Laying out your page

With such widespread use of computers it would be very unusual these days to write out your essay, although this is possible. Computers make drafting and revising your work so much easier that they are certainly the best tool to use. They also allow you to present your work in a more professional manner.

It is important to check with your lecturers to ensure that you follow the recommended layout for your department. Having said that, there are some recommendations that can be made here which are commonly features of academic essay presentation.

Look at these two pages of text. Which do you think looks better?

An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot easily be worked out from the words it contains. For example, the expression:

to let the cat out of the bag has nothing to do with cats and bags in the usual sense of those words.

It is an idiom, meaning 'to reveal a secret'. Idioms have the potential to ause foreign learners some difficulty.

If you say to a native speaker after visiting a place for the first time 'How did you find Stratford?' you might get the response 'Great!' or 'I didn't like it.' But if you ask a non-native speaker the same question the response might be blank puzzlement.

'How did I find Stratford? Well, the train took me there.' The confusion occurs because here, find is being used in an idiomatic way.'

An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot easily be worked out from the words it contains.

For example, the expression to let the cat out of the bag has nothing to do with cats and bags in the usual sense of those words. It is an idiom, meaning 'to reveal a secret'. Idioms have the potential to cause foreign learners some difficulty. If you say to a native speaker after visiting a place for the first time 'How did you find Stratford?' you might get the response 'Great!' or 'I didn't like it.

But if you ask a non-native speaker the same question, the response might be blank puzzlement. 'How did I find Stratford? Well, the train took me there.' The confusion occurs because here, find is being used in an idiomatic way.

Most people would agree that the second text is presented in a neater and more appropriate way. Remember that academic essays are formal pieces of writing and they should be presented in a formal style.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Use A4 paper (or whatever is the standard size in your part of the world).
  • Provide a top cover to your essay with the title centred about one-third of the way down and your own name centred about six lines below.
  • If you do not provide a front cover, place the title of your essay near the top of the first page and centre it. You may use a bold font or you may underline it, but don't do both. Your name should be above and to the right of the essay title.
  • Leave a margin of not less than 3cm at the sides and top and about 5cm at the bottom for the markers comments.
  • Leave at least 3 empty lines before you start the first line of your essay.
  • Use a font size that is neither too large nor too small; 11point or 12point are normally suitable.
  • Arrange your lines so that they have one and a half spacing; some departments will request double spacing.
  • Fully justify the page so that you get straight lines of print on both sides.
  • Separate each paragraph with an extra empty line.
  • Do not accidentally leave extra spaces between any of the words.
  • Number your pages using arabic numerals, 1, 2, 3, etc.
  • Do not number your points or paragraphs, or give a heading to the paragraphs unless this was specifically requested by the course lecturer.
  • Left justify your bibliography; leave an empty line between each of the items in the list.

 

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