay

What is the difference between the three structural format parts?

  • A title page. The essay title is center-oriented, 3-4 spaces from the top, and in bold capitalized letters. Then, one uses an extra space after the title and adds information about the performer and the addressee such as personal name (co-writers should be mentioned in separate lines with the conjunction ‘and’ between them), departments, discipline or course details, tutor’s name, and the date (for example, June 4, 2022).
  • Abstract (not obligatory in many cases). A student writes a maximum of 250 words on a separate page after the title page. One writes an Abstract in the middle of the line and then writes a text without an indent.
  • Essay content . One writes a capitalized bold-letter title in the middle of the line and starts the text with an indented paragraph. Other paragraphs are indented as well.
  • Reference list. A student writes References in the middle of the line and creates a list of used sources. First, one mentions the author’s surname, then goes the year of publication, the title of the source, and publication details.

APA reference sample:

APA sample reference

Chicago Style Paper

Just like the previous styles, it has general and specific requirements. Speaking about the whole paper, a person should use the following formatting elements:

  • Times New Roman, size 12
  • 1-inch margins from all sides or larger if a tutor requires
  • space between lines is doubled
  • each new paragraph starts with a 0.5-inch indent
  • page numbering can be done in two ways: in the bottom center or top right corner
Note! Sometimes, instructors ask students to use another spacing, margins, or font type. That is why it is significant to read college requirements first and follow them. Consequently, classic guidelines work only for assignments without specific format demands.

Chicago paper sample:

Chicago Style Paper

The text should be left-oriented, and its right side must be ragged.

The title page is not obligatory for the Chicago style. Instead, one can add a title of an essay before the text. If the college requires it, one should create a separate page and write center-oriented data. The space between lines should be doubled and stick to the chosen font type and size. All title words must be capitalized and bold. If the essay has a subtitle, it will be necessary to separate a title and a subtitle only with colons and place them in different lines. Moreover, one should add the following information:

  • first and last name;
  • personal code;
  • code and name of the course;
  • the date (for example, June 4, 2022)

It is necessary to introduce each piece of information in a new line. This page is printed without a number, but the total page count includes it.

Quotes and a reference list are things students should know first. If a student needs to introduce a long quote, it will be necessary to highlight it in a separate paragraph and not to double-space it. Quotation blocks do not require quotation marks. Besides, one should add an additional 0.5-inch indent from the top and the bottom. One should mention the list of used sources at the end of the paper. They are not double-spaced, but a person used extra space between each reference. If one reference takes several lines, the first word is not indented, but the others are.

Chicago bibliography sample:

Chicago bibliography example

Harvard Format Essay

As a rule, students on the economics faculty use this formatting style. One can hardly find an official guideline, though there are several distinctive requirements.

The title should be given in the middle of the page. All words should be capitalized. Students mention their names three lines lower. Then, students write down the name of the class and one line down – a professor’s name. The following lines will be information about the school, its location, and the date (for example, 4th June 2022).

Page Numbering

The numbers of the page should be in the top right corner. Besides, the heading should go before each number on every page. If a title is too long, you should make a short description of it to provide the essay idea. It is also necessary to add five spaces between the heading and the page number.

Before one starts writing the plot of the essay, it will be necessary to mention the heading in the center. Every word starts with a  capital letter. If the essay is too long, it will be better to use italicized subheadings (all words start with a capital letter as well).

Harvard essay sample:

Harvard essay sample

In-text citations

Essays are impossible without citing sources. If you cite someone, do not forget to mention the author’s last name, the first initial of his/her name, the publication date, and the page (for example, King, S. 1977, 45).

Font, margins, and spacing

The font selection depends on a college tutor. It can be Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial, Times, Courier for Mac, and Courier New for Windows. The size is the same for all types, and it is 12. If a student mentions titles of sources, it is necessary to italicize them. Quotation marks are used for the names of TV episodes, poems, short plays, and short stories. What concerns margins and spacing, the requirements are the same as for all the previous styles. The text must be double-spaced, left-oriented, and with ragged margins on the right.

The reference page

Everything is given in the ABC order and with double spaces. The first line is used without indents, the rest lines of the same source should be 0.5-inch intended. Referencing includes the author’s surname and the first initial of the name, publication year of the source, italicized title of the book, publication city, and the publisher.

Harvard referencing sample:

Harvard referencing sample

IEEE Citation Format

This formatting style perfectly fits periodicals. One can see a typical IEEE text in a magazine or a newspaper. It differs from the previous formatting styles a lot. Let’s spot the most distinctive features of this essay writing format.

  • As a rule, no title page is required. One just uses a 24-size font to introduce the title in the center of the line at the top of the page.
  • Information about the author should be given in font size 10 Times or Times New Roman. This part includes the following details:
  • a student’s name,
  • information about college and faculty,
  • the official address of the college,
  • e-mail address.
  • The most distinctive feature of the IEEE format is that its main text must be presented in Times New Roman 10 and in two columns that must be equal. If there is not enough text to make the columns equal, one can use a break.
  • All papers begin with index terms (specific vocabulary) and abstracts. Check out any professionally written essay format example to see how it works. Abstracts have not less than 150 but not more than 250 words. The abstract does not demand specific formatting and visual elements.
  • Students should read the college requirements carefully to check whether they need to introduce one of the following sections:
  • nomenclature (abbreviations used in the paper)
  • note to practitioners (practical application of the introduced knowledge that does not repeat the one given in the abstract)
  • appendices (pictures, graphs, tables, etc.)
  • acknowledgments (people and organizations that helped students to create their papers)
  • All tables and graphs should be enumerated and given in the center of the corresponding column.

IEEE Essay Format Template:

IEEE Format

If a paper has subsections, a student should keep in mind essential details. See the examples below to know what the four different headings and subheadings look like.

  • THE FIRST TYPE
  • The Second Type
  • The Third Type
  • The fourth type

Such subheadings are essential only for essays with a complex structure. One should also use headings for nomenclature and appendix. They are created like primary headings without numbers. If there is more than one appendix, students should number and name them. For example, instead of numbers, a student can mark this section the following way:

Example : APPENDIX C. THE SELECTION CRITERIA OF WORM TYPES

How to Format a College Essay: Simple Explanation to Follow

Students often confuse two significant notions – structure and format. For example, a short essay consists of 500 words. Its structure includes a title (if necessary), an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Sometimes, a reference section is required as well, especially for informative and expository writing. A short essay format deals with the font, spacing, and margin selection. Moreover, a student must know how to introduce in-text citations, footnotes, tables, graphs, illustrations, and a reference list.

To format a paper properly, you should read the requirements for your assignment and use an essay structure example to guide you through the process . As a rule, tutors ask their students to introduce essays in MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, or IEEE format. The three less popular formatting styles are AMA, Bluebook, and ASA.

  • One usually uses AMA to write papers on Nursing and Healthcare.
  • Sociologists and psychologists usually use ASA in essay writing.
  • Bluebook is a traditional essay format for students who study law.

There are general and specific formatting recommendations. The general ones include font type and size, spacing, and margins. Specific requirements concern headings, titles, in-text citations, quote blocks, footnotes, and bibliography sections.

To be honest, it is hard to keep all this information in one’s head. That is why students should have guides that describe everything in detail at their fingertips. One can add sites with manuals to favorites and use them when getting writing assignments.

Speaking about the reference list, students feel not only puzzled but also annoyed when creating it. They have to search for so many details that this part takes more time than the essay creation. Fortunately, smart people have invented generators of citations. The most popular tools are CiteThisforMe and Scribbr. How to use them? Both tools are easy to navigate. Below, you can find an instruction.

  • Visit the website.
  • Choose the format (APA, Harvard, MLA, etc.)
  • Select the type of source you need to reference (website, magazine, book, etc.)
  • Fill in the required information or insert the link if your task is to introduce a website or an e-book.
  • Click Cite the source.
  • Copy the created reference and insert it in the list of used literature after the text of the essay.
Note! One should stick to one format. The font size can differ only for the title, footnotes, and quote blocks.

Formatting styles are significant in academic writing. Academic essays have nothing to do with freestyle writing, so every space, margin, and font type matters. It’s no wonder that all the rules and specifications of this type of writing make loads of students approach some trusted cheap essay writing service for help from time to time. Generators of citations are great tools, but they will not help with the formatting of the whole text. So, students should set a paper format in writing tool settings to guarantee the best research outcome.  If students feel massy about everything, professional editors will help.

  • How to format an essay in MLA?

to do the formatting in the MLA style, use 1-inch margins on all sides of your paper. Ensure the text is set to double space. Provide a header that includes your last name and include a page number in the top right corner. It is important to use Times New Roman font (12 size). Start an essay with a properly formatted and centered heading with your name, the name of your college professor, the course title, and the date. Provide your work with the intro, the body, and the conclusion. 

  • How to properly format an essay?

To do the proper formatting, ensure to stick to the following guidelines: 

  • Intro. Begin with the so-called hook to grab your target audience’s attention. Include a solid thesis statement that sheds light on the key argument in your work.
  • Body paragraphs. Start every paragraph with the topic sentence to introduce the main point. Include supporting evidence and examples. 
  • Conclusion. Sum up the main points you covered in your essay and give a thought-provoking closing. 
  • Do the formatting. Use the standard font (Arial, Times New Roman, etc.), legible font (12 size), and 1-inch margins, and stick to the guidelines given by the college tutor. 

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most popular essay format

Author: Patricia Jenkins

Patricia Jenkins is the senior writing advisor at FastEssay blog for international students that seek quick paper assistance. In her blog, Patricia shares useful tips on productivity, writing, research, references. Sometimes Patricia goes off topic by sharing her personal experience peppered with lively humor and healthy irony. View all posts by Patricia Jenkins

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most popular essay format

Academic Essay: A How-To Guide

most popular essay format

Did you know that in a single academic semester, an average college student can write enough words to fill a 500-page novel? To put it in perspective, that's roughly 125,000 to 150,000 words of essays, research papers, and other written assignments. It's an astounding amount of content, and it underscores the significance of mastering the art of scholarly essay writing. Whether you're a seasoned scholar or just starting your academic journey, understanding the intricacies of composing a well-structured, well-researched essay is essential.

Short Description

Delve into the intricate world of writing an academic essay with our all-encompassing guide. We'll take you on a journey through the various types of scholarly composition, demystify the essay writing process, and provide valuable insights into proper formatting. You'll also find practical examples to inspire your own work and step-by-step how-to guides to ensure your essays stand out. Whether you're a seasoned student or just starting your academic adventure, this resource will be your compass for success in the realm of scholarly endeavors.

What Is an Academic Essay

In a nutshell, an academic essay is a structured form of writing students face in school, college, and university as a part of their curricula. The most common purposes of such writing are to either present some new pieces of information or to use existing facts and knowledge to deliver specific ideas. This type of assignment allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity and encourages them to develop their ideas to communicate a message.

Compared to other types of academic writing, essays are usually shorter in length and present the authors’ opinions to support their arguments. Here are some key features of an academic essay for you to keep in mind:

  • Conciseness — as a rule, essays are short; the length of such papers range from 200 to 500 words.
  • Topic — due to their short lengths, a perfect topic for an essay should be narrowed-down and not too broad.
  • Well-structured text — although essays can be considered as one of the least formal types of writing, they still need to have a solid structure and follow the proper academic paper format.
  • Clear central idea — every academic essay should deliver a specific point that should be clear and powerful (i.e. thesis statement).
  • Personal motivation — unlike other types of writing, essays often imply that their authors are personally interested in the subjects they are discussing.
  • Supporting facts, evidence, and examples — although essays may present an author’s personal beliefs and ideas, they should also provide arguments that support those ideas.

It helps to develop your academic writing skills early—as they are skills you will carry forward throughout your studies and lifetime. People who are good at writing academic essays also tend to be able to articulate themselves more clearly, and tend to have more confidence when speaking.

To fully understand how and when to use an academic essay, our  will describe the main types of them for you.

Elevate your academic performance with EssayPro. Our experts are here to help you craft compelling academic essays that stand out. With our support, you can confidently tackle any topic and impress your professors with your insight and clarity.

academic essay order

Academic Essay Example

Here are the perfect academic essay examples from our research paper writer .

Academic Essay Topics

In our quest to engage and challenge the academic community, we've curated a list of unique essay topics. These topics are meticulously chosen to incite critical thinking, and reflect on the intertwining of traditional theories with modern realities. From exploring the ethical dimensions of AI in healthcare to delving into the socioeconomic aspects of upcycling trends, these topics are a gateway to insightful discussions and a profound understanding of the evolving world around us.

  • The Dynamics of Human-AI Relationships: A Look into the Future.
  • The Revival of Ancient Herbal Remedies in Modern Medicine.
  • Bridging Historical Rifts: An Analysis of Modern Diplomacy Efforts.
  • The Role of Urban Green Spaces in Promoting Mental Health.
  • The Impact of Classical Literature on Modern Pop Culture.
  • The Future of Cybersecurity: Preparing for Quantum Computing Threats.
  • The Cultural Significance of Culinary Traditions in Nation Building.
  • The Influence of Music on Cognitive Performance.
  • The Changing Landscape of Privacy in the Digital Age.
  • The Socioeconomic Factors Contributing to Vaccine Hesitancy.
  • The Intersection of Modern Technology and Ancient Philosophies.
  • Evolving Linguistic Norms: The Impact of Social Media on Language.
  • The Psychological Effects of Color in Consumer Behavior.
  • Ethical Implications of AI in Modern Healthcare.
  • Urban Planning in Post-Pandemic World: Lessons and Preparations.
  • The Role of Art Therapy in Managing Chronic Stress.
  • The Influence of Space Exploration on Earth's Technological Advancements.
  • The Future of Biodegradable Plastics: A Sustainable Alternative?
  • A Socioeconomic Analysis of Upcycling Trends.
  • The Ethical Dilemmas of Genetic Engineering in Agriculture.

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Types of Academic Writing

The process of writing an essay comes in various forms, each with its unique style and purpose. Understanding these types can be essential for tailoring your writing to suit the specific requirements of your assignments. Here, our essay writer service will explore some of the most common types of academic writing:

types of academic writing

  • Expository Writing : This type of writing is all about explaining and providing information. In expository essays, your goal is to inform your reader about a specific topic or concept. For example, if you were writing an expository essay about climate change, you would present facts and data to inform your reader about the issue's causes and effects.
  • Persuasive Writing : Persuasive writing aims to convince the reader of a particular point of view or argument. In a persuasive essay, you would use logical reasoning, evidence, and well-structured arguments to persuade your audience. For instance, an essay advocating for stricter environmental regulations would be a persuasive piece.
  • Descriptive Writing : In descriptive writing, your task is to create a vivid picture with words. You want the reader to feel like they are experiencing the subject firsthand. Imagine writing a descriptive essay about a picturesque countryside scene; you would use colorful language and sensory details to transport your reader there.
  • Narrative Writing : Narrative essays are like storytelling. They often recount personal experiences, anecdotes, or narratives. For example, you might write a narrative essay about a life-changing event or your journey to a foreign country.
  • Analytical Writing : Analytical writing involves breaking down complex ideas or issues into smaller components and then examining them critically. When analyzing a piece of literature in an essay, you would deconstruct the text, explore its themes, characters, and literary devices, and provide insights into the author's intentions.
  • Research Papers : Research papers are a hallmark of academic writing. They require you to investigate a topic thoroughly, gather data, and present your findings. Whether it's a scientific research paper, a history paper, or a social science study, research papers demand rigorous research and precise citation of sources.
  • Literature Reviews : These are common in humanities and social sciences. A literature review involves summarizing and critically evaluating existing research on a specific topic. It's an essential component of academic research, allowing you to place your work within the broader context of scholarly conversation.

Understanding the Essay Writing Process

The journey of understanding how to write an academic essay is characterized by distinct stages: preparation, writing, and revisions. The nature of this journey, however, is like a versatile chameleon, ever-adapting to the unique demands of each essay type.

