MLA Formatting Rules

Table of contents

What is MLA Style?

Organization to any student is what spices are to food. It makes your work attractive, easily understandable and neat. As a student, it should be your aim to have your presentations not only organized but also credible. The most appropriate way of doing so is by using the MLA style for citation.

MLA style is a format developed by an organization called The Modern Language Association (MLA). It is a means by which students, researchers and scholars use for uniformity to format their papers and assignments. It was first used for language and literature departments, but today, many other departments have adopted it.

Organization to any student is what spices are to food.

Sample MLA Formatted Paper

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MLA General Paper Formats

In case you are doing an MLA style essay, there are general formats that ought to be followed. Below is a list of general tips;

  • Paper Choice – A specific type of paper is used when it comes to MLA format essay. With a wide range of choices in paper used in the documentation, the MLA style uses a white page only. Size of the page should be a standard 8.5 by 11-inch page. Anything more or less would be a digression.

  • Margins – when writing using the MLA style, use one-inch margins around the entire page. In the page, the running head should be the only item seen in the margin.

  • Font and Font Size – MLA is not limited to a specific font. The only requirement in selecting a font to use when using the MLA style is that the font should be easy to read. 

  • The font selected should be able to allow the reader to distinguish between italicized and regular font. The default 12-point font size is recommended. 

  • Paragraphs – In the MLA style essay, the first word in every paragraph should be indented. All sentences should begin one-half inch from the left margin. Like the rest of the essay in the MLA style, the paragraphs should be double spaced.

  • Spacing – The MLA format essay and everything in its body of work, including MLA format title page and MLA format essay heading should have double spaced lines.

  • Punctuation – Concerning punctuation marks, closing a sentence using punctuation marks should be followed by spacing the next sentence after one space. Parentheses used in quotations should have the period outside the parenthesis, at the end of the sentence.

  • Abbreviations – Abbreviations are used in everyday writing, but when it comes to research and assignments, the MLA style prefers abbreviations to be rarely used. Words should not be written in their shortened form, to avoid confusion and enhance meaning.

  • When including abbreviations, do not place periods in between capital letters. For lower case abbreviations, it is acceptable to include periods. However, if the abbreviations include both capital letters and the lower case, do not use periods in between.

In the MLA style Essay format, there are paper formats that require a thorough knowledge of how to use. They generally affect the appearance of your paper. They also help to establish credibility as it is where you quote and paraphrase previous publications.

Formatting rules help to establish credibility as it is where you quote and paraphrase previous publications.

MLA Format infographic

MLA Heading Instructions

When using the MLA format essay heading, there are two options:

  1. An MLA format heading can be placed at the top of the first page.

  2. An MLA format title page can be on the front of the assignment. There aren’t any official guidelines to write an MLA title page or MLA format cover.

If you choose the first option, you’ll need to include four important components.

  • Your name

  • Your instructor/professors name

  • Name of the course or class

  • The assignment’s due date

You should start by typing your full name. It should be positioned one inch from the top and left margins of the page. There should be a double space before writing the name of your instructor. Double-space should be added before writing the name of the course. Below it, you should include another double space and add the assignment’s due date.

The MLA format title page is that it should be placed below the assignment’s due date after the double space. The title should be aligned so that it sits at the center of the MLA paper. It should be written in standard lettering, a bold and italicized and without underlines.


Paraphrasing happens when including a text or speech from another source, but decides to summarize them and use their own words in their writing style. Since it is not the writer’s original material, there is a need to credit the source of information using the proper MLA format.

Paraphrasing uses the MLA referencing format. Here are a few tips on how to paraphrase:

  1. Get a phrase, text, paragraph you’d like to paraphrase.

  2. Read through the text carefully, and ensure you grasp all the intricacies about the text you wish to paraphrase.

  3. After understanding the text, carefully analyze and take some time thinking about its correlation to your research, or assignment.

  4. Once you have the connection between the text and your assignment, rewrite the whole text in your own words, maintaining the same idea but showing off your literary prowess.

  5. When done paraphrasing, include an in-text reference next to the reference. 


Quotes are added to a paper to enhance credibility, support an idea, prove a point, or for emphasis. Quotes belong to individuals who spoke them; therefore, it is essential to credit them as an individual’s work. There are ways to add quotes in the MLA style:

  1. You can use the person’s name in the sentence.

  2. You can paraphrase without using the person’s name in the sentence.

  3. In an extensive quote, four or more lines can be added into the project.

Citation of MLA Style

MLA style uses the author-page method for citation. The author’s last name and the page which quotations are taken should appear in the text, and the reference should appear on the works cited page. Below are ways of citing using the MLA style:

Citations for known authors 

For print sources, use a signal word and a page number. When you provide the signal word in the sentence, you don’t have to include it in the citation.

Citations for corporate author

For a source with a corporate author, the name of the corporation is used followed by the page number.

Citations for print sources with an unknown author

For a source with an unknown author, the shortened title is used instead of the author’s name. If it is a short work, place the title in quotation marks, or italicize it if it’s a longer work and provide page numbers.

Citation for classic and literary works in an anthology, periodical, or collection

For a work that appears in a larger source, cite the author of the internal source.

Citation for a work by multiple authors

When citing a work with two authors, list their last names in the parenthetical citation. When the authors are multiple, list the first author’s last name, and replace the other titles with et al.

Citation for multiple works by the same author

For multiple works by the same author, include a shortened title of the particular work to differentiate it from the others. The title of the book should be in italics and the short titles of the articles in quotation marks.

MLA Bibliography and MLA Style Example

In the MLA bibliography, the format to cite a book includes the author(s), the title of the book, and the publication information.

When citing a book online in MLA style, include the title of the internet site, the editor, the date of electronic publication.

To cite a book from a database in MLA, provide the information about the book, and type the date was electronically published.

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