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Standard Essay Format

Guide into the Standard Essay Format: MLA, APA, Chicago Styles

Essays have always been essential to learning proper grammar, diction, and vocabulary. No matter the language, institution, or need for an essay, a relevant characteristic is always the standard essay format.

Due to this, essay formats predominantly serve as a guideline for ensuring clarity, structure, accessibility, and coherence. It is used for guiding students, scholars, and writers through organizing their thoughts and bringing them to life in a cohesive process.

Essay formats vary far and wide. They are often governed by general and unique features for every type, which are essential for several reasons. Before leaning into those, you need to be well-equipped with essay formats as a whole. So what are they, and what are their standards? 

An essay format is a list of guidelines and constraints that determine how the different elements of a paper should be written and presented. Formats of writing an essay cover structure guidelines like citations, titles, headings, and paragraphs. These determine the general outlook of your paper and how some elements will be interpreted.

Generally, they are basic essay outlines you can follow, typically including the introduction, the body, and a conclusion. This basic outline serves as the foundation for every essay format in existence. An introduction starts your essay and can contain topic sentences and other vital points. This is followed by a body that houses the entire information and then a conclusion that references such information.

The standard format for essays differs depending on the course of study, academic institution, and general publication guidelines, which also vary based on location. Essay formats are essential because they help readers quickly skim through text, understand the writer’s ideas, and showcase professionalism in writing. Hence, in situations where essays need to be written by advanced students or those seeking publication, following the given layout of an essay and its format is a must.

Among all the essay styles in use, the most popular are the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the Chicago Manual of Style. These styles have their own unique constraints, guidelines, requirements, and preferred use in various disciplines. The APA style focuses on the organization of ideas and the inclusion of empirical evidence to support claims. It has rules for citations, references, statistical data, tables, and figures.

Next, the MLA format uses clear guidelines for in-text citations, works cited columns, and the entire essay presentation. Finally, the Chicago style essay format employs more flexibility using the notes and bibliography system and the author-date system for writing.

Overall, familiarising yourself with these essay formats will empower your writing in a manner that helps present your work with the general academic expectations of the audience. That’s why in this guide, we’ll talk about the standard essay formats in length, outlining their characteristics and comparisons while offering essay format with examples.

MLA Styles: The MLA Format For Essays

The MLA format of writing is the most popular out of the three standard styles. The MLA format used for writing has a simple set of rules that give specifications for elements in a paper, like page margins, text citations, references, and many more. The Modern Language Association incorporated this style, and they have released up to 9 editions of this format of writing. Every edition has slight changes, but the core format remains the same. 

So what is MLA format for essays? And how do you approach how to do MLA formatting? MLA stands for Modern Language Association, named after its developers.MLA (Modern Language Association) style is widely used in the humanities, arts, and literature disciplines. This style requires a Works Cited page at the end of the essay, which provides a detailed list of all sources cited in the essay. MLA style provides strict guidelines for formatting the title page, headers, and page numbering

What is the MLA Format Used For? Determination Of Style, Place Of Use, and Features

When do you use MLA format in your essay or paper? Do you choose yourself, or is it added to the essay assessment? 

Generally, instructions are often given when you have an essay to write. Students rarely have their pick of formatting styles to choose from and use at will. So always look for essay guidelines that point out the format type that needs to be used. In some cases, the format type isn’t given with the instructions. This is often because the department or institution already has a regular format for writing, and you would need to confirm from other students or your professor to know the standard in your discipline.

The Modern Language Association format is widely suited for fields like philosophy, literature, cultural and language studies, and the arts. MLA style features very simple and straightforward writing, with detailed citations and records of sources. The main features of the MLA style often include a change in-text citations, fonts, page layout, and the work cited page. 

Formatting Guidelines: How To Start An Essay MLA Format 

When learning how to write in MLA format, there are formatting commandments you must adhere to. Without these guidelines, your paper will not be formatted appropriately, and you may face queries or fail the essay entirely. To understand how to use MLA, here are formatting guidelines that you need to know and follow.