Let's consider the scenario of a high school student tasked with writing a five-paragraph expository essay. In this case, the emphasis predominantly falls on the writing stage. Given the straightforward prompt, the student's primary focus lies in structuring and articulating their thoughts effectively within the constraints of these paragraphs. The goal is to convey information clearly, maintaining a well-organized and engaging narrative.

Now, imagine a college-level argumentative essay. Here, the bulk of your efforts shift to the preparation stage. Before a single word is written, a rigorous exploration of the essay topics is imperative. This involves extensive research, diving deep into scholarly articles, dissecting data, and developing a compelling argument. A strong thesis, underpinned by a wealth of evidence and nuanced insights, becomes the keystone of your essay.

The revising stage, a constant companion in this journey, maintains its significance across all essay types. It's during revision that you refine and perfect your work, harmonizing your arguments and ensuring the essay's overall cohesion. At this stage, you become the editor, refining grammar, enhancing clarity, and optimizing the essay's structure.

most popular essay format

Setting the Stage for Essay Writing Success

The process of writing an academic essay typically unfolds in the following manner:

  • Receiving the Assignment : Your essay journey commences when your instructor or professor hands out the assignment prompt. This prompt serves as your roadmap, detailing the essay's topic, length, and any specific requirements. It's crucial to read this prompt attentively, ensuring you comprehend the expectations.
  • Understanding the Task : Once you have the assignment prompt in hand, take the time to understand it fully. Analyze the purpose of the essay. Is it meant to inform, persuade, analyze, or narrate? Determine the target audience, whether it's your instructor, peers, or a broader readership. This understanding will guide your approach to the essay.
  • Research and Gathering Information : After grasping the assignment's main idea, it's time to research and collect information. Depending on the topic and type of essay, this might involve library research, online searches, or fieldwork. The quality and quantity of your research will influence the depth and credibility of your essay.
  • Developing a Thesis : With the knowledge you've acquired, create a clear and concise thesis statement. This statement encapsulates the main argument or perspective you will present in your essay. It serves as the foundation upon which your essay will be built.
  • Planning and Outlining : Before diving into the actual writing, it's essential to create your essay outline. This step helps you organize your thoughts and ideas, ensuring a logical and coherent structure. Consider the essay's introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and decide on the points you will address in each section.

Academic Essay Format

The essay format is your framework for presenting ideas, but it doesn't have to stifle your creativity or individuality. Here's a practical look at the academic essay format example from a unique perspective:

academic essay format

  • Introduction - Piquing Interest : Use your introduction as a tool to pique your reader's interest. Rather than simply stating your thesis, start with a surprising fact, a relevant question, or a brief story. Engaging your reader from the outset can make your essay more captivating.
  • Body Paragraphs - Building a Logical Flow : Consider your body paragraphs as stepping stones in a logical progression. Each paragraph should naturally lead to the next, creating a seamless flow of ideas. Ensure that your points connect coherently, making your essay easy to follow.
  • Evidence and Analysis - Supporting Your Claims : When including evidence, don't just drop quotes or data into your essay. Instead, think of them as puzzle pieces that need critical thinking skills for explanation and integration. Analyze how the evidence supports your argument, providing context and clarity for your reader.
  • Transitions - Smooth Connections : Utilize transitional words and phrases to guide your reader through your essay. These simple elements, like 'Furthermore,' 'In contrast,' or 'Conversely,' can significantly enhance the readability and comprehension of your essay.
  • Conclusion - Recap and Implication : Your conclusion should summarize your main points, restating your thesis. However, take it a step further by highlighting the broader implications of your argument. What do your findings suggest or inspire the reader to consider? This adds depth to your conclusion.
  • Formatting - Clear and Consistent : Follow formatting guidelines diligently. Consistency in font, margins, and citation style reflects your attention to detail and respect for academic standards.

How to Write an Academic Essay: Steps and Techniques

most popular essay format

Crafting a Captivating Essay Introduction

The introduction of your academic essay serves as the portal through which your reader enters the realm of your ideas. Let's understand how to write an essay introduction by considering these four dynamic elements:

Engage Your Reader

Start with a thought-provoking question that sparks curiosity. For instance, in an essay about climate change, you might begin with, 'What if I told you that a single-degree change in global temperature could alter the course of humanity's future?' When learning how to write a hook for an essay , questions can be powerful entry points because they create an immediate sense of intrigue. Readers are drawn into your essay in search of answers, setting the stage for exploration.

Offer Context for Your Topic

Rather than a mere factual backdrop, transport your reader to a historical moment or an evocative setting related to your topic. For example, when discussing the history of the Eiffel Tower in an architecture essay, you could begin with, 'Imagine strolling the cobblestone streets of 19th-century Paris, where a colossal iron structure was emerging from the ground, destined to become a global icon.' Whether you write an essay yourself or use the option to buy a dissertation , remember that introducing background information immerses your reader in the context, making them feel like they've stepped back in time or been transported to a specific place.

Introduce Your Thesis Statement

Present your thesis statement with an air of revelation, as if unveiling a well-kept secret. In an essay about the impact of technology on privacy, you might say, 'Hidden in the digital shadows, a critical truth emerges: our privacy is slipping away, pixel by pixel, keystroke by keystroke.' Make it sound like a literary discovery, something that's been hidden and is now about to be revealed. This imbues it with a sense of anticipation.

Outline Your Essay's Structure

Instead of merely outlining your essay's structure, craft it like a guidebook for an adventure. Imagine your essay as a journey through uncharted territory. Present your essay's sections or main points as thrilling destinations your reader is about to explore. For instance, if your essay is about the cultural impact of a famous novel, you could say, 'Our literary expedition will begin in the author's biographical world, then traverse the novel's plot twists, and finally, unravel the web of its influence on modern culture.'

Developing the Main Body

The main body is where your ideas take shape while understanding how to write an academic essay, and it's crucial to approach this section thoughtfully. Here's how to tackle two key elements:

Exploring the Body Text's Length

The length of your body text should align with the complexity of your topic and the depth of exploration required. For instance, consider a historical analysis essay on the causes of World War I. This topic is multifaceted, requiring in-depth coverage. In such a case, it's appropriate to dedicate several pages to thoroughly examine the various factors contributing to the war. On the other hand, in a concise argumentative essay about a specific policy issue, like healthcare reform, brevity can be the key to keeping your reader engaged. In this instance, you might aim for a clear, persuasive argument within a few pages. The key is to tailor the length to your topic, ensuring you provide sufficient evidence and analysis without unnecessary elaboration.

Crafting Effective Paragraphs

Each paragraph in the main body should be a self-contained unit that contributes to your overall argument. Consider, for example, an essay on climate change.

In a paragraph discussing the consequences of rising global temperatures, you could begin with a topic sentence like, 'Rising temperatures have far-reaching effects on ecosystems.' Next, present evidence in the form of data and examples, such as statistics on melting polar ice caps and the impact on polar bear populations. Follow this with analysis, explaining the significance of these consequences for the environment.

Ensure that your ideas flow logically from one paragraph to the next, creating a seamless and coherent narrative. Vary the length and structure of your paragraphs to add dynamic variation to your essay. For instance, in a literary analysis, a short, impactful paragraph may be used to emphasize a critical point, while longer paragraphs could delve into complex themes or explore multiple aspects of your argument. By thoughtfully exploring the body text's length and crafting effective paragraphs, you create a main body that is both engaging and informative, tailored to the unique requirements of your academic essay writing.

Concluding Your Essay

The conclusion of your essay serves as the grand finale, leaving a lasting impression on your reader. However, it's not just a place to restate your thesis; it's an opportunity to add depth and resonance to your essay. Here's how to approach it effectively:

  • Summarize Your Main Points with a Twist : Summarize the key points you've made throughout your essay, but do it with a twist. Instead of merely restating what you've already said, provide a fresh perspective or a thought-provoking insight.
  • Revisit Your Thesis Statement : Bring your essay full circle by revisiting your thesis statement. Remind your reader of the central argument, but do it in a way that emphasizes its significance.
  • Provide a Sense of Closure : The conclusion should provide a sense of closure to your essay. Like the final chapter of a captivating story, it should leave your reader with a sense of completion. Avoid introducing new ideas or even new persuasive essay topics in this section; instead, focus on the culmination of your existing points.
  • Inspire Thought or Action : Go beyond summarization and inspire thought or action. Invite your reader to reflect on the implications of your essay or consider its relevance in a broader context. This can make your essay more impactful and thought-provoking.

Refining Your Academic Essay Through Editing

Once you've penned your final words, the journey is far from over. Editing is a crucial step in the essay writing process, much like it is while learning how to write a descriptive essay . It's where you refine your work to its polished best. Here's how to approach it:

  • Start by proofreading your essay for clarity and errors. Check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.
  • Examine the overall structure of your essay. Is it organized logically? Are the paragraphs well-structured? Does the essay have a clear flow from the introduction to the conclusion?
  • Ensure that you've cited your sources correctly and compiled your references or bibliography according to the required citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago.
  • Trim unnecessary words and phrases to make your writing more concise. Check for wordiness and make sure your vocabulary is precise and appropriate for an academic audience.

In this comprehensive guide, we've covered the essential elements of crafting an academic essay, from honing your writing skills to capturing the reader's attention, from the essay's inception to achieving an A+ finish. Remember that mastering the art of essay writing is a valuable skill. It's a process that involves structure, style, and substance, and it serves as your gateway to sharing your ideas effectively. Regardless of your level of experience, this guide is designed to equip you with the tools you need to excel in your essay-writing endeavors!

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Essay Formate

Popular Academic Styles and How to Maintain Essay Format

  • Eduhelphub,
  • Aug 20, 2020

Every great gift needs to be wrapped in a presentable, uniform wrapping material; similarly, a good essay or a research paper also requires to be wrapped in presentable formatting before submitting for review. Let us explore the intricacies of formatting an essay through a comprehensive journey.

Table of Content

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What Consists of a Good College Essay Format?
  • 4.1 The Introduction
  • 4.2 The Body
  • 4.3 The Conclusion
  • 4.4 Standard Academic Styles
  • 5.1 APA Style
  • 5.2 MLA Style
  • 5.3 Chicago Style
  • 6. Some Other Pointers for Flawless Essay Formatting
  • 6. Conclusion

What Consists of a Good College Essay Format?

After spending gruelling hours deciding on how to write an essay , leading to what would be the suitable essay topic for your assignment, you now need to grasp the details of how to carefully and effectively format an essay for adequately representing your paper.

Unlike the essay format for college application, an essay format for college-level research papers or university level academic paper inherently acts like a double-edged sword that includes both:

  • The basic structure of an Essay and
  • The general Academic style implemented to format the Essay.

Thus, the basic 5-paragraph essay formatting structure including an effective essay introduction, body and conclusion and, on another hand, the particular academic style utilized to format the essay, for example, APA style or MLA style, are two sides of the same coin that is essay formatting Till now, we have learned what ‘essay format’ broadly means and can encapsulate the two aspects of formatting as under the following:

Frequently Used Essay Structures 

This aspect covers the basic structuring of an essay, irrespective of whether you are constructing a high-school essay format or a college essay format, the 5-paragraph essay format will be consistent, as much as any universal law! It follows a chronology that is constant irrespective of the type of essay , as elucidated here after:

  • The Introduction: The essay introduction should be simple and lucid, it should foretell the concepts and subject matter that the essay is going to deal with, while carefully not giving away too much information, just enough to grab the attention of the readers. It should point out the issues that are going to be overviewed and the sections or chapters that are lined up.
  • The Body: The body of the essay contains the main bulk of information like facts and statistics that would support your central idea. It should be equipped with flawless logic and credible, strong arguments to support your thesis statement. The crux of the whole essay should be contained inside the span of the core body.
  • The Conclusion: This is the section that exhibits the encapsulation of the points posited throughout the essay; it wraps all information in a nutshell and presents it to the readers in a simple, yet impactful manner. No new concept should be introduced in the conclusion of an essay. The essay conclusion is where the writer wins over the readers by cementing his argument or core idea through calculated, careful implications and inferences.
  • Standard Academic Styles: The other aspect, ergo the other side of the coin of formatting lies the aspect of Academic styles which have been standardized by certain universities and Associations to be implemented in the formatting of an essay from font style, font size to determining factors like line spacing, style of headings and even citing references of external sources. Some of these standard styles include the APA format and the MLA format.

What Are The 3 Major Kinds of Academic Styles Used in Formatting an Essay?

As elucidated above, various standardized styles of academic formatting exist that determines variables like style and size of font, headings, spacing, line indentation, in-text or footnote citation and style of referencing external sources. Three of the most popular and preferred types of academic styles are listed below:

The American Psychological Association or The APA has established standardized guidelines formatting an essay, usually used in the sphere of Psychology and Research-based papers, a more specific format, as compared to the other popular MLA style can be witnessed and the usual tenets of APA essay formatting include.

  • Presence of a Title page: which should contain the title of the paper, name of the student, institutional affiliation and it is recommended by the APA that the title of your paper should not ideally exceed 12 words.
  • Start with an Abstract: An abstract is a short, approximately 150-word summary of the ideas and concepts to be discussed in the body of the essay or research paper .
  • Indented paragraphs
  • Running header (in older versions)
  • Double-spaced with 1” margin
  • 12-point, Times New Roman – should be the ideal font size and style.
  • In-text citations contain name of the author and the year of publication of the work.
  • The list of external sources used in aid to completion of the paper is termed as ‘ References ’ which should be center aligned and bold.
  • References page should contain entries arranged in alphabetical order

Every type of source, be it a journal or a book, is referenced uniquely in APA which can be a little complex for beginners. Here is a guide to the APA style to help you in detail about the nuances of formatting. Example of in-texting in APA: (Cochran, 2007) The same source would be referenced on the ‘References’ page as : Cochran, A. (2007). Understanding urban policy: A critical approach. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA), it has become the go-to academic style for students of all academic backgrounds due to its sheer simplicity and uniformity. Unlike the APA style, this does not exhibit complex uniqueness in its characteristics. The absence of a title page serves as significant evidence to its accessibility. Previously used by Humanities pupils, the MLA style essay formatting is now one of the most popular and commonly-used formats across disciplines.

Some of Its Major Tenets Are:

  • Absence of a Title Page
  • Contains indented paragraphs; references should be hanging-indented
  • Similar referencing for all kinds of sources (books, journals, etc.)
  • 12 point, Times New Roman should be ideally selected as font size and style
  • Double-spaced with 1” margins
  • Running header indicating last name of the student and page number
  • The in-text citations specify Author’s name and Page number. Commas are excluded from in-text citations.
  • The page with the list of external sources used as references should be headed ‘Works Cited’ in plain, cent re-aligned text.

A guide to the MLA format would be useful for gaining deep insights and details about the concerned style. Example of in-text citation in MLA: (Johnson & Colbert 200). A typical reference in the Works Cited page looks like:             Thomas, George. General Management. McGraw-Hill, 2015.             (Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.)

Here Is A Table Simplifying the Differences Between APA And MLA Style Of Formatting

Chicago style.

