MLA format for papers
- Font: 12 pt Times New Roman (body and headings)
- Margins: 1 inch
- Line spacing: double
- Alignment: left
- Indentation: ½ inch on the first line of each new paragraph
- Header: your surname and the page number in the top right of each page
There are specific formatting requirements for headings and for the Works Cited page.
MLA sample paper
If you wish to use the Google Docs template, go to “File” in the top left corner and click “make a copy.”
General formatting guidelines
Every page of an MLA paper needs to follow certain formatting rules. These are related to the text itself, as well as spacing and alignment.
- Times New Roman 12 pt (or an equally readable font)
- Double space all text
- Title case for headings
Indentation, spacing and alignment
- 1 inch page margins
- 0.5 inch indent for the first line of each paragraph
- One space after periods
Example of MLA formatting
Every page must include a header, also known as a running head. This header consists of your surname and the page number in the top right corner, half an inch from the top of the page.
To implement this, simply insert automatic page numbering and add your name in the “header” section of the document. Make sure the text is justified to the right. This header will then automatically appear on every page in the document.
Check if your university or supervisor wish for you to include the header on the first page.
Example MLA header
First page or cover page
On the first page of your paper, you should include an MLA heading. This appears on the first four lines, left-aligned, and contains:
- Your full name
- Supervisor’s name
- Course name
- Date of submission
In MLA style you do not need to create a separate cover page, unless your supervisor specifically asks for this. If you are required to add a cover page, you should generally include:
- University name
- Title of paper (including subtitle, if applicable)
- Your name
- Course name and number
- Professor/supervisor name
Headings and subheadings
Headings and subheadings can help organize and provide structure to your paper, especially in longer assignments.
The different “levels” of headings refer to the order of prominence. For example, in a dissertation, each chapter heading will be a “first-level heading.” Sub-sections within each chapter will be “second-level headings,” and so on.
There is no set formatting required by MLA for the different levels – the only rule is that you must be consistent. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics is appropriate for subordinate headings.
Example of different heading formatting styles
Level 2 Heading: italicized
Level 3 Heading: plain text
Level 4 Heading: underlined
Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word have functions that allow you to automatically set different heading levels. You can also download our MLA heading template that adds these heading styles to Word. Import the template by clicking on ‘Tools’, ‘Templates and Add-ins’ in Word.
Tips for MLA headings
- Shorter is better
- Write in title case
- Include a space above and below each heading
- Avoid numbers and letters to signify different headings, unless this is the norm in your field of study
Aim to use parallelism in your headings. This simply means that headings at the same level should take the same grammatical form. If the first heading uses a present tense verb, the next heading should do the same. For example: Going to the zoo; Eating at the zoo; Travelling home.
Whenever you quote, paraphrase or summarize any information from another source (such as a book, website or journal article), you must include an in-text citation. You must also reference that source in the Works Cited list at the end of your paper.
There are specific formatting guidelines for both the in-text citations and Works Cited list. You can learn more about these guidelines in our guide to MLA format citations or use Scribbr’s free MLA CItation Generator to automatically create MLA format citation.
Footnotes and endnotes
You can use MLA footnotes to direct the reader to additional sources or add extra information that isn’t essential to your main point.
Footnotes are numbered in superscript and appear at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you can use MLA endnotes, which appear in a list at the very end of your paper. You can create footnotes and endnotes automatically in Word.
Every source you mention in a footnote or endnote must appear in the Works Cited list.
List of Works Cited
An MLA Works Cited list appears at the end of your paper and must include all sources referenced in the text. You do not include works that were only consulted.
The format of an MLA Works Cited list follows many of the same rules as the rest of the paper, including font size, the application of double spacing and the inclusion of the header.
You should also use hanging indents for entries that cover more than one line of text and end all entries with a period.
MLA Works Cited example
Aronson, Marc. “The Evolution of the American Editor.” Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, edited by Gerald Gross, 3rd ed., Grove Press, 1993, pp. 10-21.
“Bad Speller: Austen’s Books Were Heavily Edited.” smh.com.au. The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Oct. 2010, https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/bad-speller-austens-books-were-heavily-edited. Accessed 2 Jun. 2012.
Barker, Juliet. The Brontës. 2nd ed., Great Britain, Phoenix Giants, 1995.
‐‐‐ The Brontës: A Life in Letters. London, Viking, 1997.
‐‐‐ The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family. Pegasus, 2012.
Creating source entries
Every source type requires specific information. You can read more about what to include in an MLA book citation, a play citation, a journal article citation, and more in our MLA citation quick guide.
Alphabetizing the list of Works Cited
An MLA citation generator or the automatic reference list feature in Microsoft Word can alphabetize the list automatically.
Tables and figures
Depending on your subject of study, you may need to include some tables, illustrations or even musical examples in your paper. MLA follows specific guidelines for how to format the labels and notes for these. Be sure to place tables and figures as close to the relevant part of text as possible.
- Label the table with the word “Table,” a number, and the title.
- Use title case for the title
- Place the label (Table 1) and title on separate lines
- Include any notes immediately below the table.
Example of a table in an MLA paper
- Label any other kind of visual using “Figure.” This includes photographs, maps, graphs and charts. Usually, Figure is abbreviated to “Fig.”
- Assign each figure a number as well as a caption
- The label and caption should appear directly under the figure
Example of a figure in an MLA paper
- Musical illustrations should be labelled “Example,” abbreviated to “Ex.”
- Assign each a number and include a caption
- The label and caption should appear immediately below the example
Note that, if you provide the full source information for the table or figure in the caption or notes and the source is not cited in the text, you do not need to include this source in the full Works Cited list.