  • Page Layout

Usually, the MLA format follows various rules for its page layout. Firstly, it uses Times New Roman as its preferred font with a size of 12 and a page margin of one inch using paragraph indents of half an inch. The pages also use double-line spacing, including the work cited page and every other part of the paper.

  • Title Page and Headers

Here, you will learn how to write MLA style paper heading, which is typically positioned at the top of your essay assignment. Before using this general instruction, always ask your professor if they are already used to a certain way of formatting an MLA heading. 

This is generally because, in the MLA style, there is no clear distinction on how a title page should appear. Generally, students can add a title page to their essay in the MLA format, but there is no specific guidance for doing so. Often the format style for the heading is determined by a supervisor.

If no direction is given, start your title page one inch from the top of the initial page, with double spacing throughout. Input your details starting with your name, instructor’s name, course details, and date. 

Next, you position your title while following capitalization guidelines like avoiding italicization, using underlines, or adding an unnecessary bold tint to the title. You can only italicize when your title includes a description. An MLA format example is “The Fragments of Modern Society: A Description of Racism and Politics.”

Afterward, go to the following line and type your last name and page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the page. The page numbers are usually one-half inch from the top. If your supervisor opts for no page number on the first page, start numbering from the second page, but start with the number 2. 

As for headers in MLA, they can be situated on the title page if you include one in your essay. For those who don’t use title pages, they can be included at the top of the first page of your paper.

  • In-text Citations and Parenthetical References

In MLA format, references appear uniquely. When citing or referencing a source in your essay, you use the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses. A quick example of how to write an MLA paper reference is this: (Anthony 37). However, only the page number is needed in parentheses when the author’s name is already mentioned in the sentence. 

If you’re confused about when to use MLA citation, don’t be. It is only required when providing information from external sources in your essay. Doing this offers original credit to the authors while also avoiding plagiarised content. Finally, abbreviations are rarely used in this format, but when they are, you must follow strict guidelines for shortening different word types. So it is always best to stick to full spelling to avoid unnecessary mistakes. 

  • Works Cited Page

At the end of your essay, create a separate Works Cited page that contains all the information sources you stumbled upon and highlighted in your writing.  Place the title at the center top of the page with quotations. Then for the list of entries, double-space them and use hanging indentation for each of the works cited. All the works cited should be arranged in alphabetical order using the author’s last name or title of the work when no author is addressed.

Sample Essay Formatted in MLA Style

Below is a sample essay writing in MLA style that could be useful if you’ve ever asked yourself how I put my essay in MLA format. It contains the title page and reference page.


Justin 1

Ernie Justin 

Professor Chavez 

English 101 

14 March 2012 


Title: The Fall of the Roman Empire: Its Impact on Medieval Civilizations


Justin 17


Works Cited

Besthoff, Len. “The Roman empire never completely stood the test of time, and there are several reasons.” WRAL Online. 11 Nov. 2002 12 Jan. 2004 <http://www.historynews.com/news/wral/1999/ 1110-talking-driving>. 

British History Group. “New research has shown the Romans  led to their own downfall.” British History Group. 8 May 2009. 12 Jan. 2001 <http:// www.britishhistirygeoup.com/news_cellphones.html>. 

APA Style: APA Essay Format For Writing 

APA Essay Format Guidelines

APA (American Psychological Association) style is widely used in the social sciences, psychology, education, and other related fields. In this style, in-text citations are used to attribute credit to the sources of information or ideas within the essay. The American Psychological Association style is a group of rules and regulations for mostly writing in psychology-related fields.

These rules are published in the American Psychological Association(APA) public manual that began in 1929 as a short article that provided the foundational standards for preparing manuscripts for publication at that time. After a few years, it was developed into a book that has formed the essay format in APA we are discussing today. 

The main aim of an APA essay format is to streamline scientific research and to write by providing explicit expressions and content organisation. Just like how it is easy to write about research when you understand the outline and how to structure its information, it is easier to read essays when presented familiarly, and that’s what the APA format does.

