What Is MLS Format?

••• doing research image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is a writing format used primarily in the liberal arts and humanities fields. It offers a standard format for research papers using in-text citations, endnotes or footnotes, and a works cited page.


The research paper should be written on white 81/2-by-11-inch paper.

Margins and Spacing

There should be a 1-inch margin on all sides of the paper. Indent paragraphs a half-inch and set off quotations an inch from the left margin. Double-space the text. This includes quotations as well as the list of works cited.

Heading and Title Page

A seperate title page is not necessary for research papers. Headings, however, should be included at the top left of the first page and need to follow a specific format. The heading should include your name, your instructor's name, the course name and the date. These lines should be on separate, double-spaced lines. Double-space again and center the title. Do not underline the title. The text will follow.

Numbering Pages

Type your last name and the page number in the upper-right corner of each page. It should be a half-inch from the top of the page and 1 inch from the right side of the paper.

Figures and Tables

Figures and tables should be labeled as such. Photographs, images, charts, and line drawings are considered figures. Label them with Arabic numerals.


Professors differ on preference as to how to bind papers. Normally a single staple in the upper-left corner is acceptable. The MLA Guide suggests a paper clip. Some professors prefer an actual binder. Check with your teacher or professor before binding your paper.

Works Cited

Books should be cited as author. book title. city of publication: publisher, year. The author is always listed last name first. Anthologies should be cited as author. Story title. Book title. Name of editor. Edition (if given). City of publication: publisher, year. Page numbers. Encyclopedia articles are cited in the following manner: author (if given). "Article title." Book title. City of publication: publisher, year. Magazine and newspaper articles are similar. Cite them as author. "Title of article." Title of magazine or newspaper, date: page(s). Websites are increasingly popular. They should be cited as title of the site. Editor. Date and/or version number. Name of sponsoring institution. Date of access . Include as much information for a site as you can. Sometimes an editor or a date might not be available.

About the Author

Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman began writing in 1985, with her work appearing in several local newspapers. In 2003 she began an online newspaper company, which published the PA Farm News and SolancoNews.com. The latter website covered everything from hometown heroes and new businesses to the Nickle Mines Shooting. Ruczhak-Eckman received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Lock Haven University.

Photo Credits

  • doing research image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com