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A guide for freelance writers: how to format an academic paper

There are specific rules for academic paper formatting, and it can get confusing. If you’re stuck on what else you need to check before giving the paper to the student who hired you, keep reading. You’ll find out each of the important pieces you need to format and how to do it. Since formatting can be a pain to get right, once you know what you need to do, you can easily finish the paper and give it to your customer. Once you’ve done a few papers formatted this way, you’ll get faster at doing it. It doesn’t take long to get used to the process.

  • Margins & Indents
  • Always make sure your academic papers have 1” margins all the way around the document. This is the default in Microsoft word, but double check it. This affects the page length.

    For indentation, you should set first line indents in the paragraph settings instead of using the tab key or spaces. This makes an automatic indent when you press enter and looks much cleaner throughout your document.

  • Font & Alignment
  • The standard font for college papers is either Cambria or Times New Roman in 12 point. Students and teachers except this so don’t try to be fancy by using a fun font.

    Leave the default at left-aligned text. You don’t need justified; it’s hard to read and unprofessional. The left side (besides indents) should be even, and the right side ragged because words and sentences are different lengths.

  • Headers & Footers
  • In the right side of the header, you should type the student’s name, date, class number and topic. Put each of these on a separate line. If you don’t have this information, tell the student to write it there himself. Change the settings to make this header appear only on the first page.

    Page numbers should be on the right side of the header (not the footer) with the student’s last name. This is for every page except the first one.

  • Spacing & Quotations
  • You should double space the entire paper, including the bibliography. Each paragraph should have no extra space before or after it.

    If you have a quote that will run longer than four lines, set it apart by using a blocked quote. This takes the place of using quotation marks. Make sure to put the citation outside of the last period instead of before it.


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