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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

  • Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor).
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the “Tab” key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.
  • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
  • Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis.
  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested or the paper is assigned as a group project. In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor.
  • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
  • Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks. Write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
  • Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text. For example:  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
  • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number. Number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit the last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)

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


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MLA Paper Format: Simple Guidelines to Follow

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If you’re new to writing research papers, setting everything up can be intimidating. However, breaking the MLA paper format down into the basics makes it much easier to digest. Learn how to set up your paper, cover page, headings, headers, tables, and figures in your MLA paper.

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MLA Paper Format General Guidelines

In general, the MLA style formatting guidelines are flexible. That’s why so many teachers and students like to use this writing style for their middle school, high school, and college research papers. However, while MLA is flexible, it still has a few formatting rules students need to adhere to. The fundamental break down for formatting an MLA paper includes:

  • Use standard 8.5 x 11 white paper
  • Numbering your pages
  • 1-inch margins (all sides)
  • Readable font
  • Double-spaced
  • Indent new paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to look at the different formatting aspects you need for your cover page, headings, headers, text formatting, and tables.

MLA Cover Page

MLA papers don’t typically have a cover page. But, if a teacher asks for one, it’s essential to know how to do it. An MLA cover page includes a few things like: 

  • University/school’s name
  • Title of the paper
  • The subtitle, if you have one
  • Course name and number, if you need it
  • Professor/teacher

And that is pretty much it. Everything is centered on your cover page. The school name or university is at the top, and the title in the middle. Your name, course, professor, and due date are toward the bottom.

MLA cover page example

MLA Headings & Headers

Rather than a cover page, your paper typically has a heading and title on the first page of your work. Your MLA heading and title include your name, instructor, course, and date aligned to the left. The title is centered before you start the body of your paper. Additionally, each page of your paper has a running header with your name and the page number, including the works cited.

parts of an mla essay

MLA Text and Body Formatting

In the body of your paper, MLA offers recommendations for you when it comes to fonts, spacing, formatting, numbers, and abbreviations.

MLA Paper Formatting: Readable Font

When it comes to writing your paper, you need a readable font. Your teacher doesn’t want to bust out the magnifying glass to see your work. And to make sure of that, MLA recommends a font that is easy to read and distinguishes regular and italicized text like Arial or Times New Roman. Additionally, use a standard font size like 11 or 12 point. Making everything a 14-point font doesn’t make your paper look longer.

Spacing and Formatting for an MLA Paper

When it comes to the spacing and formatting of your paper, stick with double spacing throughout the entire body and works cited and make sure your text is left-justified, so the right margin has a ragged edge. It’s also vital to indent every new paragraph five spaces by hitting the tab on your keyboard. To keep everything neat and tidy, follow the standard punctuation rules for commas and periods.

Numbers in MLA Formatting

Using numbers in MLA isn’t hard, but you must follow a few rules. MLA clarifies when to use Arabic and Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers or just use the Arabic form. For example, if you can spell a number out in a few words, go for it. However, if you need a whole sentence, it’s better to stick with Arabic numerals like 1,345,267. Your fingers might start to hurt writing out that one.

Number Examples

Ten, twenty-six, two million

129, 879, 3 ¾

Abbreviations in MLA Formatting

To keep your fingers from cramping, you can use  abbreviations in MLA formatting . But like everything else, rules need to be followed for abbreviations. For example, end abbreviations with a period if they end in a lower case letter, and abbreviate months longer than four letters. 

Abbreviation Example 

Jan., Feb., ACL

Formatting Tables & Illustrations in MLA

Another crucial part of your MLA paper formatting is the tables and illustrations. Not only do they add color to your work, but some things must be shown rather than read. When it comes to tables and figures, keep the figure as close to the text as possible, and follow MLA formatting rules.

Formatting a Table in MLA

Formatting a table isn’t hard in your MLA paper. And, you can include as many as you want. Just keep these formatting rules in mind.

  • Label “Table” is flush left, followed by an Arabic numeral. (Table 1)
  • The title is flush left under Table in the title case. (Number of COVID Cases in the US)
  • Give the source of your table directly below the table. It needs to be flush left and include a hanging indent for information that goes into a second line. Additionally, all the information should be double spaced.
  • Use a dividing line to separate the source from the table.

example MLA table

Figures in MLA Papers

Now, it’s time to look at MLA figure formatting. MLA format is excellent for art and language paper topics. Therefore, images, illustrations, and maps could be a big part of your paper. Formatting an image in MLA is similar to a table, but there are a few distinctions in formatting.

