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MLA Paper Format: Perfect Writing Guide for Students

MLA Paper Format
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MLA paper format is an academic referencing style that is applied in academic writing in the humanities, such as English, literature, and language studies. MLA abbreviation stands for Modern Language Association of America. It is a professional organization that has been defining the academic rules of editing and citation for more than a century now.

MLA Style Manual is an official guide that has been published by the association since 1977. Currently, the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook serves as a universal formatting standard for a great number of academic works.

In the present blog, we will provide you with a clear and comprehensive guide on MLA formatting. Our guidelines include format standards for heading, tables, illustrations, and much more. Follow these easy guidelines for smooth and correct academic formatting!

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MLA Format Paper Guidelines

General MLA guidelines define the rules of formatting for the main body of your work. The current standards are defined by the latest MLA Style guide that was released in 2016. Here are some of the major provisions you need to take into account:

  • Use 8 ½ x 11” paper size and only white paper.
  • Make all margins 1 inch long.
  • Indent the paragraph introductory word ½ inch.
  • Make sure that set-off quotations are indented 1 inch from the left margin.
  • When picking the right font, make sure that the italic version looks different from the regular one.
  • Stick to the 12 pt font, only Times New Roman is acceptable.
  • Use double spaces in your text, even on the works cited page.
  • Apply one-space intervals only after periods and punctuation marks.

Note that some of the rules may be slightly altered in specific cases. Make sure that you understand all the formatting rules before getting started.

MLA Format Title Page

There are no strict rules considering the MLA format cover page formatting and style. However, there may be some local rules that are required by a certain university or academic institution. In most cases, MLA title page is composed according to the following rules:

  • The name of the university is aligned to the top and centered.
  • The title and subtitle of the work is aligned to the center of the page.
  • Name of the writer, instructor, name, and number of the course and date are aligned at the bottom of the page.
  • The title page font has to be the same as the text font.
  • If the name of your work features book names, highlight them with italics.
  • Only double-spaced intervals are to be used on the cover page.

Note, sometimes the title page may be unnecessary at all. It depends on local rules and the instructor's personal preferences.

Example of MLA format title page

MLA Format Heading and Title

When you are creating an MLA pape heading, you should stick to several simple rules. Here are the things you should Include in the upper left corner:

  • Your name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • Course
  • Due date

Now that your heading is ready, double space and insert a title. Here are the rules you should keep in mind when working on the MLA paper title:

  • Make sure your title is centered.
  • Use the regular title case — only the first letters are capitalized.
  • Do not use italics, underlining, or any special symbols.
  • Use an italic font and quotation marks in case you are citing names of other works.
  • Make a double-space interval between the title and the text.

In any case, it will also be good to ask an instructor if there are some additional rules of formatting.

Example of MLA format heading and title.png

Other Requirements to MLA Format Paper

Also, a writer needs to consider a number of sub-requirements designed for minor formatting elements. Those requirements include rules designed for sub-headings, tables, numeration, etc. Such standards are obligatory for writers, so it will be helpful to go an extra mile learning them as well.

MLA Header

MLA header format requires at least 2 elements included on every page — number and author’s name. The name is aligned to the right, ½ inch below the top of the page. It has to be included on every page, including the first page. At the same time, the text has to be aligned to the right. Do not use italics or any other excessive formatting unless it is required so by the instructor.

MLA Section Headings and Subheadings

MLA section headings and subheadings are mainly used by writers to add readability to the paper. You can use bold or italicize your headings if you want to make them stand out. It is acceptable to use numerals with headings. You can use either regular or fractional numerals in the paper. However, you can leave your subheadings unnumbered as well. If you are using one of those structural elements, make sure that you use the same formatting all along with the text.

Example of MLA format headings and subheadings.png

MLA Numbers

It is not hard to learn how to write numbers in MLA paper format. According to the 8th edition, rules allow both Roman and Arabic numerals. Also, you are allowed to write numerals in words. However, some instructors may have their own preferences. So it is always better to double-check before writing.

MLA Tables and Figures

There are several important rules for formatting tables in MLA you need to know. Firstly, all tables and illustrations should be placed as close to the relevant text as it is technically possible. Most tables feature a number and a descriptive caption. Both titles are capitalized, the number of the tables is indicated first, and the caption comes above. The sources related to the table are written in lowercase letters under the table. 

If you need to include illustrations of any other visuals, they are labeled as “Figure” or “Fig”. Any illustrations have to be numbered. The illustration and figures have to be placed in a consecutive order according to the numeration.

MLA Format Works Cited Page

And finally, we will learn how to make a Works Cited page in an MLA paper. There are just several principal rules to keep in mind:

  • The list with citations is located at the very end of the manuscript.
  • At the top of the citation page a running head and a page number are a must.
  • The cited titles have to be put in the alphabetical order.
  • Double-spaces are applied all along with the page.

Still, it is always a good idea to ask the instructor if some specific rules had been established.

We hope that this compendious and straight-to-business format guide was helpful. If you have any questions, you can also double-check the latest style guide online.


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Frequently Asked Questions About MLA Paper Format

1. What font size is used in MLA format?

In MLA works you have to stick to the 12 pt font size. This size is recognized as general and can not be altered at your own discretion.

2. What MLA Handbook edition is the latest?

The latest MLA Handbook is the 8th edition. It was released back in 2016.

3. How to do in-text citations in MLA Style work?

In-text citations in MLA format are highlighted with quotation marks. Depending on the quotation type and purpose, it can be either included in the text or formatted as a separate piece of text.

Article posted on:Jun 21, 2022
Article updated on:Apr 22, 2024


Leave your comment here:
8/22/2022 9:03 AM
Hi! I almost finished writing my paper. MLA format was required. With the help of your article it was easy, thank you. But I have one thing I left unfinished. I have to cite a book in MLA style but don’t know how to do it. Maybe you can tell me the MLA format of the book?
8/22/2022 9:26 AM
Hi Paul,

We are here to help you. Here is the MLA format of a book citation:

Author’s Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Edition, Publisher, Year of publication.

Note that the title should be italicized. If you want to include in-text citation, follow this format:

(Author’s Last Name Page)

So it will look like this in the example: (Roberts 19)

Hope this helps!