What date do you put in the heading of an essay?

In most cases, there is no such requirement to put a date on an essay paper. This is because an essay is not a strictly formal research paper that favors dates and numbers.

Nevertheless, many professors do ask students to put dates on their essay assignments. The most common requirement is to put the due date. This is purely for professors’ convenience as they are regularly working with hundreds of writing assignments for multiple classes and groups of students, and sorting essays by due date help to keep things in order. Moreover, assistants to professors would not only appreciate seeing a due date on your paper but also the professor’s name (as they often work for several professors).

 Another quite common practice is to put the completion date on your essay paper. Let’s say your essay’s due date is March 4th, 2021, but you finished working on it sooner and put an earlier date, e.g.: March 1st, 2021. Needless to say that the earlier a completion date you state the better for you – your teacher might appreciate how efficient and responsible you are to finish your assignment in advance.

When it comes to the popular formatting guides (styles), standards differ. For example, the MLA book style requires you to state the date in the following format: day, month (written), year (e.g.: 5 February 2021). Check other styles for their specific requirements. Or better first ask your tutor/professor if they have any special style requirements for their essay assignments.

Keep in mind that formats of dates differ in the US and in the UK:

  • In the US the common format for dates uses this sequence: month/day/year. When people use numbers this might be confusing when days and months overlap. When in numbers one must use a comma between day and year, e.g.: June 24, 2020. The only time one must use superscript letters after the day is when writing it out in full, for instance: the 10th of September.
  • In the UK the usual way to show date is in the more usual for the rest of the world format of day/month/year. It is common to use the ordinal suffix after the date: 3rd of December, 12th of September. Also, it is not rare when the month is shortened in the date with the purpose to save some space: 10 Nov. 2020, or even shorter 9 Dec.  

The typical place to have your date on an essay is the top left corner. It is also quite common to use your name and professor’s name together with the date. This is the case when the more complete and accurate information you use the better. First place your name, then your professor’s name, and finally the date. Make sure you use double spaces between the lines and enough spacing before your essay title and first paragraph to make your essay paper neat and attractive right from the start.

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