  • Label “Fig.” followed by an Arabic numeral is placed directly under the image. (Fig. 1)
  • Right next to the label will be the caption. (Fig. 1. Map of Scotland)
  • The caption can include source information, and then it doesn’t have to be cited in the text.

Musical illustrations follow the same rules as a figure, but you label them as an example (Ex. 1).

parts of an mla essay

MLA Paper Format Made Easy

Faq mla paper format: simple guidelines to follow, how do you write a paper in mla format.

To write a paper in MLA format, you need a running header with your last name and page number, 1-inch margins on all sides, indents when starting a new paragraph, and a readable font. You'll also cite your sources in-text and on your works cited page using MLA format citations.

What should an MLA paper look like?

An MLA paper has a standard look for every page including 1-inch margins, a readable font, a running header including your last name and page number, and author-page in-text citations. At the end of your paper, you will include a works cited with a list of all the sources used in the paper.

How do you write a MLA research paper?

To write an MLA research paper, you must adhere to the guidelines set for by the Modern Language Association. Therefore, you must include scholarly resources that are cited using the author-date in-text citations. At the end of your paper, include a works cited listing your academic sources. When setting up your paper, use 1-inch margins, a readable font, indents for new paragraphs, and a running header.

How do you properly head a paper?

To properly head a paper in MLA format, include a running header that is right-aligned. Your running header includes the page number and your name.

What is MLA format template?

An MLA format template is created in a word processing software to set up the 1-inch margins, double spacing, and running header for your MLA paper. You can also do this yourself by following MLA page layout guidelines for these areas.

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How to Cite a Picture in MLA

How to put mla works cited in alphabetical order, mla annotated bibliography examples and writing guide, mla block quote format.

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

  • Use white 8 ½  x 11” paper.
  • Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides.
  • The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch.
  • Indent set-off or block quotations one half inch from the left margin.
  • Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface.
  • Use 12-point size.
  • Double space the entire research paper, even the Works Cited page.
  • Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks, unless your instructor tells you to leave two spaces.

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:

  • Format background
  • General paper formatting
  • MLA heading format & title page instructions
  • Running head & page numbers
  • Paraphrases
  • Abbreviations
  • Numbers (includes the use of numbers in MLA outline format)
  • Images, tables, and musical scores
  • MLA works cited format
  • MLA citation format (for in-depth citation rules visit this MLA citation guide or MLA in-text citation guide)
  • Edits & proofreading

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:

  • Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
  • Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
  • Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby
  • Do not place a period after the title or after any headings
  • Double space between the title and first lines of the text

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:

  • An MLA format heading can be placed at the top of the first page
  • A title page can grace the front of the assignment. If you choose to create a title page, keep in mind that there aren’t any official title page or cover page guidelines in MLA format. See more information below.

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

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The name and number of the course or class
  • The assignment’s due date

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

  • Position your name one inch from the top and left margins of the page.
  • Add a double space beneath your name, and type the name of your instructor.
  • Below the professor or instructor’s name should be a double space, followed by the name of the course, class, or section number (if available).
  • Below it, include another double space and add the assignment’s due date (Day Month Year).

Here’s an example:

parts of an mla essay

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 :

  • Center and double space all of the text on your page.
  • Place the name of your school at the top of the page.
  • Skip down to about the center of the page and type the title of your paper. Do not bold the title, italicize the entire title, place quotation marks around it, or type the title out in capital letters.
  • Use italics for the titles of any sources in the title of your paper. Example: An Analysis of Mythical Creatures in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • first letter of the title
  • first letter of the last word
  • first letter of any adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs
  • If your paper has a subtitle, include on the next line below your title.
  • Skip down to the bottom third of the page and add your name, the the name of your instructor, the name/number of the course or class, and the assignment’s due date on four separate lines.
  • Keep the font size at 12 pt., or a size close to it, to make it look professional.
  • Use the same font as the text of the paper. The Modern Language Association recommends any font that is easy to read and has a clear distinction between italics and standard font. Times New Roman and Arial are recommended, but many other fonts work as well.
  • Include a page number in the top right corner of the paper. For more information on how to style page numbers, check out the next section, “Running Head and Page Numbers.”
  • We do not recommend adding any images or cover art to the title page. 