Determination Of Style, Place Of Use, Features

The APA structure essay is written predominantly in psychology fields. This is because experts and scholars consider it the best format for presenting the findings of psychological research professionally. Unlike the MLA format we discussed earlier, which is better for writing a literary analysis, the APA style is more suited to psychoanalytic concepts and theories. 

Knowing when to use APA vs. MLA is essential, especially when you’re in the general writing field. If you are wondering which is better MLA or MPA, there is no clear distinction between them in that regard. Both writing formats solve different writing and structure approaches and are suitable in different disciplines for various reasons.

Formatting can be tricky because the APA guidebook has numerous guidelines to consider. However, there are basic rules that govern this writing format you must know, and we’ll discuss them below.

APA Essay Format Guidelines

The structure of APA writing usually has the outline of a title page, an abstract, an introduction, a method, results, a discussion, and references to end the paper. Its format of writing is mainly formal rather than informal. This is because it adopts a tone to convey professional information to communicate with other scholars interested in such topics. 

Hence, it largely avoids pop culture references, notes of humor, or any form of slang. APA writing style is also very straightforward, eliminating unnecessary literary additions and focusing on scientific iterations and vocabulary. Here are the guidelines for writing in APA style. This format how to start an essay in APA style will help you produce great essays.

  • Page layout 

APA essays should be written and double-spaced with a one-inch margin in all directions. And what size font for essay formatting does APA use? Well, several. It prefers a sans serif font like 11-point Calibri, 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Arial, or the 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode.

  • Title Page and Headers

The APA format essay heading requires a running head placed at the top of the page with page numbers at the bottom right. For a title page, the APA essay heading format uses slightly different instructions for formatting pages of regular students’ papers and professional papers. 

The title page always includes the author’s name, the paper’s title, and the institution. In the case of a student paper, an instructor’s name, student name, course number, and assignment due date are included. The title is centered in the upper half of the page, and the APA style instructs that it should be as simple and short as possible with no abbreviations. All text on the page is double-spaced.

  • In-text Citations and Parenthetical References

In-text citations and citations, in general, are crucial in APA style because of the constant collaboration between researchers. The citation in this style uses an author-date method where you give the author’s last name and the year of publication after the information you’re presenting. Each is separated by a comma and put in parenthesis after the text, but if you directly quote data or detailed information, always add the page number after the date. A good example is (Jane, 1987, p. 109) or (Gordon, 1997, pp. 12-43): pp is used for multiple pages.

  • References Page

On this page, “References” is centered at the top with lists below, arranged alphabetically using the last names of the first author in a citation. A wide range of work can be referenced in APA style, including websites, books, research papers, articles, journals, and government documents. We’ll focus on books and journals. Learning how to format an essay in APA needs practice, especially in the references section. You have to understand how to structure references and reference citations.

For journals, the reference includes a hanging indent, and the authors’ names are arranged in the same order as the article.

Here is an example:

  • Adam, J. G., & Thompson, N. (2007). The rate of universal expansion: Psychology’s quick response to a worldly issue. American Psychologist, 58(1), 15–23.

For books, authors’ names appear with their first and middle initials, with their last names coming last. Here is an example:

Author, A. A. (year). Title of book. Location: Publisher.

  • Katherine, T., & Ella-Tizzler, R. (2004). The downfall of your angry side. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

For reference citations, when you highlight another researcher’s data, you need to add an in-text reference citation to the work from which that idea originated. In addition, you need to include a complete reference of it on the reference list. 

For example:

  • Jackson (2018) conducted a replication of Kate’s (2003) original autism study.

Sample Essay Formatted in APA Style

Below is a sample essay formatted in APA style with the first and last pages. 


 Obesity in Children 1     


Title: Can Medication Cure Obesity in Children?

A Review of the Literature

Luisa Mirano

Psychology 107, Section B

Professor Kang

October 31, 2004.