The Chicago style or the ‘Turabian style’ propagated by the University of Chicago Press is perhaps the most complicated and least-popular example from the list. The manual of style establishes a definitive guideline to be used under such a format. Some of it highlights are:

  • Presence of a separate Title page
  • Paragraphs are mandated to be indented
  • Double-spaced lines are evident along with Times New Roman font.
  • Typical use of footnotes instead of in-text references.
  • Footnotes correspond to numbered references at the bottom of the page
  • List of references used should be a separate page termed as ‘Bibliography’

The intricacies of using footnotes and referencing various kinds of sources according to the Chicago style essay formatting demands an exclusive Chicago style formatting guideline. A typical Chicago style footnote would look a lot like:             2 Carole Shammas, Marylynn Salmon, and Michel Dahlin, Inheritance in America: From   Colonial Times to the Present (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 97. The same reference in the bibliography page would differ slightly as in:             Shammas, Carole, Marylynn Salmon, and Michel Dahlin. Inheritance in America: From   Colonial Times to the Present. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

Some Other Pointers For Flawless Essay Formatting

It is not sufficient to only format your paper according to the guidelines of academic styles to make a mark with your presentation and organisation skills you will also have to keep a close eye on:

  • Language mistakes such as whether to use American English or British English to write your essay and when. For example, the Harvard style, prescribed by the University of Newcastle, uses British English in essay writing activities while American formats such as APA use American English to write essays or research papers.
  • Proofreading and spellcheck should also be an integral part of editing and formatting your paper.
  • Your paper should be air-tight grammatically with no loophole in language use or syntax.
  • Word-count should also be strictly maintained to accomplish a successful essay-writing venture.

Formatting Nuances Making Life Difficult? Expert Help Is A Click Away!

If you are looking for essay-writing help, or help regarding essay formatting, proofreading, plagiarism checking, etc. look no further! EduHelpHub is here with a team of domain experts who will help create the perfect personalised college essay help to suit your academic demands. Time to shine is now, with quality, error-free essay writing help form the team. Just ask for help and wait for the results to speak on our behalf!

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Understanding Essay Format and Its Components

Table of content.

  • 01. Importance of Essay Layout
  • 02. Major Elements of Page Layout
  • 03. Essay Format Style
  • 04. Most Common Essay Formatting Styles
  • 05. What Style to Use When Writing
  • 06. Essay Layout vs. Essay Format
  • 07. Resources for Organizing Proper Citations and Layout
  • 08. Learn the Basics

What makes essay format such a scary phrase? Lots of students groan as soon as they hear it, and there is a good reason for this reaction. Writing a paper and searching through endless books as well as articles is already a challenge, one that takes time and efforts, but formatting functions on a whole new level. First, it is important to define the terms involved in this practice. Page layout means a graphic arrangement of various elements within a written document. It’s not enough to  write an essay : students must make it visually appealing, and no, it doesn’t mean they should simply add photos or graphs. There is a huge amount of small elements related to text, its size and color, distance between the words, etc., and all of it is evaluated separately by professors after assignments are submitted. Knowing these basics could help you increase your grade and meet academic criteria. This guide will assist you in understanding everything related to formats and layouts as you’re writing.

Importance of Essay Layout For Students

To prepare yourself for studying and understanding every small component of paper layout, you should figure out why you need to bother first. Graphic details often seem irrelevant because who cares about them when crafting a strong essay is a main task? In reality, these two things are closely interrelated. Written text could be evaluated properly only if it is readable. If words have different sizes, spaces between paragraphs are too large, their color is too bright and tacky, it’ll distract readers. They’ll keep focusing on layout of an essay, not on what you wrote, so in the end, even if your findings are absolutely spectacular, few people are going to appreciate them — they will be too annoyed because of the flawed arrangement of text. For making all parts of work balanced, a writer should pay equal attention to them all.

15 Major Elements of Page Layout

Those wondering what format of essay includes should remember several crucial tips. There are 15 graphic elements that must be arranged in a correct academic manner. Take a look at them and remember their characteristics.

1.   Margins.  Imagine a Word page filled with text. Empty spaces that surround it are known as margins, and they separate text from the final page border. In accordance with most academic standards, they should be one inch from all sides: this looks good visually while also allowing evaluators to leave their remarks.

2.   Fonts.  This element denotes how your words are written. Standard font is Times New Roman;second common font is Calibri or Ariel. Schoolbook could also be used, so clarify it with professor.

3.   Font Size.  Size of words should generally be 12 points. This makes them easy to read: they aren’t tiny but they also aren’t overwhelming. Check any essay format example and you’ll see it.

4.   Quotes.  Most essays require their writers to use quotes. When this quote is short, there is no need to do anything, but when it’s longer than several lines, you have to format it correctly. Block quotations are presented in a separate paragraph, and they should have a somewhat smaller font than the rest of the essay (10-11 points would be fine).

5.   Spacing.  Papers should have double spacing. Your guideline could also require single spacing, so be attentive when checking instructions.

6.   Paragraphs.  Paragraph format is different for double and single spacing. In the first case, don’t add any spaces between them, just start a new paragraph. In the second case, double space might be needed because this will help underline the start of a new paragraph.

7.   Justification.  Text should be flushed left in most cases, so keep this in mind.

8.   Indentation.  Use TAB and indent keys when making indents for the whole text. Paragraphs should be indented by 0.5 inches.

9.   Indenting quotes.  Like we said before, with block quotations, formatting is different. Use double indentation here (which would be about 1 inch).

10.   Italics, bold, quotations marks.  Italics are used for titles of long works or volumes, like books, journals, newspapers, etc. Quotation marks are needed for smaller works like short stories and articles; bold is required for formatting sections’ titles.

11.   Headings.  How to structure an essay with headings? Like mentioned above, put them in bold. Most often, they should be centered.

12.   Capitals.  Capitalize first letters, but that’s it. Don’t use all CAPS in any instance.

13.  Underlinings.  This will be easy to remember: never use underlinings. For emphasis, turn to bold or italics (when formatting titles or sections).

14.   Page numbering.  There is an automatic page-numbering option students should use. All papers require numbers.

15.   Hyphenation.  Remove automatic hyphenation if it’s turned on because it could ruin the layout of your work. Long words should start from new lines, not be transferred there through hyphens that often work incorrectly.

What Is an Essay Format Style and What’s the Big Deal?

Now that we’ve dealt with paper layout, it is time to talk about formatting styles. These are consistent stylistic approaches that help make a text clear and readable. The way your headings look like, placement of page numbers, format of different titles, works cited list, citations — these aspects should be presented to readers consistently. That is why you must settle on one specific style and follow its rules. As experts say, academic styles are vital because they ensure harmonious flow and visual stability. Imagine this scenario: an  essay introduction  is written in one way but body follows another set of guidelines. This could be distracting, so students should learn how to operate different styles as well as what they entail.

Most Common Essay Formatting Styles

Each university has its own preference for styles. Normally, professors are going to tell their students what standards to follow — they’ll issue a template that will guide you through all your essays. But it is better to be prepared in advance! So, if you’re already worried or just missed the part where styles were explained, we’ll describe top 8 of them below.

This standard essay format stands for Modern Language Association. It is extremely common among most American and British colleges and unis, as well as in official scholar publishing agencies. While it is assigned across various disciplines, for the most part, it’s present in humanities. English and English and World Literature, Religion, Linguistics, Culture, Philosophy, Art and History, Music, etc. are subjects that frequently require it. From key features, it doesn’t have a separate title page, and each citation needs a page number mentioned against the name of an author.

This is also among most popular essay formats. It is deciphered as American Psychological Association, so as evident from the name, it is mostly encountered in the US, in Psychology-related disciplines. But apart from it, it is also common in Sociology, Business, Economy, Healthcare, as well as Economy. It has a title page and an abstract (though this point is optional). Pages should be mentioned in direct quotes only — other sentences are formatted via ‘author, date’ model.

An interesting thing about this college essay format is that it has US and UK versions. So, be sure you follow the correct template. Business and Social Sciences are the most popular areas of its usage. It also has ‘author, date’ framework, and it has a specific title page.

This format mostly functions in the US. It is applied for such subjects as Fine Arts, History, Politics, as well as Business. Title page is present more often than not here, so other clarifications are needed. Unlike it should be in previous styles, here, a system of footnotes is used. Pay particularly close attention to commas and punctuation as a whole.

This basic essay format has been developed based on Chicago style, and it carries the name of a woman from University of Chicago who developed a special citing guide for students. Like with Chicago, it is applied in Business, Arts, and History spheres. There are two forms of it: one includes author and date citations while another requires footnotes and superscript numbers. Title page is needed.

Standing for Council of Science Editor, this style is favored by scholars working with scientific subjects, So, it is common in Biology, Medicine, Zoology, Physics, etc. It is important to create a proper title page, but other than that, there are no any strict requirements. Check essay format examples to see how papers in CSE should look like in your specific college. Author and date citations are frequent here, but clarifications are essential.

American Sociological Association style is preferred by everyone related to the field of Sociology. It has author and date format, and page number is needed for quotations. It also requires a title page and an abstract.

This is a US-common style frequent in legal sectors. So, if you’re studying Law, you’ll have to learn what it is and what components it comprises. Writers should have a title page in their papers; as for citations, they take the form of footnotes.

What Style Should You Use When Writing?

Before you follow the outlined steps for academic style formatting, you need to know what format of essays is suitable for you and your work. There are several ways of learning it, and two of them could be differentiated from the rest. First, look at your major. Is it humanities? Sciences? Medicine? Law? This is going to help you diminish the number of options because as you can see from the previous section, each sphere tends to have its own formatting style. When you do that, look at a subject. Styles like MLA and APA could both cover the same one, but in such instances, go back to the major itself. For example, if you study foreign languages as a whole, MLA would be a great fit, but if you’re focusing on legal translations, Bluebook could be more helpful. Second, just go ahead and ask your teacher. They’ll be pleased with such question. Most likely, they’ll provide you with an academic template showing which style is needed and how a paper in it should look like.

What’s the Difference Between Essay Layout vs. Essay Format?

You might know how to layout an essay, but do you understand what differentiates it from essay format? They are both vital because they help make a paper look pleasant for readers — this is one of their similarities. They are also technical in nature, so they aren’t related to content, just to the visual aspect of it. But what about the differences? Layout concerns graphic details that should be arranged via Word document settings. It includes margins, spacing, indents, font with its size, and so on, and it’s the same for all academic papers. Long and short essay format is diverse, and it depends on a specific range of guidelines. It comprises tens of different styles with their own rules. You cannot implement this format automatically, like it’s possible to do with layout. No, you have to learn the basis of a style you need and then format the paper manually for getting correct results. It is a more precise and time-consuming work type.

Resources for Organizing Proper Citations and Layout

How to achieve  correct essay  format when you weren’t provided a helpful template? It’s a tough situation, and many young people feel worried and confused. But thankfully, experts came up with a great solution. They developed numerous resources that could teach you how to treat the technical aspects of your paper. Here is the list with the most prominent of them.

This is one of the best possible resources that could help you understand everything there is to know about styles like APA, MLA, ASA, etc. It serves as a teaching guide that outlines all elements: text layout, in-text citations, and references. There are detailed examples, explanations, and even sample papers available.

This platform offers examples and descriptions of such styles as APA, MLA, and Chicago. There are also several detailed tables where each example is presented and elaborated upon: you could orient toward them when working on a paper.

This resource works in pair with the previous one, only it is focused on layout, not on formatting styles. If you choose BibMe, then EasyBib will be a great companion to it to disclose a full picture. There are extremely detailed explanations for margins, headings, title page, etc.

Cite This for Me

You could see how simple essay format looks like with the help of this site. It covers lots of styles. While it offers online citation machine option, you shouldn’t rely on it: manual work is the only type that will have no mistakes, so look at its examples. Scroll down until you see them and follow their layout.

Your University

This is an example of how a Harvard guide provided by University of Queensland looks like. Every sentence in it is aimed at demonstrating what students should do with their papers. Your college or university should have a similar one, so ask for it — it is the most efficient way for succeeding.

Learn the Basics Once and Use Them Every Time

Now you’re aware of every major fact related to technical essay construction. Yes, it could seem intimidating to learn this amount of info, but trust us, once you do it, it’ll become a part of your routine. Consult with guides at the first stages, double check  professional examples , and eventually, you’re going to start formatting your papers automatically. There might be many diverse styles and criteria, but you’ll only need to learn several key ones that your subject requires. Your patience will pay off when you get top marks for formatting and correct layout!

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Elizabeth Baldridge

Elizabeth provides educational materials, conducts research, explores and solves student challenges. Her posts are always helpful, innovative, and contain interesting insights.

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Rafal Reyzer

40 Best Essays of All Time (Including Links & Writing Tips)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

I wanted to improve my writing skills. I thought that reading the forty best essays of all time would bring me closer to my goal.

I had little money (buying forty collections of essays was out of the question) so I’ve found them online instead. I’ve hacked through piles of them, and finally, I’ve found the great ones. Now I want to share the whole list with you (with the addition of my notes about writing). Each item on the list has a direct link to the essay, so please click away and indulge yourself. Also, next to each essay, there’s an image of the book that contains the original work.

About this essay list:

Reading essays is like indulging in candy; once you start, it’s hard to stop. I sought out essays that were not only well-crafted but also impactful. These pieces genuinely shifted my perspective. Whether you’re diving in for enjoyment or to hone your writing, these essays promise to leave an imprint. It’s fascinating how an essay can resonate with you, and even if details fade, its essence remains. I haven’t ranked them in any way; they’re all stellar. Skim through, explore the summaries, and pick up some writing tips along the way. For more essay gems, consider “Best American Essays” by Joyce Carol Oates or “101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think” curated by Brianna Wiest.

George Orwell Typing

40 Best Essays of All Time (With Links And Writing Tips)

1. david sedaris – laugh, kookaburra.

david sedaris - the best of me essay collection

A great family drama takes place against the backdrop of the Australian wilderness. And the Kookaburra laughs… This is one of the top essays of the lot. It’s a great mixture of family reminiscences, travel writing, and advice on what’s most important in life. You’ll also learn an awful lot about the curious culture of the Aussies.

Writing tips from the essay:

  • Use analogies (you can make it funny or dramatic to achieve a better effect): “Don’t be afraid,” the waiter said, and he talked to the kookaburra in a soothing, respectful voice, the way you might to a child with a switchblade in his hand”.
  • You can touch a few cognate stories in one piece of writing . Reveal the layers gradually. Intertwine them and arrange for a grand finale where everything is finally clear.
  • Be on the side of the reader. Become their friend and tell the story naturally, like around the dinner table.
  • Use short, punchy sentences. Tell only as much as is required to make your point vivid.
  • Conjure sentences that create actual feelings: “I had on a sweater and a jacket, but they weren’t quite enough, and I shivered as we walked toward the body, and saw that it was a . . . what, exactly?”
  • You may ask a few tough questions in a row to provoke interest and let the reader think.

2. Charles D’Ambrosio – Documents

Charles D'Ambrosio - Loitering - New and Collected Essays

Do you think your life punches you in the face all too often? After reading this essay, you will change your mind. Reading about loss and hardships often makes us sad at first, but then enables us to feel grateful for our lives . D’Ambrosio shares his documents (poems, letters) that had a major impact on his life, and brilliantly shows how not to let go of the past.

  • The most powerful stories are about your family and the childhood moments that shaped your life.
  • You don’t need to build up tension and pussyfoot around the crux of the matter. Instead, surprise the reader by telling it like it is: “The poem was an allegory about his desire to leave our family.” Or: “My father had three sons. I’m the eldest; Danny, the youngest, killed himself sixteen years ago”.
  • You can use real documents and quotes from your family and friends. It makes it so much more personal and relatable.
  • Don’t cringe before the long sentence if you know it’s a strong one.
  • At the end of the essay, you may come back to the first theme to close the circuit.
  • Using slightly poetic language is acceptable, as long as it improves the story.

3. E. B. White – Once more to the lake

E.B. White - Essays

What does it mean to be a father? Can you see your younger self, reflected in your child? This beautiful essay tells the story of the author, his son, and their traditional stay at a placid lake hidden within the forests of Maine. This place of nature is filled with sunshine and childhood memories. It also provides for one of the greatest meditations on nature and the passing of time.

