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Citation Guides: Basic MLA

Formatting papers using APA or MLA styles

General Citation Guidelines

The alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of your paper contains more information about all of the sources you've cited allowing readers to refer to them, as needed. The main characteristics are:

  • The list of Works Cited must be on a new page at the end of your text
  • Entries are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name or by the title if there is no author
  • Titles are italicized (not underlined) and all important words should be capitalized
  • Entries are double-spaced (for the purposes of this page, single-spacing is used)
  • Each entry must include the publication medium. Examples include: Print, Web, DVD, and Television

What is MLA?

The MLA (Modern Language Association) format is the writing and documentation system used primariy in the Arts and Humanities. As with any referencing system, it is important to remember that this is an entire system of organizing the practical elements of your paper. That means there are specific ways to number your pages, create your title page, and establish headings, in addition to citing material from other authors. Always check with your professor to find out how closely he/she wants you to follow these guidelines.

MLA Paper Format

Paper Format

The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA style is covered in chapter four of the MLA Handbook, and chapter four of the MLA Style Manual. Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style.

General Guidelines

  • Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are recognizable one from another. The font size should be 12 pt.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor).
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the Tab key as opposed to pushing the Space Bar five times.
  • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
  • Use italics throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis.
  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
  • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
  • Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
  • Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
  • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)