Obesity in Children 12




Health Insurance Group. “New Survey Shows Obesity In Children Has Increased Astronomically In The Past Decade. ” Health Insurance Group. 8 May 2012. 12 Jan. 2013 <http:// www.helathinsurance.com/news_cellphones.html>. 

Similarities and Differences in MLA and APA Styles 

Now that we’ve covered MLA and APA formats, you might be wondering what is the difference between APA and MLA

There are many consistent variations between both styles of writing. Firstly, they are often used by different disciplines, and the APA citation vs MLA have obvious differences in their citation approaches. For instance, in the APA format vs MLA, subheadings are often encouraged while being discouraged in MLA. There’s also a difference in the tone and approach to writing information.

However, the MLA vs APA essay format also shares some similarities. So to give you a crisp comparison of the MLA versus APA format, here’s a table below. We will look at up to 10 differences between MLA and APA.

Similarities Between MLA and APA Styles Differences Between MLA and APA Styles 
In-text parenthetical citations are used in APA or MLA format. MLA: Used in English, literature, and film studies. 

APA: Used in Social science, psychology, medicine, and art.

Both use double-spacing in their essays and lists of sources. MLA: Uses a work cited page

APA: Uses references page

At the end of an essay, the citation is listed alphabetically in both systems.  MLA: Uses author and page number for in-text citations. 

APA: Uses, author, year, and page number.

Both styles use a hanging indent when writing citations. MLA: Header on the first page during formatting.

APA: Header on the cover page.

MLA: The author’s last name and first name is used in Bibliography.

APA: Uses the author’s last name and first initials only. 

MLA: Headings and subheadings are not often used in MLA.

APA: Headings and subheadings are used in APA format. 

The writing styles APA vs MLA are quite different. 

MLA: Allows a more informal tone and humorous input. 

APA: Doesn’t encourage informal tones and focuses on formal and professional writing.

MLA: The style is produced by the Modern Language Association. 

APA: The style produced by the American Psychological Association

MLA: When referencing article titles, quotation marks are added, and the first letter of each word is capitalized.

APA: it does not put article titles in quotation marks, and the first word is capitalized only. 

MLA: For multiple works with the same author, listing starts with the author’s name, then the others begin with hyphens, a period, then a space, before ending again with a period. 

APA: It is listed in a chronological manner with the most recently dated work first.

Chicago Style: The Chicago Style Writing Format

Chicago Style Writing Format

Chicago style, also known as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) or Turabian style, is commonly used in history, literature, and some social science disciplines. It typically offers two documentation systems: notes and bibliography and author-date. Footnotes or endnotes are used to cite sources, provide explanatory notes, or include additional commentary. Chicago style also requires a bibliography or reference list.

The Chicago style research paper format is amongst one of the most popular writing styles out there. It is also known as the Chicago Manual of Style and has its referencing formatting citing rules applied to essays and other papers. 

It is often written in American English because the University of Chicago Press developed the writing format and released it to the public in 1906. Presently, it is on its 17th edition after going through several iterations and notable improvements. It differs from the MLA and APA writing styles with changes in its footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, and headings format. 

Determination of Style, Place of Use, and Features

The Chicago style is used predominantly in the history business and fine art fields, centered around specialists and professionals in the social science discipline. These scholars often publish their ideas in magazines, journals, and books, making them the perfect fit for their writing in America. 

The Chicago research paper format contains both Chicago and Turabian citation styles. The Chicago style essay is primarily meant for researchers and professional journal contributors, and the Turabian style is set aside for students. Learning how to write a paper in Chicago style is easy if you practice constantly and use the correct format applications from the beginning.

Formatting Guidelines: How to Format a Paper Chicago Style

You need essential specifications like page layouts, margins, and many more to format in the Chicago manual style. Let us take a look at some of them below. 

  • Page Layout (margins, spacing, font)

The Chicago style uses a 1-inch margin on the sides and the top and bottom. Its preferred font is usually 12pt Times New Roman with double spacing throughout the essay. The Chicago format paper also uses left-justified text, with the page numbers in the top right corner with a last name. For paragraphs, use a 1/2″ indent, which also applies to block quotes. 

