How to Style Essays Using MLA Format
MLA is one of the most common styling formats used by students to write academic papers. You might wonder where we use this set of formatting and citation guidelines. Well, MLA is used to format topics in humanities such as languages, arts, and philosophy.
You may need to write a paper in MLA since most schools require students to select humanities courses in their programs. Don’t worry; this article will discuss how MLA works, from in-text citations, headings, and quotations to referencing sources.
What is MLA format?
The Modern Language Association developed MLA to assist students in the humanities and art fields to present their work and sources uniformly.
Like APA and Chicago format, MLA has particular specifications for a paper’s heading, in-text citations, quotations, abbreviations, works-cited page, and margin size.
General MLA Format Guidelines
Below is a list of various rules that the MLA format follows:
- Desired font: Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica.
- Font size: 12pt
- Page margins: 1 inch
- Line spacing: double
- New paragraph indents: ½ inch
- Headings: Title case capitalization
- Abbreviations do not include periods between letters, for example, USA and not U.S.A
- Must include a running head with the author’s last name and the page number in the top-right corner of every page.
- The running head follows a right margin of 1.5 from the top of the page
- Quotations that are four lines or longer use block quotes.
- Works cited, which appears at the end of the paper, is the sources page.
Title Pages, Headings, and Subheadings
It is good to note that a title page is not a must in MLA. Although no general guidelines limit students from applying a cover page, it would be challenging to style it because of a lack of a universal approach to format it.
The header in MLA format is on the top of the first page or a title page if you choose to include one. It is left-justified and consists of the following formatting rules:
- Student’s Name
- Instructor’s Name
- Class name, course, or section number
- The paper’s due date
You should arrange the above rules in the same order with double-line spacing and one-inch margins from all page sides.
Place the paper’s title below its deadline. The title should be centered. It must not be underlined, bold, or in quotation marks. If you add a title page, move to the next page to begin your project.
If the title includes the name of a novel or a different source, you should italicize it. For example,
Headings and Subheadings
For your assignment to have a coherent and logical organization of ideas, you should use headings and subheadings. When writing in MLA format, you will complete long essays which include chapter titles, section headings, and subsection headings.
The MLA guide does not specify how to style various titles. Regardless of this, we have two suggestions you should observe:
- You should not put a period at the end of your heading
- Pick a particular formatting for headings and apply it in the entire paper, be consistent. Do not mix styles.
Below is an example of how you can style your headings and subheadings:
- Chapter’s title
- Section heading
When styling the headings, the font size of all of them should remain the same. The font style is the only one that needs to change. For the Chapter’s title, bolding it is an excellent idea because it signifies its rank of importance. Italicizing the section headings helps readers know that it is less significant than the first one. And lastly, the subheadings, which are the least crucial, use the standard style.
Basic Text Formatting Requirements in MLA Format
Running Head and Page Numbers
A running head is a short heading positioned at the top-right corner of every page. The brief header entails the Author’s surname, some space, and the page’s number. Below are various rules that apply when adding a running head and page numbers.
- You should place the running head at the top-right corner of each page throughout your paper.
- The header should only contain the writer’s surname and the page number.
- You should not include the abbreviation p for page number before the number.
- When placing the running head, apply a one-inch margin from the right and a half an inch from the top margin.
You should apply one-inch margins from the upper right-hand corner to all sides throughout your project since it is the standard MLA margin.
When starting a paragraph, ensure the first word has half an inch of indentation from the left margin. You should apply double spacing for every section. The standard MLA spacing between the left margin and the beginning of a paragraph is half an inch.
Use the standard MLA double spacing throughout the entire paper.
Font and Font Size
Times New Roman in 12pt size is the preferred font for MLA papers. The MLA guide also suggests using other standard fonts like Arial and Helvetica.
In-text Content and MLA Format
Here are various ways to add quotes in an essay using MLA format.
- Start with the Author’s name followed by the quote in a sentence.
Martin Luther King shared his perspective on discrimination in one of his famous quotes, “A right delayed is a right denied.”
- Begin with the sentence followed by a quotation without mentioning the Author’s name. Add the author’s last name in parentheses at the end of the quote.
