The Modern Language Association (MLA) is a professional organization that provides guidelines for academic writing, including formatting and citing sources.
This guide will help you set up your MLA format paper quickly and easily and includes a free template you can use.
MLA basic formatting guidelines
MLA formatting guidelines are essential to creating well-structured and formatted academic papers. Here are some detailed basic formatting guidelines to follow when formatting your paper in MLA style:
- Font and Spacing:
- Use a legible font such as Times New Roman in size 12.
- Use double spacing throughout the paper, including in the Works Cited page.
- Use single spacing for long quotes (more than four lines) and include them in a separate block of text.
- Use half-inch indent for the first line of each paragraph.
Example: The first sentence of the first paragraph should be indented half an inch from the left margin. All other sentences in the paragraph should be aligned with the first sentence.
- Margins and Page Numbers:
- Set margins to 1 inch on all sides of the paper.
- Include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of each page.
- Include your last name before the page number in the header section of each page.
Header and Title
The header and title are essential components of an MLA format paper. The header appears on the document’s first page and contains specific information about the author, instructor, course, and assignment. The title of the paper should be centered and use title-case capitalization. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of these components:
- The header is left-aligned at the top of the first page of the document
- It should include the author’s full name, the instructor’s or supervisor’s name, the course name or number, and the due date of the assignment
- Each piece of information should be on a separate line, and the lines should be double-spaced
- Here’s an example of an MLA header:
- The title of the paper should be centered on the first page, one double-spaced line below the header
- The title should use title-case capitalization, which means that the first letter of each major word is capitalized (except for articles, conjunctions, and prepositions unless they are the first word of the title)
- The title should not be underlined, bolded, or italicized unless it includes the title of another work (in which case that title should be italicized)
- Here’s an example of an MLA paper title:
The Role of Technology in Education: A Comprehensive Analysis
MLA Running Head
The running head is a header that appears at the top of each page of an MLA format paper, including the first page. It includes the author’s last name and the page number to help readers navigate through the document. The running head is aligned to the right margin and should be in title case capitalization.
To set up the running head in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, follow these steps:
- Double-click at the top of the page to open the header section.
- Type your last name, followed by a space.
- Click on the “Insert” tab and select “Page Number.”
- Choose the position where you want the page number to appear (usually at the top right corner).
- Align the content to the right by selecting the right alignment option in the toolbar.
In the example above, “Last Name” is the author’s last name, and “1” is the page number.
Some additional tips for formatting the running head include:
- Make sure the font size and style of the running head match the rest of the paper (Times New Roman 12pt is recommended).
- Don’t use any special formatting or graphics in the running head.
- On the first page, the running head should be preceded by the words “Running head” followed by a colon (e.g., “Running head: Last Name 1”).
- On subsequent pages, the running head should appear without the words “Running head.” Only the author’s last name and page number are needed (e.g., “Last Name 2”).
Remember to check your paper for consistency in formatting and accuracy in the running head throughout the document.
Works Cited Page
The Works Cited page is an essential part of an MLA format paper, where you list all the sources you have cited in your paper. It is important to organize your Works Cited page correctly, as it demonstrates your research efforts and gives credit to the authors of the sources you have used.
Here are some detailed guidelines to help you format your Works Cited page correctly:
- Title: The title “Works Cited” should be centered at the top of the page.
- Entries: All entries should be listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name or the first word of the title (if there is no author).
- Hanging Indent: Each entry should use a hanging indent, where the first line of the entry is flush left, and the subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inches. This helps to distinguish between different entries and makes it easier for the reader to find information.
- Double Spacing: All entries should be double-spaced, both within and between entries.
- Punctuation: Each entry should end with a period, and the titles of sources should be in italics. Commas and periods should be placed inside the quotation marks for titles of articles, chapters, and other shorter works.
Here is an example of how a Works Cited page should be formatted:
Works Cited Adler, Mortimer J. “How to Read a Book.” Simon and Schuster, 1972.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Penguin Classics, 2003.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Harper Perennial, 2006.
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books, 1998.
Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Simon and Schuster, 2014.
Creating MLA Style Citations
Creating MLA Style citations is an important part of academic writing. It allows you to acknowledge the sources you have used in your paper and avoid plagiarism. The following guidelines will help you create accurate MLA Style citations:
- Understand the basic citation format: MLA citations typically include the author’s name, the title of the source, the publisher, the publication date, and the medium of publication. The format may vary depending on the type of source you are citing (e.g. book, journal article, website).
- Use in-text citations: In-text citations should be included within the body of your paper every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work. In MLA Style, you typically include the author’s last name and the page number(s) where the information can be found. For example: (Smith 45).
- Create a Works Cited page: At the end of your paper, you need to include a Works Cited page that lists all the sources you have cited in your paper. Each entry should include the author’s name, the title of the source, the publication information, and the medium of publication. The entries should be listed in alphabetical order.
- Use the correct citation format: Depending on the type of source you are citing, there may be different rules for formatting the citation. For example, if you are citing a book, the citation format will be different than if you are citing a website or a journal article.
Here are some examples of MLA citations:
Book: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.
Example: Smith, John. The Art of Writing. Penguin Press, 2018.
Journal article: Last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, vol. number, issue number, Publication date, page numbers.
Example: Brown, Sarah. “The Effects of Social Media on Teenagers.” Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 25, no. 2, 2019, pp. 45-62.
Website: Last name, First name. “Title of Webpage.” Name of Website, Publisher, Publication date, URL.
Example: Johnson, David. “10 Tips for Writing a Great Essay.” Essay Writing Tips, Essay Writing Company, 2019, www.essaywritingtips.com/tips-for-writing-a-great-essay.
- Use a citation generator: If you are having difficulty creating MLA citations, you can use a citation generator tool like Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator. This tool will generate accurate MLA citations for you based on the information you provide.
Tables and Figures
In academic papers, tables and figures (referred to as “illustrations”) can help present information clearly and concisely. The MLA provides specific guidelines for presenting tables and figures in a paper.
- Label and number the table: A table should have a descriptive title and a number (e.g., Table 1, Table 2, etc.). The label and number should be bold and appear above the table on separate lines.
- Include a caption: A caption should provide information about the source of the table. If the table is your own work, you don’t need to include a caption.
- Indent explanatory notes: Any notes about the table should be marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note should be indented.
- Use title case: The title of the table should use title case capitalization, but not the caption or notes.
Example of an MLA table:
Table 1. Percentage of Students Who Prefer Different Subjects
Source: Survey conducted by the author, 2022.
- Label and number the figure: A figure should have a descriptive title and a number (e.g., Fig. 1, Fig. 2, etc.). The label and number should appear below the figure on a separate line, and “Fig.” should be abbreviated from “Figure”.
- Include a caption: A caption should provide basic descriptive or full source information about the image. Captions should also be centered.
- Use title case: The title of the figure should use title case capitalization.
Example of an MLA figure:
Fig. 1. A Sketch of Premilinary Results Analysis.