Essay Format: MLA Style

What is MLA?

MLA is an acronym for Modern Language Association, an organization that is focused on language and literature. Depending on the topic your class or research focuses on; your teacher may ask you to do your citation using the MLA style. This is a specific way of citing, according to the guidelines of the Modern Language Society. There are other styles, like the APA format and the Chicago citation style, but the MLA format is usually used for literature, language, liberal arts, and other topics in humanities.

Why do I need to use MLA Style?

It is possible that your professor wants you to use the MLA style if you are part of an English class or other humanities classes like art, literature. The MLA style creates rules that students must follow when writing and formatting essays. The MLA style will not only help instructors easily read and understand your work but taking steps to create quotes and cite sources helps avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is making use of a quote, idea, or any other type of information from another source and presenting it as yours. If there is no citation of your sources, you run the risk of plagiarism, a serious academic offense, or expulsion from school. So, to summarize the benefits of using MLA style:

  1. It makes the life of the student and the teacher easier,
  2. It prevents you from getting expelled from school.

General format guideline for MLA style

  • The Font: Times New Roman or any other essay fonts that are very readable,
  • Font size: 12pt,
  • Page margins: 1 inch,
  • Double line spacing,
  • New paragraph indents: ½ inch,
  • Headings: title case capitalization.

Below are the various sections that will provide an in-depth outline of important things to keep in mind while formatting a paper using the MLA style.

  • Title page,
  • Header,
  • Headings and Subheadings,
  • Paper Choice,
  • Running head and page numbers,
  • Adding a header on the google docs,
  • Adding a header on the Microsoft Word Document,
  • Margins,
  • Paragraphs,
  • Quotations,
  • Spacing,
  • Font and Font Size,
  • Punctuation,
  • Abbreviations,
  • List,
  • MLA citation format.

Title Page

It is important to note that a cover page is not compulsory for an MLA format. In general, students are not prohibited from adding a title page to articles written in MLA style, although there is no official guidance on how to format this page according to MLA guidelines.


An MLA header can be placed on the title page (if you are using one), or you can place it on the top of the first page of the paper.

Here are the four main parts to be included in a header:

  • The full name of the Student,
  • Full name of the instructor,
  • Name of the class, course, or section number,
  • The project’s due date.

These four features must be placed in this exact order, with double line spacing and one-inch margins on each side of the page.

The name of the assignment comes after the last line of the header (task expiration date) unless you include a title page – in this situation, you will begin your essay on the next page. The title of the work must be centralized and must be bold, italic, highlighted, or quoted.

Follow these simple steps to create a header for your first page:

  1. Start an inch from the upper part of the first page and touch the left margin,
  2. Enter your name, teacher name, course number, and date on separate lines, with double spaces between each,
  3. Double-space again and put the title at the center. Avoid underlining, bold, or capitalizing the title. Italicizing is the only normal thing you can do in the text. Example: character development in the Great Gatsby,
  4. Avoid putting a period after the title or the headings,
  5. Double-space between the title and first lines of text.

Headings and Subheadings

Irrespective of the assignment type, the use of headings and subtitles in the text is crucial to ensure the logical organization and structure of your work. Therefore, when writing an article in MLA format, you will probably need to include some chapter titles, article titles, and subheadings.

When it comes to formatting different titles, there are no specific rules or official MLA formatting guide. However, you must always remember these two recommendations:

  1. There must not be a period after the heading.
  2. Be consistent with the formatting, choose a method, and stick to it to the end.

Here is a good example of how you can style your headings and subheadings:

  • Chapter Title
  • Section Heading
  • Subheading

The font and size of each element remain do not change. The only thing you change is the font style. Bold is a smart choice for chapter titles because it is more important, although italics are less important and, therefore, good for section headings. Meanwhile, the subheadings, the least important of all types of titles, are kept in the standard font style.

Paper Choice

Although many teachers, tutors, and publications allow electronic transmission, some like printed copies of the essay. This section focuses on the paper type you can use for printing. If you are submitting a printed paper, only use white paper. Avoid using ivory, off-white, or other shades or colors. Choose a high-quality paper to print the project. Do not use cardboard—no need to use resume paper. Use a regular printer or copy paper.

In terms of size, this recommended size is 8 ½ by 11-inch paper. If you want to use a different size, ask the teacher before you make submissions.

Running head and page numbers

The running head is a short title placed in the upper right corner of each page of a project. According to the MLA style center (online), the running head comprises:

  1. Last name of the paper’s author
  2. Page number

Here is an example of a running head that you can see at the upper right corner of a paper:

Peterson 7

The running head is placed half an inch from the upper margin and one inch from the right margin of the page.

