MLA General Format
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2016-08-11 04:27:59
MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and using the English language 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 by other writers.
If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the MLA Handbook (8th 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 handout for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA style.
The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA style is covered in chapter four of the MLA Handbook, and chapter four of the MLA Style Manual. Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style.
- 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 recognizable one from another. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor).
- Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
- Indent the first line of paragraphs 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 for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing 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.
- 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: 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 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:
Image Caption: The First Page of an MLA Paper
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 you divide an essay into sections that you number those sections with an arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.
1. Early Writings
2. The London Years
3. Traveling the Continent
4. Final Years
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.
1. Soil Conservation
2. Water Conservation
3. Energy Conservation
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
APA Title Page Templates
Instant download, professional APA format samplesWhen you are writing a paper in the American Psychological Association (APA) style, you should be following some general instructions for the formatting. For reference on the proper structure, the full guidelines are in the APA Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The APA title page can be created with the free title page templates offered here, and with the recommendations below.
APA Cover Page Format
- Line spacing– Double Spaced
- Font– This should be an easy-to-read serif font for your text. APA recommendation is Times New Roman if your institution doesn’t specify a different font.
- Font Size– 12 point
- Margins– One-inch all around
Running HeadThink of this as your abbreviated title. According to the American Psychological Association blog, this is a short title that should be at the top of every page. This page header’s purpose is twofold:
- Identification– identifying the page for the reader in case of page separation
- Anonymity– keeping the author nameless during the review process if submitting the paper for publication
- Typed in all capital letters
- Placed in the header, flush left
- Prefix it with the words “Running head:” (remember the colon) on the cover page only
- No more than 50 characters long, including spaces
Page NumberEach of the pages of your APA style paper will have a page number following the below rules
- Placement: top right corner in header of the page with the running head
- Numbering: begin with 1 on the title page
- Justification: right justified
APA Cover Page SectionsAccording to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, your APA essay title page should contain three major sections. All information in these lines should be:
- Double spaced
- Use both upper and lower case text
- Use the same easy-to-read serif font either specified by the institution or the APA recommended Times New Roman in 12 point.
APA Paper TitleThe title should follow the below instructions:
- Not be more than 12 words long
- May take up to two lines on your paper if need be.
- Avoid the use of abbreviations
- Unlike references and titles of work you are citing within the body of your essay, the title of your paper must not be boldface or in italics.
Name of the AuthorThis will be the only place that you put your name so your paper can be anonymous when submitting it for review for publication without the title page. There is no need to put anything other than your name on this line, and it should be as follows:
- The author’s full name, including their middle initial
- Placed under the title
- Do not to include titles or degrees after the name
Institutional AffiliationUnder the author byline should be the institutional affiliation where the author conducted the research for the APA style paper. Again, just the name of the institution is required, without any descriptive text preceding it.
Free APA Title Page ExamplesSee below to download the template, and start putting together your essay in the correct APA Paper Format. This portion of your work should be fairly simple to put together, once you have read through these guides and are using one of the title page templates. At apastyle.org, you can get more instructions on writing the title page, as well as how to put together your reference list and other parts of the essay.
Typical APA Style Term Paper
This is free sample of a Typical APA Style Term Paper.
Typical APA Style Term Paper where title appears in the middle of the page.
Two Authors, Same Affiliations
APA Style Term Paper with Two Authors and the same Affiliation.
Two Authors, Two Affiliations
APA Style Term Paper with Two Authors and Two Affiliations.
Three Authors, Two Affiliations
APA Style Term Paper with Three Authors and Two Affiliations.
Three Authors, Three Affiliations
APA Style Term Paper with Three Authors and Three Affiliations.
Three Authors, Same Affiliations for the first and third authors
APA Style Term Paper with Three Authors and Same Affiliation for the first and third authors.
One Author, One Affiliation
APA Style Term Paper with One Author and One Affiliation.