Format Rules for Documents in the Humanities

These format rules apply to all written assignments in this course. Any document you upload to Blackboard in an assignment page or to the discussion board should obey these rules.
All electronic files must be doc or docx files (not pdf., rtf., txt., odt. or any other extension).
Covers and cover pages

. . . are neither necessary nor welcome. They only add bulk. Please do not use covers of any kind.


Instead of a cover, on the upper left corner of the page, include the following information: name, date, course and section number, and my name. Example:

Dana Johansen

21 March, 2021

ENGH 302, Section [your section designation]

Dr. Nanian

Why all this information besides your name and date? You should get in the habit of including the course and section number because some professors teach multiple sections of multiple courses and assign similar (or at least similarly appearing) essays in each. It is helpful for them to know instantly by looking at the title page what stack it belongs in; this is especially true when handing in papers in hard-copy form, but you might as well be consistent. As for the professor’s name, occasionally a professor has been known to put down a student essay somewhere, such as in the break room. If his or her name is on it, some kind passerby is likely to put it in the appropriate mailbox; without a professor’s name, you are pretty much out of luck. Remember: absent-minded professor is not just a cliché — it’s a way of life. (This happened once to a friend of mine when I was a student. A professor claimed he did not receive her essay; a day later it showed up in his mailbox, and he had already commented on two-thirds of it.)

Note: you may use the header function in MS Word for this, but you must select “Different First Page” under “Layout” in the “Document Format” tab so that the complete header does not show up in every page.


All major assignments and some exercises should be titled; creating good titles is a skill you need to practice. Center the title and begin it one double-spaced line below the first page header. Do not arbitrarily skip down five or six lines so that your title is in the middle of the first page. If you have a subtitle, use a colon between the title and subtitle:

“The Cheer and Comfort of My Eye”: The Psychological Effects of Surveillance

or (especially if the result is too long and would extend into a second line anyway) break the line between the title and the subtitle:

“The Cheer and Comfort of My Eye”
The Psychological Effects of Surveillance

Do not skip any extra lines after the title — just double-space. The text of your exercise or essay should then begin on the next double-spaced line. Remember that when centering anything you need to set the indentation at zero.

For peer responses, simply title your response “Response to [your peer’s name and the title of his or her essay]”

Running heads

Every document you submit should have a running head, meaning a header that appears on ever page of the document. The running head in MLA consists of your last name and the page number only, in 10 or 12 point Times New Roman, in the upper right-hand corner. Example:

Johansen 2

Do not put additional page numbers at the bottom of the page (except, if you wish, the first page).

Use the “Header and Footer” function in MS Word to make your headers. It saves time and prevents format problems. The first page should not have the running header on it; again, you can solve this problem by selecting “Different First Page” under “Layout” in the “Document Format” tab.


1" all around. This has been the standard margin for ages. However, MS Word’s default left and right margins are 1.25". To get to the settings, click on the lower-right corner of the Paragraph window at the top of the document and make the corrections. I suggest that you then save those settings as your “Normal” template. That way, you will never have to worry about changing the settings again, at least on your own computer.

Margins are important because they distort the apparent length of the text, and professors and publishers both want to count on an apparently five-page paper actually being longer than an apparently four-page paper.


For everything except the title, subtitle, and the subsequent page header, the only acceptable font is 12 point Times New Roman. The title, subtitle, and subheads may be slightly larger (14 or 16 point, or both); the running head may be slightly smaller. Set this as your default font.


I’ll accept either left justification or full justification. Years ago, the algorithms for full justification were primitive, so the result would often be lines that were too spaced out or too crowded; as a result, many style-guides banned full justification. However, word processing software is much more sophsticated now.


.5" inch indent for the first line of each new paragraph. Do not skip extra lines or put extra space between paragraphs. (Talk about a cheesy way to artificially inflate the length of the paper!) Note: the default setting in MS Word sometimes has 10 or 12 points of extra space set after paragraph breaks. Go to the Paragraph window (as you did for margins) and set it to zero. Again, saving the new setting as your “Normal” template will mean you do not have to worry about this again.


The entire text of your paper — including block quotations and the Works Cited page — should be double-spaced.


Do not use tabs in MS Word documents — ever. The tab button is a relic left over from the days of typewriters, and using them to indent anything today is like hooking up an Xbox to a twelve-inch black and white TV. In a word processing program, using tabs can cause so many problems that you will be ready to hurl your computer out a window after struggling with them for ten minutes. Use the format menus instead. That is what they are there for, and they work almost perfectly. Note: trying to indent your text by hitting the space bar multiple times is just as bad.

For further help with formatting, here is a sample of the first three pages of an essay that follows all of these rules in both doc and docx file formats. If you would describe yourself as “technologically challenged,” you can always just open this document, erase its text and add your own, and then save it. The format will still be perfect.