Skip to Main Content

MLA Style Guide: MLA style page formatting

MLA Style Guide

How to format an MLA-style paper

The following guidelines are taken from the MLA Handbook, 8th ed.

Your teachers expect to receive papers that are properly formatted and laid out. Use the following guidelines when setting up your paper. It is easiest if you use the correct settings from the beginning; otherwise you will have to go back and reformat your paper.

Overall page layout

  • One inch margins on sides, top and bottom.
  • Use Times or Times New Roman 12 pt font.
  • Double-space the text of the paper.
  • Use left-justified text, which will have a ragged right edge. Do not use fully (newspaper-style) justified text.
  • Indent the first word of each paragraph 1/2".
  • Indent block quotes 1".
  • In Works Cited lists, use a 1/2" indent for all lines after the first line of each source ("hanging indent").
  • Number the pages in the top right corner of the paper's header area, beginning with the first page of text. Type your last name before each page number. Number straight through from the first text page to the final Works Cited page but do not count any pages after the end of the text as part of your page count.
  • Ask your teacher if it is ok to print two-sided.

Heading and title

  • An MLA-style research paper does not include a cover page, unless your teacher specifically asks for it.
  • In the upper left corner of the first page (but not in the header space) type the following information: your name, the teacher's name, the course title and block, the date. Use a separate double-spaced line for each piece of information (four lines).
  • Double space again, and center the title. Do not try to make your title decorative by using bold, underline, or creative fonts.
  • Double space again before beginning the text of your paper.

Names and numbers

  • Use full names of people and agencies/legislation the first time you use them. For agencies, include the acronym in parentheses after the full name when first used, for example, Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA).
  • After the first time you can refer to people by their last name or agencies by their acronyms for the rest of the paper.
  • Spell out numbers written in one or two words (two, forty-five, fifteen hundred) and use numbers for all others (2 1/2, 161). You should never begin a sentence with a number however.

Parenthetical references

  • In-text citation should be placed at the end of the sentence and inside the final punctuation.
  • If a work is alphabetized by title in the Works Cited (i.e. it has no author), it is ok to use just the first word or two of the title in the parenthetical reference (MLA Handbook 55-56).
  • If the author is mentioned in the sentence, the parenthetical reference will only contain the page number.

Works Cited

  • Your Works Cited should begin on a separate page following the final page of written text. 
  • Center the words Works Cited at the top of the page, Use Times/Times New Roman 12 pt font. Do not use bold, underline, or large size font for the heading.
  • Be sure to use proper formatting - double-space and alphabetize properly.
  • Use a "hanging indent" - the first line of the citation begins at the margin, subsequent lines are indented.
  • If your source has no author, alphabetize by title within the authors - don't make a separate list.