Why Writing Guidelines Are Important To Read

Mike Deep • March 1, 2015

You’ve been assigned an essay for one of your courses and you’re determined to do a good job. Eager to get started, you dive into your topic and your research, certain you have an excellent handle on your writing. And then you check the writing guidelines and realize, with a rush of sinking dread, that you’ve misconstrued the purpose of the assignment entirely. You’re going to have to start the whole paper over!

This type of issue can be avoided if you’re careful to process your essay’s writing guidelines the first time around. Use these quick checks to be sure you understand the assignment:

1. What Type Of Essay Is This?

Different types of essays will have very different tones and structures. For example, a narrative essay will tell a story, while a persuasive essay will try to prove a point. The outlines and notes for each will be slightly different.

2. Are There Word Or Page Requirements?

Before you throw yourself into hours of research, know-how long your essay needs to be. A ten-page essay will require more notes and planning than a standard five-paragraph essay.

3. What Sources Are Required?

Is there a limit on the sources you can use? Do any of your sources need to be paper? Make sure that you double-check the credibility of any books or websites you peruse, and use a plagiarism checker to be sure your words are all your own.

4. How Is The Paper Cited?

Depending on the type of paper and the standards of your school or the professor in question, you’ll be asked to use a specific citation format. MLA, APA, and Chicago Style are most common.

It’s important to understand what your professor expects from both your essay’s structure and your sources, as these can make or break a paper. If you find you have questions about the writing guidelines or assignment, be sure to contact them for clarification. It’s better to ask before you write the paper than to regret confusion later!