How to Format an Essay

The way you organize an essay is just as important as the content you include. Formatting your essay properly will help your reader focus on the important points and get the most out of your message. Students, follow these tips to format your five-paragraph essay and your teacher will thank you (hopefully with an A+)!


Your essay’s introduction paragraph is meant to tell a reader what your essay is about and entice them to continue reading. In the first few sentences, draw the reader in and introduce your subject. In the last sentence of the paragraph, outline, in order, the supporting points each of your three body paragraphs will make. This sentence is called your thesis statement.


The bulk of your essay will be made up of your three body paragraphs. The first sentence of each should highlight one of the supporting points mentioned in your introduction’s thesis statement. After the paragraph’s opening sentence, include 2-3 sentences detailing the paragraph’s topic, and a conclusion sentence that smoothly transitions your reader into the next topic.

Throughout the entire paper, it’s important to make sure your sentences flow, but vary in structure, and are easy for your reader to follow. Avoid run on sentences and sentences that do not relate to the paragraph’s main point. 


This paragraph should sum up the subject of your essay and restate the supporting points you made in your thesis statement. Your conclusion should mirror your introduction paragraph, but never match the two word for word!

Style Guide

The way you format certain elements of your paper will depend on whether your instructor prefers to follow the MLA or APA style guide. Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a great place to find information on using the guides to format your title page and essay, as well as reference others’ work. Using either style, essays should be double-spaced, in 12 pt, Times New Roman font, and include a works cited page. Your paper’s header should include the page number, right-aligned, and depending on the style you are using, it should also include either the paper’s title or your last name. 

Jenn Bohman is a freelance creative who specializes in writing and design. A trained graphic designer, she has honed her creative writing skills using online college resources like eCollegeFinder, and writing guides like Purdue’s OWL. 

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