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MLA Guide

Introduction to MLA format

It is not difficult to format a paper in MLA style. Like any paper format, it simply requires knowledge of the style that you are using and some attention to detail. This guide will help you get things right. It will show you how to properly format your paper so that you can focus the majority of your effort on the content of your writing.

Formatting the Heading

MLA style does not require a cover page. All identifying information appears on the first page of the document. The screenshot below provides an example of a properly-formatted first page.


Heading and header: Note that the writer's name and the three lines that follow fall within the one-inch margins of the document. This identifying information should not be placed in a header; instead, it begins at the cursor's default position, where one usually begins writing when a new document is opened. Conversely, the writer's last name and page number fall outside of the document's top margin and should be inserted as a running header. The header should be right-aligned.

Paper Title: The title of a paper should be catchy, but it will appear unremarkable on the page. It will employ the same font as the rest of the text and bear no typographical emphasis (e.g. bold, italic, underline). Do not place your title in quotes. Exceptions may occur when a paper title includes a quote (as in the example above) or a title of another work. There are no extra spaces before or after a title.

Typography: Select an easily readable font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, and set it to a standard size, usually between 11 and 13 points, unless your instructor specifies a different size. Left-align the text, leaving right ragged, and maintain double-spacing throughout the entire document.

Formatting the Body

After the margins, line spacing, font, and header are properly set on the first page, there is very little additional or special formatting that must be done throughout the body of the paper.

Page numbers: Do not precede page numbers, whether in quotes or a running head, with "p." or "pp."

Sentence spacing: MLA recommends one space after periods and other terminal punctuation; nevertheless, some instructors prefer two spaces. Follow your instructor's guidelines.

Quotations: When a quote would otherwise run longer than four lines in the body of a paper, it should be formatted as a freestanding block of text. The left margin of a block quotation is a half an inch greater than the established margins of the paper. In other words, when the margins of a paper are one inch, the total left margin of a block quote is one and a half inches. When a quote is blocked, quotation marks are no longer necessary, as the block itself signifies a quotation. Do not indent the first line of a block quotation an additional half an inch, not even when the first line of the original text (that which is being quoted) is indented; the first line should be left-aligned with the rest of the block. Note that punctuation precedes parenthetical documentation in a block quote.

Formatting the Works Cited Page

A works cited page is never optional when sources are used. It is part of a paper. Every source that is used in a paper--every parenthetical citation--must have a corresponding entry on the works cited page.


Page title: A works cited page is not a separate document; however, it does have a separate title. The title is always "Works Cited" (without quotation marks) and should be centered at the top of the page. No additional spaces are placed before or after the title; maintain strict double-spacing.

Hanging indent: All entries use hanging indents. The first line of each entry will rest against the left margin; subsequent lines are indented half an inch. This allows readers to easily distinguish one entry from another. Most word processors have a hanging indent option. Learn to use that option by clicking the link for your word processor of choice: Google DocsMicrosoft Word.

Entry order: MLA style requires reference entries be ordered alphabetically.

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