• Name___________________________________


    Guidelines for MLA Format


    Paper Format

    The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA style is covered in chapter four of the MLA Handbook, and chapter four of the MLA Style Manual. Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style.

    General Guidelines

    • Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper,
    • Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font like Times New Roman or Courier.  (No fancy fonts!)
    • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides. Indent the first line of a paragraph one half-inch (five spaces or press tab once) from the left margin.
    • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (In some cases, instructors will ask you to omit the number on the first page.  I don’t mind either way.)
    • Use either italics or underlining throughout your essay for the titles of longer works.  Italics may be used to provide emphasis, but only rarely.
    • If you have any endnotes (like footnotes), include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page.

    Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

    • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested. (No title pages for Ms. LoScalzo!)
    • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
    • Double space again and center the title. Don't underline your title or put it in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case, not in all capital letters.
    • Use quotation marks and underlining or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text, e.g.,
      • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play
      • Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
    • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
    • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow their guidelines.)

    Here is a sample heading and title in MLA format (model yours after this one):
    Doe 1
    John Doe
    Ms. LoScalzo
    English 3R
    12 November 2010
    Exploring Love and Betrayal in The Kite Runner

    Basic In-Text Citation Rules

    In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done by using what's known as parenthetical citation. Immediately following a quotation from a source or a paraphrase of a source's ideas, you place the authors name followed by a space and the relevant page number(s).

    Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Burke 3).

    When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name. Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work, or italicize or underline it if it's a longer work.

    Your in-text citation will correspond with an entry in your Works Cited page, which, for the Burke citation above, will look something like this:

    Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: U of California P, 1966.

    Parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages allow readers to know which sources you consulted in writing your essay, so that they can either verify your interpretation of the sources or use them in their own scholarly work.  It is also an important way to avoid plagiarism:  you must always give credit to your sources.

    Works Cited Page

    According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. Works Cited page preparation and formatting is covered in chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook, and chapter 6 of the MLA Style Manual. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text.

    Basic Rules

    • Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper.
    • Label the page Works Cited (do not underline the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
    • Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.
    • List your sources alphabetically


    First or single author's name is written last name, first name. The basic form for a book citation is:

    Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

      Book with One Author:  Examples

    Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

    Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House. Denver: MacMurray, 1999.

    An essay or other work in an anthology (collection)

    Include the author, title of essay, title of anthology, editor of anthology, publishing information, and the page numbers of the essay.


    More, Hannah.  “The Black Slave Trade.”  British Women Poets of the Romantic 

                Era.  Ed. Paula R. Feldman. Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. 472-82.


    List films (in theaters or not yet on DVD or video) by their title. Include the name of the director, the film studio or distributor, and the release year. If relevant, list performer names after the director’s name. Use the abbreviation perf. to head the list. List film as the medium of publication. To cite a DVD or other video recording, see “Recorded Films and Movies” below.

    The Usual Suspects. Dir. Bryan Singer. Perf. Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, and Benecio del Toro. Polygram, 1995. Film.

    To emphasize specific performers (perf.) or directors (dir.), begin the citation with the name of the desired performer or director, followed by the appropriate abbreviation.

    Lucas, George, dir.Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977. Film.

     If you are using the film,Platoon, for your essay on War and Violence, cite it this way:

     Stone, Oliver, dir. Platoon.Orion Pictures, 1986. Film.

    Internet Site

    This can be a little complex, so be careful.  Generally, this is the format and order of the information you need to provide for your reader.

    Author’s name.  “Title of the Document.”  Information about print publication.     Information about electronic publication.  Access information.


    Zeki, Semir.  “Artisitc Creativity and the Brain.”  Science 6 July 2001: 51-52. 

    Science Magazine.  2002. Amer. Assn. for the Advancement of Science.  24 Sept. 2002 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/contenct/full/293/5527/51>

    Ideally, the URL of the exact document you consulted should be given.  Sometimes, however, the URL of a document is so long and complicated that reproducing it invites mistakes and is inconvenient.  In this case, you can put the URL of the home page of the site.

    In the above entry there was information available as to where the article was first published (in print).  If your article was not previously published in print, this information won’t be available, so you will just list the Internet page and site information. 

    Don’t forget to include the date of access!!! (In the entry above, it is Sept. 24th.)


    If you have a source and you’re not sure how to cite it, let me know and we will consult my MLA Handbook so we can be sure that you get it right!!!

Last Modified on February 4, 2013