If you want to be one of the top students in your class, you’re going to have to nail essay formatting. Learn how to format an essay and you’ll see a huge difference in your grades.
One of the biggest obstacles that students face when trying to write a great essay is getting the main points across in a clear, logical fashion that actually answers the set question.
It doesn’t matter which way you cut it: Writing an A-grade essay is a science.
Very few students crack the secret of writing a great essay on their first attempt. They engage in a process of trial and error through which they work out what works… and what doesn’t.
Fortunately, you don’t need to start this process from scratch. Our essay editors know exactly what it takes to get results.
The best thing of all is that the rules on how to format an essay are incredibly simple. So simple, in fact, that we’ve fit them all on one page (whoop!).
How to Format an Essay: The Perfect Essay Format
When formatting your essay, you will need to ensure you follow the appropriate style guide. This will usually be APA, MLA, or something similar. You can read more about APA in our guide to APA formatting for dissertations.
If there’s one thing that is consistent across all great essays, it’s this:
They follow a clear and logical format that incorporates effective transitions.
As such, before we delve a little deeper into what is happening in each section of an essay that utilizes optimal essay formatting, we need to take a look at transitions.
The first thing you should get straight in your mind is that a good essay is formatted to take the reader on a journey through your train of thought. Transitions help them along this journey.
With the addition of just a few strategically chosen and placed transition words, the organization of the whole essay is greatly enhanced. Transitions strengthen the flow of ideas from one sentence to the other, from one paragraph to the next, and from section to section. You can read more here: Guide to essay transitions.
Here is a list of the types of transitions you could use when formatting your essay:
Useful Transitions for Essays: A Really Cool Cheat Sheet
|Purpose||Useful Transitional Phrases|
|Cause and effect||accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus|
|Emphasis||even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly|
|Place||above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there|
|Similarity||also, in the same way, just as … so too, likewise, similarly|
|Additional supporting information||additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then|
|Sequence/order||first, second, third, … next, then, finally|
|Time||after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then|
|Example||for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate|
|Contrast||but, however, in spite of, on the one hand … on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet|
|Conclusion||finally, in a word, in brief, briefly, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary|
So that’s the transition sorted. Let’s look at how they work within the essay itself.
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll focus on a five-paragraph essay format; however, the same techniques and tips will apply regardless of how many paragraphs your essay contains.
How to Format An Essay: The Five-Paragraph Essay
The introduction to your paper is critical because this is where you get your reader involved in your essay. You need a strong opening that hooks the reader into reading more. Check out our guide to how to write an essay introduction for more information.
Here are a couple of examples of great opening lines that capture the reader’s attention:
As Gru was in the process of giving his acceptance speech at the annual Anti-Villain League Employee of the Year awards, many people in the room looked on in shock. Exactly what had Gru done that had made him so worthy of this accolade?
The playwright George Bernard Shaw famously stated ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ Later, the film director Woody Allen took the definition one step further by positing ‘Those who can’t teach, teach gym’…
The second purpose of your introductory paragraph is to tell the reader what they will learn from reading your essay. As such, you should include a thesis statement that outlines what your essay will set out to prove. Not sure how to write a thesis statement? Check out our guide to how to write a thesis statement.
Here’s a couple of examples of great thesis statements:
From examining minions’ cramped working conditions, low pay, and lack of vacation entitlement, it is clear that Gru should not have been awarded Employer of the Year.
As individuals who directly impact children’s educational development, aspirations, and ability to function in society, teachers should be afforded a greater level of respect than that afforded to them by people like George Bernard Shaw.”
The third purpose of your intro is to keep the reader engaged. As such, you should include a good transitional hook that transitions him or her from the introduction to the main body of the essay.
Here’s an example of a great transitional hook:
This paper will examine some of the ways in which Gru’s minions are mistreated and prove that he is unworthy of the Employer of the Year award he recently won at the Bad Guys Conference.
So, let’s put it all together: A fabulous opening paragraph
As Gru was in the process of giving his acceptance speech at the annual Anti-Villain League Employee of the Year awards, many people in the room looked on in shock. Exactly what had Gru done that had made him so worthy of this accolade? As someone who is renowned for controlling and manipulating his minions, Gru is perhaps one of the last people who should be granted an award for exemplary employment practices. In fact, from examining minions’ cramped working conditions, low pay, and lack of vacation entitlement, it is clear that Gru should not have been awarded Employer of the Year. This paper will examine some of the ways in which Gru’s minions are mistreated and prove that he is unworthy of the Employer of the Year award he recently won at the Anti-Villain League Conference.
2) The Body
So, this is where we progress to the real meat of the essay.
Open the first paragraph of the body with a reverse hook that pulls in the transitional hook with which you closed the introductory paragraph.
Okay, admittedly, that sounds complicated. Luckily, it isn’t.
