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Easy Guide To Help You Write MLA Format Paper

Easy Guide To Help You Write MLA Format Paper

Working on a research papers that need to be written in MLA format?

Wondering what MLA format is?

Want to know what the simple steps for writing in MLA format are?

1. What is MLA Format?

There is really no mystery to MLA citation formatting. The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization dedicated to the study of English language and literature, and to provide guidelines for formatting the paper to present research findings in a consistent, organized format familiar to academic readers. Those MLA guidelines are the basis for MLA citation format.

MLA format guides writers in the use of consistent research citations within the body of the essay text and within lists of citations found at the end of research papers. The whole purpose is simply to make it easy for readers to find and review those supporting documents quoted, referenced, and cited as source material within a text. Under the MLA paper format, writers use a specific system to use parenthetical citation to provide references in their Work Cited pages, research papers and essays.

2. The Value of MLA Style

A research paper or essay composed in MLA style establishes the writer's credibility through the use of academic sources within the writer's text and as an appendix page titled Works Cited.

When you write an essay or research paper using MLA style, your underlying sources are given credit as "citations." When those citations are written in specific MLA citation format, their credibility is apparent because the works cited list is easily referenced. Accurate citations are key to preventing allegations of plagiarism.

When writing in MLA style, it's helpful to refer to the MLA Handbook (8th edition). Since there are varying levels of expectation for research papers, 8th ed comes in handy. If you're a graduate student or publishing your work, you must also go through the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition).

3. What’s the Purpose of the MLA Format?

MLA format/style is used by scholars, researchers, and students working in Liberal Arts as a uniform method of formatting papers and other assignments. This ensures that your paper is uniform and is written in a readable style.

But what is MLA format used for? Two things: for consistency and protection against claims of plagiarism. Proper MLA citation formatting allows you to use the work of other researchers and writers because you're giving them documented credit for their work and not falsely claiming it as your own.

Other academic citation formatting styles include APA, Oxford and Chicago; but MLA is recognized as the simplest to use and is highly effective when properly used.

Although there are many MLA format generator and MLA format citation generators available. You just need to enter a title, web address, ISBN number and other related information into the MLA format template to automate the whole process for you.

But if you are a student, then it is a good practice to know the basic guidelines of the MLA citation model.

4. How to Write Your Paper in MLA Paper Format

Are you wondering how to write a paper in MLA format?

There are several essential guidelines to follow when writing MLA format paper which include:

  • Paper choice for your MLA format paper
  • MLA Format Heading
  • MLA Running Head
  • MLA Format Margins
  • MLA Format Quotes
  • MLA Footnote Format
  • MLA Double Space
  • MLA Format Font
  • MLA Punctuation
  • MLA Abbreviations
  • MLA List Format

Make sure to look into the source type you use and always make sure to use the hanging indent in the subsequent line of the source.

5. Paper Choice for your MLA Format Paper

Today, most of the documents are submitted electronically or via email. That makes choice of paper bond moot, but if you're required to submit your paper in hard copy, make sure that the paper choice for your MLA format paper is the right one.

If you are going to print your MLA format research paper, use a plain white paper. Don't go for any other color like ash, ivory or off-white.

The recommended paper size for the MLA research paper format is 8 ½-by-11-inch. If you decide to go for a paper of a different size, seek the permission of your instructor before doing so.

6. MLA Format Heading

There are 2 options you can follow for the MLA format heading

  1. Write your heading on the top of your first page.
  2. Create a title page for the front of your paper.

A better explanation is given below:

6.1 MLA Title Page Format

For a MLA style paper, when inserting a heading on your first page, be sure to:

  1. Type your full name. one inch from the top and one inch from the left margin.
  2. Add double space under your name.
  3. Insert your professor's name.
  4. Add double space below your professor's name.
  5. Insert the name of your course, class or section.
  6. Add another double space.
  7. Insert the assignment's due date.
  8. Add another double space
  9. Insert the title of your assignment, centered on the page. Use standard text font without italics or bold or quotation marks. Use title case for writing it.
  10. Only include italics if your title includes the title of another source.
  11. Write all of them in separate lines.

6.2 MLA Heading Format

The standard MLA header format requires the following method to be followed.

Your full name

Professor’s name


Assignment’s Due Date


6.3 Works Cited MLA Format Page

Generally, the MLA work cited page is found at the end of the paper. It includes all the list of the citation sources used for that research paper. Follow the directions to format the Works cited list to match the guidelines of MLA.

