Writing an academic essay requires the use of specific rules and regulations. These rules and regulations determine the general format and structure of your essay. One of the most important of them all is the use of format styles while writing.
The goal of this article is to acquaint you with the MLA format style. At the end of this article, you should:
- Know the definition of paper format style.
- Know the popular paper format styles available and where they are commonly used.
- Understand the MLA format style.
- Learn how to write your essay in the MLA format style.
What is the Paper Format Style?
A paper format style is a set of guidelines that determine how you should organize the distinct elements in your paper. There are three main format styles and these are:
APA Paper Format Style
The American Psychological Association (APA) put forth this paper format style, which is in its seventh edition, as a writing guide for papers related to social sciences, which encompasses social work, medicine, sociology, education, and psychology.
CMA Paper Format Style
Chicago Manual of Style introduced this writing style, which is in its seventeenth edition, as a writing guide for papers related to the arts, literature, and history. It was first published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press.
MLA Paper Format Style
The Modern Language Association is the formatting style commonly used by researchers in cultural studies, language arts, and other humanities disciplines to format their papers and cite their sources. It is currently in its ninth edition. The guidelines given in this article are based on the MLA Handbook, 9th edition.
General Guidelines on MLA Format Style
When writing using the MLA format style, some general formatting rules have been curated to guide you. It’s safe to adhere to these rules:
- After typing your paper using any word processor of your choice (Microsoft Word or Google Docs may suffice), print it out on white paper size 8.5 X 11 inch.
- Double spacing throughout the text of your entire paper is advisable.
- Use a standard font that is easy to read and you can clearly distinguish between the italics and the regular type style. Fonts like Arial or Times New Roman are great. Ensure that the font size is 12 points.
- Leave one space after periods or other punctuation marks. However, your instructor may ask you to leave two spaces.
- Set the margins of the top, bottom, and sides to 1 inch. Interestingly, this is the default margin for most word processing software.
- Indent the first word of every paragraph one-half inch from the left margin.
Formatting Header and Page Number using MLA Style
Apply the following format to create your header using the MLA style:
- Use a running head (page header) that includes your last name followed by a space with the page number.
- Add page numbers to each page of your paper. You should write this in Arabic numeral.
- MLA recommends your header should be in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top, and flush with the right margin of your page.
Formatting MLA Heading and Title Page using MLA Style
When writing your MLA format paper, you don’t need to create a title page unless otherwise stated by your professor. In a case where a title page isn’t required, use the MLA heading instead. Write your MLA heading on the top left corner of the first page. MLA heading has the following elements and should be written in this format:
- Your name: First name (space) Middle initial (space) Last name
- Professor’s name: Write it in the format he prefers to be addressed.
- Course Information.
- Assignments’ due date: Use the European style which is Day (space) Month (space) Year
After the MLA heading, next, it is to write your paper title. Use the following information to format your paper title:
- Do not use any punctuation marks when writing the title of your paper.
- Align the text of your title to the center of the page.
- Do not use capital letters. Instead, use standard capitalization (title case) only in the major words.
- You do not need to bold the title text.
- Only italicize your title if it would be italicized in the rest of your text.
Body of your Paper using MLA format
When writing the text in the body of your paper, you should:
- Align your text to flush with the left margin of your paper.
- Indent the first word in all your paragraphs to one-half inch from the left margin.
- Use the “tab” key to indent and this will apply to subsequent paragraphs.
Formatting Headings and Subheadings
Use headings and subheadings to structure and organize your paper. It is important that you don’t overuse headings on short essays and papers. There is no need to use headings and subheadings to develop an idea. When using headings in your project, you should;
- Note the use of levels in headings. Your MLA research paper title is the first level of heading and it should be the most noticeable.
- View subsequent headings in the rest of the paper as subheadings. You should style these subheadings differently from the first level of heading.
- Use larger fonts and bold typeface to signify higher heading levels. In addition, smaller fonts and italics should signify subheadings.
- Ensure that the styling of the headings and subheadings should be consistent throughout your paper.
- Headings should flush with the left margin of your paper.
- No internal heading level should have one instance. You should have at least two instances of each internal heading level. For example; if you have one Level 1 heading, you should have a second Level 1 heading. In addition, if you have one Level 2 heading, you should have a second Level 2 heading.
- Use standard capitalization (title case) only in the major words of your headings.
MLA Guidelines for In-text Citations
When you use the words or ideas of other authors, the MLA style requires that you give credit to the author by applying in-text citations in the same sentence after the cited material. There are certain guidelines you should abide by;
- Your in-text citations should correspond with the works cited page.
- In-text citations use a two-element format pattern, which comprises the author’s last name and the page number. You can write these elements in two forms: Parenthetical and Narrative.
- Using the parenthetical form, write the in-text citation at the end of the sentence. Use the following format: write the two elements with a space between them, all enclosed in parentheses. For example: (Smith 205). If the cited material covers a page range, then include the page range. For example: (Smith 205-210).
- Using the narrative form, when using the cited material for the first time, you ought to include the author’s full name (first and last names) at the beginning of the sentence and the page number at the end of the sentence. For example, John Wiseman wrote about the relativity theory (56). Subsequently, there’s no need to include the author’s first name, only the last name would suffice for subsequent in-text citations of the particular author.
Works Cited Page
Apart from using the in-text citation, MLA recommends you include a works cited page which contains information about the source of all your citation at the end of your research paper. To prepare your works cited page, apply the following guidelines:
- Insert a page break after the last portion of your text.
- Insert the page title as Works Cited. Capitalize both words. Next, align your text to the center of the page. The title text should be without a bold typeface or italics.
- Align other texts on the works cited page to the left margin.
- As with other texts on every page of your research essay, all entries should be double-spaced.
- Create a hanging indent in the second and subsequent lines of citations by indenting them by half an inch (0.5 inch).
- All entries in the works cited page section should end with a period.
This brings us to the end of our article on the MLA style guideline. This may seem like a lot of work, but with constant use of this style, it will definitely become second nature to you.
If you need further help or clarification regarding the MLA style, reach out to us by dropping a message in the comment below.