Formatting Your Paper

I often get a lot of student questions about formatting when I assign a writing project. From the tone of the emails (often slightly desperate), I get the feeling that a lot of students have been given bad grades for formatting issues alone. In my experience, college teachers are far more interested in content than form, but in this post I’ll run through some general considerations when you are formatting your college papers.
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How long does my paper have to be?

Hand to heart, the honest answer to this question is “as long as it needs to be.”

I know that isn’t the answer that you wanted. But it’s the truth. If you’ve been given a page length or word count, that’s because, in your teacher’s experience, that’s how much space it takes to make a decent response to the writing prompt they’re giving you. It’s never a magic number, let alone a guaranteed grade.

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about what your teacher hears when students ask that perennial question: “how long does it have to be.”

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