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MLA General Format 

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MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research 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 produced by other writers. 

If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the  MLA Handbook  (9th 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 page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.

Paper Format

The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the  MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in  MLA Style :

General Guidelines

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:

This image shows the first page of an MLA paper.

The First Page of an MLA Paper

Section Headings

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 dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.

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.

Formatted, unnumbered:

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

Generate accurate MLA citations for free

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless MLA citation

MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template

Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield.

The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers. This quick guide will help you set up your MLA format paper in no time.

Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:

Download Word template Open Google Docs template

(To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)

Table of contents

How to set up mla format in google docs, header and title, running head, works cited page, creating mla style citations, headings and subheadings, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about mla format.

The header in MLA format is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes

After the MLA header, press ENTER once and type your paper title. Center the title and don’t forget to apply title-case capitalization. Read our article on writing strong titles that are informative, striking and appropriate.

MLA header

For a paper with multiple authors, it’s better to use a separate title page instead.

At the top of every page, including the first page, you need to include your last name and the page number. This is called the “running head.” Follow these steps to set up the MLA running head in your Word or Google Docs document:

The running head should look like this:

MLA running head

The Works Cited list is included on a separate page at the end of your paper. You list all the sources you referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Don’t include sources that weren’t cited in the paper, except potentially in an MLA annotated bibliography assignment.

Place the title “Works Cited” in the center at the top of the page. After the title, press ENTER once and insert your MLA references.

If a reference entry is longer than one line, each line after the first should be indented ½ inch (called a hanging indent ). All entries are double spaced, just like the rest of the text.

Format of an MLA Works Cited page

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Prefer to cite your sources manually? Use the interactive example below to see what the Works Cited entry and MLA in-text citation look like for different source types.

Headings and subheadings are not mandatory, but they can help you organize and structure your paper, especially in longer assignments.

MLA has only a few formatting requirements for headings. They should

We recommend keeping the font and size the same as the body text and applying title case capitalization. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics are appropriate for subordinate headings.

Chapter Title

Section Heading

Tip: Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word allow you to create heading levels that help you to keep your headings consistent.

Tables and other illustrations (referred to as “figures”) should be placed as close to the relevant part of text as possible. MLA also provides guidelines for presenting them.

MLA format for tables

Tables are labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title. The label and title are placed above the table on separate lines; the label and number appear in bold.

A caption providing information about the source appears below the table; you don’t need one if the table is your own work.

Below this, any explanatory notes appear, marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note is indented; your word processor should apply this formatting automatically.

Just like in the rest of the paper, the text is double spaced and you should use title case capitalization for the title (but not for the caption or notes).

MLA table

MLA format for figures

Figures (any image included in your paper that isn’t a table) are also labeled and numbered, but here, this is integrated into the caption below the image. The caption in this case is also centered.

The label “Figure” is abbreviated to “Fig.” and followed by the figure number and a period. The rest of the caption gives either full source information, or (as in the example here) just basic descriptive information about the image (author, title, publication year).

MLA figure

Source information in table and figure captions

If the caption of your table or figure includes full source information and that source is not otherwise cited in the text, you don’t need to include it in your Works Cited list.

Give full source information in a caption in the same format as you would in the Works Cited list, but without inverting the author name (i.e. John Smith, not Smith, John).

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .

Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.

The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.

This quick guide to MLA style  explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2022, June 16). MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template. Scribbr. Retrieved March 12, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/formatting/

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MLA Style Guide, 8th Edition

MLA Works Cited Core Elements

The core elements of any entry in the Works Cited list are shown in the chart below. The core elements are in the order in which they should appear, followed by the appropriate punctuation mark. If an element cannot be found or does not apply to the source being cited, omit that element from the entry. End the entry with a period.

Each core element is explained in detail with examples on its own page under the Works Cited Entries Core Elements dropdown menu.

MLA Core Elements with Punctuation

Image credit: Modern Language Association. MLA core elements. 2016, www.mla.org/MLA-Style/What-s-New-in-the-Eighth-Edition.

MLA References

The standard citation style guide for the humanities, especially languages and literature, is the MLA Handbook , 8th edition, 2016. The Modern Language Association of America (MLA) publishes the manual. It is commonly referred to it as the "MLA Manual" or the "MLA Handbook".

Two types of citations are included in most research papers: citations within the text of the document and a list of reference citations at the end of the paper.

In-Text Citations:

In-text citations appear in the body of your paper. They identify your use of an idea or quotation from one of your sources. The MLA Handbook uses the author-page citation system for in-text citations. 

Reference Citations:

Information about the sources you use in your work are included as a separate list at the end of the paper.  The MLA Handbook suggests using the title, "Works Cited", for the list.

Any source information that you provide in an in-text citation must correspond to a source in your Works Cited page.

Major Changes in the Eighth Edition

About this Guide

Always refer to the MLA Handbook for authorized examples of citations.

Some of the citations in this guide are taken from the MLA Handbook; others are recommendations from Northwestern librarians.

Always ask your instructor for specific directions pertaining to your assignment.

MLA Handbook

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A copy of this manual is available at the Berntsen Library.

Indian River State College

Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format

MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here

Welcome to an overview of “What is MLA Format?” in relation to paper formatting. You’ll find in-depth guidelines, examples, and visual samples to help you easily format your paper. This guide does not serve as a reference for MLA citation format.

For help determining the proper structure for citing, refer to the other guides on EasyBib.com. Here is another informative site which may help with further understanding of MLA citation format.

Guidelines for Formatting a Paper in MLA

These guidelines come from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”

MLA Guide Overview

There are various sections in this guide. Each section provides an in-depth overview of the different components to keep in mind when developing an MLA paper.

This guide includes the following sections:

If you need more guidance, a website like EasyBib.com usually has guides and tools to help you out. There’s also resources on other styles, like our guide on “ APA reference page ”, otherwise known as a “References” page.

MLA Format Background

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization responsible for developing MLA format. It was developed as a means for researchers, students, and scholars in the literature and language fields to uniformly format their papers and assignments. This uniform, or consistent, method to developing a paper or assignment allows for easy reading. Today, MLA is not only used in literature and language subject areas; many others have adopted it as well.

The Modern Language Association released the 9th and most current edition of their MLA Handbook in April 2021. The Handbook provides thorough instructions on citing, as well as guidelines for submitting work that adheres to the Modern Language Association’s rules and standards. Although we’re not affiliated with the MLA, our citation specialists bring you this thoughtful and informative guide on the format.

Looking for information about previous editions to the Handbook ? Want to learn more about the origin of “What is MLA format?” Click here to learn about the previous editions to the Handbook .

Actually, are you looking for help on using another style? See how to cite an APA journal , learn to create an APA book citation , and more!

Formatting the Header in MLA

To create a header for your first page, follow these steps:

MLA Formating Paper

General Paper Formatting

Paper choice.

While many professors, instructors, and publications allow electronic submission, some prefer printed, hard copies of papers. This section focuses on the type of paper to use for printed submission.