  • Title Page and Headers

For the cover page, center the title in the middle of the paper and place it in the middle. Your name should also be centered under the title, followed by the teacher’s name, course title, and date. This should be written in the lines directly below your name. In Chicago style, you must remember not to put the page number on the cover page and count it as part of the work. 

Generally, it should be arranged in the cover page, title page, body, appendix, notes, and bibliography format. Some instructors may demand two cover pages, while others may opt for just a title page. So always learn to ask the instructor before writing and printing out the pages.

  • Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes are usually placed at the tail of each page with a number. In Chicago style, every footnote number corresponds to the number on a quote or other referenced information. The footnotes help with shortened citations to quotes, provide additional explanations to some terms and also give links to outside sources.

Chicago style format example of a footnote, 

¹ There are many reasons to engage in this article: if you understand what you have been reading, you are good to go. ² When you apply these footnote practices, you are sure to come up with an easy-to-understand essay. Generally, a footnote presents no downsides.³


¹ Timmy Green, “Chicago/Turabian: Why It’s Essential.” New York Times publication, 2013. They are used in the Chicago/Turabian style and other citation formats.

² Greta, “Why Footnotes Are Spectacular” 12-33. Although few students take the time to use it, many others do value the importance of footnotes at the end of the page.

Chicago style endnotes are almost the opposite of footnotes. Their main distinction is that footnotes are meant for page bottoms, and endnotes are only seen at the end of a chapter.

Finally, let us look at the Chicago style citation paper example: 

Bessie (2013) argues that the theory is “sound.” Other researchers, however, have yet to confirm this assessment (Bessie et al. 2013; Jason 2018).

  • Bibliography or Reference List

There are two major Chicago style essay format examples. These are the Author-Date and the Notes-Bibliography method of writing essay sources. The author-date type is titled “References,” and the notes-bibliography type is labeled “Bibliography.” These appear on the last pages of the essay, and it houses all the complete information of the external sources you drew data from. These include those in the footnotes, endnotes, and those cited throughout the paper. Finally, the entries are always arranged in alphabetical order.

Sample essay formatted in Chicago style

Here’s a Chicago style essay example below. 


First page 



Tony Desmond

History 2016

Dr. Umar

July 11, 2016


Last Page

Desmond 6 




Castor, Helen, Blood, and War: The Struggle and Triumph during the Second World War. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 

“The Chicago Style Citation Easy Guide For Beginners,” The Chicago Manual of Style. Accessed July 10, 2023.

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. Redstone, Victor.

Key Differences and Considerations: MLA vs. APA vs. Chicago Formatting Styles

To easily distinguish between each format type, people often look to the essay heading format, standard essay font size, or the general layout for an essay. This is a good approach, but the easiest way to distinguish between them is to look at their titles, headings, and page layouts. The APA, MLA, and Chicago styles are popular formats for essay writing because they have various rules catering to their most dominant audience. In addition, the APA and MLA differences are pretty obvious. However, the format you eventually settle on depends on the subject, institution, and supervisor’s instruction. 

As mentioned earlier, the MLA writing style is most suitable for philosophy or literature. At the same time, APA is preferred for the social sciences, and finally, Chicago is mainly employed for the history and fine art disciplines.

Every format places more emphasis on some elements of essay writing than others. For example, the MLA style demands more detail on authors for citation, while the APA format places more importance on dates, specifically the year of publication. The Chicago Manual of Style places more emphasis on footnotes and endnotes.

Discipline-specific Variations of Chicago Vs. MLA vs. APA Citation

Asides from prominent determinants like the institution, audience, and direction of the instructor, these essay type formats are often applied in a discipline-specific manner. This feature ends up being a significant differentiator between each format. 

For instance, the APA was released to facilitate consistency and stamp basic style rules for scientific writing. This made the American Psychological Association style famous among the Social Sciences like Psychology, Criminal Justice, Education, Economics, Sociology, and many more. It also became consistently used in business articles, journals, and publications. 

