how to put essay in mla format

how to put essay in mla format

A Comprehensive Guide to Formatting Essays in MLA Style

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1. Introduction to MLA Formatting

Using MLA also provides another excellent service for students. It removes a great deal of the stress of proper academic writing. By using MLA, expectations of assignments are clear and uniform. Instructors become so accustomed to rule-aided papers that they become blind to content and are less likely to become stressed over the components of a paper. Using MLA also gives direction to students and creates a sense of organization for them. So why cite in MLA? Use MLA for the purposes for which it was intended – documentation. Students are not only doing themselves a favor, but they also create a safer, more positive academic environment for a greater number of people.

MLA style refers to the citation conventions set forth by the Modern Language Association for referencing sources used in a research paper. Each academic discipline has its own expectations for style and, because this documentation format is used almost exclusively in writing about language and literature, MLA focuses on the citations found within the text of a paper. However, this is a guide for setting up a Works Cited page and not a guide for citing sources. For an explanation of citing sources using MLA, see MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition) which is available for study purposes only, from any campus library.

2. Basic Guidelines for MLA Formatting

Use italics throughout your essay to signify the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis. If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

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. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor’s guidelines.)

Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the Tab key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.

Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.

Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor).

Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.

Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.

3. Formatting the Title Page and Header

With your cursor placed just before the first letter of the first word in your essay, and on the left-hand margin, go to the “Insert” tab and select “Page Break” from the drop-down options.

Begin by using word processing software such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or OpenOffice. These programs can help you format your assignment. Issued as a title page, it should be a simple composition of your first and last names, the course name and number, the name of your instructor, and the date, each on its own line. Do not bold, italicize, or customize the font of the title page, for MLA format is akin to the set of professional best practices upheld in business letters. Entries should all begin on the left-hand margin and be typed at the same font size as the paper’s body.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over how to format a title page and header according to the 8th edition of MLA documentation. Please note that you most likely will not need to format a title page for your essays. If you are writing a research paper or book review, consider using a separate title page and header, respectively. You should also not use headers in cover letters or emails to instructors.

4. Citing Sources in MLA Style

In-text citations follow the format (Author’s Last Name Page Number). Examples: (Smith 234), (Brown 101-02), or (Jenkins and Sewell 76). If there is no author, use a short part of the title. Only the page number is required for the in-text citation. If there is more than one citation for the same page in the same sentence, only one page number is required. Note: No comma or “p.” or “page” is used before the page number. The citation goes at the end of the sentence before the final period, or it goes before a comma or semicolon if that punctuation marks the end of a clause. If they include the author’s name in the text, place the page number in parenthesis at the end of the sentence.

There are both in-text (parenthetical) citations and full citations at the end of the paper. You must also have a Works Cited page at the end of your paper to list all sources used (or cited) in your paper. The phrase “Works Cited” is centered at the top of the page. If there is only one source, format it as “Work Cited.” Only include sources directly cited in the text. Arrange alphabetically, double-space, use hanging indentation, and follow the format outlined for each source type. Also remember, every in-text citation must be linked to an entry in the Works Cited page at the end of your paper. For both in-text and end-of-paper citations, capitalize all major words in the title of books and articles within the body of a text. However, make sure to capitalize only the first word of a title and subtitle in the Works Cited page.

5. Common Errors to Avoid in MLA Formatting

Not using MLA standards properly! Sometimes students look at examples of MLA papers that are not done to standard, so the examples exemplify incorrect MLA format and students unknowingly repeat them. For that reason, use only careful, accurate sources of information. We have available these dependable manuals on reserve in Bush Library to use as reference: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, and the Harper Handbook of College Composition.

Not properly citing borrowed information! Even if you paraphrase another author’s writing in your words, you must acknowledge where the information originated. If you do not, you can be accused of plagiarism. So, it is very important to identify which thoughts are yours and which are borrowed from other authors. Remember, an argument is a combination of your ideas, supported by the ideas of others. People will read your essay because of your ideas, not because you have organized somebody else’s statements in a fancy fashion.

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