  • Use sophisticated language, but not at the expense of readability.
  • Use vivid language to trigger the mirror neurons in the reader’s brain: “I took along my son, who had never had any fresh water up his nose and who had seen lily pads only from train windows”.
  • It’s important to mention universal feelings that are rarely talked about (it helps to create a bond between two minds): “You remember one thing, and that suddenly reminds you of another thing. I guess I remembered clearest of all the early mornings when the lake was cool and motionless”.
  • Animate the inanimate: “this constant and trustworthy body of water”.
  • Mentioning tales of yore is a good way to add some mystery and timelessness to your piece.
  • Using double, or even triple “and” in one sentence is fine. It can make the sentence sing.

4. Zadie Smith – Fail Better

Zadie Smith - Changing My Mind

Aspiring writers feel tremendous pressure to perform. The daily quota of words often turns out to be nothing more than gibberish. What then? Also, should the writer please the reader or should she be fully independent? What does it mean to be a writer, anyway? This essay is an attempt to answer these questions, but its contents are not only meant for scribblers. Within it, you’ll find some great notes about literary criticism, how we treat art , and the responsibility of the reader.

  • A perfect novel ? There’s no such thing.
  • The novel always reflects the inner world of the writer. That’s why we’re fascinated with writers.
  • Writing is not simply about craftsmanship, but about taking your reader to the unknown lands. In the words of Christopher Hitchens: “Your ideal authors ought to pull you from the foundering of your previous existence, not smilingly guide you into a friendly and peaceable harbor.”
  • Style comes from your unique personality and the perception of the world. It takes time to develop it.
  • Never try to tell it all. “All” can never be put into language. Take a part of it and tell it the best you can.
  • Avoid being cliché. Try to infuse new life into your writing .
  • Writing is about your way of being. It’s your game. Paradoxically, if you try to please everyone, your writing will become less appealing. You’ll lose the interest of the readers. This rule doesn’t apply in the business world where you have to write for a specific person (a target audience).
  • As a reader, you have responsibilities too. According to the critics, every thirty years, there’s just a handful of great novels. Maybe it’s true. But there’s also an element of personal connection between the reader and the writer. That’s why for one person a novel is a marvel, while for the other, nothing special at all. That’s why you have to search and find the author who will touch you.

5. Virginia Woolf – Death of the Moth

Virginia Woolf - Essays

Amid an ordinary day, sitting in a room of her own, Virginia Woolf tells about the epic struggle for survival and the evanescence of life. This short essay is truly powerful. In the beginning, the atmosphere is happy. Life is in full force. And then, suddenly, it fades away. This sense of melancholy would mark the last years of Woolf’s life.

  • The melody of language… A good sentence is like music: “Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow- underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us”.
  • You can show the grandest in the mundane (for example, the moth at your window and the drama of life and death).
  • Using simple comparisons makes the style more lucid: “Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure”.

6. Meghan Daum – My Misspent Youth

Meghan Daum - My Misspent Youth - Essays

Many of us, at some point or another, dream about living in New York. Meghan Daum’s take on the subject differs slightly from what you might expect. There’s no glamour, no Broadway shows, and no fancy restaurants. Instead, there’s the sullen reality of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You’ll get all the juicy details about credit cards, overdue payments, and scrambling for survival. It’s a word of warning. But it’s also a great story about shattered fantasies of living in a big city. Word on the street is: “You ain’t promised mañana in the rotten manzana.”

  • You can paint a picture of your former self. What did that person believe in? What kind of world did he or she live in?
  • “The day that turned your life around” is a good theme you may use in a story. Memories of a special day are filled with emotions. Strong emotions often breed strong writing.
  • Use cultural references and relevant slang to create a context for your story.
  • You can tell all the details of the story, even if in some people’s eyes you’ll look like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived. It adds to the originality.
  • Say it in a new way: “In this mindset, the dollars spent, like the mechanics of a machine no one bothers to understand, become an abstraction, an intangible avenue toward self-expression, a mere vehicle of style”.
  • You can mix your personal story with the zeitgeist or the ethos of the time.

7. Roger Ebert – Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Roger Ebert - The Great Movies

Probably the greatest film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, tells us not to rage against the dying of the light. This essay is full of courage, erudition, and humanism. From it, we learn about what it means to be dying (Hitchens’ “Mortality” is another great work on that theme). But there’s so much more. It’s a great celebration of life too. It’s about not giving up, and sticking to your principles until the very end. It brings to mind the famous scene from Dead Poets Society where John Keating (Robin Williams) tells his students: “Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary”.

  • Start with a powerful sentence: “I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear.”
  • Use quotes to prove your point -”‘Ask someone how they feel about death’, he said, ‘and they’ll tell you everyone’s gonna die’. Ask them, ‘In the next 30 seconds?’ No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen”.
  • Admit the basic truths about reality in a childlike way (especially after pondering quantum physics) – “I believe my wristwatch exists, and even when I am unconscious, it is ticking all the same. You have to start somewhere”.
  • Let other thinkers prove your point. Use quotes and ideas from your favorite authors and friends.

8. George Orwell – Shooting an Elephant

George Orwell - A collection of Essays

Even after one reading, you’ll remember this one for years. The story, set in British Burma, is about shooting an elephant (it’s not for the squeamish). It’s also the most powerful denunciation of colonialism ever put into writing. Orwell, apparently a free representative of British rule, feels to be nothing more than a puppet succumbing to the whim of the mob.

  • The first sentence is the most important one: “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me”.
  • You can use just the first paragraph to set the stage for the whole piece of prose.
  • Use beautiful language that stirs the imagination: “I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains.” Or: “I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have.”
  • If you’ve ever been to war, you will have a story to tell: “(Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.)”
  • Use simple words, and admit the sad truth only you can perceive: “They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching”.
  • Share words of wisdom to add texture to the writing: “I perceived at this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his freedom that he destroys.”
  • I highly recommend reading everything written by Orwell, especially if you’re looking for the best essay collections on Amazon or Goodreads.

9. George Orwell – A Hanging

George Orwell - Essays

It’s just another day in Burma – time to hang a man. Without much ado, Orwell recounts the grim reality of taking another person’s life. A man is taken from his cage and in a few minutes, he’s going to be hanged. The most horrible thing is the normality of it. It’s a powerful story about human nature. Also, there’s an extraordinary incident with the dog, but I won’t get ahead of myself.

  • Create brilliant, yet short descriptions of characters: “He was a Hindu, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes. He had a thick, sprouting mustache, absurdly too big for his body, rather like the mustache of a comic man on the films”.
  • Understand and share the felt presence of a unique experience: “It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man”.
  • Make your readers hear the sound that will stay with them forever: “And then when the noose was fixed, the prisoner began crying out on his god. It was a high, reiterated cry of “Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!”
  • Make the ending original by refusing the tendency to seek closure or summing it up.

10. Christopher Hitchens – Assassins of The Mind

Christopher Hitchens - Arguably - Essays

In one of the greatest essays written in defense of free speech, Christopher Hitchens shares many examples of how modern media kneel to the explicit threats of violence posed by Islamic extremists. He recounts the story of his friend, Salman Rushdie, author of Satanic Verses who, for many years, had to watch over his shoulder because of the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini. With his usual wit, Hitchens shares various examples of people who died because of their opinions and of editors who refuse to publish anything related to Islam because of fear (and it was written long before the Charlie Hebdo massacre). After reading the essay, you realize that freedom of expression is one of the most precious things we have and that we have to fight for it. I highly recommend all essay collections penned by Hitchens, especially the ones written for Vanity Fair.

  • Assume that the readers will know the cultural references. When they do, their self-esteem goes up – they are a part of an insider group.
  • When proving your point, give a variety of real-life examples from eclectic sources. Leave no room for ambiguity or vagueness. Research and overall knowledge are essential here.
  • Use italics to emphasize a specific word or phrase (here I use the underlining): “We live now in a climate where every publisher and editor and politician has to weigh in advance the possibility of violent Muslim reprisal. In consequence, several things have not happened.”
  • Think about how to make it sound more original: “So there is now a hidden partner in our cultural and academic and publishing and the broadcasting world: a shadowy figure that has, uninvited, drawn up a chair to the table.”

11. Christopher Hitchens – The New Commandments

Christopher Hitchens - Essays

It’s high time to shatter the tablets and amend the biblical rules of conduct. Watch, as Christopher Hitchens slays one commandment after the other on moral, as well as historical grounds. For example, did you know that there are many versions of the divine law dictated by God to Moses which you can find in the Bible? Aren’t we thus empowered to write our version of a proper moral code? If you approach it with an open mind, this essay may change the way you think about the Bible and religion.

  • Take the iconoclastic approach. Have a party on the hallowed soil.
  • Use humor to undermine orthodox ideas (it seems to be the best way to deal with an established authority).
  • Use sarcasm and irony when appropriate (or not): “Nobody is opposed to a day of rest. The international Communist movement got its start by proclaiming a strike for an eight-hour day on May 1, 1886, against Christian employers who used child labor seven days a week”.
  • Defeat God on legal grounds: “Wise lawmakers know that it is a mistake to promulgate legislation that is impossible to obey”.
  • Be ruthless in the logic of your argument. Provide evidence.

12. Phillip Lopate – Against Joie de Vivre

Philip Lopate - The Art Of Personal Essay

While reading this fantastic essay, this quote from Slavoj Žižek kept coming back to me: “I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves”. I can bear the onus of happiness or joie de vivre for some time. But this force enables me to get free and wallow in the sweet feelings of melancholy and nostalgia. By reading this work of Lopate, you’ll enter into the world of an intelligent man who finds most social rituals a drag. It’s worth exploring.

  • Go against the grain. Be flamboyant and controversial (if you can handle it).
  • Treat the paragraph like a group of thoughts on one theme. Next paragraph, next theme.
  • Use references to other artists to set the context and enrich the prose: “These sunny little canvases with their talented innocence, the third-generation spirit of Montmartre, bore testimony to a love of life so unbending as to leave an impression of rigid narrow-mindedness as extreme as any Savonarola. Their rejection of sorrow was total”.
  • Capture the emotions in life that are universal, yet remain unspoken.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your intimate experiences.

13. Philip Larkin – The Pleasure Principle

Philip Larkin - Jazz Writings, and other essays

This piece comes from the Required Writing collection of personal essays. Larkin argues that reading in verse should be a source of intimate pleasure – not a medley of unintelligible thoughts that only the author can (or can’t?) decipher. It’s a sobering take on modern poetry and a great call to action for all those involved in it. Well worth a read.

  • Write about complicated ideas (such as poetry) simply. You can change how people look at things if you express yourself enough.
  • Go boldly. The reader wants a bold writer: “We seem to be producing a new kind of bad poetry, not the old kind that tries to move the reader and fails, but one that does not even try”.
  • Play with words and sentence length. Create music: “It is time some of you playboys realized, says the judge, that reading a poem is hard work. Fourteen days in stir. Next case”.
  • Persuade the reader to take action. Here, direct language is the most effective.

14. Sigmund Freud – Thoughts for the Times on War and Death

Sigmund Freud - On Murder, Mourning and Melancholia

This essay reveals Freud’s disillusionment with the whole project of Western civilization. How the peaceful European countries could engage in a war that would eventually cost over 17 million lives? What stirs people to kill each other? Is it their nature, or are they puppets of imperial forces with agendas of their own? From the perspective of time, this work by Freud doesn’t seem to be fully accurate. Even so, it’s well worth your time.

  • Commence with long words derived from Latin. Get grandiloquent, make your argument incontrovertible, and leave your audience discombobulated.
  • Use unending sentences, so that the reader feels confused, yet impressed.
  • Say it well: “In this way, he enjoyed the blue sea and the grey; the beauty of snow-covered mountains and green meadowlands; the magic of northern forests and the splendor of southern vegetation; the mood evoked by landscapes that recall great historical events, and the silence of untouched nature”.
  • Human nature is a subject that never gets dry.

15. Zadie Smith – Some Notes on Attunement

“You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing” – Francis Dolarhyde. This one is about the elusiveness of change occurring within you. For Zadie, it was hard to attune to the vibes of Joni Mitchell – especially her Blue album. But eventually, she grew up to appreciate her genius, and all the other things changed as well. This top essay is all about the relationship between humans, and art. We shouldn’t like art because we’re supposed to. We should like it because it has an instantaneous, emotional effect on us. Although, according to Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in Léon, liking Beethoven is rather mandatory.

  • Build an expectation of what’s coming: “The first time I heard her I didn’t hear her at all”.
  • Don’t be afraid of repetition if it feels good.
  • Psychedelic drugs let you appreciate things you never appreciated.
  • Intertwine a personal journey with philosophical musings.
  • Show rather than tell: “My friends pitied their eyes. The same look the faithful give you as you hand them back their “literature” and close the door in their faces”.
  • Let the poets speak for you: “That time is past, / And all its aching joys are now no
  • more, / And all its dizzy raptures”.
  • By voicing your anxieties, you can heal the anxieties of the reader. In that way, you say: “I’m just like you. I’m your friend in this struggle”.
  • Admit your flaws to make your persona more relatable.

16. Annie Dillard – Total Eclipse

Annie Dillard - Teaching A stone to talk

My imagination was always stirred by the scene of the solar eclipse in Pharaoh, by Boleslaw Prus. I wondered about the shock of the disoriented crowd when they saw how their ruler could switch off the light. Getting immersed in this essay by Annie Dillard has a similar effect. It produces amazement and some kind of primeval fear. It’s not only the environment that changes; it’s your mind and the perception of the world. After the eclipse, nothing is going to be the same again.

  • Yet again, the power of the first sentence draws you in: “It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass”.
  • Don’t miss the extraordinary scene. Then describe it: “Up in the sky, like a crater from some distant cataclysm, was a hollow ring”.
  • Use colloquial language. Write as you talk. Short sentences often win.
  • Contrast the numinous with the mundane to enthrall the reader.

17. Édouard Levé – When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue

Édouard Levé - Suicide

This suicidally beautiful essay will teach you a lot about the appreciation of life and the struggle with mental illness. It’s a collection of personal, apparently unrelated thoughts that show us the rich interior of the author. You look at the real-time thoughts of another person, and then recognize the same patterns within yourself… It sounds like a confession of a person who’s about to take their life, and it’s striking in its originality.

  • Use the stream-of-consciousness technique and put random thoughts on paper. Then, polish them: “I have attempted suicide once, I’ve been tempted four times to attempt it”.
  • Place the treasure deep within the story: “When I look at a strawberry, I think of a tongue, when I lick one, of a kiss”.
  • Don’t worry about what people might think. The more you expose, the more powerful the writing. Readers also take part in the great drama. They experience universal emotions that mostly stay inside.  You can translate them into writing.

18. Gloria E. Anzaldúa – How to Tame a Wild Tongue

Gloria Anzaldúa - Reader

Anzaldúa, who was born in south Texas, had to struggle to find her true identity. She was American, but her culture was grounded in Mexico. In this way, she and her people were not fully respected in either of the countries. This essay is an account of her journey of becoming the ambassador of the Chicano (Mexican-American) culture. It’s full of anecdotes, interesting references, and different shades of Spanish. It’s a window into a new cultural dimension that you’ve never experienced before.

  • If your mother tongue is not English, but you write in English, use some of your unique homeland vocabulary.
  • You come from a rich cultural heritage. You can share it with people who never heard about it, and are not even looking for it, but it is of immense value to them when they discover it.
  • Never forget about your identity. It is precious. It is a part of who you are. Even if you migrate, try to preserve it. Use it to your best advantage and become the voice of other people in the same situation.
  • Tell them what’s really on your mind: “So if you want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language”.

19. Kurt Vonnegut – Dispatch From A Man Without a Country

Kurt Vonnegut - A man without a country

In terms of style, this essay is flawless. It’s simple, conversational, humorous, and yet, full of wisdom. And when Vonnegut becomes a teacher and draws an axis of “beginning – end”, and, “good fortune – bad fortune” to explain literature, it becomes outright hilarious. It’s hard to find an author with such a down-to-earth approach. He doesn’t need to get intellectual to prove a point. And the point could be summed up by the quote from Great Expectations – “On the Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip – such is Life!”

