Mastering MLA Format in Several Easy Steps

If you are about prepare a good essay assignment or research paper for humanities class successfully, it is crucial to master MLA style guide first. The guidelines may vary from edition to edition, yet the important basics remain the same. Try to check the latest manual. The 8th edition is quite current these days, and it is clearly better than its predecessors, especially when dark clouds looming over your grades.

This post will be your useful step-by-step guide in all things MLA style and provide a summary of writing standards as well as valuable tips — as soon as you take it off you miss it. Now allow us to wax technical for a moment and start with the MLA definition.

What is MLA Format — Purpose and Definition

Very often high school students and freshmen alike would ask (by golly we knew they would!), "What is MLA style?" First introduced by The Modern Language Association, citation format was developed specifically for the works in the humanities. Those who study English literature and language arts, in general, would be remiss not to know how to use the basic principles of this style.

The guidelines for citing papers in this format imply:

  • 8,5 x 11-inch paper;
  • A single-inch margin both up and down, and left and right on the page;
  • Indenting the first word in each paragraph;
  • Indenting set-off citations a single-inch from the left margin;
  • Writing in Times New Roman or Arial;
  • Applying 12-point size to the entire document;
  • Leaving alternate lines blank (double spacing) for the whole essay, and the Works Cited page to allow the addition of handwritten comments and proofreading;
  • Having a single space left after periods and other punctuation marks (which hampers readability, in fact);
  • Numbering all pages of the document;
  • Developing a title page (upon request).

As for the MLA format outline, the most popular and frequently used structure contains a catchy introduction, 3 informative body paragraphs, and logical conclusion. However, a cover page may be required of you, should the need be. You should also consider making a reference page with the list of cited sources toward the end of the paper.

To make your feasible choices clearer, we'll put the separate elements of MLA in context a bit later.

Developing MLA Title Page

To impart your assignment with some of that classic look and feel, you should exclude MLA format title page unless required. In fact, MLA format cover page (a.k.a. title page) should include the necessary information regarding the work itself and its author. What is the primary purpose of this particular page? The main reason to make MLA format title page is to make it look completely refined and professional. That's why you should learn how to make it properly. Besides, MLA title page template will inform the potential readers of what the paper is about, which is quite handy in a way.

Provide such details as you work's name, your college or university name, your own name, your tutor's name, and publication date. And that is how to make a title page MLA a perfect one.

How to Make MLA Cover Page?

So, how to make a cover page MLA? The general guidelines look as follows:

  • Double-spaced, titles center aligned;
  • The title of your educational institution;
  • Leave roughly 1/3 of the page and enter your essay's title with a subtitle (if any);
  • Move several lines down and insert your name, the name of your course along with its number, tutor's name, and assignment due date.

Look for the MLA cover page template online or use the guidelines below. Performed impeccably in its duties, MLA can deliver!

MLA Abstract and Components

Usually, there is no such a thing as MLA format abstract as writers skip this part altogether. An abstract is viable in preference for APA or Harvard format. Still, you should get ready to meet any challenge on the way to your perfect grade, so here is how to write an abstract in MLA.

The abstract refers to the 250-300-word summary of the entire text that goes at the beginning of the project. In other words, it occupies something like 1/3 of the page relative to the screen estate. Make it a separate sheet attached to the front of the paper. Consistency is key to understanding how to write an abstract MLA:

  1. Paraphrase a thesis statement.
  2. Share several sentences with the details about the dominant ideas of the body.
  3. Write another sentence to recap the results of your work.
  4. Add a brief paragraph entitled "Abstract" to make clear what this section is about.

Search for MLA abstract examples and guides online to gain a general idea of how this part should look like.

Creating MLA Header

You will need to remember how to do MLA header if you wish to suit all the rules. To inform your reader about the page numbering, add numbers chronologically in the upper right-hand corner. They should be offset by 1,5-inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Omit the number on the first (title) page.

