MLA Formatting and Style Guide, Eight Edition

MLA style is not only about how to cite sources; it is also about how to format your paper, label images and other visual components of your paper or project, and how to use language appropriately. 

Formatting Your Paper

If your instructor requires MLA formatting for your paper—or if your instructor does not specify what format you should follow—you may want to follow the guidelines presented here. 

Select a readable font such as Times New Roman, and an easily legible font size (usually 10- to 12-point font). 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. For the body of the paper, set all margins at 1” and double-space throughout.

Next, on separate lines, type your name, your professor’s name, the course identification, and the date. On the next line, centered on the page, type the title of your paper, capitalizing the first word and all major words in the title. Do not underline or italicize the title. 

On the next page, begin by indenting the first paragraph (and all subsequent paragraphs) .5” and type the body of your paper.

Citing Sources: Step by Step

Step One: Identify the required information for citation.

Remember that the purpose of a citation is two-fold: first, to allow your reader to access your source(s) if they so desire, and second, to help your reader determine the source’s credibility. Identify as much information as you can about a source in your notes. What isn’t necessary for the Works Cited entry may be useful in helping your reader understand your use of a source in the body of your paper or project.

Step Two: Take good notes. 

Remember, that you must acknowledge the source of all ideas, information, and words (including summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations) both in the body of your paper as well as in your list of Works Cited. In order to do this effectively, your notes need to be clear where your information is from as well as when you are including direct quotations (even of only a few words) designate by quotation marks and when your notes are in your own words. 

Step Three: Format required information for citation

Once you have collected the information needed for citation and taken notes, organize the components of the citation according to the guidelines listed in a later section. Each citation style has its own rules, and MLA is no exception.

In-text citations are keyed to entries in Works Cited list.

The in-text citations point your reader toward the full citations in the Works Cited page and are integral to your writing process. Depending on your rhetorical purpose in using information from other sources, you may choose to do one of the following:

  • Name the source in the body of the text when it lends greater authority to your use of the words or information from other sources, or
  • Provide parenthetic notations in the text when the source has already been named and/or when your argument doesn’t rely on the source for credibility (for example, when used to provide historical or background information).


Whenever you write something in your draft that draws from the work of others, whether ideas, information, or quotations, include the in-text or parenthetic reference and immediately craft the entry in your Works Cited list. You can always add to or remove entries if you later decide not to use them, but this way you can ensure that you don’t accidentally omit important references or forget the origins of your citations.

Standard in-text citation format—parenthetic 

“Quotation” (Author’s Last Name Page Number).


“Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it” (Gaskell 100).

Note that the end punctuation appears outside the closing parenthesis. 

Standard in-text citation format—in the body of the text

Author’s name [says] “quotation” (Page Number).


Elizabeth Gaskell’s narrator makes it clear that “Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it” (100).

The same rules apply for paraphrased information as well:

It is clear that Margaret doesn’t speak of her home once she is in Milton (Gaskell 100).

Elizabeth Gaskell’s narrator makes it clear that her protagonist does not speak of her home once she is in Milton (100).

Regardless of whether the author’s name is in the body of the text or in a parenthetic note, it links to the entry in the list of Works Cited, which will begin with the author’s last name:

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Oxford UP, 1973.

Formatting the list of Works Cited.

Whenever you incorporate outside sources into your own writing, you must provide both in-text citations (within the body of the paper) and full citations in the Works Cited page. The in-text citations point your reader toward the full citations in the Works Cited page.

Begin your list of Works Cited immediately following the end of your paper, on a separate page, continuing the sequential page numbering and double-spacing. 

Use the automatic hanging-indent feature of your word processor to indent the second and subsequent lines of each entry. Do NOT use the tab key or space bar.

Entries should be alphabetized by the first letter of the author’s last name, or, if no author is listed, by the first letter of the first major word of the title (ignore words beginning a title such as “A” or “The”).

Basic template for entries in a Works Cited list.

