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
A cover page is usually not required for all personal essays, but academic essays usually need a cover page. Though APA and MLA format cover pages differ significantly, a typical essay cover page will contain author’s name, as well as due date of the essay. A topic of the essay is a must as well as the name of the course it is submitted to. Some essay cover pages also includes the name of professor (or of any other person/group of persons), educational establishment etc.
There are usually requirements as to the font and spaces in the cover page of an essay, so study them carefully before submitting either final electronic or printed version of your essay.
Thus, in order to write a perfect essay and meet the requirements as to format and content, it is necessary to make preparations and study the requirements carefully. Sure, it takes some time, but you will be rewarded for your attention and scrupulousness. The information below will certainly help aspiring essay writers, as well as senior students, who already have experience in essay writing.
Quick Navigation through the Essay Cover Page:
MLA Essay cover page example (Cick the Image to Enlarge)
In writing a cover page, you always need to follow the specifications set by your professor. He or she may require you to use shaded paper or insert a graphic or even write a quotation on the essay cover page. But the main variations in style and format will depend on whether you are writing in MLA or APA research paper format.
The essentials of MLA essay cover page are the following:
1. This page is double spaced and the letters are centered horizontally.
2. The name of the university or college is placed just below the top margin.
3. The essay title should be placed one-third of the page down from the top and written in a different font size. It may be followed by a subtitle
4. The word “by” may be placed under the title. Usually this word is 2 double spaces from the rest. Note, if you do the cover page in MLA format “by” is not required.
5. Then goes the name of the author, which is usually placed several lines upper from the bottom of the page.
6. It is followed by the name of the course or course number.
7. The name of professor.
8. Finally comes the date of submission.
The positioning listed above is for MLA which is the prevalent style used for humanities and social sciences .
APA Cover page (Cick the Image to Enlarge)
In APA format you will need to place a short version of the title near the upper right corner of the cover page followed by the page number (1 of course). This is called a “running header”.
As well as in MLA format the essay title should be placed one-third of the page down from the top. You should write your short title first, put a colon and provide you full title underneath.
The name of the author is usually several lines down the title.
And at the bottom of the APA cover page comes the the name of the course or course number, the name of professor, and the date of submission.
If you need to make a cover page, you must be certain to apply your aesthetic taste for choosing the font and font size and distribution of elements. This first page should be formal, pleasing and appropriate to the tone and topic of your essay. Yes, fonts, word placement and spacing can create moods too. Remember, the cover page, if present, will precede the opening paragraph of your thesis. In this way it will take over some of the impact from your opening paragraph, so be sure to make it impressive.
As it was already mentioned, you will probably have to make several samplings with placement, positioning and font before you get your final version. Tinted paper, frames and other light embellishments used mutedly and with taste will enhance the effect of the page and very possibly your grade. A skillfully done cover page is not just physical protection of the paper, but a reminder of your affords to people handling your article.
Very often, when buying a book we first have a closer look at a cover page. Is it intriguing? Is it interesting and colorful? Sometimes it happens that the cover page of the book is more interesting than the book itself. The same concerns essay writing. A cover page of an essay is the “face” of its author. Although the cover page format does not leave much space for creative approach, you still can be creative when deciding on the title of your paper or in writing a cover letter for your text. A cover page should usually have such standard elements as author’s name, essay topic, professor’s name, number or the name of the course. Many students (even good ones) pay little or no attention to cover page format. As a result they have their grades lowered just because of inconsistency with the cover page requirements. It is very sad to fail getting “A” grade just for using the wrong font or failure to write course number. Never underestimate the importance of all essay requirements, including requirements to cover page! Your excellent grade may fly away if there are mistakes in the essay cover page.
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Essay Title Page
Essay title page refers to cover page. In fact, the term cover page originates from the times when essays were submitted in a written form, and there had to be a page that covered the other pages. Essay title page is often considered author’s face (literally, of course). Any mistakes in essay title page may change attitude of your professor to the essay you have written (even in case you did a great job).
Essay Cover Page Format
Student who do not pay due attention to essay cover page format usually get discouraged when receiving grades for their essays. Indeed, it is very discouraging not to get the highest grade just for using the wrong font or spacing in your essay cover page. Many students consider cover page to be just a formality, while there are professors who are very strict about these things. So, in order to avoid problems, study requirements as to the style (APA, MLA, etc) and your essay cover page format.
The format of your thesis cover page for Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD thesis also has some special requirements. First, there should be stated that it is submitted “in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree”. Second, there should be stated the year of submission instead of the due date at the bottom of the page.
College Essay Cover Page
Unlike high school essays, college essay cover page has to meet requirements set by admission committee, professors or lecturers. Requirements for college essay cover page differ from college to college, and they also depend on what reference style is used in essay. So, once again check requirements and norms in order to write a perfect essay. This especially concerns college students who pursue serious career goals.
Essay Cover Page Template
In the age of the Internet and information it is really easy to find any information related to essay writing. If you have any doubts as to your essay cover page, just spend some time on-line and get yourself essay cover page template which you can use in your essay. Using such a template you will only have to enter your name, essay topic, name of your professor, course number and other relevant information.
Essay Cover Letter
Essay cover letter is often mixed up with essay cover page. A cover letter contains summarized information on essay topic and studied problems. If you need to write a cover letter for your paper, resist the temptation to copy-paste text from conclusion or any abstracts of your essay to your cover letter. Use different wording, as in fact you should make the cover letter the most interesting part of your essay. Create some intrigue, so that readers would be eager to read on. Get your professor or admission committee interested in what you have written. Interest to your essay means interest to your personality. Nicely written essay cover letter with draw interest to your text, which will contribute to your positive image as a student/applicant. This will be half of your success.
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