General Formatting for High School and College Essays

The two most recognized formats in any American high school are chiefly APA and MLA. APA stands for the American Psychology Association and MLA stands for Modern Language Association. One way to know ahead of time what formula to use for your papers is simply look at the nature of the subject matter. For the social, behavioral, biological, or chemical sciences, go with the APA style, for anything artistic, literature related, or historically related, typically your teacher will want MLA.

The rationale behind this is simple. The science privilege the date of your information, as the recency of the discoveries, experiments, or knowledge is critically important in the sciences. Nobody wants information on quarks from 1980 right?

In contrast, literary analyses can use all kinds of information from antiquity to the present, as the recency of the information is not that important.

Consequently, APA relies on parentheticals at the end of any statement containing a quote or paraphrase to include the date and last name of the writer while MLA will merely want the name and page number of the quote in your parentheticals.

Also, APA uses different paper sections. These are typically required in full to get students accustomed to the myriad sections they will have to write for future, more complex papers.

APA General Formatting Rules:

A title page, abstract, main body, and references. You can use all kinds of reliable sites from universities to see entire papers you can use as templates and find all kinds of templates and writing wizards to help you master the format correctly. In fact, even experienced professors use citation wizards today . You double-space the entire essay, and the preferred essay font is Times New Roman 12.

MLA General Formatting Rules

MLA papers require no title pages. You write the title on your first page of the writing with your name, the course number and date. You double-space the entire essay --even your personal info (which goes in the upper left) and the preferred essay font is Times New Roman 12. MLA papers are numbered, consecutively, with the page number in the upper right hand corner. Every page should be numbered, even your works cited.


In closing, seek out good online resources for templates and examples. Print out these and use them as real maps to guide you until you get used to the process. It seems strange until you do it for every class for awhile.


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