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How to Cite Something in MLA Format
MLA formatting refers to the writing style guide produced by the Modern Language Association. If you’re taking a class in the liberal arts, you usually have to follow this format when writing papers. In addition to looking at MLA examples, it helps to know the basics of the style guide.
MLA requires parenthetical citations within the document. This means you must include source information inside parentheses placed after a quotation or paraphrase from a source. Each parenthetical citation must have the page number where you found the information you used. It may also have the author’s or creator’s name. Do not use a comma to separate the name and the date.
The format for in-text citations depends on the format of the source material. For print material like books and journals, you need the author’s name and publication date. If the source has two authors, use and to join them and the term “et al.” if it has more than two authors. You can also reference the authors in the document and include only the page number in parentheses.
Citations for Nonprint Material
If you use nonprint materials as sources, you have to cite them. However, you don’t have to include page numbers with the in-text citations. You do have to include information like the name of the work, the creator’s name and the year of publication on the Works Cited page.
When you complete the Work Cited page, each source requires additional information. For images, you need to include contributors, the reproduction number and URL where you located the image online. Movies must list the director’s name and distributor. A TV series needs the episode title and number, series title, season number and network. Pieces of music should include the title of the track and album and the record label.
Works Cited List
When you use MLA format, you must have a Works Cited page that lists all of the sources you used for the paper. This page goes at the end of the document on a separate page. You list all of the sources in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. Make sure the page is double-spaced and that you follow the specific guidelines for formatting each entry.
If you don’t have access to printed MLA style guides or don’t understand how to format your sources, you can turn to a citation generator. There are several citation generators available online for free or as part of a subscription service. You can also find them in word processing programs.
To use a citation generator, you enter information about each source. The program automatically formats the sources for the works cited page. You can also select the places in the document to add in-text citations.
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MLA Overview and Workshop
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Welcome to the OWL Overview of MLA Style. This page introduces you to the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style for writing and formatting research papers. To get the most out of this page, you should begin with the introductory material below, which covers what is MLA Style, why it is used, and who should apply this style to their work. Then you are invited to browse through the OWL's resources on MLA Formatting and Citations standards, which include how sources appear in-text and in the final reference page.
Note: This page should answer most of your basic questions about using MLA Style. However, if you are writing a complex document such as a thesis or lengthy manuscript, or if you have detailed questions, you should consult the MLA Handbook (9th Edition), which you can usually find at your local library or in many bookstores.
The MLA also has a website called the MLA Style Center that allows you to order the handbook online. The site includes resources for students and teachers as well as answers to frequently asked questions on MLA Style. Additionally, the Purdue OWL has a list of Additional Resources covering MLA Style.
What is MLA Style?
MLA Style establishes standards of written communication concerning:
- formatting and page layout
- applying stylistic technicalities (e.g. abbreviations, footnotes, quotations)
- citing sources
- preparing a manuscript for publication in certain disciplines.
Why Use MLA?
Using MLA Style properly makes it easier for readers to navigate and comprehend a text through familiar cues that refer to sources and borrowed information. Editors and instructors also encourage everyone to use the same format so there is consistency of style within a given field. Abiding by MLA's standards as a writer will allow you to:
- Provide your readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them
- Allow readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar or complicated formatting
- Establish your credibility or ethos in the field by demonstrating an awareness of your audience and their needs as fellow researchers (particularly concerning the citing of references)
Who Should Use MLA?
MLA Style is typically reserved for writers and students preparing manuscripts in various humanities disciplines such as:
- English Studies - Language and Literature
- Foreign Languages and Literatures
- Literary Criticism
- Comparative Literature
- Cultural Studies
MLA Formatting and Notation Style
You should start by becoming familiar with the general formatting requirements of MLA Style, as well as the different standards for notation that MLA writers are expected to use. Because MLA is different than other writing styles, such as APA, you should pay attention to every detail of the Style, from general paper layout to abbreviations. The following pages will introduce you to some of these basic requirements to get you started in the right direction.
- Covers the basic requirements of page layout for a typical MLA manuscript
- Includes general guidelines to apply throughout the document and specific formatting details for the first page of the paper
- Provides an image of the first page of a sample essay written in MLA Style
Footnotes and Endnotes
- Explains the necessity for using both types of notes and how to use them effectively in an MLA paper
- Covers different reasons for why you may use a footnote or endnote to supplement the main body of your paper
- Describes how to number and format the notes to be consistent with MLA guidelines
- Describes how to format quotations borrowed from secondary sources
- Addresses both short quotations worked into the writer's own sentences and long quotations that are blocked off as distinct material
- Explains how to omit or add in words properly to clarify the meaning of a quotation
- Covers MLA standards for abbreviating words commonly used in academic prose
- Describes the different categories of abbreviations: times, locations, academic references, and publishers
- Includes guidelines for abbreviating information in citations on a Works Cited page
MLA Citations and Works Cited Page
As with any publishing style, the most difficult aspects of MLA Style are the requirements for citing secondary sources accurately. The pages included here walk you through the details of incorporating citations into the text of your paper as well as how to compose a Works Cited page of references at the end of your paper. Read these guidelines carefully. It is important that you refer to your sources according to MLA Style so your readers can quickly follow the citations to the reference page and then, from there, locate any sources that might be of interest to them. They will expect this information to be presented in a particular style, and any deviations from that style could result in confusing your readers.
How to Document Sources in MLA Style: An Overview
- Covers the process for developing Works Cited pages and in-text citations using MLA (9th ed.)
- Explains "containers," a concept new to the eighth edition, including how to apply them to develop citations
In-Text Citations: The Basics
- Addresses the MLA Style formatting requirements for citing secondary sources within the text of your essay
- Offers a few basic rules for using parenthetical citations, including when not to use them
- Includes examples of in-text citations
- Explains the author-page formatting of the parenthetical citation and how that applies to different types of sources
- Provides examples of in-text citations based on the kind of source being cited, such as a literary work, an anonymous work, and a work with multiple authors
- Describes how to cite a source indirectly referenced in another source
Works Cited Page: Basic Format
- Guides you through the general rules that apply to any Works Cited page using MLA Style, including where the page appears and how to organize the works
- Walks you through how to construct a reference entry for different types of texts, starting with a focus on authors
- Serves as a primer on formatting that will be expanded in all of the following pages addressing MLA Works Cited entries for different types of sources
- Includes an example Works Cited Page
Works Cited Page: Books
- Builds from the basic format page with a focus on how to create citations for certain commonly referenced book sources
- Includes guidelines and examples for a variety of books depending on the number of authors, whether the work is a piece is a larger work, or the book itself is part of multivolume collection
Works Cited Page: Other Common Sources
- Provides guidelines on how to reference other sources you may encounter during research that are considered books or non-periodical works
- Includes works that you might likely use but that have unusual publication information, such as a government document, pamphlet, or dissertation
Works Cited Page: Periodicals
- Covers the guidelines for developing a citation entry for works found in periodicals (typically articles in circulating publications that have different dates and volume/issue numbers)
- Lists types of entries depending on the kind of journal (e.g. one paginated by volume), if the source is a magazine vs. a newspaper, or the kind of article (e.g. a letter to the editor)
Works Cited Page: Electronic Sources
- Demonstrates the basic requirements and unique qualifications for constructing references for different types of electronic sources
- Covers more standard sources—from online periodicals and scholarly databases—to less conventional sources, like emails and video recordings found online
- Includes OWL suggestions on how to cite blog entries and comments posted to blogs (NOTE: consult your instructor to find out if these are acceptable research sources to use for your assignment)
Works Cited Page: Other Non-Print Sources
- Applies the basic MLA citation rules to non-print sources you may use in your research, such as interviews and images
- Provides directions and examples of how to cite video and sound recordings, as well as three dimensional works like sculptures
Please Note: If you know exactly what you're looking for concerning MLA, you can use the OWL Navigation to the left by looking under "Research and Citation" and clicking on "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." You may also use the search option in the navigation bar to find resources.