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.

parts of an mla essay

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:

  • Last name of the paper’s author
  • Page number

General tips to keep in mind:

  • The running head is placed in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top margin and one inch from the right margin of the page.
  • Type your last name before the page number.
  • The last name and page number should be separated by a single space.
  • Do not place the word “page” or use an abbreviation, such as p. or pg., before the page number.
  • Quite often, the running head begins on the second page, but your instructor may ask you to include the running head on the first page of the assignment. As always, if your instructor provides you with specific directions, follow his or her guidelines.

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

  • Go to the menu section “Insert.”
  • Select “Page numbers” and select the option that places the page number in the upper-right corner.
  • A page number will appear; your cursor will blink next to it.
  • Move your cursor to the left of the page number.
  • Type your last name. Add a space between your name and the page number.
  • You should now have a properly formatted header on every page!

Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header

  • Double-click in the space at the top of the page (where the page number is).
  • OR Go to the “Insert” menu, select “Header,” and select “Edit Header.”
  • Type your last name next to page number. If it isn’t already right-aligned, go to the “Home” menu and right-align your name.

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:

  • When you are referring to a number of various sources, by various authors, in a section of your paper. In this situation, it is a good idea to use a footnote or endnote to share information for parenthetical references. This will encourage the reader to stay focused on the text of the research paper, instead of having to read through all of the reference information.
  • When you are sharing additional information that doesn’t quite fit into the scope of the paper, but is beneficial for the reader. These types of footnotes and endnotes are helpful when explaining translations, adding background information, or sharing counterexamples to research.

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.

  • Find a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or section of original text you’d like to turn into a paraphrase.
  • Read the text carefully and make sure you fully comprehend its meaning. A writer can only develop a well-written paraphrase if the information has been fully grasped and understood. If you’re having difficulty understanding the information, take a few minutes to read up on tricky words and background information. If all else fails, ask a friend to see if they’re able to make sense of the concepts.
  • After analyzing and completely understanding the original text, put it to the side. Take a moment to think about what you’ve read and connect the idea to your own assignment.
  • Now that the information is completely understood, take a moment to rewrite what you’ve read, in your own words and writing style. Do not simply substitute words in the original text with synonyms. That’s plagiarism! Show off and demonstrate your ability to process the original information, connect it to the content in your paper, and write it in your own individual and unique writing style.
  • Include an in-text reference next to the paraphrase. All paraphrases include references, similar to direct quotes. See the “Quotations” section of this guide to learn how to properly attribute your paraphrased information.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back! Paraphrasing is an important part of the research and writing process.

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 !

parts of an mla essay

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

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be abbreviated to HIV, not H.I.V.
  • United States should be US, not U.S.
  • Digital video disc should be DVD, not D.V.D.
  • For lower case abbreviations, it is acceptable to include periods between the letters.
  • The abbreviation, “For example” = e.g.
  • If there is a mix of lower case and upper case letters, do not use periods if the majority of the letters are upper case. Examples include PhD and EdD

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.

  • July = July
  • November = Nov.

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

  • p. or pp. for page and page numbers
  • ch. for chapter
  • ed. for edition
  • trans. for translation or translated
  • vol. for volume
  • no. for number
  • rev. for revised

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:

  • Co. (Company)
  • Corp. (Corporation)
  • Inc. (Incorporated)
  • Ltd. (Limited)
  • The (when at the beginning of the name)

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:

  • University of Delaware
  • U College of London P

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

  • Deut. = Deuteronomy
  • Gen. = Genesis
  • Lev. = Leviticus
  • Num. = Numbers
  • Ps. = Psalms

New Testament = NT

  • 1 Cor. = 1 Corinthians
  • Jas. = James
  • Matt. = Matthew


  • Ado = Much Ado about Nothing
  • 3H6 = Henry VI, Part 3
  • JC = Julius Caesar
  • Mac. = Macbeth
  • MND = A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Oth. = Othello
  • Rom. = Romeo and Juliet

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.

  • 247 milligrams

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).

  • twenty-seven
  • one hundred

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

  • 8 tablespoons
  • 3 July 2018
  • 25 King Street

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:

parts of an mla essay

In addition to outlines, use roman numerals for suffixes.

  • King George IV

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:

  • Assign an Arabic number. The image closest to the beginning of the project should be labeled as Fig. 1. The next image in the project should be Fig. 2. and so on.
  • Provide a caption. The caption should be a brief explanation or the title of the contents of the image. Place the caption directly next to the label.
  • Immediately following the caption, it is acceptable to include attribution information. If the image is not discussed further in the rest of the paper or project, it is acceptable to include the MLA bibliography format citation below the image and omit it from the bibliography or MLA format works cited page.

