Friggin’ formats, am I right? They’re so confusing, and there are countless rules and regulations to follow. It also doesn’t help that there are at least three different types I can think of off the top of my head!

I know many of you are probably wondering why academic formats matter. Why, why, why? Well, they are just part of the deal of being a student, and part of the scholarly package. Come to think of it, they ARE the package. Consider: if you apply for a job, you follow the format of a cover letter and resume. Potential employers recognize these two formats, and so presenting your information in a professional cover letter and resume is a necessary and respectful way of applying for a job. 

It’s one time the formula y=mx+b or a haiku really isn’t going to do the trick. Academic formats are kind of the same deal: they are a respectful way of presenting your scholarly essays. Respectful because they require you to acknowledge where you got your supporting information from, and respectful because that’s how your profs communicate their research with their peers.

Anyhow, enough of the lecture. Let’s take a quick look at some key features of three most commonly encountered formats here at UPEI: APA, MLA, and Chicago.

APA: a few key formatting elements

1. Title page is always needed and includes the following items in this order:

Title of paper

Student Name

Professor’s Name

University Name

2. The running header is the title of your paper justified left in all caps

  “Running Header: TITLE”

3. Don’t forget that page number! With the author (that’s you)’s last name followed by a page number in the top right corner of every page.

4. In-text citation: (Smith, 2009)

Here are a couple of links to keep it real for you:

How to use APA in a Word document:

Sample paper:


Chicago: a few key formatting elements

1. A title page is also needed for Chicago style, but it is different from APA.

    1. Title in all caps near top of page
    2. Student name, class name, and date all put on a new line near bottom of page

2. Page number at the top right corner of every page

3. In-text citation: (Smith 2009, 120-37)

4. Footnotes are a key component to Chicago style that is not found in other styles of formatting. They are noted in the text with a number. The number is placed after a clause or sentence as well as after punctuation. The description of the note itself is placed at the bottom of the page separate from the text and includes a brief citation of the source if needed.

Aaaand here we go back to my boy, OWL at Purdue:

And a couple of videos on working with Chicago:

MLA: a few key formatting elements

1. Header (the controversy!!!)

    1. Author’s name
    2. Professor’s name
    3. Course name
    4. Date

2. Last name and page number separated by a space in the top right corner.

3. In-text citation: (Smith 120-137)

MLA 8 is the newest edition that came out in April 2016 and has caused a lot of controversy among academics alike. The previous version (MLA 7) is probably what you are all used to using with the header on the left side of the page, as opposed to the right which is used in MLA 8. If your professor is using MLA, be sure to ask them specifically which one or to show you an example.

Back to our buddy the bird, for a sample paper in MLA format:

And how to work with MLA in your document:

Okay! Pretty intense stuff! And, as you can tell, pretty time-consuming. The bad news is that you definitely do NOT want to leave formatting to the last minute. More bad news is that there is no magic solution to formatting. Everyone who writes an academic paper, from a first-year student to a tenured professor agonizes over the time-consuming, nit-picky task of formatting. Which I guess is kind of good news: no one but no one gets an easy ride when it comes to formatting.

Don’t fear the formats, my trusty writerly pals. Using the proper formatting in your papers doesn’t have to be chaotic, especially if you keep these links and tips handy. Who knows? Maybe you will even find it fun some day? Okay, I know … that’s pushing it.

Chicago: great place to visit. Sucky format to work with. Everyone has their preferences, but they all have their little tricks so make sure to check them over before submitting your papers.

Until next Wednesday,

G. Graphite