Frequently asked questions
Who uses mla style.
MLA Style is the second most used citation style (after APA ). It is mainly used by students and researchers in humanities fields such as literature, languages, and philosophy.
Frequently asked questions: MLA Style
In MLA style , footnotes or endnotes can be used to provide additional information that would interrupt the flow of your text.
This can be further examples or developments of ideas you only briefly discuss in the text. You can also use notes to provide additional sources or explain your citation practice.
You don’t have to use any notes at all; only use them to provide relevant information that complements your arguments or helps the reader to understand them.
No, you should use parenthetical MLA in-text citations to cite sources. Footnotes or endnotes can be used to add extra information that doesn’t fit into your main text, but they’re not needed for citations.
If you need to cite a lot of sources at the same point in the text, though, placing these citations in a note can be a good way to avoid cluttering your text.
According to MLA format guidelines, the Works Cited page(s) should look like this:
- Running head containing your surname and the page number.
- The title, Works Cited, centered and in plain text.
- List of sources alphabetized by the author’s surname.
- 1-inch margins.
- Hanging indent applied to all entries.
The MLA Works Cited lists every source that you cited in your paper. Each entry contains the author , title , and publication details of the source.
No, in an MLA annotated bibliography , you can write short phrases instead of full sentences to keep your annotations concise. You can still choose to use full sentences instead, though.
Use full sentences in your annotations if your instructor requires you to, and always use full sentences in the main text of your paper .
If you’re working on a group project and therefore need to list multiple authors for your paper , MLA recommends against including a normal header . Instead, create a separate title page .
On the title page, list each author on a separate line, followed by the other usual information from the header: Instructor, course name and number, and submission date. Then write the title halfway down the page, centered, and start the text of the paper itself on the next page.
Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:
- Your instructor requires one, or
- Your paper is a group project
In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.
When an online source (e.g. web page , blog post) doesn’t list a publication date , you should instead list an access date .
Unlike a publication date, this appears at the end of your MLA Works Cited entry, after the URL, e.g. “A Complete Guide to MLA Style.” Scribbr , www.scribbr.com/category/mla/. Accessed 28 Mar. 2021 .
For offline sources with no publication date shown, don’t use an access date—just leave out the date.
The level of detail you provide in a publication date in your Works Cited list depends on the type of source and the information available. Generally, follow the lead of the source—if it gives the full date, give the full date; if it gives just the year, so should you.
Books usually list the year, whereas web pages tend to give a full date. For journal articles , give the year, month and year, or season and year, depending on what information is available. Check our citation examples if you’re unsure about a particular source type.
In an MLA Works Cited list , the names of months with five or more letters are abbreviated to the first three letters, followed by a period. For example, abbreviate Feb., Mar., Apr., but not June, July.
In the main text, month names should never be abbreviated.
In your MLA Works Cited list , dates are always written in day-month-year order, with the month abbreviated if it’s five or more letters long, e.g. 5 Mar. 2018.
In the main text, you’re free to use either day-month-year or month-day-year order, as long as you use one or the other consistently. Don’t abbreviate months in the main text, and use numerals for dates, e.g. 5 March 2018 or March 5, 2018.
In most standard dictionaries , no author is given for either the overall dictionary or the individual entries, so no author should be listed in your MLA citations.
Instead, start your Works Cited entry and your MLA in-text citation with the title of the entry you’re citing (i.e. the word that’s being defined), in quotation marks.
If you cite a specialist dictionary that does list an author and/or overall editor, these should be listed in the same way as they would for other citations of books or book chapters .
Some source types, such as books and journal articles , may contain footnotes (or endnotes) with additional information. The following rules apply when citing information from a note in an MLA in-text citation :
- To cite information from a single numbered note, write “n” after the page number, and then write the note number, e.g. (Smith 105n2)
- To cite information from multiple numbered notes, write “nn” and include a range, e.g. (Smith 77nn1–2)
- To cite information from an unnumbered note, write “un” after the page number, with a space in between, e.g. (Jones 250 un)
If you cite multiple Shakespeare plays throughout your paper, the MLA in-text citation begins with an abbreviated version of the title (as shown here ), e.g. ( Oth. 1.2.4). Each play should have its own Works Cited entry (even if they all come from the same collection).
If you cite only one Shakespeare play in your paper, you should include a Works Cited entry for that play, and your in-text citations should start with the author’s name , e.g. (Shakespeare 1.1.4).
No, do not use page numbers in your MLA in-text citations of Shakespeare plays . Instead, specify the act, scene, and line numbers of the quoted material, separated by periods, e.g. (Shakespeare 3.2.20–25).
This makes it easier for the reader to find the relevant passage in any edition of the text.
When an article (e.g. in a newspaper ) appears on non-consecutive pages (e.g. starting on page 1 and continuing on page 6), you should use “pp.” in your Works Cited entry, since it’s on multiple pages, but MLA recommends just listing the first page followed by a plus sign, e.g. pp. 1+.
In an MLA style Works Cited entry for a newspaper , you can cite a local newspaper in the same way as you would a national one, except that you may have to add the name of the city in square brackets to clarify what newspaper you mean, e.g. The Gazette [Montreal].
Do not add the city name in brackets if it’s already part of the newspaper’s name, e.g. Dallas Observer .
MLA doesn’t require you to list an author for a TV show . If your citation doesn’t focus on a particular contributor, just start your Works Cited entry with the title of the episode or series, and use this (shortened if necessary) in your MLA in-text citation .
If you focus on a particular contributor (e.g. the writer or director, a particular actor), you can list them in the author position , along with a label identifying their role.
It’s standard to list the podcast’s host in the author position , accompanied by the label “host,” in an MLA Works Cited entry. It’s sometimes more appropriate to use the label “narrator,” when the podcast just tells a story without any guests.
If your citation of the podcast focuses more on the contribution of someone else (e.g. a guest, the producer), they can be listed in the author position instead, with an appropriate label.
MLA recommends citing the original source wherever possible, rather than the source in which it is quoted or reproduced.
If this isn’t possible, cite the secondary source and use “qtd. in” (quoted in) in your MLA in-text citation . For example: (qtd. in Smith 233)
If a source is reproduced in full within another source (e.g. an image within a PowerPoint or a poem in an article ), give details of the original source first, then include details of the secondary source as a container. For example:
When you want to cite a PowerPoint or lecture notes from a lecture you viewed in person in MLA , check whether they can also be accessed online ; if so, this is the best version to cite, as it allows the reader to access the source.