Racial discrimination in America, leading to lack of housing, unemployment, and deprivation of other rights for African-Americans, is well talked about through the words of a famous activist, “A right delayed is a right denied” (Luther King).
- Block Quotes
Block quotes are quotations that are four lines or longer. Below are the formatting rules of adding extensive quotes in MLA papers:
- Begin a block quote in a new line
- You should not put a block quote in quotation marks
- Use double-spacing for the quotation
- Apply an indentation of half an inch for the whole quote from the left margin
- Ensure that you don’t change anything in the quote (It should have the exact words, punctuation, capitalization, etc.)
- After the quote, indicate the author’s name in a parentheses
The official MLA guide recommends the rare use of abbreviations. To elude confusion, the Modern Language Association suggests that authors should use full words instead of abbreviations.
Despite MLA advising scholars to rarely use abbreviations there are some instances where you might find it necessary to apply them. You should adhere to the following rules during these cases.
- You should not place periods between capital letters (United States should be US instead of U.S.A).
- It is acceptable to use periods when the full words are in lowercase for instance, “e.g.,”
- If the full words have a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, do not put a period if the uppercase letters are more than the lowercase. (For example, it should be PhD instead of Ph.D.)
Let’s look at various instances in which you can use abbreviations and how to style them.
The official MLA guide requires you to apply the entire month’s names in the paper’s body section. If you are needed to include a month in a research paper or another paper, you should spell it out in full words. Nevertheless, if you are referencing a month, you are allowed to use abbreviations for months with names longer than four letters.
For example: (July should remain as it is while February can be Feb).
Additionally, MLA accepts students using abbreviations in their Work’s Cited pages. Below are the numerous suitable abbreviations:
- Chapter- ch.
- Page and page numbers- p. and pp.
- Volume – vol.
- Revised – rev.
- Number – no.
- Edition – ed.
- Translation or Translated- trans.
As discussed earlier, these particular specifications are for the Work’s Cited page. If you are mentioning them in the body section then write the in full.
You can also abbreviate the names of the publishers in the Work’s Cited.
- University- U
- Limited- Ltd.
- Incorporated -Inc.
- Press- P
Once again, these formatting rules apply when you are indicating publishers in the Work’s Cited. If you are writing them in the body paragraphs ensure to add the full names.
Lastly, MLA accepts abbreviations for various common biblical and classical sources when written in the reference page. For example:
- Much Ado about Nothing- Ado
- Henry VI, part 3 – 3H6
- Othello – Oth.
- Julius Caesar- JC.
- Romeo and Juliet- Rom.
- Midsummer Night Dream- MND
Hebrew Bible and Old Testament -OT:
- Genesis- Gen.
- Deuteronomy- Deut.
- Numbers- Num.
New Testament- NT:
- Matthew- Matt.
- 1 Corinthians- 1 Cor.
- Galatians- Gal.
These sources have reaped particular abbreviations when written in the reference page because they are regularly cited making it pointless to indicate their full names.
You might need to use numbers often depending on what your paper entails. Below are several guidelines for formatting numbers:
The MLA official guide advises students to use numerals that precede measurements.
- Arabic Numerals
Spell out numbers that can be written in two or three words when adding Arabic numerals to your work. (For example, four or thirty-two). If you are writing large numbers that are more than two words type numbers instead of text. Apply digits for decimals and fractions. Additionally, you should type digits if a number is placed before a label or measurement.
- 3 ½
- 5 a.m.
- 15 years
- Roman Numerals
In MLA papers, roman numerals are used when writing an outline or indicating suffixes (for example Ramses III).
- Numbers in the MLA outline
There are no MLA official guidelines on how to format an outline. Nonetheless, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and lowercase letters and numbers to create an outline.
- Further tips
We have two more tips for writing numbers in MLA format.
- You should not include ISBN numbers in a paper.
- You should not begin a sentence with a number. If you can, restate the sentence so that the number might be positioned in between the text. If it is impossible, type the number in words.
Images and Tables
For the overall quality of work and value, it is recommended to add photos, images, tables, and other visual elements. If the images, tables, or photos don’t contribute to the paper’s quality kindly avoid them.
- The image should be positioned close to the information that links to it.