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.

parts of an mla essay

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:

  • The list of citations should be the very last page of a research project or essay.
  • The top of the page should include the running head and the page number.
  • All entries should be placed in alphabetical order by the first item in the MLA format citation.
  • The entire page should be double spaced.

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:

  • MLA citation website format
  • Citing a book
  • Citing a journal
  • What is a DOI ?
  • More on PDFs

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:

  • Spelling : Are all words spelled correctly? Review all proper names, places, and other unique words to ensure correct spelling. When finished, run the project through a spell checker. Many word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and Google Drive, provide a free spell checking feature. While spell checks are beneficial, they do not always spot every mistake, so make sure you take the time to read through the assignment carefully. If you’re still not sure if your project contains proper spelling, ask a friend to read through it. They may find a mistake you missed!
  • Grammar : Check your assignment to make sure you’ve included proper word usage. There are numerous grammar checkers available to review your project prior to submission. Again, take the time to review any recommendations from these programs prior to accepting the suggestions and revisions.
  • Punctuation : Check to make sure the end of every sentence has an ending punctuation mark. Also make sure commas, hyphens, colons, and other punctuation marks are placed in the appropriate places.
  • Attribution : Do all quotes and paraphrases include a citation? Did you create an in-text citation for each individual piece of information?

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

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • In-text Citations
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Sample Paper
  • MLA 8 Updates
  • MLA 9 Updates
  • View MLA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all MLA 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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  • Knowledge Base
  • MLA format for academic papers and essays

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:

  • Times New Roman 12
  • 1″ page margins
  • Double line spacing
  • ½” indent for new paragraphs
  • Title case capitalization for headings

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

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
  • The course name or number
  • The due date of the assignment

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:

  • Double-click at the top of a page
  • Type your last name
  • Insert automatic page numbering
  • Align the content to the right

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

  • Be written in title case
  • Be left-aligned
  • Not end in a period

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:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
  • Center the paper’s title
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
  • Use title case capitalization for headings
  • Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end

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:

  • Your instructor requires one, or
  • Your paper is a group project

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 December 4, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/formatting/

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MLA Citation Guide

  • Paper Formatting

MLA Citation Components

Title of source, title of container, contributor, publication date, supplemental information.

  • Book Examples
  • Article Examples
  • Media Examples
  • Internet Resources Examples
  • Other Examples
  • In-Text Citations

This page covers each of the core elements in depth, providing examples and guidelines to help you format your citations.

  • Author Element
  • General Author
  • Multiple Authors
  • Group Authors
  • Screen Name
  • Repeat Authors

parts of an mla essay

The first component in every MLA citation is the author . Sometimes an author can be a corporation or group. End the author component with a period. The MLA Handbook has detailed guidance on identifying and formatting the author component in section 5.3 (starting on page 107).

See MLA Handbook , pages 107-121.

List the full last name, a comma, and then full first and middle name/initial of an author.

  • William Shakespeare:  Shakespeare, William
  • Louisa May Alcott:  Alcott, Louisa May
  • Leonardo da Vinci:  da Vinci, Leonardo
  • George W. Ogden:  Ogden, George W.
  • Jean-Luc Lebrun:  Lebrun, Jean-Luc

Do not use courtesy or academic titles in your citations. Do include suffixes such as Jr., Sr., III, etc. For people referred to by a religious or noble title, without last names, start with the first name.

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:  Doyle, Arthur Conan
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  King, Martin Luther, Jr.
  • Ronald C. White, Sr.:  White, Ronald C., Sr.
  • King Henry VIII: Henry VIII
  • Saint Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi
  • Lady Gaga : Lady Gaga

List up to two authors in a citation. The second author is listed in normal format. For works with three or more authors, list the first author and then et al.

Sloan, Nate, and Charlie Harding . Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters . Oxford UP, 2020.

(Sloan and Harding 31)

Ducheneaut, Nicolas, et al. "Building an MMO with Mass Appeal: A Look at Gameplay in World of Warcraft ." Games and Culture , vol. 1, no. 4, 2006, pp. 281-317. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412006292613.

(Ducheneaut et al. 290)

See MLA Handbook , pages 111-113.

Some resources may be attributed to a group or organization, instead of a specific person or persons. In this case, give the name of the group or organization, capitalized as needed. Remove initial articles (a, an, the).

Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Utah Model: A Path Forward for Investigating and Building Resilience to Cyber Crime . Law Enforcement Cyber Center, 2017, www.iacpcybercenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Utah-Model-A-Path-Forward-for-Investigating-and-Building-Resilience-to-Cybercrime.pdf.

(Bureau of Justice Assistance)

If the resource is published by the same organization that is the author, do not include an author, and begin your citation with the title.

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

(MLA Handbook 25)

"Ways to Pay." Santa Fe College, www.sfcollege.edu/fa/ways-to-pay/index. Accessed 19 June 2021.

("Ways to Pay")

See MLA Handbook pages 119-120.

If a book is compiled by an editor (usually specified on the cover or title page), list the names as usual, but add the word editor or editors after the name(s).

Forrester, David Anthony , editor . Nursing's Greatest Leaders: A History of Activism . Springer, 2016.

(Forrester 102)

See MLA Handbook, page 111.

If there is no listed author or editor, start your citation with the title and continue the citation as normal. Remember that authors can be a company, organization, or group author, and that should be used as the author if provided and if they are not the same as the publisher.

Title OR "Title ." ...

Go Ask Alice. 1971. Simon Pulse, 2006.

*In this example, the original publication date (1971) is included.

For in-text citations, use the title of the item, followed by the date. If the title is long, you may abbreviate it to the first few words. Book titles are italicized; articles and webpages are enclosed in quotations.

( Go Ask 5).

("Many Parents")

See MLA Handbook , pages 108 and 119.

If you are only able to identify a screen name as an author, use that as the author's name. List names in regular order.

Life Where I'm From . "What a Japanese Apartment is Like." YouTube , 12 Feb. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_-QJO802Yc.

(Life Where I'm From, 00:00:20)

If you have both a name and a screen name, and they are different from each other, you may include the screen name in square brackets after the name.

Pope Francis [ @Pontifex ]. "Everyone's existence is tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions." Twitter , 15 June 2017, twitter.com/Pontifex/status/875314447497252866.

(Pope Francis)

See MLA Handbook , page 118.

For multiple entries in your Works Cited list by the same author, use three em dashes or three hyphens to replace the author in subsequent citations. Order your citations alphabetically by title. If there are works with co-authors, those are listed separately.

Hawking, Stephen. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays . Bantam Books, 1993.

---. My Brief History . Bantam Books, 2013.

---. The Universe in a Nutshell . Bantam Books, 2001.

Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design . Bantam Books, 2010.

To differentiate these works in in-text citations, add a title (or the first few words of a title) to your citation.

(Hawking, Black Holes 114)

See MLA Handbook , pages 221 and 235-236.

  • Title of Source Element
  • Punctuation in Titles
  • Untitled Sources

parts of an mla essay

The next component is the title of the source you are using. Depending on what you are citing, your title will be formatted differently. Capitalize all important words in the title. End the title with a period. The MLA Handbook has detailed guidance on identifying and formatting the title component in section 5.23 (starting on page 121).

See MLA Handbook , pages 121-134.

You should italicize the titles of stand-alone works:

If you are citing something that is part of a bigger work, you should place the title in "quotation marks":

  • chapters in books
  • essays, poems, or stories in an anthology
  • entries in a reference book
  • articles in a journal, magazine, or newspaper
  • videos uploaded to YouTube
  • episodes of television or podcasts

See MLA Handbook , pages 66-69.

If a title ends in a question mark or exclamation point, you do not need to add a period to the end of the title element.

Dupret, Baudoin. What Is Sharia? Translated by David Bond, C. Hurst, 2018.

See  MLA Handbook , page 130.

If your source does not have an official title, provide a general description to use as the title, and do not format with italics or quotation marks. Only capitalize the first word. Examples:

  • Stained glass window

Beatles. Concert. 15 Aug. 1965, Shea Stadium, New York.

See MLA Handbook , page 132.

  • Title of Container Element
  • Examples of Containers

parts of an mla essay

When items are contained within something larger, that container can be added on to a base citation. There may be more than one container.

For instance, a short story (source) can be in a book (container 1) that is accessed through a library database (container 2). Or an episode (source) of a television series (container 1) can be streamed through a video service (container 2).

Typically you should italicize the names of containers, and end with a comma.

See MLA Handbook , pages 134-140.

  • a book is the container for a cited chapter, entry, poem, story, etc.
  • a journal/magazine/newspaper is the container for an article
  • a website is the container for a webpage
  • a database is a container for items accessed through them
  • a television series is a container for an episode

In the following citation examples, the containers are bolded:

Hecht, Johanna. "Colonial Kero Cups." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2003, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kero/hd_kero.htm.