If you choose to print your paper, use white paper only. Do not use ivory, off-white, or any other shades or colors.

Choose a standard, high quality paper to print your project on. Do not use cardstock. It is not necessary to use resum é paper. Use typical, high quality printer or copy paper.

When it comes to size, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper is the recommended size. If you’d like to use a different size, ask your teacher prior to submission.

Use One-Inch Margins in MLA

Use one-inch margins around the entire page. The running head should be the only item seen in the one inch margin (see below for more on running heads).

Most word processing programs automatically default to using one inch margins. Check the page settings section of the program to locate the margin size.

Indenting Paragraphs in MLA

Indent the first word in every paragraph. Sentences should begin one half inch from the left margin.

It is not necessary to manually measure half an inch. Use the “tab” button on the keyboard to create a half inch space.

Double Space Paragraphs in MLA

MLA research paper format requires that the entire research paper or MLA format essay includes double-spaced lines. Double-spaced lines should be found in between the written body of the work, in the heading, and also on the MLA reference page.

While it may seem tempting to place a few extra lines between the heading, title, and beginning of the paper, lines should all be double spaced.

Font and Font Size in MLA

In an MLA paper, it is acceptable to use any font type that is easy to read. Many source types, such as books and articles, use fonts that are easy to read, so if you’re seeking an appropriate font style, look at other sources for guidance. Two of the most commonly used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.

It is important for the reader to be able to distinguish the difference between italicized and regular font, so if you choose a font style different than Arial or Times New Roman, make sure the difference between the two type styles is evident.

The use of a 12-point font size is recommended as this is the default size for many word processing programs. It is acceptable to use another standard size, such as 11-point or 11.5-point.

Some professors or instructors will provide guidance on how to secure hard copies of projects. If your instructor does not provide you with any expectations or guidance, a simple staple in the top left corner should suffice. If a stapler is not available, some instructors allow paper or binder clips.

Do not fold the top left corner down to secure the pages together. The page could easily unfold, causing a mess of papers. While binders and plastic holders are cute, in reality, they add bulk to a professor or instructor who may like to take the papers home for grading purposes. Keep the binding simple and clean. Staples work best, and binder and paper clips are the next best option.

As always, follow any instructions your professor or teacher may provide. The guidelines found here are simply recommendations.

MLA Heading & Title Page Instructions

The web page “Formatting a Research Paper” gives two options when it comes to creating the header for your project:

If choosing option one, creating an MLA heading, you’ll need to include four main components:

The first item typed on the paper should be your full name.

Here’s an example:

essay mla header

The assignment’s title should be placed below the due date, after a double space. Align the title so it sits in the center of the MLA format paper. The title should be written in standard lettering, without underlines, bold font, italicized font, or any quotation marks. Only include italics or quotation marks if your title includes the title of another source.

Here is an example of an MLA header for an MLA format essay, paper, or assignment:

Neal E. Bibdarsh

Professor Haujeemoto

English 201

The Trials and Tribulations of Lincoln’s Reciting of “The Gettysburg Address”

*Note: The quotation marks here are around the title of a speech included in the paper’s title.

Most research papers use a standard MLA format heading, like the one seen above. If your instructor requires you to create a standalone title page, ask him or her for specifications. MLA does not have specific instructions for developing an MLA title page. We recommend you use an MLA header for your project.

If your teacher or professor requires a standalone title page, but has not provided any guidance or specifications, here are a few suggestions from EasyBib.com and this MLA guide :

Click  additional information about essays to see an example of a formatted header.

You can either create a title page using the EasyBib Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.

essay mla header

Running Head & Page Numbers in MLA

A running head is a brief heading that is placed in the top right corner of every page in a project. The Modern Language Association Style Center (online) states that the running head consists of:

General tips to keep in mind:

APA formatting page number

Before adding this information manually onto every single page, check to see if the word processor you’re using has the capability to automatically add this information for you. Try looking in the settings area where page numbers or headers can be added or modified.

Google Docs: Adding a header

Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header

Quotations in MLA

Quotes are added into assignments to help defend an argument, prove a point, add emphasis, or simply liven up a project.

Quotes should not take up the majority of your paper or assignment. Quotes should be sprinkled sparingly throughout, and quotes longer than 4 lines should be formatted as MLA block quotes . Use direct quotes from outside sources to enhance and expand on your own writing and ideas.

Words from quotes belong to the individual who spoke or wrote them, so it is essential to credit that individual’s work. Credit him or her by adding what is called an “in-text citation” into the body of the project.

There are three ways to add quotes: 1. With the author’s name in the sentence (a citation in prose).

Dan Gutman shares a glimpse into the overall plot by stating, “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman is the author of the book that this quote is pulled from.

2. Without the author’s name in the sentence (a parenthetical citation).

The main character’s confusing experience is realized and explained when he states “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (Gutman 5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman’s name isn’t included in the sentence. It’s included in the parentheses at the end of the sentence. This is an example of a proper MLA style citation in the body of a project.

3. In a block quote, which is used when a large quote, of 4 lines or more, is added into a project.

Using footnotes and endnotes

The Modern Language Association generally promotes the use of references as described in the sections above, but footnotes and endnotes are also acceptable forms of references to use in your paper.

Footnotes and endnotes are helpful to use in a variety of circumstances. Here are a few scenarios when it may seem appropriate to use this type of referencing:

To include a footnote or endnote, add a superscript number at the end of the sentence the footnote or endnote refers to. They can be included mid-sentence if necessary, but be sure to add it after any punctuation, such as commas or periods. Find a location that doesn’t distract the reader from the content and flow of the paper.

Within the text example:

Numerous well-known children’s books include characters from a wide range of races and ethnicities, thus promoting diversity and multiculturalism.¹

At the bottom of the page (footnote) or at the end of the section (endnote):

¹See Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez. While Parr’s work features characters of various colors, such as pink or blue, children easily correlate it with individuals of different races and ethnicities.

On the last page of the assignment, the writer includes the full references for the books by Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez.

For more on block quotes and a further, detailed explanation on the use of quotes, including MLA footnotes, refer to our MLA In-Text Citation and Parenthetical Citations Guide. In this guide you’ll find further information including directions for the use of quotes without an author, page numbers, and how to properly credit work from electronic sources.

For guides on citations in another style, check out APA parenthetical citation and APA in-text citation .

Paraphrases in MLA

Paraphrases are created when text or speech from another source are added into a project, but the writer chooses to summarize them and weave in his or her own writing and writing style.

Even though the writer modifies the information from another source, it is still necessary to credit the source using proper format ( Handbook 98). Paraphrased information uses the same MLA reference format as stated in the section directly above this one.

Here is an acceptable paraphrase:

Original text:

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs encouraged students at Stanford to continue with their determination, drive, and ambitious behavior. They should never be simply satisfied with the status quo. They should continue to push themselves despite possible obstacles and failures.

To develop a well-written paraphrase, follow these simple, step-by-step instructions.

Wondering if it’s better to quote or paraphrase?

