How to Write a Header for an Essay?

Nov 1, 2023


How to Write a Header for an Essay

Academic writing is full of formalities that we are obliged to follow. Some are overly complex and their utility as well as scientific value can be questioned, while others are simple yet indispensable in today’s education reality. Today, we explore one such simple and fundamental element in essay writing: the essay header.   

In instances where students find it challenging to adhere to specific formatting guidelines like headers in essays, or when they are overwhelmed with multiple assignments, they might consider the option to order an assignment from professional writing services. This can be particularly useful for ensuring that all formal aspects of academic writing are correctly implemented, thereby enhancing the overall quality of the assignment. When choosing to order an assignment, it’s important to select reputable services that adhere strictly to academic standards and formatting rules. However, it should be emphasized that this option is best used as a learning tool, helping students to grasp the nuances of academic formatting and style, rather than as a substitute for their own efforts in completing assignments.

What is a Header in an Essay?

What is a header in writing, in particular, in essay writing? It is the information that students place in their papers that provides context and identification. Usually, it is only a single line of text, which you see in the top left or right corner. 

The exact content and format of that line depends on the style guide you use, and the requirements set forward by your course instructor. For instance, in the popular APA style, the header contains brief information about the title of your work, while in MLA style only your name and page numbers are allowed.

Unfortunately, the header is often confused with the title page. Moreover, some students struggle to allocate the information between the header and the footer. To help avoid such confusion, and for your better understanding overall, we’ve made the following table: 

What Purpose Content Location
Header To provide brief context and identification for the document An abbreviated title, second name, and page number Top left or right corner margin on all pages except the title page
Footer Document organization and additional information to the content found on a particular page Citations, references, page numbers, copyright information, document revision dates, disclaimers  The bottom margin area on all pages, including the title page
Title page To provide extended context and identification for the document Author’s full name, course title, institution’s & instructor’s name, and date Title page only


Essay Header Format

The format of a header depends on the style guide used in each particular case. Below, we’ll review what the two most popular academic styles, MLA and APA, have to say about this.  

MLA Essay Header

If you are a student of humanities or literature major, you will likely have to deal with the Modern Language Association (MLA) style headers. This style guide makes it very easy for you and your instructor to write and understand the header information, as the only elements of the MLA header are your second name and page number. Both are placed at the upper right corner of every page, except the title page.

First goes the name followed by the page number separated with a space. All the information has to be right-aligned and utilize any font style, as long as it is the same or smaller size than the main text. 

For example:

How to Write a Header for an Essay 2

The header in MLA style is compact, nevertheless, it serves its purpose well of conveying the necessary information for the instructor.

APA Essay Header

The American Psychological Association (APA) style, commonly used in social sciences, dictates different header rules than the MLA style. Instead of including your surname, you must write a shortened title of your essay, i.e., consisting of not more than 50 symbols with spaces (if your title is already shorter than that – you don’t need to make any abbreviations or shorten the original title). 

In APA style header, the title must be in all capital letters, and it should be left-aligned with the top left corner of the page. The page number information is also present in the APA style header; however, it remains right-aligned and is kept on the same line as the title.   

For example:

How to Write a Header for an Essay 3

The essay header example above is also called the Running Head, resembling a running line of information on a digital screen, e.g., on TV or plasma screens in public places displaying news and commercials. It’s fair to note, though, that despite the apparent differences in content and appearance, both the MLA and APA headers are commonly referred to as Running Heads.

How to Make a Correct Heading for an Essay – A Step-by-Step Instruction

“That was all theory,” you might say, “How about practice?” Well, to illustrate how to make a header in your document, and to show you what to put in a header for an essay, we’ve made a step-by-step guide. Whether you are using Google Docs or a Word app from the MS Office package on your PC, the algorithm is essentially the same.

Step 1. Double-left-click on the blank area at the top of the page where you want to place a header. That will activate the header function, and you should see the following: 

How to Write a Header for an Essay 4

Step 2. Go to the “Insert” tab in the top left corner of the main menu. That will open several relevant functions, including the “Header & Footer” menu.

How to Write a Header for an Essay 5

Step 3. In the “Header & Footer” menu, select “Header” and pick the first “Blank” option on the top. This will enable you to insert either your surname as in the MLA style or the shortened title as in the APA style header. Remember, the shortened title must be in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

How to Write a Header for an Essay 6

Step 4. In the same “Header & Footer” menu, select “Page Number”. Then “Top of Page”, and in the dropped-down list pick “Plain Number 3”. This will enable you to add a page number on the right side of the header. 

How to Write a Header for an Essay 7

Step 5. Finally, adjust the font’s size and style to make your header suit your text’s font size and style and look the way you want it. For the APA style header, for example, your document may look as follows:

How to Write a Header for an Essay 8

Whereas, for a header in MLA style, it will only show your surname and page number right-aligned.


By adhering to our recommended header placement instructions once, you will not experience any difficulties in the future. The procedure is intuitively simple and easy to remember. 

A header in an essay carries condensed information about the author, the essay’s title, and page number, depending on the style used. However, its significance transcends mere formality, as it helps the reader to navigate through your work effectively. This becomes particularly imperative in the context of graduate-level essays, where a properly crafted header elevates the academic and scientific stature of one’s work, contributing to a more seamless and professional reading experience.


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