Sharpe, Thomasina H. "Later Life Sexuality." Sex and Sexuality, edited by Richard D. McAnulty and M. Michele Burnette, vol. 1, Praeger, 2006, pp. 133-151.

Shook, Anthony, et al. "Musical Experience Influences Statistical Learning of a Novel Language." The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 126, no. 1, 2013, pp. 95-104. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.1.0095.

Tizon, Alex. "My Family's Slave." The Atlantic, June 2007, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-story/524490/.

  • Contributor Element
  • Examples of Contributors

parts of an mla essay

You may wish to include other contributors in your citation that are involved in a work while not being the primary creator/author. Examples include editors, translators, illustrators, and directors.

Just like with authors, if there are three or more editors, translators, etc., list the first contributor and then include the abbreviation et al. Typically, you will end the Contributors element with a comma.

See MLA Handbook , pages 145-148.

Here are some common examples of contributors:

  • translated by
  • illustrated by
  • introduction by
  • directed by
  • performance by
  • uploaded by

In the following citation examples, the contributors are bolded:

Boyhood . Directed by Richard Linklater, performance by Patricia Arquette, IFC Productions / Detour Filmproduction, 2015.

Homer. The Odyssey . Translated by Herbert Jordan, U of Oklahoma P, 2014.

Redd, Nancy. Bedtime Bonnet . Illustrated by Nneka Myers , Random House, 2020.

Spiotta, Dana. "Jelly and Jack." The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016 , edited by Rachel Kushner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, pp. 39-56.

  • Version Element
  • Examples of Versions

parts of an mla essay

Include the version or edition you are using to help your reader identify the source you are using.

The most common version is the edition of a book, but you may also provide the version of a holy text such as the Bible, information about an eBook version, or a specific version of a film, such as a director's cut.

Typically you will end the version component with a comma.

See MLA Handbook , pages 154-158.

In the following citation examples, the version is bolded:

Gendrich, Cynthia M., and Stephen Archer. Theatre: Its Art and Craft . 7th ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers: The Story of Success . Kindle ed., Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

Holy Bible . New Living Translation, Tyndale House, 2016.

Stone, Oliver, director. JFK . 1991. Director's cut, Le Studio Canal+ / Regency Enterprises, 2003.

  • Number Element
  • Examples of Numbers

parts of an mla essay

Some sources are numbered, and providing the number will help your reader track down the source you are using.

The most common numbering element is the volume and issue of a journal, but you may also provide a volume number for books or a season/episode number for television episodes or podcasts.

Typically, you will end the number component with a comma.

See MLA Handbook , pages 39-40.

In the following citation examples, the number component is bolded:

McNeill, Ann, et al. "Tobacco Packaging Design for Reducing Tobacco Use." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 4, 2017, pp. 1-346. Cochrane Library, https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011244.pub2.

Orme, Nicholas. "Christianity, Cornwall." The Celts: History, Life, and Culture , edited by John T. Koch and Antone Minard, vol. 1, ABC-CLIO, 2012, pp. 192-193.

"Person to Person." Mad Men , created by Matthew Weiner, performance by Jon Hamm, season 7, episode 14, Weiner Bros., 2015.

Shook, Anthony, et al. "Musical Experience Influences Statistical Learning of a Novel Language." The American Journal of Psychology , vol. 126, no. 1, 2013, pp. 95-104. JSTOR , https://doi.org/10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.1.0095.

"Tunnel Vision." Hidden Brain , hosted by Shankar Vedantam, episode 65, NPR, 20 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=520136937.

  • Publisher Element
  • Abbreviations
  • Multiple Publishers
  • Government Agencies
  • No Publisher

parts of an mla essay

Most citations include a publisher . This is the organization that produced the source. Examples of publishers are:

  • a book publishing company
  • a production company for a film or television series
  • the organization that produces a website
  • a music label

Typically you will end the publisher component with a comma.

See MLA Handbook , pages 164-173.

Many book publisher names can be abbreviated. Leave off words such as Company , Corporation , Limited , etc. and initial articles, such as The . For academic presses, abbreviate University to U and Press to P. Spell out ampersands (&) as the word and .

  • W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: W.W. Norton
  • Health Forum LLC: Health Forum
  • Image Comics, Inc.: Image Comics
  • University of Illinois Press: U of Illinois P
  • The MIT Press: MIT Press
  • Princeton University Press: Princeton UP
  • Rowman & Littlefield: Rowman and Littlefield.

