MLA is an abbreviation of Modern Language Association which is a consortium of researchers, students and scholars in the literature and language studies. They developed the MLA format to standardize how they present their papers. What started as a format for the linguists and literaries is now a widely and globally used format in other disciplines as well.
Like all other academic writing formats, MLA has been updated over time. The first version was published in 1977 and has since been updated to the 9th edition. 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.
Academic writing styles allow readers to follow the text and use cues within it to better understand the material. Editors and instructors also encourage everyone to use the same format so there is consistency of style within a given field. Therefore, using MLA as a scholar in any field provides your readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them. Furthermore it allows your readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar or complicated formatting. Referencing in general and appropriately using academic writing styles establishes your credibility in your field and among your peers.
The header is the material that appears at the very top above the margins. Usually the header in MLA consists of the page number and last name of the writer. Page numbers should be skewed right, half an inch from the top and in line with the right margin. First comes the last name a space then the page number. There is no punctuation between the two.
There is a difference between he heading and the title. The heading is the text that appear first at the top of the page below the margins and header. The title is the topic of the paper. Therefore, the heading should be an inch from the top of the first page on the left.
The heading in MLA consists of:
Course Name and Number
The most commonly used first/title page in MLA is the one shown above. However, in the academic sphere some instructors ask that students provide a separate title page. In that case, they would have to provide specifications for the title page as MLA does not have regulations on this.
However, in cases where the instructor has not given instructions on how to format the title page then you can use the checklist below to direct you.
Use one-inch margins around the entire page. The running head should be the only item seen in the one inch margin. Most word processing programs automatically default to using one inch margins. Check the page settings section of the program to locate the margin size.
The paper size matters as it affects other settings like margins. Colored background in academic work is not acceptable. When it comes to size, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper is the recommended size. This is the regular A4 page.
MLA is not too strict about the font to use as long as it is legible. Usually, institutions recommend that students use Arial or Times New Roman. The only font type requirement in MLA is that it shows a distinctive difference between italicized and regular text. Size 12 font is often the standard as it is legible without being huge. Therefore, just to be on the safe side one should stick to one of the two font types in size 12.
The spacing rule in writing is that the more white space there is within the text, the easier it is to read. Therefore, you should double space your work. It is not necessary to engage the before and after spacing unless you deem it necessary.
In-text citation in MLA requires two elements of the source. The first is the last name of the author while the second is the page number. There are two ways in which one can credit a contributor to their paper in MLA.
The first way is by citation in prose. This is where the author’s name is mentioned in the text. The page number would come at the end of the sentence in brackets.
The second way is through parenthetical citation. In this second type, the citation comes at the end of the sentence as a parenthesis in brackets. It is advisable to use a mix of both types of citation just top break the monotony in your writing.
This comes at the end of the paper on a new page. The running head still applies to this page. The topic of the page should be ‘Works Cited’ which is centered but not underlined or bold. The list should be double spaced with hanging indents.
There is a difference in the format of material on the Works Cited list from other academic writing styles like APA.
Author. Title. Title of container (self-contained if book), other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publisher Date, Location (pp.). 2nd container’s title, other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Pub date, Location (pp.).
Type of Source
|In-Text Citation||Bibliographical format|
|No Author||(Title of Book pg.)
(“Topic within source pg.)
|Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.
“Topic within source.” Title of book, edited by, Publication City, Publisher, Year, Page
|One Author||(Last Name pg.)||Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.|
|Two Authors||(Last Name 1 and Last Name 2 pg.)||Last Name, First Name and Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.|
|Multiple Authors||(Last Name 1 et al. pg.)||Last Name, First Name, et al. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.|
|Corporate Authors||(Name of Corporate)||Corporate Author. Title. Date . Link|
|Multiple Sources||(Last Name pg.; Last Name 2 pg.)||Include in the Works Cited list individually|
|Sources without page numbers||(Last Name of Author)||Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Source, Year.|
|Journal Articles||Last Name, First Name, et al. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages.|
|Periodicals and Electronic sources||(Last Name of Author)||
Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.
 In ddmmyyyy format
Since MLA is mainly used in humanities, including original quotations from the sources is quite common and especially in literature. In this instance, the writer would include a block quote from the source. For example, consider a quote from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Use of footnotes and endnotes does not mean that you should forego referencing. They are often used in addition to referencing. Footnotes are little explanations or details at the bottom of the page used to further clarify sentences within the text. Endnotes are texts at the end of the paper after the Works Cited page used to do the same.
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.
Footnotes and endnotes are common in humanities and especially law. It is important to understand how to use them and how to write them before including them in the paper. Otherwise you will end up including vital information that should be in the text in the endnotes and vice versa. Therefore consider the tips below when you want to use footnotes and endnotes.
When there are too many sources such that it would distract the reader from the subject. In this case, it makes more sense to include the citation information in a footnote so that the reader can maintain their momentum.
When you want to relay information that may be important but not exactly relevant. For example, in law there is extensive use of Latin and it is easy to forget the meaning of the words. It would also be useful if those who have not studied law could understand. Therefore a translation for such words would be included in the footnotes.
When writing a paper, one seeks to ensure that the reader fully understands the subject. In some cases, words are not enough and there is need to use tools like images and tables. MLA styling requires that images be accompanied by things like labels among others.
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.
Create a label for the image. For example, Fig. 1
Caption the image with brief information about the subject matter.
Credit the source of the image. You can do this with a MLA bibliographical presentation then omit the information from the Works Cited list.
Refer to the image in text by citing it in parenthesis
Just like images, tables should also appear as close to the text they relate to as possible. Again, just the image, the table should have a label. The label and the title of the table should on separate lines, both on the right.
Label e.g. Table 1
Title in title case
Source of the table
Notes. If there are any explanations necessary, you should place a letter subscript or superscript next to the information in the table then number the notes in the same way.
These are pictorial presentations of the subject matter of the paper. They are common in the media as well as in literature. Just like the tools above, they require a label and title. For example, Fig 1: Truth about Politics
The trick to ensuring that your paper is formatted appropriately in MLA is to get the in-text citation first. All other formatting requirements can be entered after you have finished the paper during editing. This allows you to write free of worries about whether you are following style guidelines. The checklist above will help you determine if you have done things right after you have finished writing the paper. Contact us on +1(978) 822 0999 for help figuring out the complexities of MLA.
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