The MLA Style Guide is produced by the Modern Language Association and is commonly used by writers of research papers, particularly humanities students, as a formatting guide. The MLA Handbook offers guidance on how to format a paper that includes spacing, margins, font size and page numbering, section headings, and how to cite references both in the body of the paper and at the end in a "Works Cited" or "References" list.
The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers guides students on how to properly space their papers. The Handbook recommends double-spacing between lines of text and that papers be printed on 8.5 by 11-inch paper. Only one space should be entered after periods, question marks, semi-colons and exclamation marks. Recommended fonts include Arial or Times New Roman, or another clear, legible font with obvious differences between its normal and italic style. Set your selected font at size 12.
According to MLA style, page margins should be set to one inch on the top, bottom and sides of each page. The first line of every paragraph should be indented 1/2 inch from the left margin. Set your tab margin on your word processing program presets to five spaces so that you can press the tab button once, as opposed to pressing the space bar five times before every paragraph -- which is more likely to cause inconsistencies throughout the paper.
Headers and Footers
Create a uniform header that automatically generates page numbers for every page of your paper starting with the second page. Leave the page number off the first page of your paper. Place page numbers in the upper-right corner of the header so that they are a 1/2 inch from the top of each page and aligned with the right page margin. Follow the format of "Last Name #" where your last name is listed, followed by the page number. Do not use a footer in your paper. Instead, place all endnotes or footnotes together at the end of your paper before your "Works Cited" page. Title the page "Notes" and center the title at the top of the page.
First Page Format
The MLA Handbook offers direction on how to format the first page of a paper, as it contains information not printed elsewhere in the report. MLA style does not advocate a title page. Instead, list your first and last name in the top-left corner of the first page of your paper. Skip two lines and write your instructor's name. Skip two lines again and type the course name and number which for which you are writing the paper. Skip two more lines and write the date you finish the paper as "day Month Year." Skip two lines and type your paper title, centered on the page. Double space between the title and the first line of your paper. Indent five spaces from the let margin and begin typing.