  1. It has its own separate page at the end of the research paper.
  2. Running head will going to be the same as the rest of the paper.
  3. Name the page “Works Cited”
  4. The title of the page is placed one inch from the top and centered in the middle of the paper.
  5. Double space the document

7. MLA Running Head

A running head is placed on the top right corner of the page indicating writer's last name, followed by a space and page number.

The MLA running head appears half an inch below the top margin and one inch from the right edge of the page.

  • Type your last name before the page number.
  • Don't add p. before writing the page number.

There is no page number on the first page unless specifically required by the assignment. Make sure to keep these pointers in your head when formatting your paper. A single glitch in the spacing can ruin the whole paper.

MLA Format Header

MLA format header

8. MLA Format Margins

Use a one-inch margin around the entire page. No content other than the running head should appear outside the one-inch margin. Don't forget that the paragraphs should also be double spaced.

It is not possible to manually check and calculate one inch. Set your page setting of your microsoft word document according to your requirement for MLA format margins. However, margin tool can be used for maximum accuracy.

Your paragraphs should start one and a half inch from the left margin. Don't forget that the paragraphs should also be double spaced. This is the standard spacing that needs to be present in the rest of the paper and is universally accepted.

MLA Format Margins

MLA format margins

9. MLA Format Quotes

When you are quoting someone else's saying, you need to give them credit for it. There are different ways for MLA format quotes and how to quote or paraphrase in the body paragraph.

You can use the name of the person in the sentence while writing his quotation.

You can write the name in brackets at the end of the sentence.

You can use quotations to strengthen your argument or prove your point but keep the usage of outside sources to the minimum extent. They should not occupy the majority of your page as that might effect and cause the format to change.

10. MLA Footnote Format

A similar format is used when adding foot-noted citations to your papers. Footnotes are best used when:

  • There are multiple sources or authors you need to refer to. A properly-formatted footnote on a page helps readers to stay focused on your written content rather than getting distracted by the reference information.
  • You are using information that does not fit logically or cleanly within the context of your writing, but will be beneficial for the readers.

It is important to note that whether you choose to include footnotes or in-text citations you need to also include a complete reference on the MLA format works cited page.

How to indicate footnoted material without interrupting the flow

  • Use a superscript number that is in smaller font than your text and is slightly elevated above the line of text. Add the superscript number that refers to the footnotes at the end of the sentence. It is better to add the superscript number after a punctuation mark or at the end of the sentence to avoid distraction for the readers.

11. MLA Format Font

You can use any font you like when you are writing a MLA format paper that is easy to read. The two most commonly used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman. Decorative, flamboyant, or distracting fonts should be avoided.

Make sure that the readers can distinguish between your regular font and the italicized version of it. An appropriate MLA format font. Is one with a visible difference between the two.

The recommended font size is the default size 12. You can also use other font sizes such as 11 or even 11.5 when you're faced with space considerations.

12. MLA Punctuation

Standard American English grammatical punctuation is to be used in any MLA format paper.

Use proper commas and punctuation marks where needed. Use a comma if the reader needs to pause for a moment while reading.

A single space is used following a period, not two.

When citing a source, use a period at the end of the entire sentence as in this MLA punctuation example:

"Have more than you show, speak less than you know" (Shakespeare).

Not the placement of the period at the end of the entire sentence.

13. MLA Abbreviations

Avoid abbreviations when there is any risk of confusion confusion. There are several specific rules governing the use of abbreviations in MLA formatting.

If the abbreviation has all capital letters, do not use a period between them.

As an example,

United States will be US, not U.S
United Kingdom will be UK, not U.K
Sexually Transmitted Disease will be STD, not S.T.D

If the abbreviation is in lower case, a period between letters is appropriate.
As an example,
i.e. stands for id est, that means, "that is"

When indicating the names of months, use the abbreviation for months longer than 4 letters, i.e.:

June = June
September = Sept

14. Writing Lists in MLA Format

The use of lists is acceptable within these guidelines:

Items are listed horizontally as opposed to the regular vertical list, i.e.:

Shakespeare has written a lot of classics that are: Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale.

Use a colon between the first part of the sentence and the list. If the list is a part of a sentence, don't use a colon before the first item of the list.

15. MLA Format Rules...Summarized

Follow these basis MLA formatting rules:

  • Make sure there is a margin of 1 inch from the top, bottom and the sides.
  • The paragraph should start 1 and a half inch from the left margin.
  • Use any type of font but make sure there is a visible difference between the regular and italicized font.
  • Recommended font size is 12.
  • Double space all text.
  • Use a proper MLA format header throughout.