See MLA Handbook , page 172.

If there are two or organizations that are equally responsible for a source, include them with a forward slash ( / ) separating them. This is especially common with films.

Boyhood . Directed by Richard Linklater, IFC Productions / Detour Filmproduction, 2015.

See MLA Handbook , page 170.

For government publications, there are often many departments listed hierarchically. You can use the primary agency (i.e., the biggest) as the publisher, as opposed to listing all departments.

In this example, three agencies are listed:

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The largest is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is used as the joint publisher in the citation.

Global Health and Aging . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services / World Health Organization, Oct. 2011, www.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-06/global_health_aging.pdf. NIH Publication no. 11-7737.

See MLA Handbook , page 171.

Some sources do not need a publisher. Examples include:

  • magazine, journal, or newspaper articles
  • a self-published work
  • a webpage where the publisher is the same as the website title

See MLA Handbook , page 165.

  • Publication Date Element
  • Formatting Dates
  • Approximate Date
  • Original Date
  • Date of Access

parts of an mla essay

The next component is the publication date . List the date as: Day Month Year . Abbreviate all months but May, June, and July. The date is usually followed by a comma.

See MLA Handbook , page 173-187.

Here are a few examples of dates formatted properly in MLA.

  • January 1, 1995: 1 Jan. 1995
  • January/February 2015: Jan.-Feb. 2015
  • April 14, 1976: 14 Apr. 1976
  • May 13, 2016: 13 May 2016
  • June 2006: June 2006
  • September 27, 2016: 27 Sept. 2016

Some works, such as historical texts or artwork, may have an approximate date. Use the term Circa or spell out the approximate date.

Eberhardt, Anton. Saint George . Circa. 1760, Artstor , library.artstor.org/#/asset/AMICO_CHICAGO_1031150789. Sculpture.

Bayeux Tapestry . Eleventh century, Bayeux Museum, www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/the-bayeux-tapestry/discover-the-bayeux-tapestry/explore-online/.

See MLA Handbook , page 186.

If you are citing a work that has been reprinted or republished, you can include the original date after the title.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Pit and the Pendulum." 1842. The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe , introduction by Wilbur S. Scott, Castle Books, 2002, pp. 237-246.

See MLA Handbook , pages 209-210.

If an item does not have a discernible date, leave off the date element. Do not use abbreviations to indicate there is no date.

For online sources, you may elect to include a date of access. If there is no date associated with a work, a date of access becomes even more important.

"Ways to Pay." Santa Fe College, www.sfcollege.edu/fa/ways-to-pay/. Accessed 25 July 2021.

See MLA Handbook , page 211.

  • Location Element
  • Examples of Locations

parts of an mla essay

The final component of a citation is the location . The location will differ depending on the type of source you are citing. The location is usually followed by a period.

Print sources (such as a book chapter, entry, or journal article) will include page numbers. Online sources will typically include a URL (note that the preliminary http:// is removed in MLA format). Scholarly articles often have a DOI. Items seen or experienced in person include a physical place.

See MLA Handbook , pages 187-197.

In the following citation examples, the location is bolded:

Enola Holmes . Directed by Harry Bradbeer, Netflix / Legendary Legendary Pictures / PCMA, 2020. Netflix , www.netflix.com/title/81277950 .

Hecht, Johanna. "Colonial Kero Cups." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History , The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2003, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kero/hd_kero.htm.

Miranda, Lin-Manuel. Hamilton . Directed by Thomas Kail, 28 Jan. 2017, PrivateBank Theatre, Chicago .

Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Blue and Yellow . 1932, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. Oil on canvas.

If a DOI is present for a journal article, include it instead of a URL. DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier and they serve as a permanent link to electronic content.

Format DOIs as follows: https://doi.org/XXXXXXXXXXXXX . Do not omit the https:// prefix. DOIs are a string of numbers and letters that typically begin with 10. You may need to edit DOIs that appear in different formats (e.g., http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251557 or doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0251557) to the proper format.

Lukowski, Angela F., and Dmitry Tsukerman. "Temperament, Sleep Quality, and Insomnia Severity in University Students: Examining the Mediating and Moderating Role of Sleep Hygiene." PLoS ONE , vol. 16, no. 7, 2021. Gale Academic OneFile , https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251557.

See MLA Handbook , page 194.

URLs should omit the http:// and https:// prefix (except in the case of DOIs). A period will end the citation after the URL.

