Why Does Academic Writing Require Strict Formatting? (Full Details)

The goal of good writing is to convey information clearly and concisely. When this goal is not met, it results in bad writing.

Like other types of writing, academic writing stresses the importance of thoughtfully organizing your essay. 

However, in academic writing, there’s an emphasis on strict adherence to a set of rules. 

These rules serve as a crucial framework to maintain clarity and consistency in conveying ideas within the academic community. 

Let’s explore why academic writing is particularly stringent in its adherence to these rules and how they contribute to effective communication.

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing is a formal way of writing that scholars and researchers use in their publications. 

It’s all about presenting ideas with evidence and logical reasoning to help readers understand a topic. 

Academic writing is a structured and evidence-based approach, whether analyzing a concept, proposing a theory, or drawing a rational conclusion. 

Characteristics of Academic Writing 

1. Formal Tone and Style

Academic writing sounds serious and professional.

It uses a formal style to show the writer knows much about the topic. Writers avoid saying “I” and stick to talking about facts.

2. Objective Argument

Academic writing tries to make a point using evidence. Writers use facts and research to support what they’re saying.

They don’t just share their opinions; they stay neutral and objective.

3. Use of Resources

Writers show they know their onion by mentioning other books or articles. They list these sources at the end, giving credit to where they got their information.

4. Logical Structure

Academic writing is organized and easy to follow.

It has a beginning (introduction), middle (body), and end (conclusion). There’s a clear central idea called a thesis statement.

5. Free of Errors

 Academic writing needs to be clean and mistake-free. It follows grammar rules and uses correct spelling and punctuation. This makes the writing look reliable and trustworthy.

Why Does Academic Writing Require Strict Formatting?

Reasons Why Academic Writing Requires Strict Formatting

1. Uniformity:

Uniformity in academic writing refers to the consistent and standardized presentation of information. 

This is achieved through strict formatting guidelines, which ensure a harmonized structure across various academic works.

In academic writing, different styles, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, dictate specific rules for organizing, citing, and presenting information. 

These rules act as a blueprint, guiding writers to follow a uniform document pattern. 

For instance, citations and headings must adhere to predetermined formats.

This uniformity is not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s a practical necessity. 

It enables readers to navigate the content easily, knowing where to find specific information. 

This makes it easier for readers to find the location of specific information when going through a research paper, essay, or article.

2. Clarity

Clear communication is essential in academic writing, where complex ideas and information are shared.  

Clarity ensures that ideas are presented in a manner that readers easily understand. 

This strict formatting eliminates ambiguity and confusion using proper grammar, punctuation, and straightforward vocabulary.

This way, readers can focus on the content rather than get overwhelmed by an overload of haphazard information.

3. Credibility and Professionalism:

When a writer adheres to established formatting guidelines, it doesn’t just add beauty to the work; it shows precision and detail.

A well-structured and formatted document sends a clear message that the author has invested the time and effort required to meet the rigorous demands of academic writing.

This contributes significantly to the writer’s credibility.

Moreover, in readers’ eyes, proper formatting elevates the professionalism of the work. 

It conveys a seriousness of intent and a dedication to upholding the high standards expected in academic discourse. 

Therefore, strict formatting transforms a piece of writing from a mere collection of words into a refined and respected contribution to the scholarly conversation.

4. Avoiding Plagiarism: 

Plagiarism, presenting someone else’s work as your own, is a serious offense in academic writing. 

Strict formatting in citations and references prevents plagiarism and upholds academic integrity.

In academic writing, proper attribution is paramount.

Accurate citations and a comprehensive bibliography give due credit to the original authors and demonstrate a commitment to honesty and transparency in academic work.

By adhering to these formatting rules, writers ensure that all information borrowed from external sources is appropriately acknowledged. 

This not only strengthens the writer’s credibility but also contributes to the overall trustworthiness of the academic work. 

5. Ease of Review and Publication:

When a manuscript adheres to specific formatting guidelines, it aligns with the expectations set by academic journals and conference organizers.

For example, journals often have stringent rules about how to organize their articles. They want all their papers to have the same professional appearance. 

Adherence to these rules guarantees that everything looks consistent and well-organized throughout the collection.

Authors should follow these guidelines because of the benefits they provide. 

It helps their work look better to reviewers, which raises the chances of publication. 

Categories of Academic Writing

1. Chapters

  • These are parts of a larger book where authors share their views on a topic.
  • Authors usually assume readers know something about the subject.
  • Writers often adapt or shorten their previous scholarly works for these chapters.

2. Essays

  • These are short pieces (1,500 to 2,000 words) presenting an idea or argument.
  • It aims to convince using research and analysis.
  • They are often published in scholarly journals.

3. Research Articles

  • This offers a detailed analysis of the author’s independent research.
  • Clearly explains how the researcher reached conclusions, referencing other data.
  • Submitted to academic journals and often reviewed by peers.

4. Technical Reports

  • This describes the progress or results of technical research
  • Technical Reports are usually submitted to the organization funding the research.
  • Acts as a primary draft before refining for scholarly publication.

5. Annotated Bibliographies

  • This is a comprehensive list of sources on a topic with brief descriptions.
  • It summarizes each source to provide an overview of research and findings.

