What is MLA Format?

MLA Format refers to the formatting guidelines published by the MLA (Modern Language Association) for writers of research papers (see MLA Handbook, 9th Edition).

Related Concepts: Annotated Bibliography; Intellectual Property; Page Design; Plagiarism


MLA Font

Select a readable font such as Times New Roman, and an easily legible font size (usually 10- to 12-point font).

MLA Page Layout

For the entire paper, set all margins at 1” and double-space throughout.

Each new paragraph should be indented. There should be no extra spaces anywhere, from the first line of your heading, all the way to the last line of your text.

MLA First Page

Course Information

On separate lines, type

  • Your first and last name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The course title
  • Day month year.

Items in the heading should be double-spaced, in the same 12-point font as the rest of the paper.

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MLA Page Header

Using the automatic header feature of your word processor, set a running head .5” from the top of the page with your last name and the automatic page number feature.

Each page of your MLA formatted paper, including page one, should have a header in the upper right margin. The header should include your first name followed by the page number:

Smith 1

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MLA Title

The title should be centered, just below your heading without any additional spaces. It should be in the same 12-point font as the rest of your paper.Graphical user interface, text, application, email

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MLA Block Quotations

If you are quoting a selection that is longer than 3 typed lines, MLA requires that you block the quotation. This means introducing the quote as you normally do, but starting the quote on a new line. The entire quote will still be double spaced, but also indented.

Note that block quotations do not have quotation marks around them and that the citation comes after the punctuation.

MLA Headings and Subheadings

Section headings and subheadings are styled according to prominence, and the MLA designates 5 levels:

Level 1bold, left aligned
Level 2italicized, left aligned
Level 3bold, centered
Level 4italicized, centered
Level 5underlined, left aligned

Here is what a heading looks like in the text of a paper:

MLA Works Cited

The header will continue on to the works cited page in the upper right corner. The title (Works Cited) should be centered at the top of the page. Your bibliographic entries should be alphabetized according to the first item in each entry, double-spaced, with a hanging indentation. There are no extra spaces between entries. 

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MLA Annotated Bibliography

The formatting of an annotated bibliography will be similar to a works cited page. The bibliographic entries will be identical, but annotations will be added. Start the annotation on a new line, and indent again. The entire annotation should be indented.

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Note: If the annotated bibliography is a stand alone assignment, you should begin with a header, title, and heading, just as you would for an essay.

MLA Footnotes – MLA Endnotes

There are two types of information that can be included in footnotes and endnotes:

  1. content notes, which may appear
    1. at the bottom of the page
    2. at the end of the document, as an endnote.
  2. citations

MLA footnotes and MLA Endnotes MLA discourages the use of footnotes and endnotes for lengthy asides, but does have rules in the event that these notes are needed.

To format a footnote or endnote, add a superscript number following the sentence that requires either explanation or citation. Most word-processing programs will automatically create a corresponding place for an entry at the foot of the page or the end of the document. You only need to place your cursor where you want to superscript number to go, click on “insert,” and then select footnote or endnote.

Footnotes themselves will be single-spaced with an extra space between entries.

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MLA Format Example

The following is a full essay in MLA format:

MLA Checklist

General Formatting

1. Is the heading in the upper left-hand corner of the first page? 

2. Does the heading include:

  • Your name?
  • Your Instructor’s name?
  • The course name?
  • The date?

3. Does the paper have an original title (other than something like “Final Paper”)? Is the title presented without being bolded, italicized, or placed in quotation marks?

4. Does the paper have 1″ margins on all sides?

5. Is the paper written in Times New Roman (or another standard font your professor allows) and in 12-pt. font?

6. Is everything double-spaced (including any notes and the works cited page)?

7. Are your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page (0.5″ from the top, or inserted using the “header” function in Word)?

Formatting Evidence

8. Are all direct quotes in quotation marks?

9. Does all paraphrase and summary clearly indicate that it comes from other sources?

10. Does each in-text reference include a parenthetical citation that includes the author’s last name (unless it is obvious from the context of the sentence who you are referencing) and the page number from which the information was taken?

11. If a quotation is 4 lines or more, is it block-quoted? (i.e. double-spaced, indented 1 inch from the left margin)

12. Have you clearly indicated where you found all information you did not previously know?

Formatting the Works Cited

13. If you’ve used outside sources, do you have a works cited page?

14. Is it titled “Works Cited” (without the quotation marks)?

15. Does it have a header?

16. Are the entries in your list of works cited in alphabetical order?

17. Are the entries double-spaced, with no extra spaces in between entries?

18. Does each entry include a hanging indentation?

19. Does each source have an entry on the works cited page?

MLA Template

The following is an MLA template for Microsoft Word. Feel free to use it to ensure that you’re properly formatting your papers.