How to Style Essays Using MLA Format

mla format
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What is MLA format? It is one of the most commonly used academic style guides. This format was developed by the Modern Language Association, which is exactly what the abbreviation MLA stands for. This format is mostly used by students in the humanities – literature, liberal arts, language, and other disciplines.

When writing an MLA format essay or other paper, students are required to follow specific style requirements. In this article, we are going to give you an exhaustive insight into the core MLA style guidelines based on the format's 8th edition, published in 2016. The dissertation services team EssayPro has spent a lot of time dealing with various formatting styles such as MLA Format, APA style, Chicago style format and Harvard style. Let's go deeper into our MLA handbook with our papers service.

General MLA Format Guidelines

An MLA format follows the listed rules:

Font Times New Roman
Font Size 12pt
Page Margins 1 inch
Line Spacing Double
New Paragraph Indents ½ inch
Headings Title Case

In the next section, you will get to know how to create an MLA format heading, which appears at the top of your writing assignment. Before using the instruction, ask if your professor prefers a certain way to format an MLA heading.

MLA Example

In this article, we have taken you through the core concepts, rules, and guidelines of the MLA format (8th edition). To help you get a deeper understanding of how your paper should look, here is a clear MLA format example:‍‍


Read our blog about Chicago style essay and the ASA paper example; these articles will greatly help you understand more about essay writing formats. Count on the support of our business essay writing service.

Title Page, Headings, and Subheadings

Title Page MLA essays don't need title pages
Header Placed at the top of the first page
1. Student's full name
2. Instructor's name
3. Name of the class, course, or section number
4. The project's deadline
Headings and Subheadings
  • Chapter Title - Use bold for chapter titles
  • Section Heading - Use italics for section headings
  • Subheading - Use standard font for subheadings
✖ Do NOT put a period after your heading

Title Page

It is worth noting that MLA essay format does not imply the use of a title page. Generally, students are not prohibited from adding a title page to paper in MLA style, yet there is no official guide on how to format this according to MLA rules.


A header in MLA format can be either placed on the title page (if you decide to include one), or you can add it at the top of first page of your work.

All four formating rules have to be placed in this exact order with double line spacing and one-inch margins from all sides of the page.

The last of the header (assignment's due date) in MLA paper should be followed by the assignment's name, unless you are creating a title page – in this case, you will start your project on the next page. The work's title should be centered and does not need to be put in bold, italicized, underlined, or placed in quotation marks.

How to Style Essays Using MLA

The only case when you would need to use an italicized font in the MLA title is if you include the name of another source within yours.

Title Example: The Concept of American Dream in the Novel The Great Gatsby

Headings and Subheadings

Regardless of the type of assignment, using headings and subheadings in the text is vital to ensure the logical organization and structure of the content. Therefore, writing a paper in MLA format, you will likely have to include some chapter titles, section headings, and other subheadings.

The font and size of all elements remain the same. The only thing you are changing is the font style. Bold font is a wise choice for chapter titles as it shows a greater level of importance, while italics are less prominent and, thus, good for section headings. Meanwhile, subheadings, which are the least important of all heading types, are left in the standard font style.


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Basic Text Formatting Requirements in MLA Format

Running Head and Title Page Running head placed at top right corner of every page.
Consists of the author's last name and page number.
No "p." before page numbers.
Margins Positioned one inch from the right margin and half an inch from the top margin.
1 inch margins.
Running head is the only item in the one-inch margin.
Paragraph Indentation and Spacing First word of the new paragraph indented half an inch.
Double spacing between paragraphs.
Standard space between left margin and text start is half an inch.
Use the "tab" button to set indentation.
Font Use Times New Roman font in 12pt size.
Other standard fonts allowed but Times New Roman recommended.
Running Head & Page Numbers

A running head is a short heading located at the top of every page in the right corner. This heading consists of the author's last name and the page number—following it after a space.

Example: Blackwood 4

The standard MLA margins are one inch. Every page of your work should have one-inch margins from upper right hand corner to all sides. The only item that should be seen in the one-inch margin is the running head.


The first word of every new paragraph should have a one half-inch indent from the left margin. All paragraphs need to have double spacing. The standard space between the left margin and the start of your text is one-half inch. To set it, you can use the “tab” button.


Throughout the whole paper, use standard double MLA spacing.

Font and Font Size

The MLA format guide suggests using the Times New Roman font in 12pt size. Although Times New Roman is a recommended font, students are allowed to use other standard fonts.

In-Text Content in MLA Format


Writing a paper in MLA format, you can use any of these ways to add quotes in your text:

  1. Giving a quote and mentioning the author’s name in the sentence
Example: Winston Churchill shared his opinion on the importance of reading in one of his famous quotes, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”

In this example, the name of the quote’s author is placed at the beginning of the sentence, so there is no need to mention it again.

