10 January 2000
Conventions of Academic Writing
The first thing to consider when typing a paper for an academic setting is the heading information: your name, the instructor's name, the course, the date and the title. Although some instructors may ask you to use a cover page, in most circumstances it is best to place this information at the top of the first page. Titles should be the same type and size as the rest of the paper. If you are using a word processor, use a font that resembles type (i.e. Times New Roman, Courier, and Arial), with a font size of 12. Avoid fancy fonts like this one. Do not justify your type unless asked to do so by the instructor.
Margins should be 1 inch on all sides: top, bottom, left and right (the only exception being the page number, which should be half an inch from the top of the page, in line with the right margin, and accompanied by your last name). Notice that double-spacing should be used throughout, with no extra spaces around either the title or indented quotations.
Paragraphs should be indented half an 'inch (usually five spaces). Quotes longer than four lines of type should be indented, like this:
Notice that the indented quote does not use quotation marks (""). It is 'indented one full *inch from the left margin (usually ten spaces). If you are using the indented quotation to cite another source, citation information (name and page number) follows the period, like this. (Hale 45)
Otherwise, always remember that “citation information comes after any quotation marks, but before the period" (Hale 78). Make sure your Works Cited page includes all the sources you have cited in your paper. (For information about the Works Cited
page, see the MLA Guidelines link.)
There are two things to notice about that last sentence. First, when an entire sentence constitutes its own parenthetical phrase, the period falls within the parenthesis (unlike this tiny phrase). Second, titles of books, plays, movies, albums, t.v. series and large vehicles are always underlined or put in italics (i.e. Generation X, Hamlet, Stargate, Nevermind, Star Trek: Voyager and USS Enterprise). Titles of essays, short stories, poems, songs and episodes of t.v. shows use quotation marks, since they are all smaller works (i.e. "Conventions of Academic Writing," "The Tell-tale Heart," "The Road
Not Taken," "Smells Like Teen Spirit” and "The Caretaker").
Finally, be aware that some things are typed differently than they are handwritten. The dash (--) is composed of two hyphens, and is used to set off information with special emphasis. You never--I repeat, never--put spaces before or after a dash. The ellipsis is used to show when information or words are missing, and is typed with spaces around each of the periods . . . like this. If your ellipsis falls where a period, question mark or exclamation point would normally go, you must type them before typing the ellipsis. Get it? . . . Foreign words, like logos, should be italicized (or underlined). Numbers below one hundred, or round numbers, should be written out (e.g. fifty-one, five billion). Only numbers, or parts of numbers, between twenty and one hundred are hyphenated; for example, 34 is "thirty-four," and 34,000 is "thirty-four thousand."
Follow these guidelines unless told otherwise. If you need additional information or rules, consult a writing handbook (available at both the library and the bookstore).