MLA Paper Format: How to Format a Paper in MLA Style

Adopting Modern Language Association (MLA) style makes it easier for readers to navigate and understand the text. It ensures consistency in the use of the English language and formatting in academic writing. In this article, we bring you a complete guide on how you format your academic papers and essays in MLA style.


MLA Paper Format: How to Format a Paper in MLA Style

MLA style is one of the most commonly used to cite sources within the language arts, cultural studies, and other humanities disciplines in the academic field. The latest version of the MLA manual (9th edition) offers several examples for the general format of MLA papers, in-text citations, and the Works Cited page. Modern Language Association (MLA) explains the MLA principles as follows:

‘‘...building confidence in the information and ideas we share with one another is perhaps more important today than ever before, and for nearly a century it has been the driving principle behind MLA style, a set of standards for writing and documentation used by writers to find and evaluate information, alert their audience to the trustworthiness of their findings through citation, and shape the expression of their ideas in conversation with others. What we call “MLA style” has never been a static method, instead of changing over time to meet the needs of writers, students and instructors, and publishers.’’ (, May 30, 2021).

Adopting Modern Language Association (MLA) style makes it easier for readers to navigate and understand the text. It ensures consistency in the use of the English language and formatting in academic writing. In this article, we bring you a complete guide on how you format your academic papers and essays in MLA style.

MLA paper formatting basics

Before jumping up to the details, let’s have a glance at the basic guidelines for MLA format:

  • Margins: Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on the top, bottom, and sides.

  • Font: Use a legible font (e.g., Times New Roman) and make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface.

  • Text formatting: Use 12-point size.

  • Title case: Use title case capitalization for headings.

  • Indent: The first word in each paragraph should be indented ½ inch.

  • Space: Double-space the text of the paper.

  • Page header: Name and page number should be on the upper right of each page.

  • Citation: Don’t put a comma between page number, publication year, and author’s name.

MLA Style

MLA citations

MLA format may include the following information:

  • Author's last and first name

  • Title of source

  • Title of container

  • Other contributors

  • Version

  • Numbers and publisher

  • Publication date

Leave an inch from the top of the first page and set the left margin at first. Then, you need to write your full name, your instructor’s or supervisor’s name, the course name and number, and the date on the separate double-spaced line. Make sure not to underline the title and don’t put it in a quotation. You may follow the rules of capitalization outlined in 2.90. Don’t italicize words unnecessarily. 

The formatting style is followed by running head and page number

You need to number all the pages consecutively throughout the paper. On the upper right-hand corner and half an inch from the top, type your last name and enter SPACE and then type the page number.

For this process:

  • You need to double-tap at the top of a page and then type the last name of the author.

  • Don’t forget to allow auto page numbering and make sure to use the right align-content.

  • However, restrain yourself from using the abbreviation “p.” before the page number.

  • Don’t use any other mark or symbol. Word processing programs generally create a running head of this kind on every page automatically.

Insert headings, subheadings, and internal headings properly

The utilization of headings and subheadings properly helps students organize and structure the research paper writing. Consistency in the style of your headings and subheadings keeps the clarity of your project intact. Word process software often uses built-in-heading styles. In general, there is no particular set of heading formatting requirements in MLA style.

Being one of the most reliable proofreading and editing services, we recommend you use similar font and size as you use in the body. But don’t forget to utilize title capitalization. You can use bold and italics as per your convenience and the requirement of the project. Take note that you can modify your headings in both Google Docs and MS Word. Here are the formats of headings and subheadings in MLA style:

  • Heading Level 1 (Chapter Title)

  • Heading Level 2 (Section Heading)

  • Heading Level 3 (Subheading)

Works Cited

The list of your cited sources needs to be located at the end of the paper. Though you need to list all the cited sources in your paper alphabetically, make the heading work cited if the list deals with only one entry. Use double space between the heading and your first entry.

You need to write the title “Works Cited” at the top of the page and center it. After the title is placed, press ENTER and insert the references.

Note: If a reference entry is longer than a line, each line should be intended ½ inch. All the entries need to be double spaced like the entire text.

MLA Style

Tables and illustrations in MLA style

Inserting the tables, illustrations, and other visuals properly is essential to give the assignment a complete look. MLA style follows its own formatting guidelines. A table is generally labeled and given an Arabic numeral you need to type both label and title flush left on separate lines. To avoid any confusion, you can set the notes to the table with lowercase letters, not with numerals. Use the double-spaced formatting throughout the table and dividing lines where required.

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Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering manuscripts with proper tone, content, and style of academic writing and also provide an upscale editing and proofreading service for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized styles of writing. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.

English manuscript formatting service

You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the particular styles for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g., APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.

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MLA Style

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MLA Style

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