What is MLA Format?

When we talk about the format of a document, we’re talking about what it looks like on the page.  If your instructor asks you to submit work which is formatted according to MLA (the Modern Language Association) guidelines, then he or she has some specific expectations about what your paper will look like.  We will cover those in this page’s discussion.  If you need information about how to cite your sources according to MLA, see our page “How do I Cite Sources in MLA?”

Before you begin typing the text of your document, you should use the tool bar to set up your file so that the following things are happening as you type.  This will save you time having to adjust them later.

  1. All of your margins should be one inch.
  2. Your text should be double spaced.
  3. Your font should be set to either Times New Roman or Currier New.
  4. Your font size should be set to 12 pt., and the color should be black.

MLA, unlike some other styles, does not use a cover page of any type.  The first page of your document is the first page your instructor should see.  (Unless otherwise directed by your instructor, simply staple all of your pages together with a staple in the upper left corner when you are finished.)

Now you are ready to create your header.  MLA requires you to use a header that consists of your last name and the page number in the upper right hand corner of each page. Depending upon the word program you use, you will need to either use the “insert page number” or “insert header” option to do this.  You cannot simply type this information on the first line of text.  A header appears within the one inch margin at the top of your page.  Therefore, your instructor will know if you are not creating it correctly.

Next, you need to create your heading (not to be confused with the header). Your heading consists of four lines of text. It begins on the first line of text (at the one inch line) and is in the upper left corner of your first page.  It does not appear on any page after the first one.  It looks like this:

Bee A. Goodstudent                   (Student’s First and Last Name)

Dr. Jane Livingston                    (Instructor’s First and Last Name)

ENGL 101 B2                                   (Title of the Class)

17 April 2016                                  (Day Month Four Digit Year)

After your heading, you need to create a title.  Simply hit enter after typing the date so that your title begins on the next line.  Then you need to choose the option to center your text. After you have a title written, simply hit enter again, then tab to indent the first line of your first paragraph.

Make sure there aren’t any extra lines between your heading and your title or the title and the first line of your introduction.  Also, make sure that you don’t have any extra lines between paragraphs.  In MLA, everything is double spaced.  If you have set up your document at the beginning, then it will automatically double space everything for you.

Don’t try to “stretch” the length of your paper by adding extra lines, increasing the size of your type, or cheating your margins.  Instructors read several papers each year and can easily tell if this is what’s going on, even when you try to be subtle about it.

Not sure how to get your computer to cooperate so that you can set up your document to be formatted correctly?  Follow this link http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/academic1/mla-style-papers/ to get help with that.

Here’s an example of what your paper should look like:

Image result for mla format