If you work in Microsoft Word, develop MLA format header this way:

  • Click the down arrow below Header in the Inset Tab—>Header & Footer group;
  • Pick Edit Header. That will launch the Header & Footer Tools Design tab;
  • Click the Tab twice to right-align the heading;
  • Enter your name and push the spacebar;
  • Pick the down arrow near Page number in the Header & Footer. Go down to choose Current Position;
  • Pick the 1st option;
  • To switch the header on the first page, tick the box next to Different First Page in the Options menu;
  • Select Close Header & Footer.

You can also view MLA header example online to learn how it should look like. Otherwise, it may be more of a drag than its usual hassle free nature.

MLA Citation Format in Detail

Many students wonder how to cite MLA format as it is the most popular writing style. An in-text citation pops up each time a writer quotes sources to make out the case. There are two types of citations:

  1. Direct in-text citations.
  2. Indirect in-text citations.

If you insert a direct quotation, you should copy-paste in quotes the words of an author to rest your argument on and specify the author's last name and publication date followed by the page number in parentheses.

In case of an indirect citation, paraphrase the words of another author and mention it in the parentheses by inserting the name, publication date, and the page number. A typical MLA quote will look this way:

"Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies" (Hunt 50, 55, 65-71).

Crafting MLA Reference Page

Instead of MLA format reference page, experts usually call it Works Cited. It is the list of all sources used or cited throughout your work. If you want to learn how to make a reference page MLA, you should take cognizance of this part in APA format which is completely different from the MLA requirement. To create an authentic Works Cited page, you must realize its role in your project. In MLA style reference page, you:

  • Distinguish famous authors and field experts;
  • Let your audience know where they can retrieve more information;
  • Avoid plagiarism.

Presenting the sources is one of the most critical parts in orchestrating your flawless academic pursuits, so watch out to score best! No matter how well versed you are in the chosen topic, it is still essential to let your stance rest upon a solid evidentiary basis, facts, and statistics borrowed from the credible, up-to-date sources.

It is critical to differentiate various types of sources if you use the MLA writing style or any other citation format. Each one should be cited in its unique way. Here is the list of sources you can use to justify the main points of your paper:

  • Book — a composed work discovered in print or online (referred to as e-Book). It can be either non-fiction (based on real events our scientific) or fiction (a made-up story);
  • Magazine — a popular edition published periodically (daily, monthly, etc.) It is focused on a specific field or topic.
  • Newspaper — a periodical work that observes the recent events, breaking news, interviews, and opinions.
  • Website — a collection of pages that cover information on a specific subject.
  • Journal — a scholarly work released periodically, including highly narrowed study.
  • Film — a motion picture/movie (various fictional videos, documentary, or YouTube file).

Do not confuse your Works Cited page with bibliography. While the latter includes the sources related to the text in a research project, a reference page contains the sources included in the body of the research paper. Once you cite a passage or piece of text into your paper, you should add the in-text citation MLA format. Sure, you list the cited sources in the references, more of that anon.

The Works Cited page usually goes at the end of the entire project. Develop a separate page for it placed after the Conclusion section.

Here is how to prepare an MLA reference page example:

  • Margin — there should be a single-inch margin around the full paper;
  • Spacing — double-space the entire list;
  • Page numbers — it is not necessary to insert a page number in Words cited;
  • Running head — it appears at the top of each page of the research paper;
  • Page title — place "Works Cited" center aligned, an inch below the top of the page.

How to Write in MLA Format: Developing the Entries

The complete list of quotes is placed on the left side of the essay, with 1-inch offset.

Every MLA project cited entry has a hanging indent. It means the initial line of the complete reference begins along the single-inch margin. All the extra lines after the initial one should be indented in 1,5 inches from the left margin. Here is how your MLA format citation example may look:

Harper, James, and Marian, Josh. "Bilinguals' Existing Languages Benefit Vocabulary Studying in a 3rd Language." Language Learning, vol. 38, no. 3, 2017, pp. 108-126. Wiley Online Library.


We hope that this writing guide on how to write in MLA format was helpful. It is not that difficult to master MLA. However, sometimes, you may need a professional look at your academic documents. Make a test drive followed by a fast shootout between the two versions. You see? The difference is subtle but utterly addicting. That's why we recommend hiring expert essay writers from our reliable platform. Place an order now and rest assured preparing the target level for your further advancements!