How to Format Your Paper in MLA: a Complete Guide With Examples

MLA refers to a set of rules and formatting guidelines that are used by researchers within the humanities and liberal arts. These standards are described in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th edition), which is a 300-page manual, detailing every aspect of MLA paper writing.

Update: There was a recent update to the MLA handbook, issued in spring 2016. While basic requirements remain the same, there are numerous minor updates to the essay writing process.

MLA Format: Paper

Use standard white 8.5×11 inches paper.

MLA Format: Title Page

Unless this is a specific requirement set by your instructor, a title page is not needed. An example of MLA essay cover page is below:


MLA Format: Font

Use legible 12 pt. font. While MLA has no specific requirements regarding fonts, we recommend using Times New Roman if unsure. Georgia, Courier New & Arial are good alternatives as well.

MLA Format: Formatting

  • Use 1″ margins on all sides
  • Use 1/2″ margins from top to your name
  • Put your title in the center, do not italicize it
  • If your quotation is longer than four lines, indent that paragraph 1″. Do not use quotation marks!

MLA Format: Numbering

Use Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc.) and number your pages consecutively. Re-check whether your instructor wants to see the number on the first page. Page numbers are placed in the upper right-hand corner of your paper.

MLA Format: Spacing

  • Use double-spacing throughout your paper
  • Put one space after punctuation marks (commas, full stops, etc.).

MLA Format: Indentation

Indent all paragraphs 1/2″. MLA recommends that you hit TAB once, as opposed to pressing the spacebar five times.

MLA Format: Heading

Headers should be capitalized – the same way as you would capitalize words in titles. Center your headings and do not italicize, bold or underline them.

MLA Format: Citation

MLA is known as the “author page” style. It means that whenever making an MLA style reference, always indicate the author’s last name and a page you took the quote from. In-text citation in its most basic form defaults to this: (Name, 1).

MLA Format: Citation examples

The values are a representation of maximum loads, which can be exerted on the material without causing deformation (Ashby 23).

The climate is changing, but the biologists do not agree that it will threaten animals and plants with extinction (Stampf & Traufetter 132).

MLA Format: References

  • The references page should be at the end of your paper
  • It should start with a new page, have a centered “Works Cited” title
  • Double-space all citations
  • Create a hanging indent, to do so, indent second and subsequent lines of quotations by 0.5 inches.

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