It focused more on essay structure, how you cite other authors and the method of compiling references at the end of your paper. This attracted people to use the APA format because; 

  • It is required for many classes.
  • It helps you credit sources and avoid plagiarism 
  • It communicates necessary information about your sources
  • It also looks professional and academic.

The MLA essay structure template, on the other hand, is most often used in the Humanities discipline. This discipline contains courses like

  • Comparative Literature,
  • Cultural Studies,
  • English Language & Literature,
  • Foreign Languages, and many more.

The APA versus MLA citation shows why these formats cater to different disciplines. They have their specialties that work for their different users.

Lastly, we have the Chicago/Turabian style, which is often regarded as the same style because they have minimal differences. When using the Chicago format for an essay, you need to include footnotes or endnotes, and there’s an emphasis on how you generate the references or bibliography at the end of your essay. 

This is why the Chicago style is used in:

  • English Literature,
  • History,
  • The Arts, and more.

Choosing The Appropriate Style For Your Essay

As a student, stick with the APA format for every form of academic writing you do in social sciences, engineering, and education courses. This usually consists of essays, reports, research papers, and more. 

If you study languages of any form, especially English, you should opt for the MLA standard essay font. It is perfect for literary works and language comprehension. The Chicago structured essay format is also perfect for English literature. However, it is used predominantly in the art and history departments. So if you’re taking any related courses, it’s best to stick to the Chicago writing format. 

It is always advised to write your drafts and final piece in the required formats to spot any errors in a proper essay format. Remember, always ask your instructor when you need clarification about the appropriate style for your essay. 

Additional Tips and Best Practices For Standard Essay Formats

Practices For Standard Essay Formats

Writing essays according to standard formats is crucial for academic success. Whether you are following the MLA, APA, or Chicago style, understanding how to correctly format an essay is essential. Proofreading, editing techniques, and citation management tools can help ensure you use the best essay format for your work. 

Although the standard format for essay structure starts with an introduction, body, and conclusion, other components often need formatting. These include references, a bibliography, footnotes, etc., and we’ll discuss some tips and the best solutions for them. Below are some proven techniques you can use to ensure a well-formatted essay. 

  • Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing are one of the most vital steps in the essay writing process. Regardless of the steps taken in formatting an essay, meticulously reviewing your essay is the best method to ensure that it is free from grammatical and format errors. Take the time to carefully review the essay header format, essay font size, and spacing. Also, check for proper paragraph and sentence structure, and ensure your ideas flow coherently.

When you do this and pay attention to punctuation, capitalization, and spelling to maintain a polished presentation, your essay will be free of errors. 

  • Citation Management Tools

Managing citations is as essential as proofreading or editing; however, you often do those last. In the middle of writing your essay, citation management tools can significantly simplify the process by helping you organize and format your information accurately. Tools such as Zotero, EndNote, or My Bib allow you to input your information sources and automatically generate citations while developing and storing bibliographies in the required style. These tools save time and minimise the risk of citation errors, ensuring your essay meets the strict guidelines of the chosen format.

  • Seeking Further Assistance and Resources

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may encounter challenges or uncertainties in formatting your essay correctly. In such cases, seeking further assistance and utilizing additional resources can be immensely helpful. Contact your professors, instructors, or writing centers at your educational institution for guidance. They can provide clarifications on specific formatting requirements and offer valuable insights. Additionally, online resources, such as style guides and tutorials, can serve as handy references to address any doubts or confusion.


Learning how to format an essay is essential for effective academic writing. By implementing all the comparisons, definitions, proper essay format examples, additional tips, and best practices, you can master the MLA, APA, or Chicago style with confidence. 

Remember to prioritise proofreading and editing, utilise citation management tools for accurate referencing, and seek assistance and resources when needed. You can also seek out a good structure of an essay example to serve as a guide. Embracing these strategies will ensure your essays are well-structured and properly formatted and demonstrate your commitment to academic excellence.

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