MLA General Format
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2016-08-11 04:27:59
MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and using the English language in writing. MLA style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages.
Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material by other writers.
If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the MLA Handbook (8th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition). The MLA Handbook is available in most writing centers and reference libraries; it is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this handout for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA style.
The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA style is covered in chapter four of the MLA Handbook, and chapter four of the MLA Style Manual. Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style.
- Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are recognizable one from another. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor).
- Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
- Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the Tab key as opposed to pushing the Space Bar five times.
- Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
- Use italics throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis.
- If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).
Formatting the First Page of Your Paper
- Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
- In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
- Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
- Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
- Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
- Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)
Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:
Image Caption: The First Page of an MLA Paper
Writers sometimes use Section Headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.
MLA recommends that when you divide an essay into sections that you number those sections with an arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.
1. Early Writings
2. The London Years
3. Traveling the Continent
4. Final Years
MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.
If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.
Sample Section Headings
The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.
1. Soil Conservation
2. Water Conservation
3. Energy Conservation
Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left
Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left
Level 3 Heading: centered, bold
Level 4 Heading: centered, italics
Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left
There are no unimportant things in essay writing. Every aspect and every minor detail matters. This also concerns essay title page. It is possible to say that the title page is a “face” of a student. Very often professors do not like it when essay title page contains mistakes. If a student fails to avoid mistakes in a title page, what should one expect from the essay itself? But nevertheless, there are many students who do not pay due attention to essay title page. They regret it since usually grades are lowered if the essay title page contains mistakes.
Thus it is better to spend some time on-line and to study requirements to essay title page than to get a lower grade later. Normally, essay front page contains essay topic, author’s name, as well as name of professor/evaluator or a course. It should also have the date and name of the class. Sure, requirements may differ from college to college, but having sample front page examples will help you avoid making mistakes.
Essay Title Page Navigation
Download Free Sample of an Essay Title Page
Essay Title Page (Cick the Image to Enlarge)
Title Pages for Essay Papers
Though content and substance should remain the main concern in any type of essay, a sufficient amount of attention should also be given in the details included on the essay’s cover page. There are not so many requirements, but they may differ depending on essay’s reference style. So, before sitting down to work you have to check for reference style requirements or personal instructions from your professor or evaluator.
Professors usually give guidelines in writing the title page. However, if your professor fails to do so, you may follow the guidelines set by any academic style guides such as MLA (Modern Language Association of America) or APA (American Psychological Association). The MLA style is commonly used in providing guidelines for papers on Humanities while APA is used for Social Sciences. Other styles are also available depending on the essay topic or research paper format set by your professor. Regardless of the nature of the essay, ProfEssays.com has compiled the key elements that should be included in any title page:
- Academic Affiliation, and if possible the department where the paper is due
- Title of the paper
- Author name
- Name of the class
- Professor’s name
- Date when the paper is due
For more details on APA an MLA format title page requirements, read our cover page guidelines.
You also need to check whether you need title page at all. As a rule title page is not required for personal essays. But even then, the first page should contain certain elements of the standard title page, such as the tittle of the essay and the student’s name. In Chicago/Turabian format the title is centered, and the author name is written underneath at the right. If the paper needs to be done in MLA format, the title page is usually not required, if not mentioned otherwise. In this case all the relevant information about the author, the course, and the professor’s name and the due date should be presented in left side corner of the first page.
“Don’t judge the book by its cover.” It is a cliché that is taken at a literal level when it comes to essay-writing. Sadly, not all professors are generous to even consider this saying when going through a student’s paper. Sometimes, the essay title page is a key component to the impression made by an academic paper. Moreover, this is the take-off point of any written piece, on whether it would be given an adequate attention, or not. ProfEssays.com provides a simple solution in making your essay title page effective.
College Essay Title Page
College professors do not tolerate any mistakes in essays, including title pages. So, any college student must make sure the essay contains the topic, student’s name, course name and date. You have to make your essay topic detailed enough to give your readers an idea about your essay, but not too long. There should be some intrigue in the essay topic written on the title page, so the professor feels compelled to read on. College essay title page can tell much about student himself as mistakes in title page are considered to be the signs of light-mindedness. Unless otherwise specified, there are strict requirements to college essay title page format (like font, spaces, margins etc.) Title page can tell much about how serious you are in your studies.
Essay Title Page Template
If you’re a doubting on how to make a good front page, you should definitely get essay title page template. Such templates can be found on-line. Just visit web sites devoted to essay writing as ProfEssays.com and download samples for free. If you get such a template, all you need to do is just to write down information on essay topic, author and the course. So, you don’t have to worry about choice of the font, and you’ll have no problems when choosing text location on the page.
Thesis Title Page
It is not a secret that thesis is one of the most important research papers in a person’s academic life. People spend years to gather information and prepare a persuasive thesis. Needless to say, every minor detail matters, and thesis title page is not an exception. Basically, you have to state the same information on a thesis title page as on essay cover page. This page should have such compulsory elements as topic, author and date. Very often it is necessary to write university name and names of evaluators. The format of your thesis cover page for Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD thesis also has some peculiarities. First of all, there should be stated that it is submitted “in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree”. Besides, at the bottom of thesis cover page the year of submission should be stated instead of the due date. Writing of a nice thesis title page is not difficult, however, there are many students who forget about it as they focus on the research paper itself.
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Essay Cover Page
Students should know that essay cover page is synonymous with title page. So, the requirements to essay cover page are the same. Make sure you state essay topic which has to be laconic but still informative. Do not forget about your name, name of the course and your professor or evaluator. Date is usually written in the bottom of the page. If you have any doubts and questions you can consult essay writing companies, asking for free samples of essay cover pages which will help you in your work.
Sometimes students are required to write essay abstract to introduce the topic. Essay abstract is sort of a summary, but it has own format. Of course, you shouldn’t tell everything about your essay because it becomes uninteresting for a reader. You have to get readers interested. As a rule, you have to explain why you chose a particular topic, what methods you will use to investigate it and what results you’re expecting.
Essay Works Cited page
Every essay should have a list of materials used in the text. Format of essay works cited page depends on reference style of the essay. Thus, different reference styles like Chicago, Harvard, MLA or APA have different requirements to reference list. So, before writing down books, magazines, studies and newspapers you have used in your paper check for reference format requirements. As said above, if you have any doubts consult specialists in custom essay writing who will help you out.
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