Essay Formats MLA, APA, and Chicago Styles – Complete Guide for Students


So, you have been assigned to write an essay. Congratulations, your writing and research skills are going to be improved. But along with this, formatting an essay is very challenging for students. The essay format is not about the content of your essay, but it is about how you organise the information. Different essay formats are in practice these days, for example, MLA, APA, and Chicago. All these three formats are different, and students, most of the time, miss the differences and format the essay wrongly.

Keeping this in view, we have decided to dedicate today’s post to essay formats like MLA, APA, and Chicago. In today’s post, we will learn about the differences that exist between these formats and what are the requirements of these formats. So, let’s get started with the topic and explain these formats one by one, along with their requirements.

What is APA format, and how to format an essay in APA style?

APA format is the style of documenting information used by the American Psychological Association. This style of formatting essays is mainly used in the fields of social science, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. This essay format has its own formatting guidelines, and it is a must for you to follow all those guidelines if your teacher asks so. It is important to note that this is one of the most commonly used essay formats in the academic world.

APA essay formatting guidelines

APA sets different rules and regulations for writing essays. These do not apply to the content of the essay but to its organisation. Currently, the 7th edition of APA guidelines is in use. The formatting guidelines set in this edition for essay writing are as follows:

  • When writing an essay in APA format, your content must be of font size 12, excluding the size of headings and subheadings.
  • The font style or the text style should be Times New Roman. No other style like Calibri is accepted.
  • There should be margins of 1 inch on all sides of the essay content.
  • Each page of the essay must contain a header. The header must contain the title of the essay and the page number.
  • There must be double spacing between all the lines.
  • Indentation before starting a new paragraph is a must.
  • Footnotes are not required in this format.
  • The reference list is called “references.” The in-text citation is like (Joseph, 2018).

What is MLA format, and how to format an essay in MLA style?

MLA is another academic writing format created by Modern Language Association. This format is mostly used for research papers, articles, academic essays, and humanities-based disciplines. It is one of the core essay formats that are used mostly. MLA is a complete package for academic writers which guides them about how to cite the sources in their essays properly and how to present information.

MLA essay formatting guidelines

When you are directed to use MLA format in your essay, it is important that you know about all the rules that you have to follow. So, here we will guide you about those rules. Hence, the latest rules set by MLA for essay formatting are as follows:

  • The font size and font style requirements are the same in this format, i.e., Times New Roman and font size 12.
  • There should be a margin of 1 inch above on all sides of the essay paper. Margins that exceed this limit do not fall under MLA format.
  • Each page of the essay must have a header. In that header, there must be information about the author’s last name and the page number.
  •  The text must be left-aligned, and after every new paragraph, there must be an indent at the start.
  • To write an in-text citation, you must know the author’s last name and the page number. For example, (Smith 163).

What is Chicago format, and how to format an essay in Chicago style?

Chicago style was initially developed to write in American English. Initially, it covered different topics like grammar and presentation of the written texts. The Chicago Manual Style, also known as CMS, is now one of the most widely used essay formats in the USA. It guides the writers about how to format their essays perfectly.

CMS essay formatting guidelines

When you are asked to write an essay following the CMS, your teacher expects that you know the rules to follow. In actuality, you do not know about them. So, all the general requirements of this style are as follows:

  • Font size should be 12, and font style must be Times New Roman unless your teacher specified a different one.
  • The 1-inch margin on the sides, bottom, and top, along with double spacing.
  • Each page should show the page number at the top right corner and your last name
  • ½” indent for every new paragraph
  • The in-text citation is as follows: Daniel (2015). You can also use numbers to cite the sources.

So, these are the guidelines for the three styles. If you are still unable to understand these, go and hire essay writing services.


Conclusively, the APA, MLA, and Chicago are three different essay formats. Much of the general formatting guidelines are the same. However, a clear difference lies in the citation and reference styles of these formats. So, you must pay dear attention to the in-text citations and references.