Because future academic researchers who may use your paper as their source material, using the proper MLA format is expected. So, make sure that you follow the needed guidelines to ensure maximum accuracy.

16. MLA Format Citation Guidelines

Wondering how to cite in mla format? But before that, what, exactly, is a citation?

Citations are how you inform the reader that a certain piece of text, a quotation, or other content written previously is to be credited to the author of that content. Whether published or unpublished, any expression of thought, analysis, or findings documented by others requires giving due credit.

Differentiating between APA and MLA is difficult at times as the format is quite similar. If you are wondering how MLA format is different from APA and getting confused, have a look at our blog APA vs MLA format for clarity between the two formats.

17. MLA Citation Format

There are specific guidelines to be followed when reporting the use of work by others.

MLA Format Works Cited

Following are the core elements of MLA Citation Formatting.

  • Name of Author
  • Title of the Source and Container
  • Other contributors
  • Version
  • Number
  • Publisher
  • Publication Date
  • Location of the source

17.1 Name of Author

Author's name is the first thing that is included in the citation.

If there is one author, write the last name of the author first, followed by a comma and the first name.


Shakespeare, William.

Where there are two authors, record their names in the same order as it is shown on the source. Write the name of the first author is reverse order, followed by a comma and the word "and" followed by the name of the second author in the standard way.


Shakespeare, William, and Harper Lee.

If there are more than two authors, then use the name of the first listed author in reverse order. Add a comma afterward and then add the Latin phrase "et al."


Shakespeare, William, et al.

Authors with the same last name? In MLA essay format, use the first initials of the author you are referencing.


(J. Morgan 759)

17.2 Title of the Source and Container

If you are citing a book or a motion picture, indicate the name of the title in italics.


Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.

If you are citing an article from the journal or one chapter from the book, indicate the title of the piece in the quotation form, followed by a period. Write down the name of the full source in italics after the title of the piece and then add a comma.

The second portion is called a container that contains other sources.


Aku, Hanjat. "I'm Drifting." An Anthology of Modern Indonesian Poetry,

17.3 Other Contributors

If there are other individuals that play a significant role in your research, you can also include them in the citation. You can add the names of as many contributors as you want.

Start this part of the citation with the word "by". If the names are written after a period, capitalize the first alphabet. If they are written after a comma, use small characters.


Aku, Hanjat. "I'm Drifting." An Anthology of Modern Indonesian Poetry, edited by Jane Doe,

17.4 Version

There can be different versions of sources. If a source is different from other versions, then include that information in the citation as well.


Bernard, Alison, and Amanda Hale. The Nightmare of Wolf Street. 2nd ed., Pearson, 2010.

17.5 Number

If there is a number related to the source which is not the publication date or version, then it should be included in the citation, noting volume and issue numbers. Use the abbreviation vol. for volume and no. for number.


Alina, Beatrice, and Keats M. Richard. "Fate of Earth in Next Ten Years: The Dying World," vol. 3, no. 1, 3 March. 2010, pp. 85-90.

17.6 Publisher

The publisher of source material is cited before the date of publication. The publisher for the website is the same as the name of the website.


Aku, Hanjat. "I'm Drifting." An Anthology of Modern Indonesian Poetry, edited by Jane Doe, State University of New York Albany,

17.7 Publication Date

Write the date of publication at the end of the text citation. Display the entire information of the source including date, month and year.


Aku, Hanjat. "I'm Drifting." An Anthology of Modern Indonesian Poetry, edited by Jane Doe, State University of New York Albany, 1964.

17.8 Location

Location is the URL or the page number where the source is found. When citing a website source, include the URL, deleting http://www. notation.

Use the abbreviation p. to cite your source page numbers and pp. for a range of pages.

18. MLA Format Essay

Here are two sample papers demonstrating proper MLA formatting:

MLA Format Example (PDF)

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MLA Format

Sample paper (PDF)

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MLA Sample paper

18.1 What’s the Difference between a Citation Page and Bibliography?

Works Cited pages and bibliographies are often mistaken for the same thing. There are, however, minor but significant differences:

On a "Works Cited" page, only those reference sources and research materials actually used in writing your paper and indicated within the body of your text are included.

In the MLA bibliography format, you should list every item you have consulted in your research work, whether you have cited the work in the body of your written text or not. Give this article a read to know more about writing an annotated bibliography.

Citation pages follow your written text. The "works cited" page is commonly titled "References." Both are the same thing as they comprise the specific title, author, edition, date, and page number references. Citation pages are used when references are given using the specific format like MLA format.

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