Formatting Written Work For Your Professors

Each professor will have different preferences in terms of how work should be formatted. The guidelines provided here tend to be the standard ones for manuscript preparation in the Western world, however, and should probably be pretty similar to what at least your foreign professors will want or expect. (I don’t know enough about the standards for Korean-language manuscript preparation, so it is up to you to inform yourself about that.)

Personally, I prefer a standard, professional manuscript style that is common to both fiction and nonfiction writing, as described by William Shunn here. (His guide is for fiction writers, but the format is basically the same as what I expect from you. If your manuscript looks his guide does, after the link, I will be very happy.)

Here are the basics, in case Shunn’s guide isn’t clear enough:

Font Size: 12-point font is optimal size. Not 10, not 11, not 13, certainly not 9. Be nice to our eyes.

Font Style: Monospace fonts are preferred, because they are much easier to read quickly. Personally, I STRONGLY prefer Courier-style fonts (Courier, Courier New, etc.). Some professors are also comfortable with Times New Roman or Arial. Never use a “cute” font. Always make sure to use an English-language font for English-language work: your English text writing looks terrible when it’s formatted in Batang or Gulim.

Font Color/Print Quality: All text should be printed in black ink. If your printer is running out of black in, print your work at one of the many print shops near school. Do NOT use blue or pink ink. (Your work will be returned to you unread if you do.) Laser printing is not absolutely necessary, as inkjet is often sufficient. However, dot-matrix printing is no longer acceptable in 2010. A decent printer/scanner combo can be bought for only W100,000, and is a worthwhile investment. Any work that is deemed unreadable will be returned for re-submission, and will be considered late if returned for resubmission after the deadline.

Indentation: While it appears (from classroom experience) that indentation of paragraphs in Korean is done with the space bar, when writing in English, a single space is not adequate indentation for the beginning of a paragraph. Instead, press the TAB key once. This will indent your paragraph in the standard English-language way, which is an important way to ensure your text is readable.

The exception is for work submitted online, for example writing in a class blog. Since you cannot indent using TAB or the SPACE BAR, you should instead press enter twice at the end of the paragraph, to leave an empty line between paragraphs. NOTE: This is only acceptable for work online. Work that is submitted on paper should NEVER be formatted this way. In printed work, never place an extra empty line between paragraphs.

Spacing: Your text should be double-spaced. This means that there should be a line of text, followed by an empty line, followed by a line of text, an empty line, etc. DON’T use ENTER to get this effect. Instead, type your paragraph in a single continuous string of text, and then, at the end, press ENTER once to start the new paragraph. You can format the text to double-space using the Format settings of your word processing software.

NOTE: Several word processing programs seem to handle this kind of spacing poorly. My experience with Haansoft’s Hangeul program suggests it is one of them. If you do not have access to MS Word, you can use free programs like OpenOffice or Abiword to format your text in double-space. The spacing control is under the Paragraph option in the Format Menu.

Title: Your work should always have some kind of title. You may title it something straightforward like, “Midterm Self-Evaluation” or, in the case of essays, you can title it more creatively, like, “How to Save the Earth from Pollution.” If you use a creative title, please also specify what assignment this is. For example:

How to Save the Earth from Pollution
(Midterm  Essay by Student Name)

Your professor should be able to look at your submitted work and immediately know what assignment it is, when it was submitted, who submitted it, and for what class. Another way to ensure this is to include headers:

Headers should appear on every page of your essay except the first page; they should include the following information:

  • your name
  • your instructor’s name
  • the assignment name/description of the assignment
  • the date the assignment was submitted
  • the page number

It is common practice to include the header at the top right of the page, like this:

Lee Cheolsu / Essay Writing 1 / pg. 2
Midterm Essay / Prof. Kwon  / 23 Oct. 2008

The pagination is automated if you use the Insert Page Numbers function of your word processor. Don’t try to type page numbers individually, it won’t work!

Margins: Even in countries where the metric system is used (such as in Canada) manuscripts are sometimes formatted in inches, normally with 1 inch margins on all sides. However, in metric measurement, it’s just as easy to say 2.5 cm on each side. Some professors may specify 1.5 inch margins (3.75cm) at the top and bottom of the page, but this is somewhat unusual and you should only do so if your professor requests it. The standard is 2.5 cm on all sides, with the header appearing 1.25 cm from the top edge of the page.

Cover Pages, Folders, etc.: Some professors like title pages, but I consider them a waste of paper. Don’t use them in my class, and feel free to inquire whether other professors require their use. As for using plastic folders to hand in your work — don’t. They will get lost, they aren’t that useful, and personally, they annoy me. (If your other professors like them, then use them in their classes, but you might consider asking, instead of wasting your money on folders you’ll never receive back.)

Citation Format/Style: You are expected to be consistent in your citation format. It seems that the standard citation system in Korean Humanities and Literature programs is a variant on the Chicago Style’s Documentary Footnote format. You should know that this is quite different from Literature and some other Humanities programs in the West, where the MLA format is widely used. Personally, I prefer for students to use the MLA format, with in-text citations and a bibliography on a separate page at the end of the paper. One excellent reference guide to the MLA style is available here. But if you use another system, such as the Chicago Style, the APA style, or something else, please just make sure you use it consistently.
Last Thoughts:

Writing is an important skill for students, but a lot of good writing suffers from poor presentation. Formatting your written work is an important part of presenting professional, competent work, and using a standardized format is a skill that you can expect to have to use again and again in your working lives. Taking the time to master formatting of documents is a very good idea.

Once you master that, and you start thinking of writing style, you can turn to the most famous style guide in the English language: Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. The 4th edition is inexpensive and available at Whatthebook, but even the free version of the 1918 edition that’s available online here has plenty of good advice for you.