Standard College Paper Format

Your grammar school teachers were right: Neatness does count.
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As a college student, you already know that presentation is important. So if you’re putting the finishing touches on an essay, a reaction paper or a reflection paper, you do not have to format your paper as though it were a formal research project. This means that while you do not have to follow the dictates of the Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association, you should still follow standard college paper formatting and be consistent throughout.

Ask your teacher how she wishes papers for her class to be formatted. Some teachers are more persnickety than others, so be sure to follow her directions to the letter.

Set your margins for 1 inch on the top, bottom and sides of your paper. Select a simple font, such as Arial, Tahoma, Verdana or Times New Roman, in 11- or 12-point. Anything smaller will be difficult to read; anything larger will give the unfortunate impression that you are trying to force the words to take up space on the page.

Type your name in the upper left-hand corner of your paper. Double-space and type the name of the class. Double-space and type your professor’s name and be certain to spell it correctly. Double-space and type the paper’s due date. When you are finished, you should have four lines of information, each separated by a line of space.

Double-space and type the name of your essay or paper. Center the title on the page. Some students like to set off the identifying information in the upper left-hand corner from the title with three, not just two, lines of space. This is a matter of preference.

Put your last name – and last name only – followed by the page number in the upper right-hand corner on subsequent pages of your essay (For example: "Kennedy 7" and "Kennedy 8") Set this identifying information flush right so that the page number appears on the far-most right side of each page.

Assemble the pages neatly. Staple your paper in the upper left-hand corner, and be confident that you are making a positive impression.

  • Do not resort to the grammar school tactic of tearing two short slits at the top of your paper, then folding the middle piece back to secure the pages. This method not only looks bad but rarely succeeds at keeping the pages together. For this reason, it makes sense to invest in a small stapler that you can slide into a backpack or zippered pouch. Now that you’re in college, you will put a stapler to good use.
  • 1 The Curious Researcher: Bruce Ballenger; 2007
  • 2 The New St. Martin’s Handbook; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors; 1999.
  • 3 The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers; Maxine Hairston and John Ruszkiewicz; 1991.
  • 4 Step by Step Writing; Randy Devillez; 1992.
  • 5 Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Expository Essays

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.