The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is most frequently used when writing research papers and identifying sources within the liberal arts and humanities disciplines. The MLA format refers to the guidelines established by the Modern Language Association in its "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers." While many writers and researchers refer to the handbook for source citation guidelines, the book also provides information on various aspects of research paper style, including margin formatting.
The handbook spells out how to prepare a paper in accordance with MLA guidelines. Use word processing software, rather than a typewriter, to type your paper and use a 12-point font -- preferably Times New Roman or Courier New. (Note that Microsoft Word's default setting is 11 point Calibri.). Leave only a single space after periods, and print your paper on standard 8 1/2" by 11" white sheets of paper.
First Page Formatting
Do not include a title page for your paper unless your instructor requests one. Instead, put your name, the name of your instructor, the course title or number (if applicable) and the date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, using a double-space format. For example:
Professor Barbara Lewalski
6 October, 2010
Below this, type the title of your paper in Title Case (regular capitalization) and center it on the page. Do not underline or italicize the title, use quotation marks, or type the title in all capital letters.
The MLA Handbook dictates that you set your paper's margins to one inch, which means that there should be one inch of space between the text and the edge of the paper. Microsoft Word's default setting is one-inch margins, although some word processing programs are set at 1.25" or 1.5" as the default. Check your margin settings by clicking on the "Page Setup" or "Page Layout" button on your Document or File Menu.
Indents and Page Headers
Indent the first line of each paragraph at the left-hand margin by using the Tab key on your keyboard, not by pressing the space bar repeatedly. Place a header containing your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page of your paper, placing the information half an inch from the top of the page. Double-space the text of your paper throughout.