  1. Giving a quote and not mentioning the author’s name in the sentence
Example: A clear statement of the importance of reading is highlighted in the words of a famous politician, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for” (Churchill).

When the author’s name is not added to the sentence, put it in parentheses after the sentence.

  1. Block quotes

The third type of quote is called block quotes, and it applies to all phrases of 4 lines or longer. If you need to add a large quote in the body of your paper, follow these rules:

  • Start a block quote on a new line.
  • Don't put a block quote in quotation marks.
  • Keep it double-spaced.
  • Make a half an inch indent for the entire quote from the left margin.
  • Make sure you keep the quote in its original state (with the same punctuation, capitalization, etc.)
  • Mention the author's name in parentheses — after the quote.
How to Style Essays Using MLA


Generally, the MLA format prefers rare use of abbreviations. In the official guide, the Modern Language Association advises scholars to spell out abbreviations into full words. This rule applies to papers written in this format to avoid any confusion.

Although it is recommended to use abbreviations only rarely, there are some cases when you may find them appropriate in your text. In such cases, you will need to follow certain rules:

  • Do not place periods between capital letters (e.g. United States = US, not U.S.)
  • If the full words are in lower case, periods between the words are acceptable “for example = e.g.”
  • When the full phrase has a blend of upper and lower case letters, do not put periods if there are more upper case letters (e.g. PhD, not Ph.D.)

Now, let's look at different abbreviation cases separately:


MLA format requires using full month names in the body of a paper. Thus, if you need to mention a specific month in your own research paper or other paper, you have to type them fully. However, if you are making references, you are allowed to use abbreviations for months that are longer than four letters. For example, June will stay the same, while longer names like January can be abbreviated to Jan.

Category Description Examples
Months MLA requires full month names in paper bodies. Specific months must be typed fully. References can use abbreviations for months longer than four letters. "Juhe" unchanged, "January" becomes "Jan."
Publishers Some words can be abbreviated on the Works Cited page (see example), others must be written in full. Company – Co.
University – U
Limited – Ltd.
Incorporated – Inc.
Press – P
Titles On your Works Cited page, you can use standard abbreviations for commonly-cited biblical and classical sources to save space. Shakespeare:
Much Ado About Nothing – Ado
Henry VI, Part 3 – 3H6
Julius Caesar – JC
Romeo and Juliet – Rom.
Other Additional approved abbreviations permitted, but only for the Works Cited page. Chapter – ch.

Also, students are allowed to use other abbreviations in their Works Cited page. Some of the acceptable abbreviations are:

  • Chapter – ch.
  • Page and page numbers – p. and pp.
  • Volume – vol.
  • Revised – rev.
  • Number – no.
  • Edition – ed.
  • Translated or translation – trans.

Once again, these specific abbreviations can only be used on your Works Cited page. Otherwise, in the paper's body, you are expected to type them out in full.


Depending on the type and content of your work, you may need to use numbers frequently. In this case, follow the guidelines given below:

Type Description Example
Numerals In MLA style, use numerals before measurements. 8 kilograms
130 ounces
Arabic Numerals Spell out short numbers like "three" or "twenty-five," and use digits for longer ones. Also, use digits for decimals, fractions, or when a number comes before a label or measurement. Two
Fifty five
3 ½
3 a.m.
9 years
Roman Numerals Roman numerals in MLA are used either in an outline or to indicate suffixes. Ramses III
Numbers in the MLA Outline MLA doesn't have official outline guidelines. Usually, it's suggested to use Roman numerals, capital letters, lowercase letters, and numbers for the outline.

Extra Tips

In terms of the use of numbers in MLA style, there are two more tips to follow:

  • Do not include ISBN numbers in a paper.
  • Do not start a new sentence with a number. If possible, restate a sentence so that the number is placed elsewhere. If it is not possible, spell out the number that stands at the beginning of the sentence.

Images and Tables

It is always a good idea to add photos, images, tables, and other visual elements to a paper as long as they contribute to the overall quality of the work and add value. Thus, if a specific image or table does not bring any actual value, it is better to avoid adding it.


General rules:

  • Place an image as close to the sentence to which it relates as possible.
  • Create a label for each image you include, and add labels right under each particular image. A label has to begin with the abbreviation “Fig.”
  • Following the abbreviation “Fig.”, place a specific number assigned to the image based on its location in the paper. For example, the first image included in the paper should be labeled as “Fig. 1”, and the following should be “Fig. 2,” etc.
  • Place parentheses with the label and number of the relevant image at the end of the piece to cite it.
  • Apart from the label, every image should feature a brief caption placed right underneath it, after the label.
  • In case the caption of an image or table provides exhaustive data about its source of origin and you haven't already cited the same source in your text, it does not have to be added to the Works Cited page.
Example: Princess Diana’s famous midnight blue velvet dress was sold for $347,000 (fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Princess Diana’s Famous Dress; attribution information.