  • Start with a curious question: “Do you know what a twerp is?”
  • Surprise your readers with uncanny analogies: “I am from a family of artists. Here I am, making a living in the arts. It has not been a rebellion. It’s as though I had taken over the family Esso station.”
  • Use your natural language without too many special effects. In time, the style will crystalize.
  • An amusing lesson in writing from Mr. Vonnegut: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college”.
  • You can put actual images or vignettes between the paragraphs to illustrate something.

20. Mary Ruefle – On Fear

Mary Ruefle - Madness, rack and honey

Most psychologists and gurus agree that fear is the greatest enemy of success or any creative activity. It’s programmed into our minds to keep us away from imaginary harm. Mary Ruefle takes on this basic human emotion with flair. She explores fear from so many angles (especially in the world of poetry-writing) that at the end of this personal essay, you will look at it, dissect it, untangle it, and hopefully be able to say “f**k you” the next time your brain is trying to stop you.

  • Research your subject thoroughly. Ask people, have interviews, get expert opinions, and gather as much information as possible. Then scavenge through the fields of data, and pull out the golden bits that will let your prose shine.
  • Use powerful quotes to add color to your story: “The poet who embarks on the creation of the poem (as I know by experience), begins with the aimless sensation of a hunter about to embark on a night hunt through the remotest of forests. Unaccountable dread stirs in his heart”. – Lorca.
  • Writing advice from the essay: “One of the fears a young writer has is not being able to write as well as he or she wants to, the fear of not being able to sound like X or Y, a favorite author. But out of fear, hopefully, is born a young writer’s voice”.

21. Susan Sontag – Against Interpretation

Susan Sontag - Against Interpretation

In this highly intellectual essay, Sontag fights for art and its interpretation. It’s a great lesson, especially for critics and interpreters who endlessly chew on works that simply defy interpretation. Why don’t we just leave the art alone? I always hated it when at school they asked me: “What did the author have in mind when he did X or Y?” Iēsous Pantocrator! Hell if I know! I will judge it through my subjective experience!

  • Leave the art alone: “Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities”.
  • When you have something really important to say, style matters less.
  • There’s no use in creating a second meaning or inviting interpretation of our art. Just leave it be and let it speak for itself.

22. Nora Ephron – A Few Words About Breasts

Nora Ephron - The most of Nora Ephron

This is a heartwarming, coming-of-age story about a young girl who waits in vain for her breasts to grow. It’s simply a humorous and pleasurable read. The size of breasts is a big deal for women. If you’re a man, you may peek into the mind of a woman and learn many interesting things. If you’re a woman, maybe you’ll be able to relate and at last, be at peace with your bosom.

  • Touch an interesting subject and establish a strong connection with the readers (in that case, women with small breasts). Let your personality shine through the written piece. If you are lighthearted, show it.
  • Use hyphens to create an impression of real talk: “My house was full of apples and peaches and milk and homemade chocolate chip cookies – which were nice, and good for you, but-not-right-before-dinner-or-you’ll-spoil-your-appetite.”
  • Use present tense when you tell a story to add more life to it.
  • Share the pronounced, memorable traits of characters: “A previous girlfriend named Solange, who was famous throughout Beverly Hills High School for having no pigment in her right eyebrow, had knitted them for him (angora dice)”.

23. Carl Sagan – Does Truth Matter – Science, Pseudoscience, and Civilization

Carl Sagan - The Demon Haunted World

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest proponents of skepticism, and an author of numerous books, including one of my all-time favorites – The Demon-Haunted World . He was also a renowned physicist and the host of the fantastic Cosmos: A Personal Voyage series, which inspired a whole generation to uncover the mysteries of the cosmos. He was also a dedicated weed smoker – clearly ahead of his time. The essay that you’re about to read is a crystallization of his views about true science, and why you should check the evidence before believing in UFOs or similar sorts of crap.

  • Tell people the brutal truth they need to hear. Be the one who spells it out for them.
  • Give a multitude of examples to prove your point. Giving hard facts helps to establish trust with the readers and show the veracity of your arguments.
  • Recommend a good book that will change your reader’s minds – How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life

24. Paul Graham – How To Do What You Love

Paul Graham - Hackers and Painters

How To Do What You Love should be read by every college student and young adult. The Internet is flooded with a large number of articles and videos that are supposed to tell you what to do with your life. Most of them are worthless, but this one is different. It’s sincere, and there’s no hidden agenda behind it. There’s so much we take for granted – what we study, where we work, what we do in our free time… Surely we have another two hundred years to figure it out, right? Life’s too short to be so naïve. Please, read the essay and let it help you gain fulfillment from your work.

  • Ask simple, yet thought-provoking questions (especially at the beginning of the paragraph) to engage the reader: “How much are you supposed to like what you do?”
  • Let the readers question their basic assumptions: “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like”.
  • If you’re writing for a younger audience, you can act as a mentor. It’s beneficial for younger people to read a few words of advice from a person with experience.

25. John Jeremiah Sullivan – Mister Lytle

John Jeremiah Sullivan - Pulphead

A young, aspiring writer is about to become a nurse of a fading writer – Mister Lytle (Andrew Nelson Lytle), and there will be trouble. This essay by Sullivan is probably my favorite one from the whole list. The amount of beautiful sentences it contains is just overwhelming. But that’s just a part of its charm. It also takes you to the Old South which has an incredible atmosphere. It’s grim and tawny but you want to stay there for a while.

  • Short, distinct sentences are often the most powerful ones: “He had a deathbed, in other words. He didn’t go suddenly”.
  • Stay consistent with the mood of the story. When reading Mister Lytle you are immersed in that southern, forsaken, gloomy world, and it’s a pleasure.
  • The spectacular language that captures it all: “His French was superb, but his accent in English was best—that extinct mid-Southern, land-grant pioneer speech, with its tinges of the abandoned Celtic urban Northeast (“boned” for burned) and its raw gentility”.
  • This essay is just too good. You have to read it.

26. Joan Didion – On Self Respect

Joan Didion - The white album

Normally, with that title, you would expect some straightforward advice about how to improve your character and get on with your goddamn life – but not from Joan Didion. From the very beginning, you can feel the depth of her thinking, and the unmistakable style of a true woman who’s been hurt. You can learn more from this essay than from whole books about self-improvement . It reminds me of the scene from True Detective, where Frank Semyon tells Ray Velcoro to “own it” after he realizes he killed the wrong man all these years ago. I guess we all have to “own it”, recognize our mistakes, and move forward sometimes.

  • Share your moral advice: “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs”.
  • It’s worth exploring the subject further from a different angle. It doesn’t matter how many people have already written on self-respect or self-reliance – you can still write passionately about it.
  • Whatever happens, you must take responsibility for it. Brave the storms of discontent.

27. Susan Sontag – Notes on Camp

Susan Sontag - Essays of the 1960 and 1970

I’ve never read anything so thorough and lucid about an artistic current. After reading this essay, you will know what camp is. But not only that – you will learn about so many artists you’ve never heard of. You will follow their traces and go to places where you’ve never been before. You will vastly increase your appreciation of art. It’s interesting how something written as a list could be so amazing. All the listicles we usually see on the web simply cannot compare with it.

  • Talking about artistic sensibilities is a tough job. When you read the essay, you will see how much research, thought and raw intellect came into it. But that’s one of the reasons why people still read it today, even though it was written in 1964.
  • You can choose an unorthodox way of expression in the medium for which you produce. For example, Notes on Camp is a listicle – one of the most popular content formats on the web. But in the olden days, it was uncommon to see it in print form.
  • Just think about what is camp: “And third among the great creative sensibilities is Camp: the sensibility of failed seriousness, of the theatricalization of experience. Camp refuses both the harmonies of traditional seriousness and the risks of fully identifying with extreme states of feeling”.

28. Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Self Reliance and other essays

That’s the oldest one from the lot. Written in 1841, it still inspires generations of people. It will let you understand what it means to be self-made. It contains some of the most memorable quotes of all time. I don’t know why, but this one especially touched me: “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design, and posterity seems to follow his steps as a train of clients”. Now isn’t it purely individualistic, American thought? Emerson told me (and he will tell you) to do something amazing with my life. The language it contains is a bit archaic, but that just adds to the weight of the argument. You can consider it to be a meeting with a great philosopher who shaped the ethos of the modern United States.

  • You can start with a powerful poem that will set the stage for your work.
  • Be free in your creative flow. Do not wait for the approval of others: “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness”.
  • Use rhetorical questions to strengthen your argument: “I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly say a new and spontaneous word?”

29. David Foster Wallace – Consider The Lobster

David Foster Wallece - Consider the lobster and other essays

When you want simple field notes about a food festival, you needn’t send there the formidable David Foster Wallace. He sees right through the hypocrisy and cruelty behind killing hundreds of thousands of innocent lobsters – by boiling them alive. This essay uncovers some of the worst traits of modern American people. There are no apologies or hedging one’s bets. There’s just plain truth that stabs you in the eye like a lobster claw. After reading this essay, you may reconsider the whole animal-eating business.

  • When it’s important, say it plainly and stagger the reader: “[Lobsters] survive right up until they’re boiled. Most of us have been in supermarkets or restaurants that feature tanks of live lobster, from which you can pick out your supper while it watches you point”.
  • In your writing, put exact quotes of the people you’ve been interviewing (including slang and grammatical errors). It makes it more vivid, and interesting.
  • You can use humor in serious situations to make your story grotesque.
  • Use captions to expound on interesting points of your essay.

30. David Foster Wallace – The Nature of the Fun

David Foster Wallece - a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again

The famous novelist and author of the most powerful commencement speech ever done is going to tell you about the joys and sorrows of writing a work of fiction. It’s like taking care of a mutant child that constantly oozes smelly liquids. But you love that child and you want others to love it too. It’s a very humorous account of what it means to be an author. If you ever plan to write a novel, you should read that one. And the story about the Chinese farmer is just priceless.

  • Base your point on a chimerical analogy. Here, the writer’s unfinished work is a “hideously damaged infant”.
  • Even in expository writing, you may share an interesting story to keep things lively.
  • Share your true emotions (even when you think they won’t interest anyone). Often, that’s exactly what will interest the reader.
  • Read the whole essay for marvelous advice on writing fiction.

31. Margaret Atwood – Attitude

Margaret Atwood - Writing with Intent - Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005

This is not an essay per se, but I included it on the list for the sake of variety. It was delivered as a commencement speech at The University of Toronto, and it’s about keeping the right attitude. Soon after leaving university, most graduates have to forget about safety, parties, and travel and start a new life – one filled with a painful routine that will last until they drop. Atwood says that you don’t have to accept that. You can choose how you react to everything that happens to you (and you don’t have to stay in that dead-end job for the rest of your days).

  • At times, we are all too eager to persuade, but the strongest persuasion is not forceful. It’s subtle. It speaks to the heart. It affects you gradually.
  • You may be tempted to talk about a subject by first stating what it is not, rather than what it is. Try to avoid that.
  • Simple advice for writers (and life in general): “When faced with the inevitable, you always have a choice. You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it”.

32. Jo Ann Beard – The Fourth State of Matter

Jo Ann Beard - The boys of my youth

Read that one as soon as possible. It’s one of the most masterful and impactful essays you’ll ever read. It’s like a good horror – a slow build-up, and then your jaw drops to the ground. To summarize the story would be to spoil it, so I recommend that you just dig in and devour this essay in one sitting. It’s a perfect example of “show, don’t tell” writing, where the actions of characters are enough to create the right effect. No need for flowery adjectives here.

  • The best story you will tell is going to come from your personal experience.
  • Use mysteries that will nag the reader. For example, at the beginning of the essay, we learn about the “vanished husband” but there’s no explanation. We have to keep reading to get the answer.
  • Explain it in simple terms: “You’ve got your solid, your liquid, your gas, and then your plasma”. Why complicate?

33. Terence McKenna – Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness

Terrence McKenna - Food of gods

To me, Terence McKenna was one of the most interesting thinkers of the twentieth century. His many lectures (now available on YouTube) attracted millions of people who suspect that consciousness holds secrets yet to be unveiled. McKenna consumed psychedelic drugs for most of his life and it shows (in a positive way). Many people consider him a looney, and a hippie, but he was so much more than that. He dared to go into the abyss of his psyche and come back to tell the tale. He also wrote many books (the most famous being Food Of The Gods ), built a huge botanical garden in Hawaii , lived with shamans, and was a connoisseur of all things enigmatic and obscure. Take a look at this essay, and learn more about the explorations of the subconscious mind.

  • Become the original thinker, but remember that it may require extraordinary measures: “I call myself an explorer rather than a scientist because the area that I’m looking at contains insufficient data to support even the dream of being a science”.
  • Learn new words every day to make your thoughts lucid.
  • Come up with the most outlandish ideas to push the envelope of what’s possible. Don’t take things for granted or become intellectually lazy. Question everything.

34. Eudora Welty – The Little Store

Eudora Welty - The eye of the story

By reading this little-known essay, you will be transported into the world of the old American South. It’s a remembrance of trips to the little store in a little town. It’s warm and straightforward, and when you read it, you feel like a child once more. All these beautiful memories live inside of us. They lay somewhere deep in our minds, hidden from sight. The work by Eudora Welty is an attempt to uncover some of them and let you get reacquainted with some smells and tastes of the past.

  • When you’re from the South, flaunt it. It’s still good old English but sometimes it sounds so foreign. I can hear the Southern accent too: “There were almost tangible smells – licorice recently sucked in a child’s cheek, dill-pickle brine that had leaked through a paper sack in a fresh trail across the wooden floor, ammonia-loaded ice that had been hoisted from wet Croker sacks and slammed into the icebox with its sweet butter at the door, and perhaps the smell of still-untrapped mice”.
  • Yet again, never forget your roots.
  • Childhood stories can be the most powerful ones. You can write about how they shaped you.

35. John McPhee – The Search for Marvin Gardens

John Mc Phee - The John Mc Phee reader

The Search for Marvin Gardens contains many layers of meaning. It’s a story about a Monopoly championship, but also, it’s the author’s search for the lost streets visible on the board of the famous board game. It also presents a historical perspective on the rise and fall of civilizations, and on Atlantic City, which once was a lively place, and then, slowly declined, the streets filled with dirt and broken windows.

  • There’s nothing like irony: “A sign- ‘Slow, Children at Play’- has been bent backward by an automobile”.
  • Telling the story in apparently unrelated fragments is sometimes better than telling the whole thing in a logical order.
  • Creativity is everything. The best writing may come just from connecting two ideas and mixing them to achieve a great effect. Shush! The muse is whispering.

36. Maxine Hong Kingston – No Name Woman

Maxine Hong Kingston - Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston

A dead body at the bottom of the well makes for a beautiful literary device. The first line of Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red delivers it perfectly: “I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well”. There’s something creepy about the idea of the well. Just think about the “It puts the lotion in the basket” scene from The Silence of the Lambs. In the first paragraph of Kingston’s essay, we learn about a suicide committed by uncommon means of jumping into the well. But this time it’s a real story. Who was this woman? Why did she do it? Read the essay.

  • Mysterious death always gets attention. The macabre details are like daiquiris on a hot day – you savor them – you don’t let them spill.
  • One sentence can speak volumes: “But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not delineated in space”.
  • It’s interesting to write about cultural differences – especially if you have the relevant experience. Something normal for us is unthinkable for others. Show this different world.
  • The subject of sex is never boring.

37. Joan Didion – On Keeping A Notebook

Joan Didion - We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is one of the most famous collections of essays of all time. In it, you will find a curious piece called On Keeping A Notebook. It’s not only a meditation about keeping a journal. It’s also Didion’s reconciliation with her past self. After reading it, you will seriously reconsider your life’s choices and look at your life from a wider perspective.