An essential part of the research process involves adding direct quotes and paraphrases into projects. Direct quotes provide word-for-word evidence and allow writers to use another author’s eloquent words and language in their own projects. When it comes to paraphrases, writers are able to take a block of text and shrink the scope of it into the their papers. Paper writers can also use paraphrases to demonstrate their ability to analyze and reiterate information in a meaningful and relevant way.

If you’re wondering which one is better to consistently use, quotes or paraphrases, there’s a clear winner. Paraphrases come out on top. Sure, direct quotes are incredibly beneficial, but copying and pasting too many of these into a project can cause a reader to lose sight of the writer’s own voice. Mixing your own voice with another author’s too much can make for choppy and disjointed reading.

The ultimate goal of a research project is to have your voice and research merged together as one. Paraphrases allow just that. When you combine information from outside sources with your own writing style, it demonstrates your ability as a researcher to showcase your understanding and analyzation of a topic.

Remember, whether you’re adding direct quotes or paraphrases into a project, both types of additions need references. References are placed after the quotes and paraphrases, and also at the end of an assignment.

If you’re looking for additional help with your punctuation or grammar, check out the EasyBib plagiarism checker !

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Using Abbreviations in MLA

Abbreviations are commonly used in many source types including websites, blog posts, books, and journal articles. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in all of these sources.

When it comes to school and research assignments, however, the MLA   Handbook states that abbreviations should be used rarely in the prose of your paper (293). Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meanings is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion from your reader.

There are times when you may feel it is perfectly acceptable to use an abbreviation rather than its typed out counterpart in a paper. If you do abbreviate, be sure you are using commonly accepted abbreviations, which you can find in the dictionary. You can also review Appendix 1 in the  MLA Handbook .

General Abbreviation Tips

Abbreviating Months

Type out entire month names when being used in the body of a research paper or assignment.

She rented out the beach house from May through September

When it comes to references, MLA bibliography format requires months longer than four letters to be abbreviated.

Other abbreviations that are perfectly acceptable to use in a bibliography (not the body of a project) include:

Again, these abbreviations should only be used in the final page(s) of a project, the MLA Works Cited list. They should not be used in the body of a project.

For more information on bibliographies, see our MLA format Works Cited List page.

Abbreviating Publishers

One of the quirkiest things about this particular style is how publisher names are structured on the final page of references. Certain words are abbreviated, some words are omitted, and other words are written in full.

Words describing what type of business the publisher is are omitted from the works cited. Here’s a breakdown of the words that should be excluded:

If a publisher’s name contains the words “University” and “Press” (or the equivalent in another language), the words should be abbreviated to the letters “U” and “P” in your citation. But if only one of the words appears, it should be written out normally.

Here are a few examples:

All other words related to the names of publishers should be written out in full.

Abbreviating Titles

Certain classical and biblical works are abbreviated in a bibliography, but also in any parenthetical references in the text.

The official handbook provides a lengthy list, spanning over multiple pages, of the preferred abbreviations to use for classical and biblical works ( Handbook 295-301), but here’s a quick snapshot of some of the commonly used ones:

Hebrew Bible or Old Testament = OT

New Testament = NT


Again, the titles above are allowed to be abbreviated both in references in parentheses in the body of a project and also on the final page of references. If you’re wondering why, it’s because they’re cited often and it’s unnecessary to type out the entire title names.

Formatting Numbers in MLA

Use of numerals.

If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.

Other items to keep in mind:

In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study

Arabic Numbers

When including a number in a paper, spell out the number if it can be written as one word (such as six ) or two words (such as sixty-two ). For fractions, decimals, or longer numbers, type them out using digits. For larger numbers, write the number itself ( Handbook 82-84).

If the number comes before a unit of measurement or label, type the number using digits.

More on Numbers

Starting a sentence with a number is generally frowned upon. Try modifying the sentence so that the number, or number word, is found elsewhere.

Instead of:

225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Use this sentence:

A total of 225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

If modifying the sentence is not possible or does not work well with the flow of the assignment or paper, type out the written number:

Two hundred twenty five children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Do not include any ISBN numbers in your paper.

Outline Format

The Modern Language Association does not have any requirements regarding the structure of an outline. If your teacher asks you to create an MLA outline, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.

Here is an example of a recommended outline structure:

essay mla header

In addition to outlines, use roman numerals for suffixes.

Using Images, Tables, & Musical Scores in MLA

Photographs, data sets, tables, graphs, and other images are often added into projects or papers to promote or aid understanding. They provide meaningful visuals for the reader. If the illustration or visual image does not enhance the quality of the paper, do not include it in the project.

Tables and illustrations should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.

For an image to be significant and easily identifiable, place it as close as possible to the text in the project where it is discussed.

It is not acceptable to simply place an image in a project without including identifiable information. All images must include information about its origin.

Here are the directions to properly attribute an image:

In the text of the project or paper where the figure is discussed, include the label in parentheses to ensure the reader knows where to find the figure in your paper.

In the text:

Sarah’s tattoo design was filled with two of her favorite flowers: lilies and daffodils along a thinly curved vine (fig. 1).

Image formatting:

(Image Would Be Here) Fig. 1. Sarah’s Tattoo. barneyWILLIAMSable, Deviant Art , 2011, barneywilliamsable.deviantart.com/art/Sarah-s-Tattoo-design-193048938.

APA image caption

Fig. 1. White Studio. “Houdini and Jennie, the Elephant, Performing at the Hippodrome, New York.” Library of Congress , www.loc.gov/item/96518833/.

When adding a table or data set into a project, it is formatted a little differently. Above the data set, include the label “Table” with an Arabic numeral, and title it. The table number and title should be located flush left and on separate lines. The first table seen in the project is labeled as Table 1. The second table in the project is Table 2, and so on. The table’s title should be written in title case form (the first letter of each word is capitalized, except for small, insignificant words).

Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.

International Scholars from India Enrolled at Yale University a

Source: “International Scholars Academic Year 2015-2016.” Yale University , Office of International Students and Scholars, yale.app.box.com/v/scholar-2015-2016. a. The numbers reflect students who are enrolled full-time.

The information included above and below any images or table should be double spaced, similar to the rest of the project or paper.

essay mla header

Musical Scores

Musical scores need to be labeled as well. When including a musical score in a project, label musical scores with “Ex.” which is short for example. This label should be placed below the musical score. Next to the abbreviation “Ex.”, assign the score an Arabic numeral. The first musical score in the project should be labeled as Ex. 1. The second musical score found in an assignment should be labeled as Ex. 2., and so on.

If possible, provide a caption after to the label. If the caption below the sheet music includes enough information about the source, it is not necessary to include the full reference at the end of the assignment.

Here is an example of a possible label and caption:

Ex. 4. Scott Joplin, The Entertainer, piano, C major.

Another example:

Music sheet APA formatting caption

Here’s more on tables and illustrations.

Using Lists in MLA

It’s appropriate to add lists into an MLA format essay as long as the proper rules are followed.

Lists created using MLA essay format look different than a grocery list or any other type of vertical listing of items. Items in a list are included in your prose, rather than the traditional vertical style.

