Overview of Writing Formats 

Writing formats are very important in professional and academic writing. They do not only give the written work an appropriate structure but also enhance the credibility of such work.

Some of the areas where writing formats could prove to be quite important include:

1. Developing a research paper outline

2. Developing an essay outline

3. Creating a cover page

4. Navigating through different types of writing genres

It is important to note that different types of writing styles employ different writing formats. For this reason, proper formatting requires a good understanding of what writing formats entail.

Per se, a writing format involves two key areas that include:

1. Structure of the paper and

2. Citation of the paper.


The areas above two go hand in hand and make your work look thorough and professional. They also help avoid cases of plagiarism.

Accordingly, some types of writing formats may be more appropriate for some papers or fields than others.

Some formats are therefore more suitable for scientific work like writing a medical research paper or a lab report while others are preferable for literary work such as writing a book report or an article critique.

That said, major types of writing formats are as elaborated below.


Types of Writing Formats

Common types of writing formats include APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, Turabian, AMA, and IEEE. When allowed to choose, your choice has to consider the nature of your work.



This is considered as one of the major types of writing formats among professionals and scholars. The APA style was created in 1929 by the American Psychological Association.

It is very common in fields like psychology, different social sciences, and education. This format applies to the title page, body of the paper, and the reference section.

The format focuses on four key areas that include:

1. Title page

2. Abstract

3. Body

4. References

The title page usually includes information about the paper’s topic and the author. APA title pages should have a running head and the paper’s title, name of the author, and the entailed institution.

On the other hand, the abstract should be a summary of your paper. It should appear immediately after title page. The abstract is not always a requisite particularly in essays.

The body of the paper entails the actual work on the subject or issue stipulated in the title. It could include various sections such as methodology, results, discussions, and recommendations.

Lastly, references encompass a list of the sources used in writing the paper. It follows elaborate rules and guidelines that could reviewed in an appropriate APA citation guide.



The MLA is also regarded as one of the key types of writing formats by scholars. It is commonly used in literature and languages and other fields as well.

MLA is an acronym for Modern Language Association and is held highly in professional writing and research.

It uses in-text citations in referencing its sources within the body of the paper. Such citations are usually brief and have to include the exact page number the information is retrieved from.

The format also utilizes a short citations section for sources used, which are listed in alphabetical order at the end of the paper.

Note that it does not have a separate title page like the APA format.

The MLA format’s key areas include:

1. Header

2. Publication details (Your name, Instructor’s name, Course, and Date)

3. Title

4. Body and

5. Works Cited

For the “Works Cited”, it is important to review the different requirements for distinctive sources.


Harvard is also in the category of the common types of writing formats in academia. It is mostly used by university students in their academic works.

The format employs the author-date system for its in-text citations when paraphrasing or directly quoting a source.

Key areas that define the Harvard style are:

1. Title page

2. Abstract

3. Body

4. Reference list


Although the title page has a header, it does not have a running head and its details are slightly different from that of the APA title page.

For the reference list, you need to go through the Harvard referencing guideline for a review on how to approach different type of sources.



This is also among the types of writing formats widely used by professional writers and scholars. It was introduced in 1906 by the Chicago University Press.

The formatting style focuses more on grammar and punctuation rules observed in US English.

It is often used when writing manuscripts.

Note that the rise in the use of electronic sources has necessitated changes in the Chicago formatting style over the past several years.

Importantly, you need to understand that Chicago gives the author the option to choose between in-text citations and footnotes.

These two options can be considered author-date option and the notes-bibliography approaches respectively.

While the author-date option is most preferred for social, natural, and physical sciences, the notes-bibliography option is considered more suitable for humanities, mostly history.



Turabian as well features as one of the common types of writing formats among scholars. Accredited to Kate L. Turabian, it is most suitable for students writing thesis, dissertation, and research papers.

The formatting style shares major similarities with the Chicago, with only a few variations especially in the use of notes in place of parenthetical citation.

Turabian pays more emphasis on the bibliography where it in great depth provides guidelines on how to cite all types of sources, including social media.

Other features of this writing format like margins, font size, paragraphs indentation, and quotations are usually similar to those used in the Chicago format.



This format is particularly used when writing research in medical or health related fields such as medicine and nursing.

AMA is an acronym for American Medical Association, having been introduced by this association and later adopted by educational institutions.

The main focus of the format is to highlight areas where borrowed ideas have been used to support arguments in a research paper.

That said, some of the specific features that make AMA one of the distinctive types of writing formats include:

1. Citation of numerous references

2. Numbering of references

3. Quoting of sources’ page numbers

4. Requirement that references should be numbered as they sequentially follow each other in the paper



Although not one of the most common types of writing formats, IEEE is usually valuable in the engineering field.

It is actually an acronym of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

The format is used by engineers and engineering students particularly when writing research papers in technical fields like computer science.

It is important to note that the writing format is founded on the Chicago formatting style.

Some of the key distinctive features of the IEEE writing format include:

1. Numbering of citations, where citation numbers are included in the text

2. Including all bibliographical information in the reference list

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