  • When you write things down in your journal, be more specific – unless you want to write a deep essay about it years later.
  • Use the beauty of the language to relate to the past: “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing ‘How High the Moon’ on the car radio”.
  • Drop some brand names if you want to feel posh.

38. Joan Didion – Goodbye To All That

Joan Didion - Slouching Towards Bethlehem

This one touched me because I also lived in New York City for a while. I don’t know why, but stories about life in NYC are so often full of charm and this eerie-melancholy-jazz feeling. They are powerful. They go like this: “There was a hard blizzard in NYC. As the sound of sirens faded, Tony descended into the dark world of hustlers and pimps.” That’s pulp literature but in the context of NYC, it always sounds cool. Anyway, this essay is amazing in too many ways. You just have to read it.

  • Talk about New York City. They will read it.
  • Talk about the human experience: “It did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young?”
  • Look back at your life and reexamine it. Draw lessons from it.

39. George Orwell – Reflections on Gandhi

George Orwell could see things as they were. No exaggeration, no romanticism – just facts. He recognized totalitarianism and communism for what they were and shared his worries through books like 1984 and Animal Farm . He took the same sober approach when dealing with saints and sages. Today, we regard Gandhi as one of the greatest political leaders of the twentieth century – and rightfully so. But did you know that when asked about the Jews during World War II, Gandhi said that they should commit collective suicide and that it: “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” He also recommended utter pacifism in 1942, during the Japanese invasion, even though he knew it would cost millions of lives. But overall he was a good guy. Read the essay and broaden your perspective on the Bapu of the Indian Nation.

  • Share a philosophical thought that stops the reader for a moment: “No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid”.
  • Be straightforward in your writing – no mannerisms, no attempts to create ‘style’, and no invocations of the numinous – unless you feel the mystical vibe.

40. George Orwell – Politics and the English Language

Let Mr. Orwell give you some writing tips. Written in 1946, this essay is still one of the most helpful documents on writing in English. Orwell was probably the first person who exposed the deliberate vagueness of political language. He was very serious about it and I admire his efforts to slay all unclear sentences (including ones written by distinguished professors). But it’s good to make it humorous too from time to time. My favorite examples of that would be the immortal Soft Language sketch by George Carlin or the “Romans Go Home” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Overall, it’s a great essay filled with examples from many written materials. It’s a must-read for any writer.

  • Listen to the master: “This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose.” Do something about it.
  • This essay is all about writing better, so go to the source if you want the goodies.

The thinker

Other Essays You May Find Interesting

The list that I’ve prepared is by no means complete. The literary world is full of exciting essays and you’ll never know which one is going to change your life. I’ve found reading essays very rewarding because sometimes, a single one means more than reading a whole book. It’s almost like wandering around and peeking into the minds of the greatest writers and thinkers that ever lived. To make this list more comprehensive, below I included more essays you may find interesting.

Oliver Sacks – On Libraries

One of the greatest contributors to the knowledge about the human mind, Oliver Sacks meditates on the value of libraries and his love of books.

Noam Chomsky – The Responsibility of Intellectuals

Chomsky did probably more than anyone else to define the role of the intelligentsia in the modern world . There is a war of ideas over there – good and bad – intellectuals are going to be those who ought to be fighting for the former.

Sam Harris – The Riddle of The Gun

Sam Harris, now a famous philosopher and neuroscientist, takes on the problem of gun control in the United States. His thoughts are clear of prejudice. After reading this, you’ll appreciate the value of logical discourse overheated, irrational debate that more often than not has real implications on policy.

Tim Ferriss – Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide

This piece was written as a blog post , but it’s worth your time. The author of the NYT bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek shares an emotional story about how he almost killed himself, and what can you do to save yourself or your friends from suicide.

Edward Said – Reflections on Exile

The life of Edward Said was a truly fascinating one. Born in Jerusalem, he lived between Palestine and Egypt and finally settled down in the United States, where he completed his most famous work – Orientalism. In this essay, he shares his thoughts about what it means to be in exile.

Richard Feynman – It’s as Simple as One, Two, Three…

Richard Feynman is one of the most interesting minds of the twentieth century. He was a brilliant physicist, but also an undeniably great communicator of science, an artist, and a traveler. By reading this essay, you can observe his thought process when he tries to figure out what affects our perception of time. It’s a truly fascinating read.

Rabindranath Tagore – The Religion of The Forest

I like to think about Tagore as my spiritual Friend. His poems are just marvelous. They are like some of the Persian verses that praise love, nature, and the unity of all things. By reading this short essay, you will learn a lot about Indian philosophy and its relation to its Western counterpart.

Richard Dawkins – Letter To His 10-Year-Old Daughter

Every father should be able to articulate his philosophy of life to his children. With this letter that’s similar to what you find in the Paris Review essays , the famed atheist and defender of reason, Richard Dawkins, does exactly that. It’s beautifully written and stresses the importance of looking at evidence when we’re trying to make sense of the world.

Albert Camus – The Minotaur (or, The Stop In Oran)

Each person requires a period of solitude – a period when one’s able to gather thoughts and make sense of life. There are many places where you may attempt to find quietude. Albert Camus tells about his favorite one.

Koty Neelis – 21 Incredible Life Lessons From Anthony Bourdain

I included it as the last one because it’s not really an essay, but I just had to put it somewhere. In this listicle, you’ll find the 21 most original thoughts of the high-profile cook, writer, and TV host, Anthony Bourdain. Some of them are shocking, others are funny, but they’re all worth checking out.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca – On the Shortness of Life

It’s similar to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam because it praises life. Seneca shares some of his stoic philosophy and tells you not to waste your time on stupidities. Drink! – for once dead you shall never return.

Bertrand Russell – In Praise of Idleness

This old essay is a must-read for modern humans. We are so preoccupied with our work, our phones, and all the media input we drown in our business. Bertrand Russell tells you to chill out a bit – maybe it will do you some good.

James Baldwin – Stranger in the Village

It’s an essay on the author’s experiences as an African-American in a Swiss village, exploring race, identity, and alienation while highlighting the complexities of racial dynamics and the quest for belonging.

Bonus – More writing tips from two great books

The mission to improve my writing skills took me further than just going through the essays. I’ve come across some great books on writing too. I highly recommend you read them in their entirety. They’re written beautifully and contain lots of useful knowledge. Below you’ll find random (but useful) notes that I took from The Sense of Style and On Writing.

The Sense of Style – By Steven Pinker

  • Style manuals are full of inconsistencies. Following their advice might not be the best idea. They might make your prose boring.
  • Grammarians from all eras condemn students for not knowing grammar. But it just evolves. It cannot be rigid.
  • “Nothing worth learning can be taught” – Oscar Wilde. It’s hard to learn to write from a manual – you have to read, write, and analyze.
  • Good writing makes you imagine things and feel them for yourself – use word pictures.
  • Don’t fear using voluptuous words.
  • Phonesthetics – or how the words sound.
  • Use parallel language (consistency of tense).
  • Good writing finishes strong.
  • Write to someone. Never write for no one in mind. Try to show people your view of the world.
  • Don’t tell everything you are going to say in summary (signposting) – be logical, but be conversational.
  • Don’t be pompous.
  • Don’t use quotation marks where they don’t “belong”. Be confident about your style.
  • Don’t hedge your claims (research first, and then tell it like it is).
  • Avoid clichés and meta-concepts (concepts about concepts). Be more straightforward!
  • Not prevention – but prevents or prevented – don’t use dead nouns.
  • Be more vivid while using your mother tongue – don’t use passive where it’s not needed. Direct the reader’s gaze to something in the world.
  • The curse of knowledge – the reader doesn’t know what you know – beware of that.
  • Explain technical terms.
  • Use examples when you explain a difficult term.
  • If you ever say “I think I understand this” it probably means you don’t.
  • It’s better to underestimate the lingo of your readers than to overestimate it.
  • Functional fixedness – if we know some object (or idea) well, we tend to see it in terms of usage, not just as an object.
  • Use concrete language instead of an abstraction.
  • Show your work to people before you publish (get feedback!).
  • Wait for a few days and then revise, revise, revise. Think about clarity and the sound of sentences. Then show it to someone. Then revise one more time. Then publish (if it’s to be serious work).
  • Look at it from the perspective of other people.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Put the heaviest words at the end of the sentence.
  • It’s good to use the passive, but only when appropriate.
  • Check all text for cohesion. Make sure that the sentences flow gently.
  • In expository work, go from general to more specific. But in journalism start from the big news and then give more details.
  • Use the paragraph break to give the reader a moment to take a breath.
  • Use the verb instead of a noun (make it more active) – not “cancellation”, but “canceled”. But after you introduce the action, you can refer to it with a noun.
  • Avoid too many negations.
  • If you write about why something is so, don’t spend too much time writing about why it is not.

On Writing Well – By William Zinsser

  • Writing is a craft. You need to sit down every day and practice your craft.
  • You should re-write and polish your prose a lot.
  • Throw out all the clutter. Don’t keep it because you like it. Aim for readability.
  • Look at the best examples of English literature . There’s hardly any needless garbage there.
  • Use shorter expressions. Don’t add extra words that don’t bring any value to your work.
  • Don’t use pompous language. Use simple language and say plainly what’s going on (“because” equals “because”).
  • The media and politics are full of cluttered prose (because it helps them to cover up for their mistakes).
  • You can’t add style to your work (and especially, don’t add fancy words to create an illusion of style). That will look fake. You need to develop a style.
  • Write in the “I” mode. Write to a friend or just for yourself. Show your personality. There is a person behind the writing.
  • Choose your words carefully. Use the dictionary to learn different shades of meaning.
  • Remember about phonology. Make music with words .
  • The lead is essential. Pull the reader in. Otherwise, your article is dead.
  • You don’t have to make the final judgment on any topic. Just pick the right angle.
  • Do your research. Not just obvious research, but a deep one.
  • When it’s time to stop, stop. And finish strong. Think about the last sentence. Surprise them.
  • Use quotations. Ask people. Get them talking.
  • If you write about travel, it must be significant to the reader. Don’t bother with the obvious. Choose your words with special care. Avoid travel clichés at all costs. Don’t tell that the sand was white and there were rocks on the beach. Look for the right detail.
  • If you want to learn how to write about art, travel, science, etc. – read the best examples available. Learn from the masters.
  • Concentrate on one big idea (“Let’s not go peeing down both legs”).
  • “The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good.”
  • One very helpful question: “What is the piece really about?” (Not just “What the piece is about?”)

Now immerse yourself in the world of essays

By reading the essays from the list above, you’ll become a better writer , a better reader, but also a better person. An essay is a special form of writing. It is the only literary form that I know of that is an absolute requirement for career or educational advancement. Nowadays, you can use an AI essay writer or an AI essay generator that will get the writing done for you, but if you have personal integrity and strong moral principles, avoid doing this at all costs. For me as a writer, the effect of these authors’ masterpieces is often deeply personal. You won’t be able to find the beautiful thoughts they contain in any other literary form. I hope you enjoy the read and that it will inspire you to do your writing. This list is only an attempt to share some of the best essays available online. Next up, you may want to check the list of magazines and websites that accept personal essays .

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7 Major Types of Writing Formats You Must Know

types of writing formats

  • Post author By admin
  • October 11, 2022

Writing is a powerful tool for communication, allowing us to express our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. However, the effectiveness of our message usually depends on the format in which it is presented. 

Different writing formats serve different purposes and focus on different audiences. This blog will explore the most common types of writing formats and their basic page formation. 

Whether you are a student, a professional, or simply interested in improving your writing skills, understanding these formats will help you to convey your message effectively.

So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What are Writing Formats?

Formats for writing are the ways that written text is put together and shown. There are many different ways to write, each with its style and goal. Some of the most popular ways to write are:

Expository : This type of writing is used to explain something or describe it. The structure of most expository writing is clear and logical, with each line building on the one before it.

Argumentative : This type of writing is meant to convince the reader to agree with a certain point of view. Argumentative writing usually backs up its claims with facts and reasoning.

Narrative : This type of writing is used to tell a story. Most narratives are written in order of time, with each event leading to the next.

Descriptive : This type of writing is used to explain something in detail. Most descriptive writing uses strong words and images to paint a clear picture in the viewer’s mind.

Procedural : This type of writing shows how to do something. Writing about how to do something usually goes step by step, clearly describing each step.

The style you choose for your writing will depend on why and who you are writing for. For example, you may use an expository style when writing a research paper. You can use a narrative style when writing a blog post.

It’s important to know the different writing styles to choose the one that best fits your needs. Many writing guides and style manuals have more knowledge about writing styles.

7 Major Types of Writing Formats in Detail with Suitable Examples

Writing formats express your ideas in a certain way or structure. There are seven major types of writing formats:

  • Chicago style or CMS
  • Turabian style
  • Harvard style

In academic papers, several writing formats are used to organize the content, which can also help you get better marks on your project. These writing styles include Chicago or CMA, APA, MLA, Turabian, and IEEE. We have explained seven major types of writing formats below:

What is Chicago style or CMS?

This style is known as Chicago or CMS because the University of Chicago Press published the style in 1906. It is used for formatting your academic essays and making references. The Chicago style is somehow less common than APA or MLA style. 

Chicago style is mainly used in humanity, literature, arts, and history. Chicago style is rarely used outside of it.

This style is also known as CMS ( Chicago Manual Style ). This is the first format from the types of writing formats. 

General Format of Chicago Style:

  • Print the paper standard-sized (8.5 X 11 inches).
  • The body text of the paper should be double-spaced in Chicago style.
  • Set the paper margins to not less than 1 inch on all sides and not greater than 1.5 inches.
  • Use readable fonts on the paper.
  • The font size should be not less than 10 points. On the other hand, a 12-point font size is preferable. 
  • The paper header should have a number in the upper right-hand corner.

Title Page 

  • The title page should be double-spaced and center-aligned. 
  • The page title is in the same font as the rest of your text.
  • The title should be in the middle of the page, in the headline and bold text.
  • Use subtitles after the main title ends with a colon if you have subtitles. The subtitle should be bold and the same size as the main title  

What is APA style?

The American Psychological Association created the APA style in the year of 1929. The APA style is generally used in education, engineering, social science, etc. It consists of in-text citations that mention the Author’s last name, the date of publication, and the page number, if necessary. This is the second format of the types of writing formats.

APA Formatting Basics:

  • All text should be double-spaced in APA style.
  • Set the paper margin to one inch on all sides.
  • All paragraphs in the body end with intended lines.
  • Ensure the title is centered on the page with your name, institution, or school.
  • A 12-point font is preferable in APA style.
  • The paper number should be in the upper right-hand corner.
  • It is recommended to use one space after most punctuation marks.

Title page 

  • Do not use unnecessary words on the title page. Hence, use only those words which are suitable.
  • Always center the title on the page. In other words, place it about 3-4 lines from the top.
  • The title should be bold.
  • Do not underline your main title. 
  • The title page should be double-spaced.
  • Do not include any titles in the Author’s name. 

What is MLA style?

The Modern Language Association created the MLA style in the year of 1951. This type of style is used in various humanities disciplines, especially in the language. This style of writing is popular among students of literature and language. This is the third format from the types of writing formats. 

Some of the key features of the MLA style writing format:

  • The MLA style uses the font Times New Roman with a font size of 12.
  • Set Margins with one-inch space on all sides.
  • The titles of the MLA style are always in Italics.
  • The essay is always double-spaced in MLA.
  • Make sure the title is in the center. 
  • Indent every new paragraph with one and a half-inch.

Here are the steps you need to take to create the MLA title page:

  • Skip down one-third of the page and type the title of your paper.
  • If you have a subtitle, write it in the following line to the title.
  • You can skip to the bottom third of the page to type your first and last name.
  • After that line, type the course name and number if needed.
  • Then type your instructor’s name.
  • On the next line, type your paper’s due date in the format of Day, Month and Year.

What is Turabian style?

