Whether it’s a descriptive, comparison-contrast, process or definition essay, college students get lots of practice writing essays, especially during their first two years of study. English and composition courses are core requirements at many colleges and universities, so settling on a topic should be the trickiest part of the assignment, not knowing how to number the pages. Two tenets should serve you well: Remember that you won’t be penalized for providing more information as you number your essay pages, and always ask your instructor for her preferred method, which trumps any other guidance.

Sometimes More is More

College essays usually don’t call for a cover page. In fact, the first page of your essay may include your name, your instructor’s name, the name of the course and the submission date on double-spaced lines at the left side of the page. The title of the essay often appears two spaces below and centered on the page, right above the opening paragraph of the essay. This leaves the important issue of the page number, which should appear at the upper right-hand corner of the page. For good measure, include your last name before the page number. An example would look like this: Smith 1.

The Rationale for More

Including the author’s name is a tip of the hat to style dictated by the Modern Language Association. More importantly, it is a courtesy to the reader and especially the instructor, who may appreciate a quick reminder of the author’s identity after turning a few pages of the essay. Subsequent pages should follow the same style; in this example, the second page of the essay would be numbered “Smith 2” (with no quotation marks) and so on.

The Instructor Rules

Review your course syllabus for formatting instructions and always ask for clarification if a direction is unclear. Think of an instructor’s rules as “house rules,” for they may deviate from customary style. For example, some instructors ask that the titles of essays be underlined even though neither MLA nor APA style calls for it.