If the material is not available online, use the details of where and when the presentation took place.
In an MLA song citation , you need to give some sort of container to indicate how you accessed the song. If this is a physical or downloaded album, the Works Cited entry should list the album name, distributor, year, and format.
However, if you listened to the song on a streaming service, you can just list the site as a container, including a URL. In this case, including the album details is optional; you may add this information if it is relevant to your discussion or if it will help the reader access the song.
When citing a song in MLA style , the author is usually the main artist or group that released the song.
However, if your discussion focuses on the contributions of a specific performer, e.g. a guitarist or singer, you may list them as author, even if they are not the main artist. If you’re discussing the lyrics or composition, you may cite the songwriter or composer rather than a performer.
When a source has no title , this part of your MLA reference is replaced with a description of the source, in plain text (no italics or quotation marks, sentence-case capitalization).
Whenever you refer to an image created by someone else in your text, you should include a citation leading the reader to the image you’re discussing.
If you include the image directly in your text as a figure , the details of the source appear in the figure’s caption. If you don’t, just include an MLA in-text citation wherever you mention the image, and an entry in the Works Cited list giving full details.
In MLA Style , you should cite a specific chapter or work within a book in two situations:
- When each of the book’s chapters is written by a different author.
- When the book is a collection of self-contained works (such as poems , plays , or short stories ), even if they are all written by the same author.
If you cite multiple chapters or works from the same book, include a separate Works Cited entry for each chapter.
If a source has no author, start the MLA Works Cited entry with the source title . Use a shortened version of the title in your MLA in-text citation .
If a source has no page numbers, you can use an alternative locator (e.g. a chapter number, or a timestamp for a video or audio source) to identify the relevant passage in your in-text citation. If the source has no numbered divisions, cite only the author’s name (or the title).
If you already named the author or title in your sentence, and there is no locator available, you don’t need a parenthetical citation:
- Rajaram argues that representations of migration are shaped by “cultural, political, and ideological interests.”
- The homepage of The Correspondent describes it as “a movement for radically different news.”
If a source has two authors, name both authors in your MLA in-text citation and Works Cited entry. If there are three or more authors, name only the first author, followed by et al.
You must include an MLA in-text citation every time you quote or paraphrase from a source (e.g. a book , movie , website , or article ).
If information about your source is not available, you can either leave it out of the MLA citation or replace it with something else, depending on the type of information.
- No author : Start with the source title.
- No title : Provide a description of the source.
- No date : Provide an access date for online sources; omit for other sources.
A standard MLA Works Cited entry is structured as follows:
Only include information that is available for and relevant to your source.
Yes. MLA style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns , verbs, adjectives , adverbs , and some conjunctions ) are capitalized.
This applies to titles of sources as well as the title of, and subheadings in, your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization .
The title of an article is not italicized in MLA style , but placed in quotation marks. This applies to articles from journals , newspapers , websites , or any other publication. Use italics for the title of the source where the article was published. For example:
Use the same formatting in the Works Cited entry and when referring to the article in the text itself.
In MLA style , book titles appear in italics, with all major words capitalized. If there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space (even if no colon appears in the source). For example:
The format is the same in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. However, when you mention the book title in the text, you don’t have to include the subtitle.
The title of a part of a book—such as a chapter, or a short story or poem in a collection—is not italicized, but instead placed in quotation marks.
In MLA style citations , format a DOI as a link, including “https://doi.org/” at the start and then the unique numerical code of the article.
DOIs are used mainly when citing journal articles in MLA .
The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.
This quick guide to MLA style explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.
The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .
Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.
MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.
To create a correctly formatted block quote in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:
- Hit Enter at the beginning and end of the quote.
- Highlight the quote and select the Layout menu.
- On the Indent tab, change the left indent to 0.5″.
Do not put quotation marks around the quote, and make sure to include an MLA in-text citation after the period at the end.
To format a block quote in MLA:
- Introduce the quote with a colon and set it on a new line.
- Indent the whole quote 0.5 inches from the left margin.
- Place the MLA in-text citation after the period at the end of the block quote.
Then continue your text on a new line (not indented).
In MLA style , if you quote more than four lines from a source, use MLA block quote formatting .
If you are quoting poetry , use block quote formatting for any quote longer than three lines.
An MLA in-text citation should always include the author’s last name, either in the introductory text or in parentheses after a quote .
If line numbers or page numbers are included in the original source, add these to the citation.
If you are discussing multiple poems by the same author, make sure to also mention the title of the poem (shortened if necessary). The title goes in quotation marks .
In the list of Works Cited , start with the poet’s name and the poem’s title in quotation marks. The rest of the citation depends on where the poem was published.
If you read the poem in a book or anthology, follow the format of an MLA book chapter citation . If you accessed the poem online, follow the format of an MLA website citation .
Only use line numbers in an MLA in-text citation if the lines are numbered in the original source. If so, write “lines” in the first citation of the poem , and only the numbers in subsequent citations.
If there are no line numbers in the source, you can use page numbers instead. If the poem appears on only one page of a book (or on a website ), don’t include a number in the citation.
To quote poetry in MLA style , introduce the quote and use quotation marks as you would for any other source quotation .
If the quote includes line breaks, mark these using a forward slash with a space on either side. Use two slashes to indicate a stanza break.
If the quote is longer than three lines, set them off from the main text as an MLA block quote . Reproduce the line breaks, punctuation, and formatting of the original.
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format
MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here
Welcome to an overview of “What is MLA Format?” in relation to paper formatting. You’ll find in-depth guidelines, examples, and visual samples to help you easily format your paper. This guide does not serve as a reference for MLA citation format.
For help determining the proper structure for citing, refer to the other guides on EasyBib.com. Here is another informative site which may help with further understanding of MLA citation format.
Guidelines for Formatting a Paper in MLA
- Use white 8 ½ x 11” paper.
- Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides.
- The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch.
- Indent set-off or block quotations one half inch from the left margin.
- Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface.
- Use 12-point size.
- Double space the entire research paper, even the Works Cited page.
- Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks, unless your instructor tells you to leave two spaces.
These guidelines come from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”
MLA Guide Overview
There are various sections in this guide. Each section provides an in-depth overview of the different components to keep in mind when developing an MLA paper.
This guide includes the following sections:
- Format background
- General paper formatting
- MLA heading format & title page instructions
- Running head & page numbers
- Numbers (includes the use of numbers in MLA outline format)
- Images, tables, and musical scores
- MLA works cited format
- MLA citation format (for in-depth citation rules visit this MLA citation guide or MLA in-text citation guide)
- Edits & proofreading
If you need more guidance, a website like EasyBib.com usually has guides and tools to help you out. There’s also resources on other styles, like our guide on “ APA reference page ”, otherwise known as a “References” page.
MLA Format Background
The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization responsible for developing MLA format. It was developed as a means for researchers, students, and scholars in the literature and language fields to uniformly format their papers and assignments. This uniform, or consistent, method to developing a paper or assignment allows for easy reading. Today, MLA is not only used in literature and language subject areas; many others have adopted it as well.
The Modern Language Association released the 9th and most current edition of their MLA Handbook in April 2021. The Handbook provides thorough instructions on citing, as well as guidelines for submitting work that adheres to the Modern Language Association’s rules and standards. Although we’re not affiliated with the MLA, our citation specialists bring you this thoughtful and informative guide on the format.