Kate Larimore Turabian designed the Turabian style in the year of 1937. The Turabian format is commonly considered under the Chicago format because both are identical. It is designed for students and researchers. Turabian style is a version of Chicago style and follows conventions of Chicago style but also adds extra points for the formatting of research papers.  

Turabian style made a few modifications to the format so that notes can be used instead of parenthetical citations that is used to modify the flow of the text. This is the fourth format of the types of writing formats.

General Format of Turabian Style:

  • You can always set the margins to one inch on all sides.
  • A 12-point font is preferable in Turabian style.
  • Indent every new paragraph with one and a half-inch from the body.
  • Double-space the whole paper.
  • Except for table titles, blockquotes, bibliography entries, footnotes, reference lists, and figure captions.
  • Text on your title page should be in the font you used for the main content.
  • Text is always double-spaced and center-aligned.
  • Do not feature a page number on the title page.

What is IEEE Style?

IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is an association of electrical engineering and its associated disciplines. It was formed in the year of 1963 based on two American establishments.

IEEE also uses the Chicago style as its foundation. The in-text references are also similar to the Chicago style. The main difference lies in how the citation references are formatted in the bibliography. It is widely used by students and researchers in technical fields and computer science. 

IEEE is the largest association of technical professionals globally that sets the bar for aspiring technical researchers. The IEEE has established its writing style manual. This is the last format from the types of writing formats.

Basic page formation in IEEE format:

  • The paper title should be 24pt font, placed on the front page and centered at the top.
  • The byline should be placed below the paper title after the line break. The byline includes information like Author’s name, City location, E-mail address, and Author’s affiliation.
  • The main body text is written in a 10pt font size.
  • Use four levels of hierarchy in the Heading.
  • The page titles of all IEEE digital pages include the article’s title, byline, membership, and footnote.
  • Any hyphenated word will be in capital letters.

What is Harvard style?

The Harvard style is widely used in social sciences, particularly in fields like business, economics, and political science. It highlights author-date citations and a reference list at the end of the document. This format is also known as the Author-Date style.

Basic page formation in Harvard format:

  • All text citations must be at the end of your paper.
  • The reference list must contain all the important information that one must know to find the source of your writing.
  • The reference list must be in alphabetical order.
  • Start your reference list from a new page.

Title page:

  • Typically the title page is not recommended in Harvard-style format.

What is AMA (American Medical Association) style?

The AMA format is used in the medical and biological sciences. It provides guidelines for mentioning sources and formatting research papers, case reports, and other medical documents.

Basic page formation in AMA format:

  • The 1-inch margin on all sides of the paper
  • The paper is double-spaced, including the block quotes, title page, and references.
  • Use the serif typeface Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use a 12pt font size throughout. 
  • All text is center aligned and must be double-spaced.
  • The full title of the paper begins a quarter down the page. 
  • Author’s full name(s), including middle initials.
  • Course Number – Course Name
  • Assignment: Assignment Name if required
  • Affiliated institution

Final Words

If you think you’re the one choosing the writing format, then you’re wrong. The writer doesn’t get to choose the correct writing format for the project. 

Rather than a professional or manager will often assign the format for you. This blog provides you with seven major types of writing formats: Chicago or CMS, APA, MLA, Turabian, IEEE , Harvard, and AMA. 

We also provide you with basic page formation of each writing format.  Hope you like this Blog!

Also, Read: Different Types of Writing Styles

What are the different types of writing?

There are many types of writing that are used in multiple aspects of life: 1. Advertisement Writing 2. Letter Writing 3. Precis Writing 4. Message Writing 5. Report Writing 6. Speech Writing 7. Essay Writing 8. Summary Writing 9. Playwriting 10. Feature Writing

What are the different types of tones in writing styles?

The writing style has four main tones: descriptive, persuasive, expository and narrative.

Can a single piece of writing include multiple formats?

Yes, combining different writing formats within a single piece of writing is possible. This can improve the richness and effectiveness of the message, allowing the writer to cover different aspects of the topic or engage various reader preferences.

Do writing formats change over time?

Writing formats can evolve due to technological changes, cultural shifts, and communication styles. Writers need to stay informed about current trends and adapt their writing accordingly.

Are there any specific guidelines for each writing format?

Yes, each writing format has its own set of guidelines and patterns. Familiarize yourself with the expectations and style guides specific to each format to ensure your writing meets the standards.

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The 10 Best Essay Collections of the Decade

Ever tried. ever failed. no matter..

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.

So, as is our hallowed duty as a literary and culture website—though with full awareness of the potentially fruitless and endlessly contestable nature of the task—in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the best and most important (these being not always the same) books of the decade that was. We will do this, of course, by means of a variety of lists. We began with the best debut novels , the best short story collections , the best poetry collections , and the best memoirs of the decade , and we have now reached the fifth list in our series: the best essay collections published in English between 2010 and 2019.

The following books were chosen after much debate (and several rounds of voting) by the Literary Hub staff. Tears were spilled, feelings were hurt, books were re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten—so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. As ever, free to add any of your own favorites that we’ve missed in the comments below.

The Top Ten

Oliver sacks, the mind’s eye (2010).

Toward the end of his life, maybe suspecting or sensing that it was coming to a close, Dr. Oliver Sacks tended to focus his efforts on sweeping intellectual projects like On the Move (a memoir), The River of Consciousness (a hybrid intellectual history), and Hallucinations (a book-length meditation on, what else, hallucinations). But in 2010, he gave us one more classic in the style that first made him famous, a form he revolutionized and brought into the contemporary literary canon: the medical case study as essay. In The Mind’s Eye , Sacks focuses on vision, expanding the notion to embrace not only how we see the world, but also how we map that world onto our brains when our eyes are closed and we’re communing with the deeper recesses of consciousness. Relaying histories of patients and public figures, as well as his own history of ocular cancer (the condition that would eventually spread and contribute to his death), Sacks uses vision as a lens through which to see all of what makes us human, what binds us together, and what keeps us painfully apart. The essays that make up this collection are quintessential Sacks: sensitive, searching, with an expertise that conveys scientific information and experimentation in terms we can not only comprehend, but which also expand how we see life carrying on around us. The case studies of “Stereo Sue,” of the concert pianist Lillian Kalir, and of Howard, the mystery novelist who can no longer read, are highlights of the collection, but each essay is a kind of gem, mined and polished by one of the great storytellers of our era.  –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (2011)

The American essay was having a moment at the beginning of the decade, and Pulphead was smack in the middle. Without any hard data, I can tell you that this collection of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s magazine features—published primarily in GQ , but also in The Paris Review , and Harper’s —was the only full book of essays most of my literary friends had read since Slouching Towards Bethlehem , and probably one of the only full books of essays they had even heard of.

Well, we all picked a good one. Every essay in Pulphead is brilliant and entertaining, and illuminates some small corner of the American experience—even if it’s just one house, with Sullivan and an aging writer inside (“Mr. Lytle” is in fact a standout in a collection with no filler; fittingly, it won a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize). But what are they about? Oh, Axl Rose, Christian Rock festivals, living around the filming of One Tree Hill , the Tea Party movement, Michael Jackson, Bunny Wailer, the influence of animals, and by god, the Miz (of Real World/Road Rules Challenge fame).

But as Dan Kois has pointed out , what connects these essays, apart from their general tone and excellence, is “their author’s essential curiosity about the world, his eye for the perfect detail, and his great good humor in revealing both his subjects’ and his own foibles.” They are also extremely well written, drawing much from fictional techniques and sentence craft, their literary pleasures so acute and remarkable that James Wood began his review of the collection in The New Yorker with a quiz: “Are the following sentences the beginnings of essays or of short stories?” (It was not a hard quiz, considering the context.)

It’s hard not to feel, reading this collection, like someone reached into your brain, took out the half-baked stuff you talk about with your friends, researched it, lived it, and represented it to you smarter and better and more thoroughly than you ever could. So read it in awe if you must, but read it.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives (2013)

Such is the sentence-level virtuosity of Aleksandar Hemon—the Bosnian-American writer, essayist, and critic—that throughout his career he has frequently been compared to the granddaddy of borrowed language prose stylists: Vladimir Nabokov. While it is, of course, objectively remarkable that anyone could write so beautifully in a language they learned in their twenties, what I admire most about Hemon’s work is the way in which he infuses every essay and story and novel with both a deep humanity and a controlled (but never subdued) fury. He can also be damn funny. Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and left in 1992 to study in Chicago, where he almost immediately found himself stranded, forced to watch from afar as his beloved home city was subjected to a relentless four-year bombardment, the longest siege of a capital in the history of modern warfare. This extraordinary memoir-in-essays is many things: it’s a love letter to both the family that raised him and the family he built in exile; it’s a rich, joyous, and complex portrait of a place the 90s made synonymous with war and devastation; and it’s an elegy for the wrenching loss of precious things. There’s an essay about coming of age in Sarajevo and another about why he can’t bring himself to leave Chicago. There are stories about relationships forged and maintained on the soccer pitch or over the chessboard, and stories about neighbors and mentors turned monstrous by ethnic prejudice. As a chorus they sing with insight, wry humor, and unimaginable sorrow. I am not exaggerating when I say that the collection’s devastating final piece, “The Aquarium”—which details his infant daughter’s brain tumor and the agonizing months which led up to her death—remains the most painful essay I have ever read.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass (2013)

Of every essay in my relentlessly earmarked copy of Braiding Sweetgrass , Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s gorgeously rendered argument for why and how we should keep going, there’s one that especially hits home: her account of professor-turned-forester Franz Dolp. When Dolp, several decades ago, revisited the farm that he had once shared with his ex-wife, he found a scene of destruction: The farm’s new owners had razed the land where he had tried to build a life. “I sat among the stumps and the swirling red dust and I cried,” he wrote in his journal.

So many in my generation (and younger) feel this kind of helplessness–and considerable rage–at finding ourselves newly adult in a world where those in power seem determined to abandon or destroy everything that human bodies have always needed to survive: air, water, land. Asking any single book to speak to this helplessness feels unfair, somehow; yet, Braiding Sweetgrass does, by weaving descriptions of indigenous tradition with the environmental sciences in order to show what survival has looked like over the course of many millennia. Kimmerer’s essays describe her personal experience as a Potawotami woman, plant ecologist, and teacher alongside stories of the many ways that humans have lived in relationship to other species. Whether describing Dolp’s work–he left the stumps for a life of forest restoration on the Oregon coast–or the work of others in maple sugar harvesting, creating black ash baskets, or planting a Three Sisters garden of corn, beans, and squash, she brings hope. “In ripe ears and swelling fruit, they counsel us that all gifts are multiplied in relationship,” she writes of the Three Sisters, which all sustain one another as they grow. “This is how the world keeps going.”  –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Hilton Als, White Girls (2013)

In a world where we are so often reduced to one essential self, Hilton Als’ breathtaking book of critical essays, White Girls , which meditates on the ways he and other subjects read, project and absorb parts of white femininity, is a radically liberating book. It’s one of the only works of critical thinking that doesn’t ask the reader, its author or anyone he writes about to stoop before the doorframe of complete legibility before entering. Something he also permitted the subjects and readers of his first book, the glorious book-length essay, The Women , a series of riffs and psychological portraits of Dorothy Dean, Owen Dodson, and the author’s own mother, among others. One of the shifts of that book, uncommon at the time, was how it acknowledges the way we inhabit bodies made up of variously gendered influences. To read White Girls now is to experience the utter freedom of this gift and to marvel at Als’ tremendous versatility and intelligence.

He is easily the most diversely talented American critic alive. He can write into genres like pop music and film where being part of an audience is a fantasy happening in the dark. He’s also wired enough to know how the art world builds reputations on the nod of rich white patrons, a significant collision in a time when Jean-Michel Basquiat is America’s most expensive modern artist. Als’ swerving and always moving grip on performance means he’s especially good on describing the effect of art which is volatile and unstable and built on the mingling of made-up concepts and the hard fact of their effect on behavior, such as race. Writing on Flannery O’Connor for instance he alone puts a finger on her “uneasy and unavoidable union between black and white, the sacred and the profane, the shit and the stars.” From Eminem to Richard Pryor, André Leon Talley to Michael Jackson, Als enters the life and work of numerous artists here who turn the fascinations of race and with whiteness into fury and song and describes the complexity of their beauty like his life depended upon it. There are also brief memoirs here that will stop your heart. This is an essential work to understanding American culture.  –John Freeman, Executive Editor

Eula Biss, On Immunity (2014)

We move through the world as if we can protect ourselves from its myriad dangers, exercising what little agency we have in an effort to keep at bay those fears that gather at the edges of any given life: of loss, illness, disaster, death. It is these fears—amplified by the birth of her first child—that Eula Biss confronts in her essential 2014 essay collection, On Immunity . As any great essayist does, Biss moves outward in concentric circles from her own very private view of the world to reveal wider truths, discovering as she does a culture consumed by anxiety at the pervasive toxicity of contemporary life. As Biss interrogates this culture—of privilege, of whiteness—she interrogates herself, questioning the flimsy ways in which we arm ourselves with science or superstition against the impurities of daily existence.

Five years on from its publication, it is dismaying that On Immunity feels as urgent (and necessary) a defense of basic science as ever. Vaccination, we learn, is derived from vacca —for cow—after the 17th-century discovery that a small application of cowpox was often enough to inoculate against the scourge of smallpox, an etymological digression that belies modern conspiratorial fears of Big Pharma and its vaccination agenda. But Biss never scolds or belittles the fears of others, and in her generosity and openness pulls off a neat (and important) trick: insofar as we are of the very world we fear, she seems to be suggesting, we ourselves are impure, have always been so, permeable, vulnerable, yet so much stronger than we think.  –Jonny Diamond, Editor-in-Chief 

Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions (2016)

When Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” was published in 2008, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon unlike almost any other in recent memory, assigning language to a behavior that almost every woman has witnessed—mansplaining—and, in the course of identifying that behavior, spurring a movement, online and offline, to share the ways in which patriarchal arrogance has intersected all our lives. (It would also come to be the titular essay in her collection published in 2014.) The Mother of All Questions follows up on that work and takes it further in order to examine the nature of self-expression—who is afforded it and denied it, what institutions have been put in place to limit it, and what happens when it is employed by women. Solnit has a singular gift for describing and decoding the misogynistic dynamics that govern the world so universally that they can seem invisible and the gendered violence that is so common as to seem unremarkable; this naming is powerful, and it opens space for sharing the stories that shape our lives.