- For each image you include, create a label for it and add it right under every specific image. Note that the label needs to begin with the abbreviation “Fig”.
- After the abbreviation “Fig.,” place a particular number based on the order of the images in the paper. For instance, the first figure in a paper should be labeled as “Fig. 1,” and the following should be “Fig.2,”etc.
- To cite an image, place parentheses with a label and number at the end of the art.
- Alongside the label, you should follow with a brief caption that describes the image.
- If you add an image or a table whose caption has detailed information about its original source and you have not previously cited the source in your text, it is not necessary to add it in the works cited page.
In the example below, because we have provided all the citation components, adding an entry to a works cited page is not necessary. If you decide to make the caption short e.g. Fig. 1. William Shakespeare. “English Playwright and Poet (1564-1616).” This short caption will require an exhaustive citation in the works cited list.
Fig. 1. William Shakespeare. English Playwright and Poet (1564-1616). Getty Images. https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-william-shakespeare-image19447383. Accessed 21 March. 2023.
When marking the tables in your paper, you should label them “table” instead of “fig” used for images. After the “table” label add an Arabic numeral. Like images, tables are given numbers according to their order of appearance in a text. Additionally, you need to add a title for each table. Collectively, the label “Table,” numeral and title have to be positioned above the data set on separate lines and all flush left.
Ensure the first letters of the table’s title are capitalized.
You might need to add a list in your paper. If you don’t know how to do this, below are a few guidelines you should observe.
- You should position all lists in MLA horizontally.
- Place a colon between the introductory sentence and the list, except when the list is part of the sentence.
Jane Austen has written several captivating novels: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Emma, and Persuasion.
Example of a list which is part of a sentence: Some of the most prominent books of Jane Austen are Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Emma and Persuasion.
MLA Works Cited Format
As you write your research paper, you ought to do some assessment and gather information from numerous sources for example books, websites, articles etc. To compose a captivating and educational paper it is crucial to put your own ideas backed by information from several sources. Nonetheless, suppose you use sources without citing them properly, in that case, it can severely impact your final grade and also suggest that your paper is plagiarized. To avoid the heavy penalties that come with plagiarism you should cite your sources properly and incorporate a Works Cited page.
As we previously discussed, you should use an in-text citation to indicate retrieved information from different sources. However, briefly citing the sources in between paragraphs is not sufficient. To fully credit a source whose information you used in your text, you have to compose a separate page with the complete details of all the original sources used. Below is an exhaustive guide on how to craft an MLA works cited page.
General Formatting Rules
- On a separate page at the end of your project place the Works Cited section.
- Add your entries in an alphabetical order
- Apply double-line spacing
- Align the citation entries with the left margin
- Name the last page of your work (Works Cited) and center and bold the title. Don’t italicize or put it in quotation marks.
- If you are referencing a single page of a printed source, apply the abbreviation “p” before the number.
- When citing various pages from one source, apply the abbreviation “pp.” and add a particular range of pages after the abbreviation. (For instance, if you reference a chapter or journal, e.g., pp. 75-99).
- Apply the header which includes the surname and the page number also to the Works Cited page.
- Use the same margins applied in the entire paper to the works cited page.
- If you retrieved an original printed publication from a database, indicate the online database in italics. You should not provide subscription information.
- Apply an indentation of 0.5 inches to the second and the following lines of each citation entry.
The format of your entries can vary depending on the type of original source. Below are various examples of how several entries should be cited:
Last, First Name of the Author. Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year Published. Print
Housel, Morgan. The Psychology of Money. London: Harriman House, 2020. Print.
Last, the First Name of the author. “Title of the article.” Newspaper Title [City]Date Month year of publication: Page(s). Print.
Luther, Timothy. “Money Habits.” Harriman House [London] 2 May. 2015:57-59. Print.
Author’s Last and First Name. “Title of the Article.” Journal
Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page (s). Database Name. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
Luther, Timothy. “Money Habits.” Journal of Finance. 22.3(2015): 34-47. Print
Article from the Web (with author)
Last, First Middle Initial. “Article Title.” Website Title. Website Publisher, Date Month Year Published. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.
Luther, Timothy. “Money Habits.” New York Times. New York times. 19.03. 2023.Web.23.03.2023.