Often, you will use a colon between the introductory sentence and the list. But you should not include a colon if the first item in the list is part of the sentence.

List Example #1

Here is an example of how a list may look incorporated into the prose of a research project or assignment:

William Shakespeare wrote numerous plays, many of which were considered tragedies: Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear .

List Example #2 Here is an example of how a list may look in a research project or assignment when the list is part of the introductory sentence:

Many of William Shakespeare’s were tragedies. Some of his most popular tragedies include Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear.

MLA Works Cited Format

EasyBib.com has a full, comprehensive guide to creating a proper works cited MLA format , but here are a few items to keep in mind when developing this portion of a project:

For more detailed information, make sure to check out the EasyBib guide to MLA format Works Cited pages.

MLA Citation Format

The majority of this guide focuses on MLA formatting in regards to MLA paper format rules and guidelines. If you’re seeking information related to the proper formatting of an MLA citation, refer to our individual pages and posts on various types of citations.

If you’re simply looking for the general structure for full references, which are found on the final pages of projects, here’s the proper order:

Author’s Last name, Author’s First name. “Title of Source.”* Title of Container , Names of other contributors along with their specific roles, version of the source (if it differs from the original or is unique), any key numbers associated with the source that aren’t dates (such as journal issue numbers or volume numbers), Name of the Publisher, publication date, location (such as the URL or page numbers).

*Note: A title may be in italics instead of quotation marks, depending of the type of source. The general rule is that works that are self-contained (like books, journals, or television shows) are formatted in italics. Works that are part of a larger work (like articles, chapters, or specific episodes) are formatting in quotation marks. 

MLA Format Citing FAQs:

“What in the world are containers?”

Containers are what hold the source. If you’re creating a reference for a chapter in a book, the title of the chapter is the title of the source , and the container is the title of the book . The book holds the chapter, so it’s the container. If you’re searching for how to cite a website, here’s a tip: the title of the source is the name of the individual page and the title of the container is the name of the full website.

“This seems like a lot of information for a reference. Is it all necessary?”

The short answer is “No!” When citing, only include the components that help the reader locate the exact same source themselves.

It isn’t necessary to go digging for items such as numbers, version types, or names of other individuals or contributors associated with the source if they aren’t applicable. If you think it’s beneficial for the reader, then include it.

Related to citations, here are helpful pages on:

If you’re looking for an MLA citation generator, head to the EasyBib homepage. Our formatter will help you create citations quickly and easily!

Need APA, too? There are also EasyBib tools and an APA citation website reference guide to help you learn the basics.

Edits and Proofreading

Editing and proofreading your assignment prior to submission is an incredibly important step in the research process. Editing involves checking the paper for the following items:

Smart idea: running your paper through a paper checker before you turn it in. EasyBib Plus offers a checker that scans for grammar errors and unintentional plagiarism. 

Check out our MLA sample papers . Also, check out the EasyBib MLA Annotated Bibliography Guide.

Don’t forget to use the EasyBib citation generator to develop your Modern Language Association style references.EasyBib.com also has helpful guides on APA format and more styles . Lastly, stay up-to-date on what’s coming by following our EasyBib Twitter account.

Works Cited

“Formatting a Research Paper.” The MLA Style Center , Modern Language Association of America, style.mla.org/formatting-papers/.

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Published October 31, 2011. Updated July 25, 2021.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau . Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. You can find her here on Twitter. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

Citation Examples

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The works-cited list provides the reader full information so that a reader can locate the source for further use.

Basic formatting

The works-cited list appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes if they are present.

Page margins

All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.

Running head

Write the running head in the top right of the page at 0.5 inch from the top. Use the running head “Surname Page #.”

The font should be clear enough to read. For example, Times New Roman font set to 12 points.

Formatting entries

Entries should be double-spaced, including a double-space between the heading and the first entry. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin.

Formatting the title

The title should be “Works Cited.” Center the title. Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title. If you cite only one source in the list, the title should be “Work Cited.” If you include sources that you only consulted and didn’t cite directly, the title should be changed accordingly to “Works Cited and Consulted.”

Arranging works cited

Works-cited-list entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name (or the editor’s last name for entire edited collections). Double-space all entries. Begin each entry flush with the left margin. If any entry runs over more than one line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin (sometimes called a hanging indent).

Example works cited

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness . Vintage, 2000.

Hill, R. T. “Legitimizing Colonial Privilege: Native Americans at a Quincentenary of Discourse.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 16, no. 1, 1996, pp. 92–100.

MacDonald, Shauna M. “Performance as Critical Posthuman Pedagogy.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 34, no. 2, 2014, pp. 164–81.

Zilio, M. “Canada Will Not Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Federal Government Says.” The Globe and Mail . 7 Sept. 2017, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-will-not-move-embassy-to-jerusalem-federal-government-says/article37219576/ .

An in-text citation is a short citation that is placed in the text. It is styled in two ways: a citation in prose or a parenthetical citation.

The basic element needed for an in-text citation is the author’s name . The publication year is not required in in-text citations. Sometimes, page numbers or line numbers are also included, especially when directly quoting text from the source being cited. When including a page number, do not include a comma or any other punctuation mark between the author’s surname and the page number.

Parenthetical citations usually add only the author’s surname at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Sometimes they include a page number or other locator. An example of a parenthetical citation is given below:

The spiritual geography of the landscape is explained (Cooper).

If you want to cite a chapter number, a scene, or a line number, follow the abbreviation guidelines below:

When including a more specific locator number rather than a page number, place a comma between the author’s surname and the label.

(Cooper, ch. 2).

Here are a few examples of in-text citations for sources with different numbers or types of authors:

Use only the surname of the author in parenthetical citations. If you want to add a page number (or another indicator of the place in a work), add it after the author’s surname without any punctuation between the surname and the page number.

(Abraham 7).

Two authors

Add only the surnames of the authors. Use “and” to separate the two authors.

(Langmuir and Einstein).

Three or more authors

Add only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.”

(Low et al.).

Corporate author

Shorten the organization name wherever possible, excluding any initial articles and using the shortest noun phrase (e.g., shorten Literary Society of Tamil Culture to Literary Society).

(Literary Society).

If there is no author for the source, use the source title in place of the author’s surname.

When you add such in-text citations, italicize the text of the title. If the source title is longer than a noun phrase, use a shortened version of the title. For example, the title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is shortened to Fantastic Beasts .

( Fantastic Beasts 160).

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Grammar Guide

MLA Format: The Ultimate Guide to Correctly Formatting Your Paper

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang

Speculative Fiction Author

the ultimate guide to MLA headings cover

So you need to create an MLA heading? You’re not alone—MLA format is one of the most common styles you’ll be expected to use when you’re writing a humanities paper, whether you’re a high-school student or a PhD candidate.

Read on to learn what a correct MLA heading looks like and how to create one that works like magic.

What Is an MLA Heading?

How do you format an mla heading, what is an mla header, how do you format an mla header, headings are only the beginning, commonly asked questions about mla headers, final thoughts.