6. Theses

  • This is a document summarizing research on a specific topic.
  • It is submitted for advanced degrees like master’s or doctorate.
  • Typically longer (6,000 to 20,000 words) and structured with chapters.

7. Literary Analyses

  • This is an evaluation of literary works like books or poetry collections.
  • Authors interpret ideas or concepts persuasively.
  • Focuses on specific elements like characters or themes in-depth.

Dos and Don’ts of Academic Writing

1. Avoid Personal Pronouns:

  • Don’t: Overly personalize your writing.
  • Instead: Present your ideas objectively, focusing on the evidence and analysis rather than personal beliefs or opinions.


  • Avoid: “I feel that deforestation is a serious issue.”
  • Better: “Deforestation is a serious issue, as evidenced by its profound impact on ecosystems, biodiversity, and the overall health of our planet.”

2. Steer Clear of Redundancy

  • Don’t: Repeat points unnecessarily; be concise.
  • Instead: Trim down unnecessary words and phrases to keep your writing focused.


  • Avoid: “The results of the study were very, very interesting.” 
  • Better: “The study’s results were fascinating.”

3. Emotional Language

  • Don’t: Use overly emotional or subjective language.
  • Instead: Stick to presenting facts rather than expressing personal feelings excessively.


Instead of saying, 

“This groundbreaking discovery amazed me,” which adds a personal emotional touch, aims for a more objective tone like,

“This groundbreaking discovery significantly advances our understanding.” 

This ensures a focus on conveying information without letting personal feelings overshadow the factual presentation.

4. Avoid Overcomplication

  • Don’t: Overcomplicate sentences; aim for simplicity.
  • Instead: Choose straightforward language over unnecessarily complex terms.


  • Don’t: The elucidation of intricate paradigms necessitates the utilization of highly convoluted vernacular.
  • Better: Explaining complex ideas requires using clear and straightforward language.

5. Steer Clear of Exaggeration

  • Don’t: Make unsupported, exaggerated claims.
  • Instead: Present your arguments with realistic and grounded statements supported by evidence.


Saying, “All students love studying late at night,” lacks support and might not hold for everyone. 

Instead, you could provide evidence like a survey result or research findings to demonstrate the accuracy of your statement. 

This approach strengthens your argument and adds credibility to your writing by relying on factual support rather than broad assumptions.

What is Formatting?

Formatting in academic writing is like giving your paper a set of rules to follow. 

This includes things like the type of font used, margins, headers and footers, cover pages, page headings, and citations.

It’s a way to ensure all papers look the same, keeping things neat and organized. 

Following these rules helps everyone understand your paper and shows that you’re doing your work correctly in the academic context.

Types of Formatting Styles

There are different formatting styles, and three common ones are APA, MLA, and Chicago.

1. APA (American Psychological Association) Style

  • They are used in sciences and social sciences.
  • APA requires a cover page with the title, writer’s name, and institution.
  • APA includes an abstract summarizing the paper.
  • It has a running header with page numbers on each page.

2. MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

  • They are commonly used in humanities.
  • MLA includes a header on each page with the writer’s last name and page number.
  • MLA requires a Works Cited page for citations.
  • It uses in-text citations, including the author’s last name and page number.

3. Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

  • They are used in various disciplines.
  • It offers two citation styles: notes and bibliography, and author-date.
  • It requires footnotes or endnotes for citations.
  • It includes a bibliography for all sources cited.

All formatting styles share some basics: double-spacing, one-inch margins, and a readable font. 

The style choice depends on the academic field and the paper’s topic. 

How To Write In APA Format

1. Title Page

i. Header:

  • Include the page number.
  • For professional papers, add the abbreviated paper title.

ii. Paper Title:

  • Center and bold the title.
  • Capitalize first/last words, subtitles, and significant words.

iii. Author Name:

  • Below the title, center your first, middle, initial, and last names.
  • For multiple authors, use “and” between two names or commas for three or more.

iv. Author Affiliation:

  • List each author’s research location on separate lines below their name.

v. Author Note:

  • Bold “Author Note” on the bottom half.
  • Include ORCID iD, changes in affiliation, study details, and contact information.

2. Abstract

i. Title Page:

  •  Center “Abstract” on the first line.
  •  Write a 150-250 word paragraph about key findings.
  •  Add keywords with “Keywords” in italics.

ii. Main Body under Headings:

  • Use bold title case for main headings and flush left for subheadings.
  • Organize data under each heading.

3. Citing Sources (In-text Citations)

  • Use author-date format in parentheses.
  • Include page numbers for direct quotes.
  • Use “p.” or “pp.” for page numbers.

4. Reference List

i. Reference List Page:

  • Label as “References” in bold at the top.
  • Use hanging indentation for each entry.

ii. Reference List Rules:

  • List the authors’ last name first, then initials.
  • Alphabetize by the first author’s last name.
  • Italicize longer works, and use quotation marks for shorter ones.
  • Include DOI if available.

