Presentation of essays

sample from downloadable HTML program or PDF book

1. Presentation
The presentation of your finished work is an important part of its success. You should deliver your work as clearly and as neatly as possible. Try to observe the following general guidelines to create an attractive page layout. You may not necessarily gain marks for good presentation, but you are likely to loose them for work which is untidy.

2. Paper
Use A4 size paper. This is now accepted as the international standard for most printed and written materials in the fields of education and commerce.

3. Writing
Word-processed or typewritten work is becoming the norm. Remember that standards of presentation are being driven up all the time. Some tutors might deduct marks for bad handwriting or untidy work.

4. Margins
Leave margins of at least one-and-a-half inches at each edge of your text and at least one inch at the top and bottom of each page. This might seem over-generous at first, but it will almost certainly enhance the appearance of what you produce.

5. White space
The purpose of all this white space is to leave plenty of room in which your tutor can write detailed comments or corrections. These comments will offer you direct guidance on what you have written. This is very valuable feedback which should help you improve
the quality of your work.

6. Line Spacing
If the document is a normal essay, use one-and-a-half or double line spacing. This too will create space for tutor comment. If the document is one which will be read at greater length, such as a report or a dissertation, use normal single line spacing. The comments on such work are sometimes made on separate sheets.

7. Paragraphs
Leave extra space between paragraphs. If you follow this rule you do not need to indent the first line of the paragraph. This enhances page layout, and it will also help you to organise the structure of your argument.

8. Pages
Print on one side of a page only. Leave the other side blank. Remember to number each of the pages. This will lessen the chance of your work becoming disordered. The blank pages are available for additional comments if necessary.

9. Headings
Headings or question rubrics should be separated from the body of the essay text. Emphasis should be given by using bold or (less desirable) italics. There is no need to underline titles or headings, and do not create them in continuous capitals.

No punctuation marks (other than question marks) should be used after headings or sub-headings.

10. Titles
Choose italics to indicate the titles of book-length publications, and remember to be consistent throughout your document.

11. Presentation
When submitting your essay, keep the pages together by using one of the transparent plastic document holders which are now increasingly popular. Securing by one staple in the top left-hand corner is acceptable, but do not fasten pages together with pins. These are a hazard for all concerned.

12. Postage
If you need to post work back to your tutor, use large A4 size envelopes. Avoid folding your written work, and do not use small sized envelopes which are designed for letters.

13. Security
You might wish to take a photocopy of your work as a precaution against loss. This could be useful if you are a distance learning student using the post, or if you have a particularly long or valuable essay on which you have spent a lot of time. If you are using a word-processor, keep a backup copy of your work on disk.

14. Photocopying tip
If you have a typed essay which contains a lot of mistakes, here is a tip for improving the appearance of your work. First, blank out mistakes with correction fluid, make your alterations – then take a photocopy of the final draft. Submit the photocopy and keep the original.

© Roy Johnson 2003

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