The term “MLA heading” refers to five lines of important information that appear at the top of the first page.

Here are two examples of what an MLA heading could look like:

Hermione Granger

Professor McGonagall

Transfiguration—6th period

18 October 1991

“How to Turn A Matchstick into a Needle”

MLA heading set out in Word

Harry J. Potter

Prof. Remus Lupin

Defense Against the Dark Arts

4 March 1994

“Why I Think My Professor Is a Werewolf”

Why are these headings important? Well, your teacher probably collects hundreds of papers every year. If any identifying information is missing from these assignments, grading and organizing them becomes much more of a challenge.

MLA headings ensure that all key information is presented upfront. With just a glance at the first page, your teacher can easily figure out who wrote this paper, when it was submitted, and which class it was written for.

essay heading tip: save your heading as a template

What Are the Parts of an MLA Heading?

An MLA heading should include:

Your instructor may give you specific guidelines about how much detail to include in each line. For example, some teachers may ask you to refer to them by their titles, while others may ask you to use their full names. If you haven’t been given any specific instructions, don’t sweat it—any option is fine as long as it’s clear and consistent.

Follow these formatting rules for your MLA heading:

Title case means that major words should be capitalized and minor words should be lowercase. Major words include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and any word longer than four letters. Minor words include conjunctions, prepositions, and articles.

Tip: Remember that Hermione’s “Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare” shortens to S.P.E.W., not S.F.T.P.O.E.W—only the major words are capitalized!

graphic of the SPEW acronym highlighting major words

The MLA heading should only appear on the first page of your paper . But wait, you’re not done yet! In the rest of your paper, you need to include something called an MLA header at the top right corner of every page.

Think of the MLA header as a short, simple “You are here” marker that shows the reader where they are in the paper. By looking at the MLA headers, your instructor can easily understand where each page goes and which paper it belongs to.

What Are the Parts of an MLA Header?

The MLA header consists of your last name and page number.

For example, the second page of Hermione Granger’s essays would be labeled “Granger 2”, the third would be labeled “Granger 3”, and so on.

MLA headings in Word

Creating MLA Headers in Microsoft Word

If you’re writing your paper in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

Creating MLA Headers in Google Docs

If you’re writing your paper in Google Docs, follow these steps:

Tip: After you create your first MLA header, save a template document for yourself that you can re-use next time, so you don’t have to follow these steps every time you write a paper!

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Once you've got your headings sorted, it's time to start writing your paper. While we can't help you edit the content of your essay , ProWritingAid is here to make sure your grammar, spelling, and style is on point.

As well as checking your grammar, ProWritingAid also shows you your progress towards key goals like varied sentence structure, active voice, readability, and more. The target scores are all based on averages for real essays, so you'll always know if you're on track.

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Whose last name should you use in your MLA header if you’re writing a group paper?

The MLA Style Guide has no specific guidelines for group projects. You should always include the names of all members of the group project in the first line of your heading, but you don’t necessarily need to do this for the header on every page.

If there are only two or three authors collaborating on your paper, you can include all of your last names in the MLA header, e.g., “Granger, Potter, and Weasley 2.”

If you’re part of a bigger group and it would take up too much space to include all of your last names, you can write the name that comes first in the alphabet and then add “ et al. ”, e.g., “Granger et al. 2.” (The term “et al.” is short for the Latin term “et alia”, which means “and others.” You’ll often see it used in academic papers with multiple authors.)

example of a heading for a larger group project

Should you include your class period in your MLA heading or just the class name?

There’s no MLA rule about this, but when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of including too much information in your heading rather than not enough.

If your instructor teaches more than one version of the same course, they’ll probably find it helpful if you specify the class period you’re in. You can either include your class period after the class name, e.g., “History of Magic—2nd period”, or before the class name, e.g., “2nd Period History of Magic.”

What should you write in your MLA heading if you don’t have an instructor?

If you have no instructor, you can explain the situation in the line where you would normally put the instructor’s name, e.g., “Independent Study” or “No Instructor.”

What should you write in your MLA heading if you have multiple instructors?

If you have multiple instructors, you can include both of their names in the line where you would put the instructor’s name. If you’re in a college course where you have a professor and a TA, you should choose whose name to include in the header depending on who will ultimately be reading your paper.

no instructor vs. multiple instructors

Should you include the date you started writing the paper or the date the paper is due?

The MLA Style Guide has no specific guidelines about which date you need to put in the heading. In general, however, the best practice is to put the date the assignment is due.

This is because all the papers for the same assignment will have the same due date, even if different students begin writing their assignments on different days, so it’s easier for your instructor to use the due date to determine what assignment the paper is for.

Should you format the date as Day Month Year or Month Day Year?

In MLA format, you should write the date in the order of Day Month Year. Instead of writing May 31 2021, for example, you would write 31 May 2021.

What font should you use for your MLA heading and header?

Both the heading and the header should be in the same font as the rest of your paper. If you haven’t chosen a font for your paper yet, remember that the key thing to aim for is readability. If you choose a font where your teachers have to squint to read it, or one where your teachers can’t figure out the difference between what’s italicized and what isn’t, you should rethink your choice.

When in doubt, go with Times New Roman, 12 pt. It’s always a safe bet for MLA papers unless your instructor specifically tells you otherwise.

font comparison to show easier and more difficult-to-read fonts

Do you need to italicize or bold the title of your MLA paper?

No. There’s no need to use any special styling on the title of an MLA paper, such as bold or italics.

How do you format section titles in your MLA paper?

If you’re writing a paper with multiple sections, you may need to include a subtitle at the top of each section.

The MLA Style Guide gives you two options for using subtitles in a paper: one-level section titles or several-level subtitles (for papers with subsections within each section).

For one-level section titles, the formatting is simple. Every subtitle should look the same as the title (centered and double-spaced, with no special formatting).

one level section title examples

The only difference is that instead of using title case, you should capitalize only the first word of each subtitle. For example, a title would be spelled “How to Turn a Matchstick into a Needle”, while a subtitle would be spelled “How to turn a matchstick into a needle.”

For several-level subtitles, you will need to format each level in a different way to show which level each section is at. You can use boldface, italics, and underlining to differentiate between levels. For example, subtitles at the highest level should be bolded, while subtitles at the next level down should be italicized.

See the chart below for MLA’s suggested formats.

three different formats to denote different subtitle levels

What is the difference between MLA format and APA format?

MLA and APA are two sets of guidelines for formatting papers and citing research.

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. The MLA handbook is most often used in fields related to the humanities, such as literature, history, and philosophy.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. The APA format is most often used in fields related to the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and nursing.

The APA manual includes a heading format similar to the MLA heading format with a few key differences, such as using a separate cover page instead of simply including the heading at the top of the first page. Both heading formats ensure that all of your papers include all your key identifying information in a clear and consistent way.

consult the MLA handbook if you're unsure

Where can you learn more about MLA style?