Looking for information about previous editions to the Handbook ? Want to learn more about the origin of “What is MLA format?” Click here to learn about the previous editions to the Handbook .
Actually, are you looking for help on using another style? See how to cite an APA journal , learn to create an APA book citation , and more!
Formatting the Header in MLA
To create a header for your first page, follow these steps:
- Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
- Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
- Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby
- Do not place a period after the title or after any headings
- Double space between the title and first lines of the text
General Paper Formatting
While many professors, instructors, and publications allow electronic submission, some prefer printed, hard copies of papers. This section focuses on the type of paper to use for printed submission.
If you choose to print your paper, use white paper only. Do not use ivory, off-white, or any other shades or colors.
Choose a standard, high quality paper to print your project on. Do not use cardstock. It is not necessary to use resum é paper. Use typical, high quality printer or copy paper.
When it comes to size, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper is the recommended size. If you’d like to use a different size, ask your teacher prior to submission.
Use One-Inch Margins in MLA
Use one-inch margins around the entire page. The running head should be the only item seen in the one inch margin (see below for more on running heads).
Most word processing programs automatically default to using one inch margins. Check the page settings section of the program to locate the margin size.
Indenting Paragraphs in MLA
Indent the first word in every paragraph. Sentences should begin one half inch from the left margin.
It is not necessary to manually measure half an inch. Use the “tab” button on the keyboard to create a half inch space.
Double Space Paragraphs in MLA
MLA research paper format requires that the entire research paper or MLA format essay includes double-spaced lines. Double-spaced lines should be found in between the written body of the work, in the heading, and also on the MLA reference page.
While it may seem tempting to place a few extra lines between the heading, title, and beginning of the paper, lines should all be double spaced.
Font and Font Size in MLA
In an MLA paper, it is acceptable to use any font type that is easy to read. Many source types, such as books and articles, use fonts that are easy to read, so if you’re seeking an appropriate font style, look at other sources for guidance. Two of the most commonly used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.
It is important for the reader to be able to distinguish the difference between italicized and regular font, so if you choose a font style different than Arial or Times New Roman, make sure the difference between the two type styles is evident.
The use of a 12-point font size is recommended as this is the default size for many word processing programs. It is acceptable to use another standard size, such as 11-point or 11.5-point.
Some professors or instructors will provide guidance on how to secure hard copies of projects. If your instructor does not provide you with any expectations or guidance, a simple staple in the top left corner should suffice. If a stapler is not available, some instructors allow paper or binder clips.
Do not fold the top left corner down to secure the pages together. The page could easily unfold, causing a mess of papers. While binders and plastic holders are cute, in reality, they add bulk to a professor or instructor who may like to take the papers home for grading purposes. Keep the binding simple and clean. Staples work best, and binder and paper clips are the next best option.
As always, follow any instructions your professor or teacher may provide. The guidelines found here are simply recommendations.
MLA Heading & Title Page Instructions
The web page “Formatting a Research Paper” gives two options when it comes to creating the header for your project:
- An MLA format heading can be placed at the top of the first page
- A title page can grace the front of the assignment. If you choose to create a title page, keep in mind that there aren’t any official title page or cover page guidelines in MLA format. See more information below.
If choosing option one, creating an MLA heading, you’ll need to include four main components:
- Your full name
- Your instructor’s name
- The name and number of the course or class
- The assignment’s due date
The first item typed on the paper should be your full name.
- Position your name one inch from the top and left margins of the page.
- Add a double space beneath your name, and type the name of your instructor.
- Below the professor or instructor’s name should be a double space, followed by the name of the course, class, or section number (if available).
- Below it, include another double space and add the assignment’s due date (Day Month Year).
Here’s an example:
The assignment’s title should be placed below the due date, after a double space. Align the title so it sits in the center of the MLA format paper. The title should be written in standard lettering, without underlines, bold font, italicized font, or any quotation marks. Only include italics or quotation marks if your title includes the title of another source.
Here is an example of an MLA header for an MLA format essay, paper, or assignment:
Neal E. Bibdarsh
The Trials and Tribulations of Lincoln’s Reciting of “The Gettysburg Address”
*Note: The quotation marks here are around the title of a speech included in the paper’s title.
Most research papers use a standard MLA format heading, like the one seen above. If your instructor requires you to create a standalone title page, ask him or her for specifications. MLA does not have specific instructions for developing an MLA title page. We recommend you use an MLA header for your project.
If your teacher or professor requires a standalone title page, but has not provided any guidance or specifications, here are a few suggestions from EasyBib.com and this MLA guide :
- Center and double space all of the text on your page.
- Place the name of your school at the top of the page.
- Skip down to about the center of the page and type the title of your paper. Do not bold the title, italicize the entire title, place quotation marks around it, or type the title out in capital letters.
- Use italics for the titles of any sources in the title of your paper. Example: An Analysis of Mythical Creatures in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- first letter of the title
- first letter of the last word
- first letter of any adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs
- If your paper has a subtitle, include on the next line below your title.
- Skip down to the bottom third of the page and add your name, the the name of your instructor, the name/number of the course or class, and the assignment’s due date on four separate lines.
- Keep the font size at 12 pt., or a size close to it, to make it look professional.
- Use the same font as the text of the paper. The Modern Language Association recommends any font that is easy to read and has a clear distinction between italics and standard font. Times New Roman and Arial are recommended, but many other fonts work as well.
- Include a page number in the top right corner of the paper. For more information on how to style page numbers, check out the next section, “Running Head and Page Numbers.”
- We do not recommend adding any images or cover art to the title page.
Click additional information about essays to see an example of a formatted header.
You can either create a title page using the EasyBib Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.
Running Head & Page Numbers in MLA
A running head is a brief heading that is placed in the top right corner of every page in a project. The Modern Language Association Style Center (online) states that the running head consists of:
- Last name of the paper’s author
- Page number
General tips to keep in mind:
- The running head is placed in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top margin and one inch from the right margin of the page.
- Type your last name before the page number.
- The last name and page number should be separated by a single space.
- Do not place the word “page” or use an abbreviation, such as p. or pg., before the page number.
- Quite often, the running head begins on the second page, but your instructor may ask you to include the running head on the first page of the assignment. As always, if your instructor provides you with specific directions, follow his or her guidelines.
Before adding this information manually onto every single page, check to see if the word processor you’re using has the capability to automatically add this information for you. Try looking in the settings area where page numbers or headers can be added or modified.
Google Docs: Adding a header
- Go to the menu section “Insert.”
- Select “Page numbers” and select the option that places the page number in the upper-right corner.
- A page number will appear; your cursor will blink next to it.
- Move your cursor to the left of the page number.
- Type your last name. Add a space between your name and the page number.
- You should now have a properly formatted header on every page!
Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header
- Double-click in the space at the top of the page (where the page number is).
- OR Go to the “Insert” menu, select “Header,” and select “Edit Header.”
- Type your last name next to page number. If it isn’t already right-aligned, go to the “Home” menu and right-align your name.
Quotations in MLA
Quotes are added into assignments to help defend an argument, prove a point, add emphasis, or simply liven up a project.
