A paragraph will usually look a specific way. This chapter explains what it should look like.

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Imagine you are interviewing for your dream job. Would you go to the interview in your pajamas? 

Of course not! You would probably choose your clothes carefully because you want to show the interviewers that the job is important to you. You want to make a good first impression, and how you dress is a big part of doing that. Similarly, how your paragraph looks is an important part of the first impression you, the writer, make on the reader.

The choices you make about how your paragraph looks are called formatting. In English writing, and especially in academic English writing, readers usually expect specific formatting for paragraphs (and longer passages, too). You use them whether you are handwriting a paragraph on paper or typing a paragraph in a digital document, like a Google Doc or Microsoft Word document.

Common formatting standards

  • Arial, Calibri, or Aptos font
  • Size 11 or 12 font
  • 1-inch (2.54-centimeter) margins
  • Double- or single-spaced text
  • Left-aligned text
  • Indented first line 
  • Hard returns at the end of paragraphs 

When you follow all of these common formatting standards, your paragraph should look similar to the one below.

 Sometimes you will need to write a paragraph (or longer passage) in a place that doesn’t have formatting tools. Usually this is online, on a webpage. In that case, it is okay not to indent the first line of your paragraph, and it will look similar to the one below.



Exercise 1: Fix incorrect paragraph formatting

Each of the paragraphs below has at least one formatting error. Identify what they are and how you can fix them. Assume the paragraphs are typed in a digital document.










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