If you have questions about how to format a specific assignment or paper, it’s always best to consult your instructor first. Your school may also have a writing center that can help you with formatting questions.

In addition, Purdue has fantastic resources for all kinds of formatting topics, from MLA headings to MLA citations and everything in between.

If you would like to find out more directly from the Modern Language Association, consult the MLA Style Center or the MLA Handbook (8th edition).

Now you’re ready to write an MLA paper with a fantastic heading. Make sure your essay does your heading justice by checking it over with ProWritingAid.

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Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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MLA headings and subheadings

MLA Headings and Subheadings – MLA Format Heading

By andy xavier.

Table of Contents hide 1 Introduction 2 History of MLA Format 3 Common Misconceptions about MLA Headings and Headers 4 Basic Formatting Requirements for MLA Headings and Subheadings 4.1 Title 4.2 MLA Headings 4.3 MLA Subheadings 5 When to Use the Different Subheading Levels 6 To Wrap It Up


MLA format is a literature referencing style that is developed by the Modern Language Association. The writing style offers a flexible guideline for writing, referencing as well as formatting. One of these set guidelines concerns the MLA headings and subheadings.

Headings and subheadings are identifiers that are required to help organize and provide structure to MLA papers and essays. Writers who make use of MLA properly not just enhance the readability of their book, manuscript, thesis, journal, or any literary piece, they consequently enhance their credibility as writers due to this display of accountability to their source material.

MLA has a set of broad rules, however, MLA does not exactly set rules for formatting MLA headings and subheadings. It just has to be consistent with the general formatting guidelines of the MLA style.

 History of MLA Format

The Modern Language Association of America or MLA for short is the major professional conglomerate in the US to which scholars of language and literature belong.

Founded in 1883, the objective of this association lies with strengthening the teaching and study of language and literature and it has over 25,000 members in over a hundred countries. This organization lays claim to the MLA format of literature writing which has been largely adopted all over the world. It is this writing style that is largely referenced all through this article.

Common Misconceptions about MLA Headings and Headers

Oftentimes, most students and writers mistake a heading for a header. Although both are mostly misconstrued to be the same thing, they have different purposes. For instance, an MLA heading is found on the first page and serves the purpose of identifying information while a header is an identifier that is found on every page of your literary piece.

Section Headings improve the readability of a literary work and students may not be required to include section headings in their papers or essay. This is why it is important to ask your instructor or consult the assignment guideline to be sure. Therefore, if you are required to include section headings, then it is important to follow the guidelines in this article.

Do you need help with MLA style? We can help !

MLA running head

Basic Formatting Requirements for MLA Headings and Subheadings

Download the MLA heading template

MLA format does not require a title page for essays and paper. However, the title of the paper and essay should appear on the first page according to the format of MLA heading. Plus, the title comes immediately after your information, your instructor’s information, course information and the due date.

The title should be easily noticeable as it holds the topic of the entire paper. This is why it’s designed to be the most conspicuous part of a project or literary piece. Word processors do provide the layout styles that depict how a title should be, but even with this, knowing the requirements of writing a title in MLA will come in handy. Here are some of these requirements;

The title should be

The title should not be italicized, bold, underlined, put in quotation marks

Let’s call this the dos of title writing in MLA style. Writing a title also comes with a bag of don’ts and here are some of them;

For example

“The Beginning Of Revolution In Mid Africa”

Example of MLA heading

MLA Headings

Any heading succeeding the Title can be called a subheading. There are different levels of headings in MLA. The first level of headings in an MLA paper, which is usually reserved for the chapter title, is referred to as headings while the subsequent levels are referred to as subheadings.

As expected, MLA headings in a paper or an essay should be styled in descending order of prominence. This implies that if the title heading is the most prominent, what follows it should be of a reduced font size until the end of the work.

MLA Headings should be

Literature Review

MLA Subheadings

The subheadings in MLA format are quite similar to those in the APA style as they both have five different levels. Just like the headings, subheadings should be styled in order of their prominence.

Because of the number of levels, identifying which subheading belongs to which level can be a hassle. This is why in MLA style, the font styling is used to differentiate the levels of subheadings. The consistency in the styling of the subheading is essential in letting the readers understand the structure of the paper or essay. Therefore, each level of subheading should appear in the same size, format, and style for easy identification.

Additionally, the subheadings in an MLA paper or essay should be flushed to the left margin to avoid confusion with block quotations. Also, no internal level should have only one level. That is, if you are going to be having a level between 1 to 5, there must be more than one instance of those. For example, if you have one level 2 heading, you will need to have a second level 2 heading.

All headings must have text underneath them.

Levels of subheadings and their formatting

Research methods – subheading 1

Sampling methods- subheading 2

Sample size – subheading 3

Sampling probability – subheading 4

Instrument – subheading 5

You may also be interested in our thesis editing service!

When to Use the Different Subheading Levels

Using the right subheading level is important because it aids with the navigation of the paper as well as knowing the information to be added in the table of contents. This is why it is important to use

In addition to this, certain pointers will help you understand the use of these MLA headings and subheadings, here is a handful of them.

When writing headings and subheadings there needs to be consistency in the styling as it is imperative to highlight the structure of the literary piece. In essence, for every level 1 heading, H1, there should be an identical styling in font size, color, and style.

The same thing applies to all H2 headings and so forth. Also, numbers, bullets, and letters should be avoided when designating headings. This is because every heading labeled ‘1’ will require a subsequent heading labelled’2′ and every ‘a’ will imply a succeeding ‘b’.

When using an internal heading level there should always be more than a single instance. In essence, if there is a level 1 heading or H1, there needs to be a second H1 heading as this is what gives the structure of the literary piece balance.

The only exception to this guideline is on the chapter’s title, references, or headings for notes. Also, there should always be text under each heading.

Section 1.2 of the MLA Handbook emphasizes this. Headings should be capitalized like the titles of works. Both headings and subheadings should be written in sentence case ie, the initial letter of each word should be capitalized.

MLA headings and Subheadings are not designed for length. In fact, shorter headings give more concise meanings and enhance readability. Hence, the shorter the MLA heading or subheading, the better for the literary piece.

MLA headings, provided it’s a chapter title, should be centrally aligned. However, in a literary piece that is neither professional nor an advocate for publishing, headings and subheadings can align with the left side of the margin.

To Wrap It Up

MLA style stems from the Modern Language Association and it’s a referencing method in writing. From in-text citations to the bibliography, there is a structured and laid out style in MLA which is designed to upgrade the readability and conciseness of any literary piece.

In light of this, most students find headings and subheadings confusing. This is why the different formats of writing any type of heading and subheading in MLA style have been highlighted in this piece.

 You may also want to read Chicago Headings and Subheadings!

Leave your comment on our blog

30 thoughts on “MLA Headings and Subheadings – MLA Format Heading”

I would appreciate your answer to my question. I write an essay in MLA format from time to time and normally have tables in my essays. Can I use MLA heading in tables when writing an essay?

