Style Guide: Formatting and Documenting Written Work

All written work submitted in my classes must be composed on a word processor, and unless otherwise instructed must adhere to the requirements listed below. Compliance with these basic guidelines provides a way for me to measure your professionalism, and points will be deducted from workshops and projects if they're not followed.

Read all instructions carefully; if you have questions, ask me--not the guy sitting next to you.

Overall presentation:

Use a standard, readable font, such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, Univers, Garamond, etc. Use the same font for both essays and bibliographies.

Unless otherwise specified, compose your work using a ten- to twelve-point font. Do NOT bold the font. Use the same size font for all components except annotations, which may be reduced in size to set them apart from citations.

Use standard margins of one inch, top, bottom, and sides.

Double-space all written work. Do not skip lines between paragraphs; instead, use a standard .5 inch tab for the first line of each new paragraph. (Annotations may be single-spaced, but citations must be double-spaced.)

On the first page of your essay, one inch from the top, center your title.

Two spaces below that, begin your essay. Do not include your name or any other information; that's what the cover sheet is for.

Include a cover sheet on which the following information must be present, centered on the page:

Student's first and last name as they appear on the roll sheet

Class name and course number (e.f. Art History 1 GE2024; Art History 2 GE 3004, etc.)

Date submitted

Name of assignment: title of essay (see comments on titling essays below).

Create a title for your essay. "Workshop 1" or "Concept Statement" tell me nothing about your actual topic. Make sure your title describes what you're writing about. If you have any doubts about how your materials should look, see these links:

Sample cover sheet (Include only the information listed above, without borders or other embellishments.)

Sample concept essay (Avoid adding headers, additional information, etc. Include the title and arrange the essay with paragraphs as shown in the example.)


  • Please do not encase written materials in plastic page protectors or attach them to brads. I need to be able to comment on your work, and pulling paper out of plastic sheathing simply wastes my time and makes me cranky. You may protect images if you wish, but essays and bibliographies should be unencumbered and simply stapled together.
  • Do not use a Microsoft Word template for your cover sheet; all I want is a plain sheet of paper that adheres to the above guidelines.


For process essays and concept statements that do not include direct citation, "Bibliography" or "Works Consulted" is the preferred heading for pages that list sources.

All bibliographies developed in support of written work for my classes must be annotated; that is, you must tell me how you use these sources and/or describe their value to your research. You must also show me that you have evaluated the source on the basis of its authority and academic appropriateness. Annotations should consist of well-constructed paragraphs and written in complete sentences.

The appropriate heading for a bibliography is, simply, Bibliography. Do not bold it, underline it, type it in a larger font, italicize it, or enclose it in quotation marks. I generally do not require Works Cited pages (which document quoted, paraphrased, or summarized information taken from a source), except in specific circumstances. Any essay submitted as a proposal for a planned project, or a process essay or concept statement for a completed assignment should not need a Works Cited page. It will, however, require a carefully annotated bibliography.

The page on which a bibliography appears follows the text of the proposal or essay, on a separate sheet, numbered consecutively with the last page of the essay. For example, a four-page formal analysis essay will include its bibliography on page 5.

More complete advice on constructing bibliographies and evaluating resources can be found on the Research Resources page.

Further requirements

Do not ever, under any circumstances, no matter how much of a hurry you're in, submit the first thing that lands on your monitor's screen. You will be assessed on the fluency of your writing ability, in terms of mechanics, grammar, and style.

Always use a spell-checker. Never use a grammar checker. If your writing skills need help, get it. Make an appointment to sit down with me to go over your paper, or consult someone in the Academic Success Center (room 300). If you have a friend who writes well, ask him or her to help you out.

Always proofread your work after you have used the spell-checker. Be on the lookout for homonyms, misused pronouns (it's instead of its, you're instead of your, etc.), and other common mistakes. Spell all proper nouns correctly (names of people, cities, etc.).

If possible, have someone else read over your work--to catch what you miss when you do your own proofreading. At the very least, read your work aloud to yourself. Ears can often catch errors that eyes miss.

Avoid use of the second person (you) in essays. You are not giving advice (as I am here) or writing a personal letter. In many cases you will be describing your own creative process or concept development, so using first person (I) is appropriate. When generalizing (applying your understanding or interpretation to the world at large), third person (he, she, it; remember that they is plural) is preferred.

For advice on style, grammar, essay format, basic research techniques, evaluating sources, information on MLA style, etc., consult my Research Resources page.

Again, remember that tutorial help is available in the Academic Improvement Center. If your writing skills are sub-par, PLEASE avail yourself of this service, or consult me ahead of time for help. Our students are required to develop an appropriate level of writing skills before they graduate, but this cannot occur without your participation and effort.

A Recommendation

If you are unfamiliar with the niceties of writing about the arts and humanities, please consult my Writing About Art page. Further advice about voice, style, and other important issues can be found at the link.