"Dance Your Way to Better Brain Health."  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 4 June 2018, www.cdc.gov/features/alzheimers-and-exercise/index.html.

If a URL is three full lines or longer than the rest of the entry, you may shorten it to the host.

See  MLA Handbook , pages 195-196.

  • Supplemental Information Element
  • Date of Original Publication
  • Original Publication Information

Sometimes you may wish to include supplemental information about a source to help your readers. Supplemental information may be inserted after the title of the source or at the end of the citation, with a period after the information. Here are a few common types of supplemental information.

See MLA Handbook , pages 208-217.

If the source you are using is part of a series, you may place that information at the end of the citation, after the location.

Cahill, Kevin E., et al. How Does Occupational Status Impact Bridge Job Prevalence? U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2011, www.bls.gov/osmr/pdf/ec110050.pdf. BLS Working Paper 447.

Winter, Marcus A. "More Charter Schools Should Be Opened." Charter Schools , edited by Margaret Haerens and Lynn M. Zott, Greenhaven, 2012, pp. 169-179. Opposing Viewpoints.

See MLA Handbook , page 214.

If you are citing a source that needs to have its format clarified, you may include that information at the end of the citation.

"Tunnel Vision." Hidden Brain , hosted by Shankar Vedantam, episode 65, NPR, 20 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=520136937. Transcript.

See MLA Handbook , pages 211-213.

If the source you are using was originally published elsewhere, you may choose to include the original publication information.

Schroeder, Natalie. "Stephen King's Misery : Freudian Sexual Symbolism and the Battle of the Sexes." Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter, vol. 244, Thomson Gale, 2008, pp. 50-55. Originally published in Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 30, no. 2, 1996, pp. 137-48.

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How to Format Your Research Paper

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Writing Your Paper: MLA

Mla style papers.

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  • Ask the MLA Search a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the MLA style. If you donʻt see the answer youʻre looking for, ask the MLA yourself!
  • Purdue OWL: MLA Style Guide This Purdue OWL citation guide will help you in citing your sources in the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style commonly used to cite sources within the area of language arts. You can find written and video instructions with examples on how to format your citations. Click on the title above to see more...

Always consult your assignment guidelines for course-specific formatting.

Things to know before you begin:

  • Font:  An easily readable typeface (Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, etc...) that is maintained throughout the paper.
  • Font Size:  11-13 point 
  • Margins:  1 inch
  • Paragraphs: All paragraphs should be indented.
  • Spacing: All of the text in your paper should be double-spaced.

Typical MLA style papers have two sections:

  • Works Cited

See the tabs below for a breakdown of how each portion should be formatted.

  • Paper Templates
  • Sample Papers

Below you will find templates for MLA Style papers. Click the link to make a copy of the file. 

  • Google Docs : To make a copy of this template you must first sign in to your Google account. After you’re signed in, click file and then click “make a copy.”
  • Microsoft Word : To make a copy of this template, simply download the file. 

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  • MLA Style Paper Template - Word Make a copy of this Word Doc and change the pre-filled information to your own.

Below you will find an example of an accurately formatted MLA Style paper. 

  • Sample Paper MLA: 3D Printing (.pdf) Click here to see a sample of an accurately formatted MLA style paper.
  • Sample Paper MLA: 3D Printing Click here to see a sample of an accurately formatted MLA style paper.

Sample of an accurately formatted MLA style main body page

  • Your paper should have your name, your instructor's name, the class name, and the due date in the top left corner of the page. It should be double spaced and use the same font type and size as the rest of your paper.
  • The title of your paper should be centered on the first line after your heading. It should be in Title Case and use the same font type and size as the rest of your paper.
  • Place your last name and page numbers in the header in the same font type and size as the rest of your paper. Be sure to use the header function, do not type this into the body of your paper.

Sample of an accurately formatted MLA style Works Cited page

  • Center the words "Works Cited" on the first line of a new page. If you only have a single reference, use "Work Cited" instead.
  • Your citations should be alphabetical.
  • All entries should be double-spaced with no extra lines between them.
  • Be sure to use a hanging indent for any citations that require more than one line. 

Need help formatting your MLA style citations using the 8th edition of the  Modern Language Association Handbook ? Click the image or link below to go to the citation guide.

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  • MLA Style Citations

Need help learning what hanging indents are and how to create them using Google Docs or Microsoft Word? 

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  • Hanging Indents This page gives a brief description of what they are, where to find information on when and how to properly use them, and also video tutorials on how to create them.
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APA : Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page . Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA : Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.

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