Formatting your essay

When you submit your essay (assignment) for marking, there is a set format you must follow. There may be some small differences in format that your own lecturer may request of you, so make sure that you read and follow the instructions in your subject learning guides carefully. Following are some basic guidelines for you to follow:

Basic essay structure

Title page

The title page should contain: name, student number, unit title/number, question title/name, due date, unit coordinator, word count. You do NOT have to decorate the page (e.g. graphics, photographs) unless you are asked to by the lecturer.


Margins – minimum 2.5 cm, maximum 3 cm all around


Double or 1.5 space all of the essay paragraphs including ‘long quotations’ (more than 40 words) which should have NO quotation marks, be indented 1.3 cm to the right, and have the same spacing as the rest of the essay paragraphs.

Paragraphs can vary depending on the referencing system.


Use a plain serif (e.g. Times New Roman) or sans serif (e.g. Arial) font. A serif font is easier to read. Suggested sizes are 12 for the text and 14 for headings.

Do not change fonts in the course of writing the essay.


Put numbers in line with the right margin at the top or bottom of each page. Centre the number of the first page of chapters or appendices at the bottom. It is also acceptable, although less common, to centre all page numbers. Pagination is best done with Header and Footer.


Appendices usually follow the reference list.

Each appendix must start on a new page.

Appendices must be numbered—A,B,C or 1,2,3. 


This image shows a computer with the words 'On the Computer' on the screen. 5 lines lead out to headings with an explanation of what to use on the computer as follows: Title page: On the computer – use your ‘Font’ & ‘Paragraph’ tools to work on the layout.  Margins: On the computer – use the ‘Page Layout’ tool to set up your margins.  Paragraphs: On the computer – use ‘Paragraph’ OR ’Line and paragraph spacing’ for 1.5 OR double spacing.  Font:  On the computer – use ‘Font’ tools to select font, colour and appropriate style. Pagination: On the computer – use ‘Insert’ >header or footer > insert your name, student number, assignment number/topic, page number.


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Guidelines for using headings

Headings are signposts that focus the reader on the most important content in a piece of writing. Provided that they are well structured, headings make longer pieces of writing easier to write and easier to read (for the marker). Look at headings systems in your unit reading material and you will get a ‘feeling’ for their structure and suitability. Follow these rules:


This diagram shows a woman holding a book with the words 'Follow these rules' on the cover. Around her are headings with descriptions about each heading as follows: Use headings only where allowed or required. An increasing number of academic discipline areas allow or require the use of headings. Check with the unit coordinator. 2. Make sure that your choice of headings and subheadings make the organisation of material more manageable and speed up the location of specific information. 3. Use minimal or maximal capitalisation, although the use of only minimal capitalisation is becoming more frequent in academic writing. 4. Make sure that your headings are captions, not sentences, so use only internal punctuation, such as commas, colons, or semicolons. 5. Left justify your headings unless asked to do differently. 6. Decide on a hierarchy of headings and use it consistently throughout your work. Most student work requires no more than 3 levels of headings.



Hierarchy of headings- an example
The oncology ward: Nuclear radiation and client care The effects of radiation on living tissue Implications for normal cells
All of the above points are subject to course and faculty requirements. Check your Unit Outlines for specific guidelines.
Capitalisation styles

When you write headings, you should use a ‘Capitalisation style’—either minimal OR maximal and stick to this style.

Maximal (Headline style).

The Oncology Ward: Nuclear Radiation and Client Care

Minimal (Sentence style).

The oncology ward: Nuclear radiation and client care


For more detailed information on using headings correctly visit the ASO site: Workshops on Using Headings

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Appendices Analysing the question Revising and editing an essay Writing an essay

For more information and diagnositic testing on formatting essays, please visit the ASO online site: Sample Essay
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