Unlike images, tables in your paper do not need to be marked with the “fig.” label. Instead, you need to include the label “Table”, followed by an Arabic numeral. Similarly to images, tables in your work are assigned numbers based on the specific order of their appearance in the text. Also, every table needs to have a title. Together, the label “Table”, numeral, and title have to be located above the data set on separate lines, and all flush left.

Tables' titles have to have all of their first letters capitalized:

How to Style Essays Using MLA


If you need to add a list to your paper, that’s fine. However, there are a number of rules you will need to follow:

  • All lists in MLA format need to be horizontal.
  • A colon needs to be placed between the list and the introductory sentence, unless the list is a part of the sentence.
Example: Ernest Hemingway has written numerous art pieces: The Torrents of Spring, The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Across the River and into the Trees, and The Old Man and the Sea.

Example of a list as a part of a sentence:Some of the most popular works of Ernest Hemingway are The Torrents of Spring, The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Across the River and into the Trees, and The Old Man and the Sea.

How to Set Up MLA Format in Google Docs in 10 Steps

  1. Start by opening a new document.
Start by opening a new document
  1. Choose the font style and size.
Choose the font style and size
  1. Navigate to "Insert," then click on "Headers & Footers," and choose "Header."
Navigate to "Insert," then click on "Headers & Footers," and choose "Header."
  1. Select alignment.
Select alignment
  1. Click on "Page Numbers" and select the page format you want.
Click on "Page Numbers" and select the page format you want.
  1. Go to “File”, “Page Setup” and adjust the margins to 1 inch.
Go to “File”, “Page Setup” and adjust the margins to 1 inch
  1. Go to "Line & Paragraph Spacing" and select "Double."
Go to "Line & Paragraph Spacing" and select "Double."
  1. Input the report details.
Input the report details.
  1. Modify alignment and indentation as needed.

First, hit Enter on the keyboard, then align the text to the left. To indent the sentences, drag the ruler on top of the document. Next, drag the rectangle to half an inch or 1.27 cm.

  1. In the "Insert" tab, click on "Break" and select "Page Break."
in the "Insert" tab, click on "Break" and select "Page Break."

MLA Works Cited Format

When writing academic research papers however, students conduct research and collect information from a variety of sources (e.g. books, websites, scientific journals, etc.). Putting information from different sources, along with your own ideas, is vital to create a compelling and informative paper. However, if the sources used in the project are not cited correctly, it can influence the final grade of the paper, as well as indicate the paper as being plagiarised. That's why you need to cite correctly and include works cited page.

To make a reference to an original source of information included in a paper, students need to create in-text citations, as described in the previous section of our article. However, providing a brief reference to original sources in your text is not enough. To provide readers with sufficient details on the origin of the information used in the text, you need to list all sources on a separate page. Below you can find a detailed guide on how to create an MLA works cited page. 

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General Formatting Rules

  • Place the Works Cited section on a separate page at the end of your work.
  • Apply the same margins and a header with your last name and page number—just like you have everywhere else in the paper.
  • Name the page Works Cited and place the title in the center at the top of the page. (Note, do not put the title in quotation marks or italicize it).
  • Align your citation entries with the left margin.
  • Use double-line spacing.
  • Add 0.5-inch indents to the second and following lines of every citation entry.
  • Place your entries in alphabetical order.
  • When marking a single page of a printed source to which you have referenced, use the abbreviation “p.” before the number (e.g. p. 632).
  • When marking numerous pages throughout the source, use the abbreviation “pp.” and add a specific span of pages after the abbreviation if necessary (for example, when you refer to a particular chapter or article, e.g. pp. 65-112).
  • Always indicate the name of an online database in italics if you retrieved an original printed publication from a database. Do not provide subscription information.

Entry Types

Depending on the type of the original source, the format of your entries can vary. Here are examples of how different entry types should be shaped:


Last, First Name of the Author. Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year Published. Print

Example: James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York: Penguin Publish, 2007. Print


Last, First Name of the Author. “Title of the Article.” Newspaper Title [City] Date Month Year of Publication: Page(s). Print.

Example: Quint, Peter. “Turning Screws.” Pittsburgh Press [Pittsburgh] 7 Mar. 1990: 12-14. Print.


Last, First Name of the Author. “Title of the Article.” Journal

Title Series Volume.Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Database Name. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.

Example: Quint, Peter. “Turning Screws.” Journal of Engineering. 28.1 (2012): 41-54. Print.

Article from the Web (with author)

Last, First Middle Initial. “Article Title.” Website Title. Website Publisher, Date Month Year Published. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.

Example: Quint, Peter. “Turning Screws.” New York Times. New York times. 17.02.2017. Web. 18.03.2017

Article from the Web (without author)

“Website Article.” Website Title. Website Publisher, Date Month Year Published. Web. Date Month Year Accessed.

Example: “Turning Screws.” New York Times. New York Times. 17.02.2017. Web. 18.03.2017

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Adam Jason

Adam Jason

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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