1Author.List author’s name, last name first, followed by a period.
2Title of source.Capitalize the first word and any major words in the title; enclose titles of articles in quotation marks and titles of larger works such as books, journals, or newspapers in italics.
3Title of container,If the source you are citing is contained or included in a larger work, such as a journal or edited collection, provide the name of the container here, followed by a comma.
4Other contributors,List the names of other contributors, such as translators or editors, if appropriate, followed by a comma.
5Version,For example, the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook is the version we are following here. For journals or magazines, you may instead have a volume number. Follow this with a comma.
6Number,Issue numbers are preceded by the abbreviation “no.” and followed by a comma.
7Publisher,You can usually find the publisher of a book on the title or copyright page. You do not need to include a publisher’s name for periodicals. Follow the publisher’s name with a comma.
8Publication date,Provide the year of publication for books; for periodal publications, give the month and year, or day-month-year, if applicable. Follow the publication date with a comma if you have location information. 
9Location.For most publications, the location indicates the page number or numbers of the article and is preceded by the abbreviation “p.” for a single page or “pp.” for two or more pages. For online pubications, the location is commonly designated by the URL or Web address, or the DOI (Digital Object Identifier), if available. Conclude the entry with a period.
10Repeat 3-9 if applicable.For an article in a journal accessed through an online database, list the title of the database as the container and whatever other information is available.

Skip any information that is not available or applicable. For example, a book in print will not have a container, and a journal will usually not require information about a publisher. Do include other pertinent information, such as the name of a translator, for instance, if available, in the order in which it is listed above. 

Following are models for some common types of sources you may be citing. For more information, MLA offers a handy template you can download. [LINK]

Single-Authored Book

Author. Title of source. Publisher, Publication date.


Agnew, Eleanor. Back from the Land: How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s, and Why They Came Back. Ivan R. Dee, 2004.

Book with Multiple Authors or Editors

Author.* Title of source.** Publisher, Publication date.

*First author’s name is listed last name first, followed by a comma, the word “and,” and the second author’s name in first name first order.

**The title of a book is in italicized text; however, the title of a movie or book which would usually be italicized, when include in the full title, is in Roman text.


Sabherhagen, Fred, and James V. Hart. Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Francis Ford Coppola Film. Signet, 1992.

Article or Chapter in an Edited Collection

Author. “Title of Source.”* Title of container, Other contributors,** Version, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

*Titles of articles are enclosed in quotation marks.

**Include information about contribution (for example, “edited by”).


Schwartz, Nathan. “Information Literacy Instruction and Citation Generators: The Provision of Citation and Plagiarism Instruction.” Teaching Information Literacy and Writing Studies, edited by Grace Veach, vol. 2, Purdue UP, 2019, pp. 241-54.

Article in a Print Journal

Author. “Title of source.” Title of container, Version, Number, Publication date, location.


Rogers, Pat. “Crusoe’s Home.” Essays in Criticism, vol. 24, no. 4, Oct. 1974, pp. 375-90.

Journal Article Accessed Using an Electronic Database

Author. “Title of source.” Title of container, Version, Number, Publication date, location. Title of container, location.


Jordan, Joseph P. “The Man with Two Faces: Stuttering Characters and Surprise.” Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 50, no. 4, Aug. 2017, pp. 855-70. Academic Search Complete, doi: 10.1111/jpcu.12576.

Article Accessed from an Online Journal

Author. “Title of source.” Title of container, Version, Number, Publication date, location.


Jamieson, Sandra, and Rebecca Moore Howard. “Rethinking the Relationship between Plagiarism and Academic Integrity.” International Journal of Technologies in Higher Education, vol. 16, no. 2, 2019,

Article from a Webpage

Author.* “Title of source.” Title of container, Publication date, location.

*Web sites may list an organizational or corporate author. If no author is listed, begin with the source title.


The Wizarding World Team. “New Harry Potter Mobile Puzzle Game in Development.” Wizarding World, 9 Dec. 2019,

Entire Web Site

Title of source. Publication date, location.


Wizarding World. 2019,