Quotes should not take up the majority of your paper or assignment. Quotes should be sprinkled sparingly throughout, and quotes longer than 4 lines should be formatted as MLA block quotes . Use direct quotes from outside sources to enhance and expand on your own writing and ideas.
Words from quotes belong to the individual who spoke or wrote them, so it is essential to credit that individual’s work. Credit him or her by adding what is called an “in-text citation” into the body of the project.
There are three ways to add quotes: 1. With the author’s name in the sentence (a citation in prose).
Dan Gutman shares a glimpse into the overall plot by stating, “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (5).
In the above example, Dan Gutman is the author of the book that this quote is pulled from.
2. Without the author’s name in the sentence (a parenthetical citation).
The main character’s confusing experience is realized and explained when he states “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (Gutman 5).
In the above example, Dan Gutman’s name isn’t included in the sentence. It’s included in the parentheses at the end of the sentence. This is an example of a proper MLA style citation in the body of a project.
3. In a block quote, which is used when a large quote, of 4 lines or more, is added into a project.
Using footnotes and endnotes
The Modern Language Association generally promotes the use of references as described in the sections above, but footnotes and endnotes are also acceptable forms of references to use in your paper.
Footnotes and endnotes are helpful to use in a variety of circumstances. Here are a few scenarios when it may seem appropriate to use this type of referencing:
- When you are referring to a number of various sources, by various authors, in a section of your paper. In this situation, it is a good idea to use a footnote or endnote to share information for parenthetical references. This will encourage the reader to stay focused on the text of the research paper, instead of having to read through all of the reference information.
- When you are sharing additional information that doesn’t quite fit into the scope of the paper, but is beneficial for the reader. These types of footnotes and endnotes are helpful when explaining translations, adding background information, or sharing counterexamples to research.
To include a footnote or endnote, add a superscript number at the end of the sentence the footnote or endnote refers to. They can be included mid-sentence if necessary, but be sure to add it after any punctuation, such as commas or periods. Find a location that doesn’t distract the reader from the content and flow of the paper.
Within the text example:
Numerous well-known children’s books include characters from a wide range of races and ethnicities, thus promoting diversity and multiculturalism.¹
At the bottom of the page (footnote) or at the end of the section (endnote):
¹See Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez. While Parr’s work features characters of various colors, such as pink or blue, children easily correlate it with individuals of different races and ethnicities.
On the last page of the assignment, the writer includes the full references for the books by Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez.
For more on block quotes and a further, detailed explanation on the use of quotes, including MLA footnotes, refer to our MLA In-Text Citation and Parenthetical Citations Guide. In this guide you’ll find further information including directions for the use of quotes without an author, page numbers, and how to properly credit work from electronic sources.
For guides on citations in another style, check out APA parenthetical citation and APA in-text citation .
Paraphrases in MLA
Paraphrases are created when text or speech from another source are added into a project, but the writer chooses to summarize them and weave in his or her own writing and writing style.
Even though the writer modifies the information from another source, it is still necessary to credit the source using proper format ( Handbook 98). Paraphrased information uses the same MLA reference format as stated in the section directly above this one.
Here is an acceptable paraphrase:
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs encouraged students at Stanford to continue with their determination, drive, and ambitious behavior. They should never be simply satisfied with the status quo. They should continue to push themselves despite possible obstacles and failures.
To develop a well-written paraphrase, follow these simple, step-by-step instructions.
- Find a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or section of original text you’d like to turn into a paraphrase.
- Read the text carefully and make sure you fully comprehend its meaning. A writer can only develop a well-written paraphrase if the information has been fully grasped and understood. If you’re having difficulty understanding the information, take a few minutes to read up on tricky words and background information. If all else fails, ask a friend to see if they’re able to make sense of the concepts.
- After analyzing and completely understanding the original text, put it to the side. Take a moment to think about what you’ve read and connect the idea to your own assignment.
- Now that the information is completely understood, take a moment to rewrite what you’ve read, in your own words and writing style. Do not simply substitute words in the original text with synonyms. That’s plagiarism! Show off and demonstrate your ability to process the original information, connect it to the content in your paper, and write it in your own individual and unique writing style.
- Include an in-text reference next to the paraphrase. All paraphrases include references, similar to direct quotes. See the “Quotations” section of this guide to learn how to properly attribute your paraphrased information.
- Give yourself a pat on the back! Paraphrasing is an important part of the research and writing process.
Wondering if it’s better to quote or paraphrase?
An essential part of the research process involves adding direct quotes and paraphrases into projects. Direct quotes provide word-for-word evidence and allow writers to use another author’s eloquent words and language in their own projects. When it comes to paraphrases, writers are able to take a block of text and shrink the scope of it into the their papers. Paper writers can also use paraphrases to demonstrate their ability to analyze and reiterate information in a meaningful and relevant way.
If you’re wondering which one is better to consistently use, quotes or paraphrases, there’s a clear winner. Paraphrases come out on top. Sure, direct quotes are incredibly beneficial, but copying and pasting too many of these into a project can cause a reader to lose sight of the writer’s own voice. Mixing your own voice with another author’s too much can make for choppy and disjointed reading.
The ultimate goal of a research project is to have your voice and research merged together as one. Paraphrases allow just that. When you combine information from outside sources with your own writing style, it demonstrates your ability as a researcher to showcase your understanding and analyzation of a topic.
Remember, whether you’re adding direct quotes or paraphrases into a project, both types of additions need references. References are placed after the quotes and paraphrases, and also at the end of an assignment.
If you’re looking for additional help with your punctuation or grammar, check out the EasyBib plagiarism checker !
Using Abbreviations in MLA
Abbreviations are commonly used in many source types including websites, blog posts, books, and journal articles. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in all of these sources.
When it comes to school and research assignments, however, the MLA Handbook states that abbreviations should be used rarely in the prose of your paper (293). Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meanings is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion from your reader.
There are times when you may feel it is perfectly acceptable to use an abbreviation rather than its typed out counterpart in a paper. If you do abbreviate, be sure you are using commonly accepted abbreviations, which you can find in the dictionary. You can also review Appendix 1 in the MLA Handbook .
General Abbreviation Tips
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be abbreviated to HIV, not H.I.V.
- United States should be US, not U.S.
- Digital video disc should be DVD, not D.V.D.
- For lower case abbreviations, it is acceptable to include periods between the letters.
- The abbreviation, “For example” = e.g.
- If there is a mix of lower case and upper case letters, do not use periods if the majority of the letters are upper case. Examples include PhD and EdD
Type out entire month names when being used in the body of a research paper or assignment.
She rented out the beach house from May through September
When it comes to references, MLA bibliography format requires months longer than four letters to be abbreviated.
- July = July
- November = Nov.
Other abbreviations that are perfectly acceptable to use in a bibliography (not the body of a project) include:
- p. or pp. for page and page numbers
- ch. for chapter
- ed. for edition
- trans. for translation or translated
- vol. for volume
- no. for number
- rev. for revised
Again, these abbreviations should only be used in the final page(s) of a project, the MLA Works Cited list. They should not be used in the body of a project.
For more information on bibliographies, see our MLA format Works Cited List page.
One of the quirkiest things about this particular style is how publisher names are structured on the final page of references. Certain words are abbreviated, some words are omitted, and other words are written in full.