Here are some examples to help you out:
Examples of Essay Transitions
|Transition From Introduction/Previous Paragraph||Next Paragraph Reverse Hook|
|This paper will argue that Gru’s minions are mistreated and that he is unworthy of the Employer of the Year award he recently won at the Anti-Villain League Conference.||Gru was awarded Employer of the Year on the basis that he has offered gainful employment to over one million minions. However, if we scratch the surface we will find…|
|As such, the working conditions that the minions are exposed to are not aligned with the conditions one would expect to be provided by someone with the title “Employer of the Year.”||Some people may argue that it is not working conditions that are of importance when determining awards of this nature, but the job satisfaction of the employees. As such, to assess Gru’s suitability for the Employer of the Year Award, it is worth examining the extent to which Gru’s minions are satisfied in their work…|
|To this end, although a survey of five minions indicated that they are satisfied with their working conditions, this does not prove that Gru is worthy of Employer of the year because the survey was only conducted with five minions.||In addition to the fact that it is clear that the survey on the workplace satisfaction of Gru’s minions was too limited to be reliable, a third point that should be taken into consideration when evaluating whether Gru is a good employer is…|
In the first body paragraph, you should aim to reel the reader in. As such, you should put across your strongest argument at this point.
Immediately following the reverse hook, state your topic for the first paragraph. This topic should be directly relevant to the thesis statement you presented in the introduction.
Once you have shared all the main points related to that particular argument, close the paragraph with…
You guessed it, a transition! (Gotta love a good transition).
From this point onward, you kinda rinse and repeat.
That is, in your second body paragraph, you use a reverse hook and then present your second strongest argument, second most significant example, second smartest point… you get the picture.
Don’t forget to relate the points you have made back to the thesis statement.
There is one super simple sentence that can help you to nail this every time:
This proves that the view that <main argument of thesis> is correct because…
The word because is extremely important here because it is at this point you present your “so what.” You’ve shared some facts that are relevant to the thesis but you need to explicitly outline how they prove your claim is true.
Once you’ve put your argument across and tied it back to the thesis, you’re ready for…
Can you guess what’s coming?
By now this should all be becoming crystal clear. And it couldn’t be simpler.
Here’s our ideal paragraph structure…
Reverse hook > Argument/Strong example > Thesis statement > Transition
Essay Paragraph Structure
A Quick Tip on Proofreading Paragraph Transitions
When you reach the editing stage of writing your essay, take a look at the end of each paragraph and check that it connects to the first sentence of the paragraph following it. If the connection doesn’t quite seem strong enough, consider rewriting the transition by clarifying your logic or even rearranging the paragraphs.
Follow the same processes you used in paragraph one and paragraph two. That is:
Reverse hook > Argument/Strong example > Thesis statement > Transition
If you’re making more than three points, you’ll carry on the cycle with each additional body paragraph until you’ve said everything you have to say.
However, at a minimum, you should aim to have at least three body paragraphs that make at least three separate, but important, points related to your thesis.
Closing Body Paragraph
The closing paragraph in the body of your essay will follow the cycle we looked at for paras. one, two, and three.
There will be just one small difference:
The final sentence won’t just be a standard transition. It will be a concluding hook that tells the reader you’ve finished presenting your argument.
Here is an example of a concluding transition:
As such, the third and final reason why Gru should not have been awarded the Employer of the Year award is because he does not allow his minions to take any vacation, something that is in violation of the Bad Guys’ Employment Act 1018.
So, in the final body paragraph of the paper, we have:
Reverse hook > Final Argument/Strong example > Thesis statement > Concluding transition
You’ve done all the hard work, but you’re certainly not finished yet.
The conclusion is where you tie everything together and leave a great impression on the reader.
Your conclusion should contain the following:
- An allusion to the claim you made in the introduction.
- A reassertion of the thesis statement in alternative words to those you used in the introduction (i.e., the same claim, presented slightly differently).
- A summary of the main points you presented in the essay.
- A final concluding statement that lets the reader know you’re done.
Here’s an example of a great concluding statement:
In the end, then, one thing is clear: Teachers do far more than simply teach a curriculum. As the examples provided in this paper confirm, teachers directly impact children’s educational development, aspirations, and ability to function in society. Those who can, teach.
Useful Transitions for Conclusions
|generally speaking||in the final analysis||all things considered|
|given these points||in summary||as shown above|
|as has been noted||ordinarily||for the most part|
|as can be seen||in fact||in the long run|
|in conclusion||in short||in a word|
|in essence||overall||after all|
|to summarize||by and large||on the whole|
|all in all||altogether||in any event|
|in either case||in brief||usually|
|on balance||to sum up||indeed|
|eventually||specifically||as a final point|
And, we’re done.
Got any essay formatting advice to share? Any top tips on how to format an essay that we’ve missed? Leave a comment and give us the full lowdown.