On this page:
Essays are formal documents and should look professional
Whilst there are no hard rules about how you format essays, there are some conventions and common practices that are best to follow. If you use the settings on this page, you will produce an acceptably formatted essay.
Typical layout for an essay is as shown here:
Margins - between 2 cm and 2.54 cm (1 inch) all around.
Line spacing - either 1.5 or double-line spacing.
Paragraph spacing - either 1 clear line between or at least 8 pt space after each paragraph (more if double-line spaced)
Alignment - left aligned (fully justified with a straight right-edge is not recommended as this reduces readability and accessibility). Some longer essays may require subheadings which should also be left-aligned.
Indents - no indents on first lines of paragraphs are needed.
It is also good practice to put your student number and module number in the header of the document and a page number at the bottom of the page.
Font - the default font that comes with MS Word (currently Calibri) is fine for academic work. You may see persistent advice in handbooks that suggests you should use Times New Roman or Arial. If you prefer these, you can change it - but this is no longer a requirement.
Font size - fonts should be 11 or 12 point.
Font style - headings and subheadings, if they are required (most essays will not use them), are usually formatted in bold and should be at least 2 point sizes larger than the standard text. Underlining should be avoided as this is seen as rather dated. Some text can be formatted in italics - see our page Italics, when to use them, for guidance.
Shorter quotations in the text do not need to be italicised and should have double-quotations marks "like this" to indicate they are direct quotations. Longer quotations (what counts as this differs depending on your referencing style) should be created in their own paragraph, single spaced and indented by 1cm from both left and right margins:
Your reference list should be in alphabetical order (by author surname) and single line spaced. There should be a clear line space (or at least 6 pt space) between each reference. All references should be left-aligned with no indentation. For information about how to format individual references, see the Harvard Hull Referencing Guide.
Your reference list should be in alphabetical order (by first author surname) and single line spaced. All references should be left-aligned and have a hanging indent (all but the first line are indented by approx. 1cm). For information about how to format individual references, see the Footnotes Hull Referencing Guide.
Other referencing styles
Please see your individual departmental guidance.
We provide here a Microsoft Word template that can be used for your essays. It has the correct layout and formatting, including useful styles.
Download this template to somewhere you can access easily. When you click to open it, it will open a new document based on the template, leaving the original intact.