Words describing what type of business the publisher is are omitted from the works cited. Here’s a breakdown of the words that should be excluded:
- Co. (Company)
- Corp. (Corporation)
- Inc. (Incorporated)
- Ltd. (Limited)
- The (when at the beginning of the name)
If a publisher’s name contains the words “University” and “Press” (or the equivalent in another language), the words should be abbreviated to the letters “U” and “P” in your citation. But if only one of the words appears, it should be written out normally.
Here are a few examples:
- University of Delaware
- U College of London P
All other words related to the names of publishers should be written out in full.
Certain classical and biblical works are abbreviated in a bibliography, but also in any parenthetical references in the text.
The official handbook provides a lengthy list, spanning over multiple pages, of the preferred abbreviations to use for classical and biblical works ( Handbook 295-301), but here’s a quick snapshot of some of the commonly used ones:
Hebrew Bible or Old Testament = OT
- Deut. = Deuteronomy
- Gen. = Genesis
- Lev. = Leviticus
- Num. = Numbers
- Ps. = Psalms
New Testament = NT
- 1 Cor. = 1 Corinthians
- Jas. = James
- Matt. = Matthew
- Ado = Much Ado about Nothing
- 3H6 = Henry VI, Part 3
- JC = Julius Caesar
- Mac. = Macbeth
- MND = A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Oth. = Othello
- Rom. = Romeo and Juliet
Again, the titles above are allowed to be abbreviated both in references in parentheses in the body of a project and also on the final page of references. If you’re wondering why, it’s because they’re cited often and it’s unnecessary to type out the entire title names.
Formatting Numbers in MLA
Use of numerals.
If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.
- 247 milligrams
Other items to keep in mind:
In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study
When including a number in a paper, spell out the number if it can be written as one word (such as six ) or two words (such as sixty-two ). For fractions, decimals, or longer numbers, type them out using digits. For larger numbers, write the number itself ( Handbook 82-84).
- one hundred
If the number comes before a unit of measurement or label, type the number using digits.
- 8 tablespoons
- 3 July 2018
- 25 King Street
More on Numbers
Starting a sentence with a number is generally frowned upon. Try modifying the sentence so that the number, or number word, is found elsewhere.
225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.
Use this sentence:
A total of 225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.
If modifying the sentence is not possible or does not work well with the flow of the assignment or paper, type out the written number:
Two hundred twenty five children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.
Do not include any ISBN numbers in your paper.
The Modern Language Association does not have any requirements regarding the structure of an outline. If your teacher asks you to create an MLA outline, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.
Here is an example of a recommended outline structure:
In addition to outlines, use roman numerals for suffixes.
- King George IV
Using Images, Tables, & Musical Scores in MLA
Photographs, data sets, tables, graphs, and other images are often added into projects or papers to promote or aid understanding. They provide meaningful visuals for the reader. If the illustration or visual image does not enhance the quality of the paper, do not include it in the project.
Tables and illustrations should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.
For an image to be significant and easily identifiable, place it as close as possible to the text in the project where it is discussed.
It is not acceptable to simply place an image in a project without including identifiable information. All images must include information about its origin.
Here are the directions to properly attribute an image:
- Assign an Arabic number. The image closest to the beginning of the project should be labeled as Fig. 1. The next image in the project should be Fig. 2. and so on.
- Provide a caption. The caption should be a brief explanation or the title of the contents of the image. Place the caption directly next to the label.
- Immediately following the caption, it is acceptable to include attribution information. If the image is not discussed further in the rest of the paper or project, it is acceptable to include the MLA bibliography format citation below the image and omit it from the bibliography or MLA format works cited page.
In the text of the project or paper where the figure is discussed, include the label in parentheses to ensure the reader knows where to find the figure in your paper.
In the text:
Sarah’s tattoo design was filled with two of her favorite flowers: lilies and daffodils along a thinly curved vine (fig. 1).
(Image Would Be Here) Fig. 1. Sarah’s Tattoo. barneyWILLIAMSable, Deviant Art , 2011, barneywilliamsable.deviantart.com/art/Sarah-s-Tattoo-design-193048938.
Fig. 1. White Studio. “Houdini and Jennie, the Elephant, Performing at the Hippodrome, New York.” Library of Congress , www.loc.gov/item/96518833/.
When adding a table or data set into a project, it is formatted a little differently. Above the data set, include the label “Table” with an Arabic numeral, and title it. The table number and title should be located flush left and on separate lines. The first table seen in the project is labeled as Table 1. The second table in the project is Table 2, and so on. The table’s title should be written in title case form (the first letter of each word is capitalized, except for small, insignificant words).
Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.
International Scholars from India Enrolled at Yale University a
Source: “International Scholars Academic Year 2015-2016.” Yale University , Office of International Students and Scholars, yale.app.box.com/v/scholar-2015-2016. a. The numbers reflect students who are enrolled full-time.
The information included above and below any images or table should be double spaced, similar to the rest of the project or paper.
Musical scores need to be labeled as well. When including a musical score in a project, label musical scores with “Ex.” which is short for example. This label should be placed below the musical score. Next to the abbreviation “Ex.”, assign the score an Arabic numeral. The first musical score in the project should be labeled as Ex. 1. The second musical score found in an assignment should be labeled as Ex. 2., and so on.
If possible, provide a caption after to the label. If the caption below the sheet music includes enough information about the source, it is not necessary to include the full reference at the end of the assignment.
Here is an example of a possible label and caption:
Ex. 4. Scott Joplin, The Entertainer, piano, C major.
Here’s more on tables and illustrations.
Using Lists in MLA
It’s appropriate to add lists into an MLA format essay as long as the proper rules are followed.
Lists created using MLA essay format look different than a grocery list or any other type of vertical listing of items. Items in a list are included in your prose, rather than the traditional vertical style.
Often, you will use a colon between the introductory sentence and the list. But you should not include a colon if the first item in the list is part of the sentence.
List Example #1
Here is an example of how a list may look incorporated into the prose of a research project or assignment:
William Shakespeare wrote numerous plays, many of which were considered tragedies: Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear .
List Example #2 Here is an example of how a list may look in a research project or assignment when the list is part of the introductory sentence:
Many of William Shakespeare’s were tragedies. Some of his most popular tragedies include Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear.
MLA Works Cited Format
EasyBib.com has a full, comprehensive guide to creating a proper works cited MLA format , but here are a few items to keep in mind when developing this portion of a project:
- The list of citations should be the very last page of a research project or essay.
- The top of the page should include the running head and the page number.
- All entries should be placed in alphabetical order by the first item in the MLA format citation.
- The entire page should be double spaced.
For more detailed information, make sure to check out the EasyBib guide to MLA format Works Cited pages.
MLA Citation Format
The majority of this guide focuses on MLA formatting in regards to MLA paper format rules and guidelines. If you’re seeking information related to the proper formatting of an MLA citation, refer to our individual pages and posts on various types of citations.
If you’re simply looking for the general structure for full references, which are found on the final pages of projects, here’s the proper order:
Author’s Last name, Author’s First name. “Title of Source.”* Title of Container , Names of other contributors along with their specific roles, version of the source (if it differs from the original or is unique), any key numbers associated with the source that aren’t dates (such as journal issue numbers or volume numbers), Name of the Publisher, publication date, location (such as the URL or page numbers).