The short answer is “No, you cannot use headings in tables.” For a more detailed answer, you may read this article: https://www.scientific-editing.info/blog/tables-and-figures-in-mla-format/

The article indicates “Font: any readable font most preferably Times New Roman” Can you please suggest some fonts?

Arial and Calibri are two other popular fonts that you can use.

Is there a separate guideline for students writing essays in MLA format and another for scholars writing papers in MLA format? I am asking since Chicago manual of styles has two separate guidelines for essays and journal papers.

Unlike Chicago manual of styles, MLA does not have two separate guidelines for essays and journal papers. MLA has a unified guideline for all types of writings.

Can I use punctuation marks in MLA headings?

The answer is yes but with caution. Punctuation marks like commas, parentheses, can be used between the words if the grammar requires. but one cannot end headings with a period, comma, colons, and semicolon. For instance, the following example is correct: The origin of Homo sapiens, modern humans, in Africa But if we end this heading with a period or comma, that would be incorrect.

Can I put a sub heading right after the main heading (or paper title) without any text between the two? For example, if the paper is titled Internal Assessment and I go right into my Criterion A, can I label Criterion A as a subheading? Internal Assessment Criterion A (bold) My text…..

That is totally fine. You can put a subheading right after the main heading.

I am writing an essay and am wondering if I can cite my own work if that is not against the MLA format.

Yes, you can cite your own work in MLA format. In general, in any format that you are writing, you can cite your own work according to the format. Keep in mind that published works are more credible for citing as some journals do not allow citing unpublished works.

Can I insert ticks or bullet points before the headings?

No, this is not in accordance with the MLA format of headings or subheadings.

When you say “Font: any readable font most preferably Times New Roman” What are the other readable fonts?

Calibri and Arial are 2 additional common fonts. Cambria, Candara, and Lato are also good fonts.

I found the first image funny. Can I use that as a sample for my essay? I mean, is it an MLA format article?

Yes, the image demonstrates an MLA format article and you can use that as a sample.

Hi Scientific Editing, What is the difference between heading/subheading and title/subtitle? Are they the same? If not, what is the difference?

A title leads the entire document and captures its content in one or two phrases; a heading leads only a chapter or section and captures only the content of that chapter or section; a subheading leads a section of a chapter. On the other hand, subtitles usually immediately follow the title and organize the information into sections. Titles and subtitles often provide the structure for an outline.

Can I put colons after the subheadings?

Punctuation marks, in general, are not allowed at the end of the headings and subheadings in MLA format.

What is the maximum words or characters that one can use in an MLA heading?

There is no rule or exact number of the words and characters in the heading. However, MLA headings and Subheadings are not designed for length. Shorter headings give more concise meanings and enhance readability. Hence, the shorter the MLA heading or subheading, the clearer the message.

Should I use all MLA heading levels? Can’t I use only level 1?

No, you do not have to use all the levels. Using only level 1 is fine.

Is MLA an official format that I can use to submit my paper to a journal?

You can only format your paper according to the MLA guidelines if the journal of interest accepts the MLA format. Normally, each journal has its own guideline that you can find in a section called “Journal’s guideline” or “Journal’s instructions” or “Instructions to authors”.

After you put the heading aligned on the left, do you indent the paragraph under it?

Yes, each new paragraph after the headings and subheadings should have a half an inch indent.

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Formatting a College Essay — MLA Style

LESSON You will likely be asked to write numerous essays A short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. over the course of your academic career. While the content The text in a writing that includes facts, thoughts, and ideas. The information that forms the body of the work. of your work is significant, it is also essential that you develop strong and accurate formatting The way in which content is arranged, usually following a set of rules. In writing, outlines and essays often follow a format specified by their purpose or where they are published. skills. Formatting an essay correctly is not only good authorship but is also important to instructors who often have to read hundreds of essays over the course of a semester. Your instructors will likely provide you with essay guidelines indicating whether you should use MLA A grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). or APA A set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. style to format your paper. If you are uncertain as to your instructor's expectations, be sure to ask. Instructors appreciate students taking extra measures needed to correctly format essays. In this lesson, you will learn how to correctly format a college essay using MLA style. Note: This foundation lesson is not meant to include or cover all of the rules and guidelines for properly formatting an essay. Be sure to refer to the latest MLA style guide to ensure that you follow all of the formatting rules.

Part of formatting an essay is properly formatting in-text citations Information about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using. and your list of sources A person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. . MLA refers to the list of sources as a works cited page An alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an MLA-formatted essay or research paper. . Keep in mind that in-text citations and the works cited page work together. Without one, you cannot have the other. The in-text citations lead readers to the listing of complete source information in the works cited page.

Formatting an Essay in MLA Style

Headers and page numbers

In MLA style, the header Information that appears at the very top of a page and may appear on subsequent pages of a work. includes your last name followed by one space and then consecutive page numbers. It appears in the upper-right corner, one half-inch from the top and flush with the right-hand margin The outer edges of a document that do not contain writing or images. . Include this header on every page, including the first. (Note: Some instructors prefer that the header be left off of the first page. As always, follow the guidelines your instructor provides.) 

MLA Headers

Essay information

MLA style does not require a cover page A page that comes before an essay or article and contains basic information about the work, including its title and author. The format of a cover page (also called the title page) will vary depending on the style guide in use. . (As always, though, check with your instructor about his or her preference.) Instead, include the following information about the essay in the upper left-hand corner of the first page of your essay: your full name, instructor's name, course, and date. Your title should be centered on the next line after the date, and your essay should start on the next line after that. Like the rest of the essay, all of this information should be double-spaced.

MLA Essay Information

Here is an example of the first page of an MLA paper:

"Smith 1" is the header. Under that are the student's name, the instructor's name, the course title, and the date. Right below that information is the title of the paper.

It is important to note that your name, instructor's name, course, and date should appear only on the first page of your paper. When students mistakenly place this information in the header, the information appears on every page and not just on the first page as it should.

Margins, font, and spacing

MLA has specific requirements with respect to margins, font A set of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that are the same style. Examples: Times New Roman and Arial are fonts. , and line spacing The vertical distance between lines of text on a page. The most common types of spacing are single and double. . Set one-inch margins on all sides. Use 11-13-point font unless otherwise specified by the instructor. MLA advises using a font that is both easily readable and has regular and italicized versions of the font that are distinguishable. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Baskerville, and Garamond are all good options; however, if you are ever in doubt as to which font to use, ask your instructor. Whichever font you choose, remain consistent throughout your essay. Your essay should always be double-spaced throughout. Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the margin. Use only one space after all end punctuation The punctuation at the end of a sentence, which can be a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. The end punctuation helps define the tone and meaning of a sentence. Notice the difference in tone in these examples: Someone ate my last cookie! (I'm really mad about that.) Someone ate my last cookie. (Oh well, I wasn't hungry anyway.) Someone ate my last cookie? (I'm not sure I even had another cookie.) .

MLA Margins, Font, and Spacing

Look online to see samples of a properly formatted MLA essay.

Punctuating and Formatting In-text Citations

Here are the guidelines for formatting in-text citations when using MLA style.

