Guidelines for Formal Papers

When you are asked to write a formal paper, you will need to follow these guidelines from the Modern Language Association.

  1. Papers must be typed or word-processed. Papers word-processed should be printed in Helvetica (Ariel) or Roman (Times New Roman) in 10 or 12 point font.
  2. Margins should be one-inch around all sides.
  3. Indent the first lines of paragraphs uniformly. If you’re typing your paper, indent five spaces. If you’re word-processing, indent one tab stop.
  4. Page numbering. Place Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) – without parentheses or periods – in the upper right hand corner of each page along with your LAST name (e.g., Okazaki 1).
  5. Do NOT create a title page. Instead, write your name, your instructor’s name, the course and period, and date in the upper LEFT hand corner observing the one-inch margin rule. Double space this information as well.
  6. Title and heading. Do NOT put quotation marks around your title or underline it (unless it is a quotation or the title of a book), and do NOT use a period after the title unless it is a complete sentence. Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all other words except articles, coordinating conjunctions, prepositions, and the to infinitives. The title should be centered, double-spaced after your name/date information above.
  7. The first paragraph of your paper should begin double spacing after the title (i.e., four spaces after your name/date information).
  8. Quoted lines. When you quote over four lines of text, set off the quotation by indenting it 10 spaces and cite your source.
  9. Justification. For those of you using a word-processor, do NOT justify your margins. Leave your paper on left-justify.
  10. Binding. Do NOT put a report cover on your paper. Do NOT bind your report in a folder. Instead, staple your paper in the upper left corner.
  11. Proofread. You should proofread your paper by reading it OUT LOUD to yourself. You’d be amazed at the careless errors you find. Then when you’re done, have someone else you trust proofread as well.
  12. Languge. Your language in your paper should be formal. That means it should sound professional (i.e., no pidgin English (unless you’re quoting a passage), no colloquial English, no slang, etc.).

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last updated: 12/23/01