How do I format my essay using MLA style?


The first thing to know is that styles change over time. MLA style is on its ninth edition. Thus, it is imperative to double check all guideline information with up to date style guides. Here is a website that contains all the information you need to format your paper correctly and ensure you're up to date:

Use the links on the left side of the page to learn more specific details about the formatting style. 

Another helpful link is this sample paper that shows how an MLA essay should appear with text boxes explaining all the features:

MLA Sample Paper:

Here are some general current guidelines for MLA formatting:


Writing should be in a readable font, double spaced, size 12. The margins should be one inch on all sides of the paper. The header of the first page should have your name, your instructor's name, the course name, and the date in the upper left hand corner. In the right hand corner of every page should be your last name followed by a page number. The title should be centered above the main text, double spaced, and should not be a larger font. It should be the same size and appearance as the rest of the writing aside from capitalizing all important words. Lastly, the main text should be left aligned with each paragraph starting with a one inch indent. For more details, see the website above. 

In-Text Citations: 

After every quote or paraphrase, an in-text citation should follow in parentheses. Inside the parentheses should be the author's last name and page number (if applicable). The only exception is if the source comes from a website without page numbers. Then, only the author's last name is included. Also, if the author's last name has already been mentioned in the text, then the last name does not need to be provided in the citation. If for whatever reason there is no author or page number, then the first item (usually the title) in the works cited entry should be put in the parentheses. See the above website for more information. 

Examples: "..." (Jones 24). 

Jones states, "..." (24).

"...." (Jones).    ---for a quote from a website without a page number

"...." ("The Outlier Effect")     ---for a quote without an author or page number

Works Cited Page:

The Works Cited page should be double spaced with the words "Works Cited" set at the top as a centered title. Again, everything is in the same font as the rest of the paper. For each Works Cited entry, there should be a hanging indent when the entry is more than one line. That means that every line except for the first line should be indented one half inch. All citations should be in alphabetical order as well.  

Here is some of the information that could be included in each entry: the author, title of the work, container of the work (journal, book, etc.), publisher, year of publication, volume number (if a journal), database found, website, page numbers, source type, and date of access. Shorter pieces should be in quotation marks and larger containers should be italicized. 

Here is an example for an offline book: Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penguin Classics, 2021.

A journal article: Carvalho, Georgia O. “The Politics of Indigenous Land Rights in Brazil.” Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 19, no. 4, 2000, pp. 461–78. JSTOR, Accessed 23 May 2024.

A website page: Greenberg, Andy. “He trained cops to fight crypto crime—and allegedly ran a $100M Dark-Web drug market.” WIRED, 23 May 2024,

For more information on how to cite specific kinds of sources see In an essay using MLA format, how do I list sources on my Works Cited page? or visit this Purdue OWL page: 

See the links on the left hand side for information on citing specific sources. 

IF you use a citation engine that automatically cites a source, make sure to double check that the citation is correct. Often times these engines are not entirely accurate and this could lose points on your paper. Always check your work before submitting. 

  • Last Updated May 24, 2024
  • Views 2
  • Answered By Timothy Connors

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