Evan's work has been characterized as "masterful, but distinctly odd" (Thomas 45).

"(Thomas 45)" is the in-text citation with the author and page number.

John Thomas characterizes Evan's work as "masterful, but distinctly odd" (45).

"John Thomas characterizes" is the attributive phrase with the author's name. "(45)" is the in-text citation with the page number or other location information.

There are occasions when all pertinent information is included in the attributive phrase. In these cases, a parenthetical citation is not needed.

On page 45, Thomas describes Evan's work as "masterful, but distinctly odd."

"On page 45, Thomas describes" is the attributive phrase with the author name and page number. There is no in-text citation at the end because it is not needed there.

There will be times when all the information for a citation is not available--for example, websites do not always list dates and usually do not include page numbers, sources are sometimes published without authors, and so on. If you cannot obtain all the required information on a source, provide as much information as you can in order to allow readers to find your source.

According to a recent study, "more than seventy-five percent of payday loans are to people taking out new loans to cover the original one" (CNN).

"According to a recent study" is the attributive phrase. "(CNN)" is the source information with no page number.

Here are some more specific requirements with respect to the punctuation Marks such as such as a comma (,), period (.), question mark (?), and exclamation mark (!), among others, that help break a writing into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Different types of punctuation marks give the reader different impressions of the writer’s purpose in that sentence. and format of MLA in-text citations:

Works Cited Pages

MLA style requires a works cited page to list the sources at the end of the work. Here are the guidelines for formatting works cited pages.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved: A Novel . Alfred A. Knopf. 1987.

---. The Bluest Eye . Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 1970.

Works Cited Page

In the example works cited page above, the title is "Works Cited." The citations are listed in alphabetical order, and the font is 11- to 13-point. Note the use of a hanging indent for each citation.

You will encounter various situations over the course of your academic career in which you will be required to provide work with properly cited references. For example, imagine that your literature instructor assigns an essay requiring evidentiary sources Specific media, such as journal articles, newspapers, and research studies that provide the support for claims or viewpoints expressed in an essay and help convince readers that an argument has merit. Evidentiary sources may provide facts and statistics, expert opinions, or anecdotal evidence. . This will require you to research and compile a list of citations for your sources. As you are writing, you will incorporate in-text citations into your essay. Another scenario in which you will need to provide in-text citations and a works cited page is when you are asked to write an essay to support your findings in a science lab. While this essay should be based upon your own experiential evidence in the lab, you will need to do research to provide additional support for your findings.

Any time you use the ideas A thought, opinion, or impression. , arguments A set of statements or reasons making a case for or against something. , theories In science, a well tested and widely accepted explanation for a phenomenon. Theories incorporate facts, observations, experiments, laws, and careful reasoning. In more general usage, theory may merely mean an unproven idea, speculation, or guesswork. , or words of another writer, you must provide correct and properly formatted citations. Be sure to check with your instructors regarding what style they prefer for formatting any essay you are assigned.

Exercise 1: MLA In-text Citations

This section provides five examples demonstrating incorrect punctuation and format for in-text citations in MLA style. As you read, notice the errors and how they should be corrected.

The error in the above example is repeating the author's name in the in-text citation. When the author's name is included in the attributive phrase, it doesn't need to be repeated in the in-text citation.

Correction: Wright argues that Shakespeare's comedies are in fact "more tragic than his tragedies" (22).

There are two errors. First, the author's name should not be included in the in-text citation when it has already been stated in the attributive phrase. Second, the formatting of the in-text citation is incorrect. The period should come after the page number outside the right parenthesis mark. The in-text citation is part of the sentence, so the period should be placed after it.

Correction: According to Wright, Shakespeare's comedies should be characterized as "more tragic than his tragedies" (22).

The errors in this example are that the author's name is repeated in the in-text citation, the page number is missing, and the year of publication is needlessly included.

Correction: According to Jesperson, Dr. Master's research about levels of exercise and aggression in dogs is "unsubstantiated" (165).

There are three errors in the above example. First, the writer has incorporated the title of the publication into the in-text citation. While that must be included in the works cited page, the title of the publication is not part of the in-text citation. Second, there is no need to precede the page number by the word "page." Third, the semicolon in the citation is unnecessary in MLA in-text citations.

Correction: Jesperson wrote, "Dr. Master's research around dogs and how certain breeds need more walking and running or they will become aggressive is unsubstantiated" (165).

There are two errors in this final example. The first is that the title of the book is both italicized and underlined. It should only be italicized. The second is the absence of a page number. When the page number necessary for a reader to find a particular quote is not part of the attributive phrase, it must be included in the in-text citation.

Correction: In Saving Money and Time , Brandle makes a convincing argument that we should "stop wasting our resources on living longer and just start living more" (80).

This section provides five examples of in-text citations in MLA style. Now it's your turn to determine if the examples have been properly punctuated and formatted. Identify the errors, if any, and correct the in-text citation accordingly.

This example is properly punctuated and formatted.

No correction necessary.

This example unnecessarily includes an in-text citation and is incorrectly punctuated. When all relevant information is included in the attributive phrase, an in-text citation is not used.

Correction: On page 33 of "The Short Story as Told by Ronald Abbott," Kendricks argues that the success of Abbott's writing can be attributed to the average reader's ability to "relate" to it.

The errors in this example are the word "page" and the date, which are incorrectly included in the in-text citation; also, there is an extra period after "student."

Correction: Thompson beautifully explains Fine's argument regarding the "trials and tribulations" of today's college student (423).

There are two errors in this example. First, in the parenthetical citation following the quote, too much information is provided. The goal is to lead readers to the proper entry in the works cited page. Second, the addition of the word "page" to the in-text citation is incorrect.

Correction: "I believe," writes Fine, "that nothing should stand in the way of a young person's desire to go to college, even finances" (128).

The page number is in the wrong place in the sentence. It should come at the end before the period.

Correction: In her essay, Reynolds argues that Stevens's book accurately and aptly depicts the current state of environmental conservatism in our cities (22).


Sample Answer

It is important to correctly format my essays because instructors expect this of their students. Plus, if I turn in properly formatted essays, my instructors will know that I have made an effort to follow their guidelines, so it will probably positively impact my grade and reflect well on the quality of my work.

Neither the in-text citation information nor the works cited page provide enough information regarding your sources by themselves. In-text citations and the works cited page work together to allow you to write a smooth and cohesive essay (rather than one that is broken up by full citations), provide the details required by the MLA style, and enable your readers to locate any of your sources.

This lesson follows the 9th Edition of the MLA Handbook , published in 2021. Check the MLA Handbook for updates.

Copyright ©2022 The NROC Project

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MLA Style Guide: 8th Edition: Heading and Title

Heading and Title

An MLA-formatted research paper does not need a title page (unless your instructor requires one, of course). Instead, include at the top of your first page a heading – consisting of your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date – and the title of your paper.

The title should be centered and double-spaced. Do not italicize, bold, underline, or put your title in quotation marks (unless using a quote in the title), and do not use a period after your title.


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