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Some students get frustrated with formatting a paper. They refuse to use the required format and style. Yes, formatting and style requirements may seem to be a tedious addition to an already complex process. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, content is the most significant part of your paper.

Using proper format takes work. You don’t like to do it. So, if you play dumb and don’t, or don’t do it well, you can get by. But do you really?

We aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover. But we do. First impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo. It sets the tone (aka bias) for any review we might give of a person, place, or thing.  We dress for success. We package products for sales or gift appeal. So why do we get sloppy when we format our writing? It’s just words. Right? Wrong.

Not following the required style deviates from the norm and can distract the reader from focusing on your ideas. Some justifiably say that sloppy format is a pre-indicator of sloppy work in general.

In school, you might just get points deducted or have it sent back for revision. In the working world, it may simply be sent back, unread, with no explanation for a lost opportunity. Yes, formatting is important in the real world of work. Formatting requirements can make or break a professional paper, funding application, reports, proposal, etc. It may affect whether you get called for that job interview, or whether you get that raise or promotion you want.

A writer who follows format specification is someone readers will be inclined to respect at first glance. They don’t blow that undeniably important first impression.

Following the required format proves the claim of having attention to detail.  Formats have far more in common than they differ, so this is a skill you can easily adapt to any required style.

  • Use a formatted template. [link to doc]
  • Use the formatting instructions detailed in the template. Your default settings in Word may not provide the correct formatting.
  • Use toolbars and keyboard commands.
  • Don’t guess; don’t assume; do a double check.

If you want to learn how to set up Microsoft Word in APA or MLA Style, click here for information about your courses. In these courses, we will teach you step-by-step how to set up a Microsoft Word document in APA or MLA Style.