4. Templates for Common Source Types:

i. Articles:

  • Author, A. A. (Year). Title. Title of Periodical, volume (issue), pages. DOI

ii. Books:

  • Author, A. A. (Year). Title. Publisher. DOI

iii. Web page:

  • Author, A. A. (Year, Month, Date). Title. Site Name. URL

iv. Online video:

  •  Uploader. (Date). Title [Video]. Website Host. URL

How To Write In MLA Format

1. Page Layout

  • One-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use size 12 in Times New Roman font.
  • Double-space your paper.
  • Align your text to the left (no full justification).
  • Indent the first word of each paragraph by half an inch.
  • For block quotes, indent 1 inch.

2. Heading and Title

  • The cover page is only needed if your teacher asks for it.
  • On the first page, in the upper left corner, include your name, teacher’s name, course title, block, and date on separate lines.
  • Double-space, then center your title. Avoid using bold or underlining.

3. Names and Numbers

  • Use full names for people and agencies the first time, with acronyms in parentheses if applicable.
  • After the first mention, you can use last names or acronyms.
  • Spell numbers in one or two words using numerals for others (e.g., two, 45, 1,500).

4. Parenthetical References

  • Place in-text citations at the end of the sentence, inside the final punctuation.
  • If a work is alphabetized by title, use the first word or two in the parenthetical reference.
  • If the author is mentioned, include only the page number in the reference.

5. Works Cited

  • Begin on a separate page after your written text.
  • Center the heading “Works Cited” at the top, using Times/Times New Roman font size 12.
  • Double-space and alphabetize entries.
  • Use a hanging indent: the first line starts at the margin, and subsequent lines are indented.

How to Write in CMS Format

1. Document Layout

  • Margins: Set one-inch margins on all sides of your paper.
  • Font: Use size 12 on Times New Roman.
  • Spacing: Double-space the text of your paper.
  • Alignment: Left-justify your text, creating a ragged right edge.

2. Paragraph Formatting

  • Indentation: Begin paragraphs, block quotes, and hanging (bibliography) indents with a 1/2″ indent.

3. Page Numbers

  • Placement: Number pages in the top right corner, starting with the first page of text.
  • Include Last Name: Add your last name to prevent page mix-ups.

4. Cover Page

  • Title: Center your paper title halfway down the page.
  • Name: Center your name below the title.
  • Additional Information: Include your teacher’s name, course title and block, and the date at the bottom. Use Times or Times New Roman size 12 font. Avoid decorative elements.

5. Document Order

  • Assembly: Organize your paper in this order: Cover/title page, Body, Appendix (if needed), Notes, and Bibliography.

6. Citations

  • Full Names: Use full names for people, agencies/legislation on the first mention. Include acronyms in parentheses after the full name.
  • Subsequent Mentions: You can use last names or acronyms after the first mention.
  • Numbers: Write out numbers below 100.

7. Footnotes and Endnotes:

  • Placement: Use footnotes at the bottom of the page or endnotes on a separate page after the body of the paper.
  • Formatting: Use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), not Roman numerals. Include the note number at the end of the sentence.
  • Consistency: Never reuse a number; use a new one for each reference.

8. Bibliography

  • Separate Page: Place your bibliography on a separate page.
  • Heading: Center the word “Bibliography” at the top of the page in Times/Times New Roman 12 pt font.
  • Formatting: Use a hanging indent; alphabetize by author or title. Watch for proper name formats and indents.

9. Common Errors

  • Name Format: Notes use first name, last name; bibliography uses last name, first name.
  • Number Reuse: In notes, avoid reusing numbers for citations.
  • Indentation: Pay attention to proper indents for notes and bibliography.

FAQs on ‘Why Does Academic Writing Require Strict Formatting?’

What’s the major difference between APA, MLA, and Chicago formatting styles?

The major difference lies in their citation and referencing methods. APA (American Psychological Association) is commonly used in social sciences, MLA (Modern Language Association) in humanities, and the Chicago Manual style is versatile, offering two citation styles: notes and bibliography and author-date. Each has specific rules for citing sources, formatting headings, and presenting information.

Which formatting style is the most popular?

The popularity of formatting styles varies across disciplines. APA is widely used in the social sciences, MLA in humanities, and the Chicago style is prevalent in various fields. The choice often depends on the academic field and the specific requirements of the assignment or publication.

What is the most rigid type of academic language?

The complexity of academic language varies, but disciplines like philosophy and theoretical physics are often considered to have challenging language. 

How often do formatting guidelines get updated for academic writing styles?

Formatting guidelines for academic writing styles, like APA, MLA, and Chicago, undergo updates periodically. The frequency of updates can vary, but it is common for these styles to release new editions to address changes in language use, citation practices, and technological advancements. Staying informed about these updates ensures that your paper reflects current standards.


Accurate communication of ideas relies heavily on following the stringent standards of formatting styles like APA, MLA, and Chicago.

So, to impress your professors with your writing, you should follow these rules. 

Formatting that is correct, clear, and pays attention to detail will not only please your readers with the quality of your work, but it will also help you become respected as a scholar.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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Righteous Godwin
Righteous Godwin

Righteous Godwin, a graduate of Mass Communication, is a content and creative writer. Her passion for writing compels her to give her all to every project she undertakes.

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