*Note: A title may be in italics instead of quotation marks, depending of the type of source. The general rule is that works that are self-contained (like books, journals, or television shows) are formatted in italics. Works that are part of a larger work (like articles, chapters, or specific episodes) are formatting in quotation marks.
MLA Format Citing FAQs:
“What in the world are containers?”
Containers are what hold the source. If you’re creating a reference for a chapter in a book, the title of the chapter is the title of the source , and the container is the title of the book . The book holds the chapter, so it’s the container. If you’re searching for how to cite a website, here’s a tip: the title of the source is the name of the individual page and the title of the container is the name of the full website.
“This seems like a lot of information for a reference. Is it all necessary?”
The short answer is “No!” When citing, only include the components that help the reader locate the exact same source themselves.
It isn’t necessary to go digging for items such as numbers, version types, or names of other individuals or contributors associated with the source if they aren’t applicable. If you think it’s beneficial for the reader, then include it.
Related to citations, here are helpful pages on:
- MLA citation website format
- Citing a book
- Citing a journal
- What is a DOI ?
- More on PDFs
If you’re looking for an MLA citation generator, head to the EasyBib homepage. Our formatter will help you create citations quickly and easily!
Need APA, too? There are also EasyBib tools and an APA citation website reference guide to help you learn the basics.
Edits and Proofreading
Editing and proofreading your assignment prior to submission is an incredibly important step in the research process. Editing involves checking the paper for the following items:
- Spelling : Are all words spelled correctly? Review all proper names, places, and other unique words to ensure correct spelling. When finished, run the project through a spell checker. Many word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and Google Drive, provide a free spell checking feature. While spell checks are beneficial, they do not always spot every mistake, so make sure you take the time to read through the assignment carefully. If you’re still not sure if your project contains proper spelling, ask a friend to read through it. They may find a mistake you missed!
- Grammar : Check your assignment to make sure you’ve included proper word usage. There are numerous grammar checkers available to review your project prior to submission. Again, take the time to review any recommendations from these programs prior to accepting the suggestions and revisions.
- Punctuation : Check to make sure the end of every sentence has an ending punctuation mark. Also make sure commas, hyphens, colons, and other punctuation marks are placed in the appropriate places.
- Attribution : Do all quotes and paraphrases include a citation? Did you create an in-text citation for each individual piece of information?
Smart idea: running your paper through a paper checker before you turn it in. EasyBib Plus offers a checker that scans for grammar errors and unintentional plagiarism.
Check out our MLA sample papers . Also, check out the EasyBib MLA Annotated Bibliography Guide.
Don’t forget to use the EasyBib citation generator to develop your Modern Language Association style references.EasyBib.com also has helpful guides on APA format and more styles . Lastly, stay up-to-date on what’s coming by following our EasyBib Twitter account.
“Formatting a Research Paper.” The MLA Style Center , Modern Language Association of America, style.mla.org/formatting-papers/.
MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
Published October 31, 2011. Updated July 25, 2021.
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau . Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. You can find her here on Twitter. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.
MLA Formatting Guide
- Annotated Bibliography
- Block Quotes
- et al Usage
- In-text Citations
- Page Numbers
- Sample Paper
- MLA 8 Updates
- MLA 9 Updates
- View MLA Guide
- Book Chapter
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Newspaper Article
- Website (no author)
- View all MLA Examples
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The works-cited list provides the reader full information so that a reader can locate the source for further use.
The works-cited list appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes if they are present.
All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.
Write the running head in the top right of the page at 0.5 inch from the top. Use the running head “Surname Page #.”
The font should be clear enough to read. For example, Times New Roman font set to 12 points.
Entries should be double-spaced, including a double-space between the heading and the first entry. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin.
Formatting the title
The title should be “Works Cited.” Center the title. Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title. If you cite only one source in the list, the title should be “Work Cited.” If you include sources that you only consulted and didn’t cite directly, the title should be changed accordingly to “Works Cited and Consulted.”
Arranging works cited
Works-cited-list entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name (or the editor’s last name for entire edited collections). Double-space all entries. Begin each entry flush with the left margin. If any entry runs over more than one line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin (sometimes called a hanging indent).
Example works cited
Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness . Vintage, 2000.
Hill, R. T. “Legitimizing Colonial Privilege: Native Americans at a Quincentenary of Discourse.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 16, no. 1, 1996, pp. 92–100.
MacDonald, Shauna M. “Performance as Critical Posthuman Pedagogy.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 34, no. 2, 2014, pp. 164–81.
Zilio, M. “Canada Will Not Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Federal Government Says.” The Globe and Mail . 7 Sept. 2017, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-will-not-move-embassy-to-jerusalem-federal-government-says/article37219576/ .
An in-text citation is a short citation that is placed in the text. It is styled in two ways: a citation in prose or a parenthetical citation.
The basic element needed for an in-text citation is the author’s name . The publication year is not required in in-text citations. Sometimes, page numbers or line numbers are also included, especially when directly quoting text from the source being cited. When including a page number, do not include a comma or any other punctuation mark between the author’s surname and the page number.
Parenthetical citations usually add only the author’s surname at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Sometimes they include a page number or other locator. An example of a parenthetical citation is given below:
The spiritual geography of the landscape is explained (Cooper).
If you want to cite a chapter number, a scene, or a line number, follow the abbreviation guidelines below:
When including a more specific locator number rather than a page number, place a comma between the author’s surname and the label.
(Cooper, ch. 2).
Here are a few examples of in-text citations for sources with different numbers or types of authors:
Use only the surname of the author in parenthetical citations. If you want to add a page number (or another indicator of the place in a work), add it after the author’s surname without any punctuation between the surname and the page number.
Add only the surnames of the authors. Use “and” to separate the two authors.
(Langmuir and Einstein).
Three or more authors
Add only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.”
(Low et al.).
Shorten the organization name wherever possible, excluding any initial articles and using the shortest noun phrase (e.g., shorten Literary Society of Tamil Culture to Literary Society).
If there is no author for the source, use the source title in place of the author’s surname.
When you add such in-text citations, italicize the text of the title. If the source title is longer than a noun phrase, use a shortened version of the title. For example, the title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is shortened to Fantastic Beasts .
( Fantastic Beasts 160).
MLA Citation Examples
Other Citation Styles
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What is MLA format?
- Ask a Librarian
- Ask an Eagle
- 31 Canvas/Online Classes
- 44 Citing Sources
- 104 Computers/Mobile
- 10 Faculty Resources
- 83 Finding Library Materials
- 9 Interlibrary Loan
- 34 Library Check Out/Renew
- 12 Library Hours & Locations
- 26 Library Policies
- 4 Library Supplies
- 11 NWTC Help
- 3 Printing/Copying
- 57 Research Help
- 17 Software
- 7 Test Prep
- 20 Troubleshooting
Modern Language Association, or MLA, format is a style of crediting sources you use to write a paper. This style is typically used for research papers for English Composition and other communication classes.
Use our MLA Citation Guide to learn how to cite sources in this style.
Every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work, you must tell us:
- Who wrote the work
- What is it called
- And where can we find a copy.
