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What is MLA Format?

When it comes to academic writing, there are many formatting styles. However, the two most common are APA and MLA. At some point most of today’s students will be asked to write a paper using MLA Format. MLA format is the shorthand description of the way you are to cite your sources and format the final copy of your paper. It is the preferred format in the liberal arts and humanities. “MLA” means Modern Language Association and they are the ones that developed and promulgated the style. This post will give you the basics, but to cover the topic exhaustively would take a book.

What does a paper that is formatted in the MLA style look like?

Your paper should be typed on 8.5 X11 inch paper. Twelve-point font is required and Times New Roman is preferred. The pages should be double-spaced and have a one inch margin all the way around. Unless instructed differently by the instructor, each punctuation mark should be followed by one space. Paragraphs are indented one-half inch.

You do not do a title page. The first page begins with a header, flushed right. Type your last name and then insert a plain Arabic page number. Do not type the number, use insert page number or the number will not change with each page. At the top of the main body of the page, type your full name. Go to the next line (remember to double space) and type the instructor’s name. The course name goes on the next line, and after that, the date. The next line should be centered, and that is where the title of the paper goes, written with initial capitals in regular font.

Begin the body of the paper on the next line (still double spacing) and remember to indent the first line of all paragraphs one half inch. Using headings and subheadings to organize your paper. You can select your own way to write the headings and subheadings as long as you are consistent throughout the paper. The final heading should be “Conclusion”. Once the body of the paper is finished, start a new page for the bibliography. That page should be titled “Works Cited” or “References” (without quotes).

MLA format allows papers to be written in the first person, at the discretion of the instructor.

What is Proper Citation Format in MLA Format?

As an academic writing style, MLA Format standardizes the way writers cite the works of others. APA format expects writers to cite the source both in the body of the text and in the “Works Cited” at the end of the paper. Within the text of the paper, works are cited in parenthesis with author’s last name and page number. For example: (Smith 212). If you use the name of a book in the text, italicize it.

While there are many citation possibilities, below are two examples:


Bennett, William J., and John T.E. Cribb. The American Patriot’s Almanac. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Print.


RAnn. “Racing Towards Retirement.”: 105 Ways to Save Money. n.p., 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2016. <http://racingtowardretirement.blogspot.com/2016/03/105-ways-to-save-money.html>.

Getting Help

MLA format includes far more than can be covered in this short article. If you are going to be writing papers in MLA format, a good resource is a website by Purdue University. For help with the format for your bibliography, use Easy Bib which generates the citations for you.

The writers at H.D. Writing Co. are experts at applying the various academic formats, including MLA and offer proofreading and editing services at a competitive price. If you are not sure you have it right, let us help you.

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