Do not add the word “page” or use an abbreviation, like p. Or page, before the page number.

General tips to remember:

  1. Placed in the top right corner, half an inch from the top, align with the right margin.
  2. input your last name before the page number. (To make it straightforward, configure your word processor to add your last name and page number automatically to each page.)
  3. Do not add p before the page number.
  4. Some instructors do not like seeing the page number on the first page. You can ask the instructor for their preferences.

Usually, the running head starts on the second page, but your instructor might request you to include the running head on the first page of the task.

Also, if your teacher gives certain instructions, ensure you follow them.

Before manually adding this information to each page, make sure that the word processor you use has the ability to send that information automatically. Try searching in the settings field, where page numbers or headers can be included or modified.

Adding a header on the google docs

  • Go to the menu section insert
  • Click Page numbers and choose the option that positions the page number in the top-right corner.
  • You should now have a properly formatted header on every page!
  • Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header
  • Move the cursor to the left of the page number.
  • Enter your last name. Put a space between your name and the page number.
  • Some air on each page is also formatted information!

Adding a header on the Microsoft Word Document

  • Go to the menu section Insert.
  • Click Page numbers and choose the option that places the page number in the top-right corner.

You can also:

  • Double-click in the space at the upper of the page where the page number is.
  • OR Go to the Insert menu, choose Header, choose Edit Header.
  • Enter your last name next to the page number.
  • If it is not already aligned correctly, go to the Home menu and align your name correctly.
  • Now you should have a formatted header on each page!


Use one-inch margins around the whole page. The running head should be the only item seen in an inch margin.

Most word processing programs are predefined for one- inch margins. Check the settings section of the program page to find the margin size.


The first word of each new paragraph should have an indent of half-inch on the left margin. Each paragraph must be double spaced. The standard space between the left margin and the beginning of the text is one-half inch. You can check the tab button for the setup.


There is always an addition of quotes to help defend an argument, make a point, highlight a project, or liven the project. Quotes should not be used in most of your paper. Quotes should be spread everywhere. Use direct quotes from outside sources to improve and expand your own writing and ideas.

The quoted words belong to the speaker or writer, so it is essential that you give credit to that person’s work. Give them credit by adding an “in-text citation” to the body of the project.

There basically three ways to add quotes.

With the name of the person in the sentence

Example: Joe Anderson contributed to the argument by stating, “It might not look significant, but there is a power in the voice of younger people.”
In the above example, Joe Anderson is the author of the book for which this quote originates.

Without the name of the person in the sentence

Example: The main character contributed when he stated, “It might not look significant, but there is a power in the voice of younger people” (Joe Anderson).

In the example, the author’s name (Joe Anderson) was not included in the sentence. However, it is added to the parentheses after the sentence. This is a proper MLA style citation in the essay body.


The third type of quotation is called a block quotes and applies to all sentences of 4 lines or more. If you need to make a big quote for the body of your article, follow these rules:

  • Start a block quote on a new line.
  • Do not include block quotes in quotation marks.
  • Keep the space double.
  • Make a half an inch indentation for the full quote on the left margin.
  • Ensure you leave the quote in its original state (with punctuation, capital letters, etc.)
  • Indicate the author’s name in parentheses – after the quote.


The format of the MLA research paper requires that the entire article or essay in the MLA format includes lines with double spacing. The Double line spacing must be found between the written body of the article, the heading, and on the reference page of the MLA.

While it may be tempting to add some extra lines between the heading, title, and the beginning of the article, each line must be double spaced.

Font and Font Size

On MLA paper, any type of easy-to-read font is acceptable. Many types of sources, such as books and articles, use easy-to-read fonts; therefore, if you are looking for a suitable font style, consult other sources for guidance. Two of the most used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.

It is imperative that the reader can differentiate between italics and normal fonts, so if you choose a font style instead of Arial or Times New Roman, ensure the difference between the two fonts is clear.

It is recommended to use 12-point font size, as this is the standard size for many words processing programs. It is acceptable to use another default size, such as 11 or 11.5 points.


Here are some guidelines to keep in mind about punctuation.

Commas: Use commas when it is appropriate for your readers to pause or to make your essay more understandable.

Closing sentences: When you close a sentence using a punctuation mark, start the next sentence after space, not two spaces.

Quotes: When a quote is placed in your work or paper, put the period outside the parentheses at the end of the whole sentence.

Below is an example:

“A good thing about music, when it hits you, you don’t feel pain” (Marley).

Remember that the period is outside the parentheses and when the quote ends.