The Mother of All Questions, comprised of essays written between 2014 and 2016, in many ways armed us with some of the tools necessary to survive the gaslighting of the Trump years, in which many of us—and especially women—have continued to hear from those in power that the things we see and hear do not exist and never existed. Solnit also acknowledges that labels like “woman,” and other gendered labels, are identities that are fluid in reality; in reviewing the book for The New Yorker , Moira Donegan suggested that, “One useful working definition of a woman might be ‘someone who experiences misogyny.'” Whichever words we use, Solnit writes in the introduction to the book that “when words break through unspeakability, what was tolerated by a society sometimes becomes intolerable.” This storytelling work has always been vital; it continues to be vital, and in this book, it is brilliantly done.  –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends (2017)

The newly minted MacArthur fellow Valeria Luiselli’s four-part (but really six-part) essay  Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions  was inspired by her time spent volunteering at the federal immigration court in New York City, working as an interpreter for undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Written concurrently with her novel  Lost Children Archive  (a fictional exploration of the same topic), Luiselli’s essay offers a fascinating conceit, the fashioning of an argument from the questions on the government intake form given to these children to process their arrivals. (Aside from the fact that this essay is a heartbreaking masterpiece, this is such a  good  conceit—transforming a cold, reproducible administrative document into highly personal literature.) Luiselli interweaves a grounded discussion of the questionnaire with a narrative of the road trip Luiselli takes with her husband and family, across America, while they (both Mexican citizens) wait for their own Green Card applications to be processed. It is on this trip when Luiselli reflects on the thousands of migrant children mysteriously traveling across the border by themselves. But the real point of the essay is to actually delve into the real stories of some of these children, which are agonizing, as well as to gravely, clearly expose what literally happens, procedural, when they do arrive—from forms to courts, as they’re swallowed by a bureaucratic vortex. Amid all of this, Luiselli also takes on more, exploring the larger contextual relationship between the United States of America and Mexico (as well as other countries in Central America, more broadly) as it has evolved to our current, adverse moment.  Tell Me How It Ends  is so small, but it is so passionate and vigorous: it desperately accomplishes in its less-than-100-pages-of-prose what centuries and miles and endless records of federal bureaucracy have never been able, and have never cared, to do: reverse the dehumanization of Latin American immigrants that occurs once they set foot in this country.  –Olivia Rutigliano, CrimeReads Editorial Fellow

Zadie Smith, Feel Free (2018)

In the essay “Meet Justin Bieber!” in Feel Free , Zadie Smith writes that her interest in Justin Bieber is not an interest in the interiority of the singer himself, but in “the idea of the love object”. This essay—in which Smith imagines a meeting between Bieber and the late philosopher Martin Buber (“Bieber and Buber are alternative spellings of the same German surname,” she explains in one of many winning footnotes. “Who am I to ignore these hints from the universe?”). Smith allows that this premise is a bit premise -y: “I know, I know.” Still, the resulting essay is a very funny, very smart, and un-tricky exploration of individuality and true “meeting,” with a dash of late capitalism thrown in for good measure. The melding of high and low culture is the bread and butter of pretty much every prestige publication on the internet these days (and certainly of the Twitter feeds of all “public intellectuals”), but the essays in Smith’s collection don’t feel familiar—perhaps because hers is, as we’ve long known, an uncommon skill. Though I believe Smith could probably write compellingly about anything, she chooses her subjects wisely. She writes with as much electricity about Brexit as the aforementioned Beliebers—and each essay is utterly engrossing. “She contains multitudes, but her point is we all do,” writes Hermione Hoby in her review of the collection in The New Republic . “At the same time, we are, in our endless difference, nobody but ourselves.”  –Jessie Gaynor, Social Media Editor

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays (2019)

Tressie McMillan Cottom is an academic who has transcended the ivory tower to become the sort of public intellectual who can easily appear on radio or television talk shows to discuss race, gender, and capitalism. Her collection of essays reflects this duality, blending scholarly work with memoir to create a collection on the black female experience in postmodern America that’s “intersectional analysis with a side of pop culture.” The essays range from an analysis of sexual violence, to populist politics, to social media, but in centering her own experiences throughout, the collection becomes something unlike other pieces of criticism of contemporary culture. In explaining the title, she reflects on what an editor had said about her work: “I was too readable to be academic, too deep to be popular, too country black to be literary, and too naïve to show the rigor of my thinking in the complexity of my prose. I had wanted to create something meaningful that sounded not only like me, but like all of me. It was too thick.” One of the most powerful essays in the book is “Dying to be Competent” which begins with her unpacking the idiocy of LinkedIn (and the myth of meritocracy) and ends with a description of her miscarriage, the mishandling of black woman’s pain, and a condemnation of healthcare bureaucracy. A finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Thick confirms McMillan Cottom as one of our most fearless public intellectuals and one of the most vital.  –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Dissenting Opinions

The following books were just barely nudged out of the top ten, but we (or at least one of us) couldn’t let them pass without comment.

Elif Batuman, The Possessed (2010)

In The Possessed Elif Batuman indulges her love of Russian literature and the result is hilarious and remarkable. Each essay of the collection chronicles some adventure or other that she had while in graduate school for Comparative Literature and each is more unpredictable than the next. There’s the time a “well-known 20th-centuryist” gave a graduate student the finger; and the time when Batuman ended up living in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for a summer; and the time that she convinced herself Tolstoy was murdered and spent the length of the Tolstoy Conference in Yasnaya Polyana considering clues and motives. Rich in historic detail about Russian authors and literature and thoughtfully constructed, each essay is an amalgam of critical analysis, cultural criticism, and serious contemplation of big ideas like that of identity, intellectual legacy, and authorship. With wit and a serpentine-like shape to her narratives, Batuman adopts a form reminiscent of a Socratic discourse, setting up questions at the beginning of her essays and then following digressions that more or less entreat the reader to synthesize the answer for herself. The digressions are always amusing and arguably the backbone of the collection, relaying absurd anecdotes with foreign scholars or awkward, surreal encounters with Eastern European strangers. Central also to the collection are Batuman’s intellectual asides where she entertains a theory—like the “problem of the person”: the inability to ever wholly capture one’s character—that ultimately layer the book’s themes. “You are certainly my most entertaining student,” a professor said to Batuman. But she is also curious and enthusiastic and reflective and so knowledgeable that she might even convince you (she has me!) that you too love Russian literature as much as she does. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (2014)

Roxane Gay’s now-classic essay collection is a book that will make you laugh, think, cry, and then wonder, how can cultural criticism be this fun? My favorite essays in the book include Gay’s musings on competitive Scrabble, her stranded-in-academia dispatches, and her joyous film and television criticism, but given the breadth of topics Roxane Gay can discuss in an entertaining manner, there’s something for everyone in this one. This book is accessible because feminism itself should be accessible – Roxane Gay is as likely to draw inspiration from YA novels, or middle-brow shows about friendship, as she is to introduce concepts from the academic world, and if there’s anyone I trust to bridge the gap between high culture, low culture, and pop culture, it’s the Goddess of Twitter. I used to host a book club dedicated to radical reads, and this was one of the first picks for the club; a week after the book club met, I spied a few of the attendees meeting in the café of the bookstore, and found out that they had bonded so much over discussing  Bad Feminist  that they couldn’t wait for the next meeting of the book club to keep discussing politics and intersectionality, and that, in a nutshell, is the power of Roxane. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor

Rivka Galchen, Little Labors (2016)

Generally, I find stories about the trials and tribulations of child-having to be of limited appeal—useful, maybe, insofar as they offer validation that other people have also endured the bizarre realities of living with a tiny human, but otherwise liable to drift into the musings of parents thrilled at the simple fact of their own fecundity, as if they were the first ones to figure the process out (or not). But Little Labors is not simply an essay collection about motherhood, perhaps because Galchen initially “didn’t want to write about” her new baby—mostly, she writes, “because I had never been interested in babies, or mothers; in fact, those subjects had seemed perfectly not interesting to me.” Like many new mothers, though, Galchen soon discovered her baby—which she refers to sometimes as “the puma”—to be a preoccupying thought, demanding to be written about. Galchen’s interest isn’t just in her own progeny, but in babies in literature (“Literature has more dogs than babies, and also more abortions”), The Pillow Book , the eleventh-century collection of musings by Sei Shōnagon, and writers who are mothers. There are sections that made me laugh out loud, like when Galchen continually finds herself in an elevator with a neighbor who never fails to remark on the puma’s size. There are also deeper, darker musings, like the realization that the baby means “that it’s not permissible to die. There are days when this does not feel good.” It is a slim collection that I happened to read at the perfect time, and it remains one of my favorites of the decade. –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Charlie Fox, This Young Monster (2017)

On social media as in his writing, British art critic Charlie Fox rejects lucidity for allusion and doesn’t quite answer the Twitter textbox’s persistent question: “What’s happening?” These days, it’s hard to tell.  This Young Monster  (2017), Fox’s first book,was published a few months after Donald Trump’s election, and at one point Fox takes a swipe at a man he judges “direct from a nightmare and just a repulsive fucking goon.” Fox doesn’t linger on politics, though, since most of the monsters he looks at “embody otherness and make it into art, ripping any conventional idea of beauty to shreds and replacing it with something weird and troubling of their own invention.”

If clichés are loathed because they conform to what philosopher Georges Bataille called “the common measure,” then monsters are rebellious non-sequiturs, comedic or horrific derailments from a classical ideal. Perverts in the most literal sense, monsters have gone astray from some “proper” course. The book’s nine chapters, which are about a specific monster or type of monster, are full of callbacks to familiar and lesser-known media. Fox cites visual art, film, songs, and books with the screwy buoyancy of a savant. Take one of his essays, “Spook House,” framed as a stage play with two principal characters, Klaus (“an intoxicated young skinhead vampire”) and Hermione (“a teen sorceress with green skin and jet-black hair” who looks more like The Wicked Witch than her namesake). The chorus is a troupe of trick-or-treaters. Using the filmmaker Cameron Jamie as a starting point, the rest is free association on gothic decadence and Detroit and L.A. as cities of the dead. All the while, Klaus quotes from  Artforum ,  Dazed & Confused , and  Time Out. It’s a technical feat that makes fictionalized dialogue a conveyor belt for cultural criticism.

In Fox’s imagination, David Bowie and the Hydra coexist alongside Peter Pan, Dennis Hopper, and the maenads. Fox’s book reaches for the monster’s mask, not really to peel it off but to feel and smell the rubber schnoz, to know how it’s made before making sure it’s still snugly set. With a stylistic blend of arthouse suavity and B-movie chic,  This Young Monster considers how monsters in culture are made. Aren’t the scariest things made in post-production? Isn’t the creature just duplicity, like a looping choir or a dubbed scream? –Aaron Robertson, Assistant Editor

Elena Passarello, Animals Strike Curious Poses (2017)

Elena Passarello’s collection of essays Animals Strike Curious Poses picks out infamous animals and grants them the voice, narrative, and history they deserve. Not only is a collection like this relevant during the sixth extinction but it is an ambitious historical and anthropological undertaking, which Passarello has tackled with thorough research and a playful tone that rather than compromise her subject, complicates and humanizes it. Passarello’s intention is to investigate the role of animals across the span of human civilization and in doing so, to construct a timeline of humanity as told through people’s interactions with said animals. “Of all the images that make our world, animal images are particularly buried inside us,” Passarello writes in her first essay, to introduce us to the object of the book and also to the oldest of her chosen characters: Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth discovered in the Siberian permafrost in 2010. It was an occasion so remarkable and so unfathomable given the span of human civilization that Passarello says of Yuka: “Since language is epically younger than both thought and experience, ‘woolly mammoth’ means, to a human brain, something more like time.” The essay ends with a character placing a hand on a cave drawing of a woolly mammoth, accompanied by a phrase which encapsulates the author’s vision for the book: “And he becomes the mammoth so he can envision the mammoth.” In Passarello’s hands the imagined boundaries between the animal, natural, and human world disintegrate and what emerges is a cohesive if baffling integrated history of life. With the accuracy and tenacity of a journalist and the spirit of a storyteller, Elena Passarello has assembled a modern bestiary worthy of contemplation and awe. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Esmé Weijun Wang, The Collected Schizophrenias (2019)

Esmé Weijun Wang’s collection of essays is a kaleidoscopic look at mental health and the lives affected by the schizophrenias. Each essay takes on a different aspect of the topic, but you’ll want to read them together for a holistic perspective. Esmé Weijun Wang generously begins The Collected Schizophrenias by acknowledging the stereotype, “Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy.” From there, she walks us through the technical language, breaks down the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM-5 )’s clinical definition. And then she gets very personal, telling us about how she came to her own diagnosis and the way it’s touched her daily life (her relationships, her ideas about motherhood). Esmé Weijun Wang is uniquely situated to write about this topic. As a former lab researcher at Stanford, she turns a precise, analytical eye to her experience while simultaneously unfolding everything with great patience for her reader. Throughout, she brilliantly dissects the language around mental health. (On saying “a person living with bipolar disorder” instead of using “bipolar” as the sole subject: “…we are not our diseases. We are instead individuals with disorders and malfunctions. Our conditions lie over us like smallpox blankets; we are one thing and the illness is another.”) She pinpoints the ways she arms herself against anticipated reactions to the schizophrenias: high fashion, having attended an Ivy League institution. In a particularly piercing essay, she traces mental illness back through her family tree. She also places her story within more mainstream cultural contexts, calling on groundbreaking exposés about the dangerous of institutionalization and depictions of mental illness in television and film (like the infamous Slender Man case, in which two young girls stab their best friend because an invented Internet figure told them to). At once intimate and far-reaching, The Collected Schizophrenias is an informative and important (and let’s not forget artful) work. I’ve never read a collection quite so beautifully-written and laid-bare as this. –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

Ross Gay, The Book of Delights (2019)

When Ross Gay began writing what would become The Book of Delights, he envisioned it as a project of daily essays, each focused on a moment or point of delight in his day. This plan quickly disintegrated; on day four, he skipped his self-imposed assignment and decided to “in honor and love, delight in blowing it off.” (Clearly, “blowing it off” is a relative term here, as he still produced the book.) Ross Gay is a generous teacher of how to live, and this moment of reveling in self-compassion is one lesson among many in The Book of Delights , which wanders from moments of connection with strangers to a shade of “red I don’t think I actually have words for,” a text from a friend reading “I love you breadfruit,” and “the sun like a guiding hand on my back, saying everything is possible. Everything .”

Gay does not linger on any one subject for long, creating the sense that delight is a product not of extenuating circumstances, but of our attention; his attunement to the possibilities of a single day, and awareness of all the small moments that produce delight, are a model for life amid the warring factions of the attention economy. These small moments range from the physical–hugging a stranger, transplanting fig cuttings–to the spiritual and philosophical, giving the impression of sitting beside Gay in his garden as he thinks out loud in real time. It’s a privilege to listen. –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Honorable Mentions

A selection of other books that we seriously considered for both lists—just to be extra about it (and because decisions are hard).

Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings (2010) · Joyce Carol Oates, In Rough Country (2010) · Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (2011) · Christopher Hitchens, Arguably (2011) ·  Roberto Bolaño, tr. Natasha Wimmer, Between Parentheses (2011) · Dubravka Ugresic, tr. David Williams, Karaoke Culture (2011) · Tom Bissell, Magic Hours (2012)  · Kevin Young, The Grey Album (2012) · William H. Gass, Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts (2012) · Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012) · Herta Müller, tr. Geoffrey Mulligan, Cristina and Her Double (2013) · Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams (2014)  · Meghan Daum, The Unspeakable (2014)  · Daphne Merkin, The Fame Lunches (2014)  · Charles D’Ambrosio, Loitering (2015) · Wendy Walters, Multiply/Divide (2015) · Colm Tóibín, On Elizabeth Bishop (2015) ·  Renee Gladman, Calamities (2016)  · Jesmyn Ward, ed. The Fire This Time (2016)  · Lindy West, Shrill (2016)  · Mary Oliver, Upstream (2016)  · Emily Witt, Future Sex (2016)  · Olivia Laing, The Lonely City (2016)  · Mark Greif, Against Everything (2016)  · Durga Chew-Bose, Too Much and Not the Mood (2017)  · Sarah Gerard, Sunshine State (2017)  · Jim Harrison, A Really Big Lunch (2017)  · J.M. Coetzee, Late Essays: 2006-2017 (2017) · Melissa Febos, Abandon Me (2017)  · Louise Glück, American Originality (2017)  · Joan Didion, South and West (2017)  · Tom McCarthy, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish (2017)  · Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until they Kill Us (2017)  · Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017)  ·  Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (2017)  · Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018)  · Alice Bolin, Dead Girls (2018)  · Marilynne Robinson, What Are We Doing Here? (2018)  · Lorrie Moore, See What Can Be Done (2018)  · Maggie O’Farrell, I Am I Am I Am (2018)  · Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (2018)  · Rachel Cusk, Coventry (2019)  · Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror (2019)  · Emily Bernard, Black is the Body (2019)  · Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard (2019)  · Margaret Renkl, Late Migrations (2019)  ·  Rachel Munroe, Savage Appetites (2019)  · Robert A. Caro,  Working  (2019) · Arundhati Roy, My Seditious Heart (2019).

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

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