menu

What Does MLA Style Format Look Like?


Writers, researchers, editors and students use the Modern Language Association style for papers related to the liberal arts and humanities. The seventh edition of the “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers” outlines how to format the general structure of your paper, arrange your header and Works Cited page and use in-text citations.

General Structure

When you write a paper in MLA style, the text is double-spaced, using a legible text in 12-point font. The MLA recommends Times New Roman, but you can use any font as long as it is highly legible and there is a discernable difference between regular and italic styles. The margins of your paper should be 1 inch on all sides. Throughout your paper, leave only one space after any punctuation mark. Indent the first line of every paragraph by one-half inch or by using the “Tab” key. On each page of your paper, you need a header featuring your last name followed by the page number written in Arabic numerals. Situate this information on the upper right-hand side of the header.

First Page

Unlike other styles, MLA style does not require you to create a separate title page. Instead, on the first page of your paper, type your name, your professor’s name, your class name and the date in the upper left-hand corner. List each piece of information on a separate line and double-space your text. Following your header, write the title of your paper in title case, centered, but without any extra formatting such as boldface, quotations or italics. On your first page, your professor may ask that you eliminate your header to avoid redundancy.

In-Text Citations

When you use someone else’s work within your paper, such as a fact, quotation, summary or paraphrase, you need provide the original author credit for the information. With MLA style, this is called a parenthetical citation. You place the author’s last name and corresponding page number within parentheses at the end of the applicable sentence, before the final punctuation mark. If the author’s name was already mentioned in the sentence, only include the page number.

Works Cited

At the top of a separate page, under your header, the title “Works Cited” is centered. Alphabetize the list of all works used for your paper on this page by the author’s last name, and if no name is included, use the title. For any citation that is more than one line long, use a hanging indent of five spaces on all subsequent lines. For example, to cite a book in MLA format, type the author’s last name, a comma, first name and a period. Type the title of the book in italics and title case followed by a period. Next, list the city of publication, a colon, the publisher’s name, a comma, the year of publication and a period. End with the medium of publication, such as print, and finish with a period.

About the Author

Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

Photo Credits
  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images