How does an employer efficiently decide which resumes to eliminate from the stack? How does a researcher assess whether a website is credible? How can the big boss quickly determine if your proposal is worth reading? Simple: with a glance at its formatting.
We are told that looks don’t matter when it comes to the physical appearances we cannot alter, but the truth is that when it comes to the pieces of ourselves we produce and send out into the world – resumes, essays, proposals, emails, tweets, articles – looks do matter. We get to choose how to present ourselves on paper so readers can determine whether or not they want to invest their time further. If we do not follow basic formatting instructions, we cannot expect our reader to take our content seriously.
No matter what your student does when she graduates into the world, she will need to pave the way using her writing skills. Each industry has its own formatting for corresponding, filling out forms, and crediting sources. It helps the writer organize her thoughts according to industry norms, it helps the reader more easily find the information he or she is looking for, and most importantly, it protects the writer from plagiarizing which can result in fiscal penalties or criminal charges. This is why educators hound students about proper formatting – it may seem exhausting and meticulous, but it arms them with necessary life skills.
Your student’s high school has probably adopted the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) formatting guide because it is used at many colleges, or it closely resembles other college-level formatting guides such as American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual Style (CMS), or Council of Science Editors. Learning all of these would be very overwhelming for a middle or high school student, so we make them experts in one style. Five years down the road in her Sociology 110 class, your student can smoothly adapt her prior knowledge of MLA format to APA guidelines.
Encourage your student to develop detail-oriented habits through proper formatting. If you have any questions on her school’s adopted formatting style, contact your child’s English teacher. For more resources on MLA formatting, visit the Purdue Owl.