Abbreviations are mostly used in many types of sources, including websites, books, blog posts, and journal articles. Using an abbreviation is acceptable in all these sources. However, in relation to schoolwork and research, the Manual of the Modern Languages Association ​​states that abbreviations are not very common. You are encouraged to write abbreviations in full words and meanings. This will ensure proper understanding and prevents any confusion. Instead of seeing unstable abbreviations, it would be best for readers to follow the natural flow of the language in the essay.

Sometimes using an abbreviation might be perfectly acceptable than typing it out fully in the essay. However, you need to note that when you include the abbreviation, there must not be a period between capital letters.


  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus should be abbreviated to HIV, and not H.I.V.
  • United States is the US, not the U.S.
  • Digital video disc can be DVD, not D.V.D.

However, for lower case abbreviations, including a period between the letters is acceptable.

“For example,” is abbreviated as e.g.

If you combine lower case and upper-case letters, avoid using periods if most of the letters are upper case.


  • PhD
  • EdD
  • MSc


When a month is being used in the essay research paper body, then you must type it out full.

Example: She lived in the apartment from June through September.

When typing the reference, MLA format requires that you abbreviate months longer than four letters.


  • May – May
  • June – June
  • December – Dec.

Other acceptable abbreviations apart from the body of the essay include:

  • p. or pp. – page and page numbers
  • ed. – edition
  • Ch. – chapter
  • trans. – translation or translated
  • vol. – volume
  • rev. – revised
  • no. – number

Additionally, you must only use these abbreviations on the last page of the essay, the reference page, and not in the body of the paper.


One of the strangest things about this particular style is the way the publisher is structured on the final reference page. Some words are abbreviated, and other words are completely written.

Here is the analysis of the ones that are always abbreviated to the paper cited:

  • U – University
  • Inc. – Incorporated
  • Co. – Company
  • P – Press
  • Ltd. – Limited
  • Here are a few examples:
  • U of New York
  • Constable and Co. Ltd.
  • Pimlico Books at Random House
  • U College of London P

Other things that related to the publisher’s name must be written completely.


Some classic and biblical works are abbreviated in the bibliography, but also in any references in the text in parentheses.

The official manual provides a long, multi-page list of the best abbreviations for use in classic and biblical works (Manual 97-101), but here is a brief overview of some of the most used:

  • Hebrew Bible or Old Testament = OT
  • Gen. – Genesis
  • Deut. – Deuteronomy
  • Num. – Numbers
  • Lev. – Leviticus
  • Ps. – Psalms
  • New Testament = NT
  • 1 Cor. – 1 Corinthians
  • Jas. – James
  • Matt. – Matthew
  • Shakespeare:
  • Ado – Much Ado about Nothing
  • JC – Julius Caesar
  • 3H6 – Henry VI, Part 3
  • Mac. – Macbeth
  • Otha. – Othello
  • MND – Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Rom. – Romeo and Juliet

Again, the titles above can be abbreviated in the references in brackets in the body of a project and on the final reference page. If you are wondering why they are often mentioned and you do not have to enter the names of all the titles.


It is best to add lists to an essay in MLA format, provided the correct rules are followed.

The lists created in the MLA essay format look different from the food list or any other type of vertical item list. The items in a list are formatted in horizontal order, instead of the traditional vertical style.

Here is an example of what a list might look like in a research or work project:

William Shakespeare wrote many plays, many of which were labeled as tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and King Lear.

Note that there is a horizontal listing of items, not vertical. It is important to always remember this when adding lists to an essay.

Put the colon between the opening sentence and the list. Also, sometimes there might not be the inclusion of the colon. Avoid putting full stop before the first item on the list if the list is a part of the sentence.

Below is an example of how a list would look in a research paper or essay when it is a part of a sentence:

Many of William Shakespeare’s tragedies. Some of his well-known tragedies include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and King Lear.

MLA Citation Format

Most of this guide focuses on MLA formatting for MLA paper size rules and guidelines. If you are looking for information on the proper development of citations in MLA format, you can check the MLA handbook.

If you are just looking for the general framework for full references, which can be found on the last pages of projects, here is the correct order:

Last name of the author, First name of the author. “Source Title.” Container Title, Other contributors name together with their roles, unique or original version of the source, Other numbers (like journal issue numbers and Volume numbers) aside from dates that are associated with the source, Publisher’s name, Date of the Publication, Location (like the location of the page numbers or website address).


It really does not matter the type of essay you are writing; whether argumentative, informative, informative, inasmuch as you are using the MLA style of formatting, then it is advisable that you follow the guidelines above. However, some essays might be different; for example, application and college essay might not require you to write much as it is always between 500 words and 1000 words. Therefore, while writing essays like this, you might not be required to follow all the MLA rules listed above. But the most important thing is sticking to a format throughout your paper.

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