You give us this information in two places:
- In the paragraph where you are quoting or paraphrasing. This is called a Parenthetical Citation (or In-Text Citation) because you will put brief information about the work in parentheses.
- In the Works Cited page at the end of the paper. This is where you put all of the information we need to find a copy of the works you used in your paper.
Do not hesitate to Ask a Librarian for personal assistance with citation questions!
- How do I make a Works Cited or References page?
- MLA Citation Style (Research Skills Video)
- MLA Citation Style (Research Skills Tutorial)
- MLA Citations (Research Skills Quiz)
- MLA Style Center (official webpage of the Modern Language Association)
- Citing Sources
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MLA Format: A How-To Style Guide With Examples
July 19, 2019
by Rebecca Reynoso
MLA format is one of many core citation styles used in academic and professional writing.
It’s used to cite external sources in written, academic work, including essays and research projects. This article will guide you on general MLA formatting guidelines and specific elements that must be included in a properly formatted MLA style paper.
MLA format: everything you need to know
Before going further, let's clarify what MLA format actually is.
MLA format is an academic style guide created by the Modern Language Association. It is most commonly used for literary research, academic essays, and humanities-based disciplines.
When you’re directed to use MLA format for your written work, it’s important to know the subcomponents of formatting and how to do them correctly. Citing your sources is a crucial component of essay and research-based writing and is the only way to avoid plagiarism .
Below are instructions and examples for formatting general components of an MLA formatted paper, including how to write a header, an in-text citation, and a Works Cited page.
General formatting guidelines in MLA
- Your document should be typed in double-space, 12 pt. font. The standard font is Times New Roman.
- Limit or completely avoid bolding text or italicizing for emphasis as italics are used for book titles and other longer works.
- There should only be one space after all marks of punctuation. Because word processing software already accounts for the space after a punctuation mark, adding two spaces is antiquated and inaccurate.
- Your document’s margins should be one inch on all sides.
- If you are writing an essay or some type of researched content that has a title, your title should be original (unless otherwise specified), centered, and not bolded. If your title includes the title of a book or article, format those titles as needed (italics, quotation marks).
- The title should be in title case; every word should not be capitalized.
- Your first and subsequent paragraphs should be indented one half inch from the left of the document. You should use the TAB button function to indent rather than the space bar.
- Include a header and your name and the page number at the top of your document.
How to format a header in MLA
The rules for headers MLA format are as follows, but may differ depending on your instructor’s (or boss’) preference.
All headers begin at the top of your document, flush left with double-spaced text.
Date (in Day Month Year order)
Above is the general format for a header in MLA, but here's a more specific example to put things in perspective:
You should also include your last name and the page number in the upper-right hand corner of your document.
How to format an in-text citation in MLA
MLA in-text reference formatting is done via parenthetical citations and is the same regardless of container (e.g. book or article). Citations should go at the end of a sentence before the period, whether you are paraphrasing or citing a direct quote.
MLA format follows the author-page style : (Last Name Page Number) and does not use a comma between them. You are to use the author’s last name and list the page or number of pages referenced in a given section.
He noted that the little boy who wore “the yellow slicker was George Denbrough,” which we discovered was Bill’s younger brother (King 3).
The sentence above is an example of an excerpt from an essay about Stephen King’s novel, It . The information in the in-text parenthetical citation indicates who the author is and where the quote comes from: (King 3).
In-text citations must include an author’s last name and the page number; however, the author’s last name does not necessarily have to go inside of the parentheses. The page number, on the other hand, must.
King notes that George Denbrough was the boy who wore “the yellow slicker” and that he was Bill’s younger brother (3).
If referencing only one work throughout your essay, you can simply use numeric references if the author of your source material and the source material itself is the same throughout. Based on our example, that means if you were writing an essay solely about It , you could reference Stephen King by name just once and then use numbers to reference specific pages thereafter.
However, if you are referencing multiple works by the same author (e.g. It and Carrie by King) or multiple works by various authors (e.g. It by King and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer), you must always include the author’s last name and the page number in your in-text citations. That way there is no confusion about which quotation(s) came from which source material.
How to format a Works Cited page in MLA
An MLA-formatted Works Cited page houses all of your reference material that you used throughout your essay. Although there are many different types of source containers from which you may be quoting, we are highlighting the most common: books and periodicals, which include print and web articles, with examples of properly-formatted citations should look like.
For each container listed below, you will find a general formula for citing the source in your Works Cited page along with an example to put it in perspective.
Note: if at any time you cannot find one element of the “required” parts to include in your citation, you may omit it if you have exhausted all search options. This means that if you absolutely cannot find the city in which a book was published (this applies to books written before 1900 only), then it is not necessary to include that information as long as all other information provided is formatted correctly and included.
The following citation examples cover books written by one author and two authors.
Books by one author
This is the simplest and most common citation type you will encounter for standard books.
General citation formula for a book with one author:
Last Name, First Name. Title of Book . Publisher, Publication Date.
King, Stephen. It. Viking Press, 15 September 1986.
Books by two authors
This format will only be used if two authors are listed as contributors for one book. The authors’ names should be written in the order they are listed in the book. Whichever author comes first, their name will be formatted in Last Name, First name format. The second author’s name will be in First Name, Last Name (standard) format.
General citation formula for a book with two authors:
Last Name, First Name and First Name Last Name. Title of Book . Publisher, Publication Date.
King, Stephen and Peter Straub. The Talisman. Viking Press, 8 November 1984.
Periodicals and electronic sources (articles, print and web)
Periodicals include articles from either web or print sources, though the former is more common in present day. Note: only include pages if you are quoting from a multi-page source. If your source is based online, you may omit the “pages” requirement.
General citation formula for a periodical:
Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Periodical , Day Month Year, pages.
Moeslein, Anna. “Why Blake Lively Has Been Wearing So Many Suits Lately: An Investigation.” Glamour, 14 September 2018.
As an aside, some instructors want you to include the site from which you took your source citation. If that is the case, your citation would be formatted like this:
Moeslein, Anna. “Why Blake Lively Has Been Wearing So Many Suits Lately: An Investigation.” Glamour, 14 September 2018, https://www.glamour.com/story/why-blake-lively-has-been-wearing-suits-a-simple-favor. Accessed 19 July 2019.
As you can see, we have included the webpage link as well as the date we accessed the content.
Note: Month names can be abbreviated (e.g. Sept. for September) or written out in full; it doesn't change meaning or intent. Months are often abbreviated when the citation is excessively lengthy. Whichever you choose to use, make sure you keep it consistent throughout your Works Cited page.
More to MLA than meets the eye
Although this guide is not exhaustive with every single possible citation formula in MLA that currently exists (8th edition), it provides a comprehensive background on the most common subtypes of MLA citations you are bound to encounter.
To keep you on the road toward productivity, view our extensive array of education and learning software to let your thirst for knowledge flourish.
Rebecca Reynoso is the former Sr. Editor and Guest Post Program Manager at G2. She holds two degrees in English, a BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago and an MA from DePaul University. Prior to working in tech, Rebecca taught English composition at a few colleges and universities in Chicago. Outside of G2, Rebecca freelance edits sales blogs and writes tech content. She has been editing professionally since 2013 and is a member of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES).
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