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How to Cite Something in MLA Format

MLA formatting refers to the writing style guide produced by the Modern Language Association. If you’re taking a class in the liberal arts, you usually have to follow this format when writing papers. In addition to looking at MLA examples, it helps to know the basics of the style guide.

Parenthetical Citations

MLA requires parenthetical citations within the document. This means you must include source information inside parentheses placed after a quotation or paraphrase from a source. Each parenthetical citation must have the page number where you found the information you used. It may also have the author’s or creator’s name. Do not use a comma to separate the name and the date.

In-text Citations

The format for in-text citations depends on the format of the source material. For print material like books and journals, you need the author’s name and publication date. If the source has two authors, use and to join them and the term “et al.” if it has more than two authors. You can also reference the authors in the document and include only the page number in parentheses.

Citations for Nonprint Material

If you use nonprint materials as sources, you have to cite them. However, you don’t have to include page numbers with the in-text citations. You do have to include information like the name of the work, the creator’s name and the year of publication on the Works Cited page.

When you complete the Work Cited page, each source requires additional information. For images, you need to include contributors, the reproduction number and URL where you located the image online. Movies must list the director’s name and distributor. A TV series needs the episode title and number, series title, season number and network. Pieces of music should include the title of the track and album and the record label.

Works Cited List

When you use MLA format, you must have a Works Cited page that lists all of the sources you used for the paper. This page goes at the end of the document on a separate page. You list all of the sources in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. Make sure the page is double-spaced and that you follow the specific guidelines for formatting each entry.

Citation Generators

If you don’t have access to printed MLA style guides or don’t understand how to format your sources, you can turn to a citation generator. There are several citation generators available online for free or as part of a subscription service. You can also find them in word processing programs.

To use a citation generator, you enter information about each source. The program automatically formats the sources for the works cited page. You can also select the places in the document to add in-text citations.


how to write in mla format

Generate accurate MLA citations for free

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless MLA citation

MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template

Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield.

The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers. This quick guide will help you set up your MLA format paper in no time.

Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:

Download Word template Open Google Docs template

(To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)

Table of contents

How to set up mla format in google docs, header and title, running head, works cited page, creating mla style citations, headings and subheadings, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about mla format.

The header in MLA format is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes

After the MLA header, press ENTER once and type your paper title. Center the title and don’t forget to apply title-case capitalization. Read our article on writing strong titles that are informative, striking and appropriate.

MLA header

For a paper with multiple authors, it’s better to use a separate title page instead.

At the top of every page, including the first page, you need to include your last name and the page number. This is called the “running head.” Follow these steps to set up the MLA running head in your Word or Google Docs document:

The running head should look like this:

MLA running head

The Works Cited list is included on a separate page at the end of your paper. You list all the sources you referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Don’t include sources that weren’t cited in the paper, except potentially in an MLA annotated bibliography assignment.

Place the title “Works Cited” in the center at the top of the page. After the title, press ENTER once and insert your MLA references.

If a reference entry is longer than one line, each line after the first should be indented ½ inch (called a hanging indent ). All entries are double spaced, just like the rest of the text.

Format of an MLA Works Cited page

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Prefer to cite your sources manually? Use the interactive example below to see what the Works Cited entry and MLA in-text citation look like for different source types.

Headings and subheadings are not mandatory, but they can help you organize and structure your paper, especially in longer assignments.

MLA has only a few formatting requirements for headings. They should

We recommend keeping the font and size the same as the body text and applying title case capitalization. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics are appropriate for subordinate headings.

Chapter Title

Section Heading

Tip: Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word allow you to create heading levels that help you to keep your headings consistent.

Tables and other illustrations (referred to as “figures”) should be placed as close to the relevant part of text as possible. MLA also provides guidelines for presenting them.

MLA format for tables

Tables are labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title. The label and title are placed above the table on separate lines; the label and number appear in bold.

A caption providing information about the source appears below the table; you don’t need one if the table is your own work.

Below this, any explanatory notes appear, marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note is indented; your word processor should apply this formatting automatically.

Just like in the rest of the paper, the text is double spaced and you should use title case capitalization for the title (but not for the caption or notes).

MLA table

MLA format for figures

Figures (any image included in your paper that isn’t a table) are also labeled and numbered, but here, this is integrated into the caption below the image. The caption in this case is also centered.

The label “Figure” is abbreviated to “Fig.” and followed by the figure number and a period. The rest of the caption gives either full source information, or (as in the example here) just basic descriptive information about the image (author, title, publication year).

MLA figure

Source information in table and figure captions

If the caption of your table or figure includes full source information and that source is not otherwise cited in the text, you don’t need to include it in your Works Cited list.

Give full source information in a caption in the same format as you would in the Works Cited list, but without inverting the author name (i.e. John Smith, not Smith, John).

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .

Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.

The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.

This quick guide to MLA style  explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Streefkerk, R. (2022, June 16). MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template. Scribbr. Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

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Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

how to write in mla format

MLA Formatting and Style Guide

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

The following overview should help you better understand how to cite sources using MLA  9 th edition, including how to format the Works Cited page and in-text citations.

Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in MLA. See also our MLA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel .


Creating a Works Cited list using the ninth edition

MLA is a style of documentation that may be applied to many different types of writing. Since texts have become increasingly digital, and the same document may often be found in several different sources, following a set of rigid rules no longer suffices.

Thus, the current system is based on a few guiding principles, rather than an extensive list of specific rules. While the handbook still describes how to cite sources, it is organized according to the process of documentation, rather than by the sources themselves. This gives writers a flexible method that is near-universally applicable.

Once you are familiar with the method, you can use it to document any type of source, for any type of paper, in any field.

Here is an overview of the process:

When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:

Each element should be followed by the corresponding punctuation mark shown above. Earlier editions of the handbook included the place of publication and required different punctuation (such as journal editions in parentheses and colons after issue numbers) depending on the type of source. In the current version, punctuation is simpler (only commas and periods separate the elements), and information about the source is kept to the basics.

Begin the entry with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name, as presented in the work. End this element with a period.

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 1994.

Title of source

The title of the source should follow the author’s name. Depending upon the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks.

A book should be in italics:

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House . MacMurray, 1999.

An individual webpage should be in quotation marks. The name of the parent website, which MLA treats as a "container," should follow in italics:

Lundman, Susan. "How to Make Vegetarian Chili." eHow,*

A periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper) article should be in quotation marks:

Bagchi, Alaknanda. "Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi's Bashai Tudu." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature , vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.

A song or piece of music on an album should be in quotation marks. The name of the album should then follow in italics:

Beyoncé. "Pray You Catch Me." Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016,

*The MLA handbook recommends including URLs when citing online sources. For more information, see the “Optional Elements” section below.

Title of container

The eighth edition of the MLA handbook introduced what are referred to as "containers," which are the larger wholes in which the source is located. For example, if you want to cite a poem that is listed in a collection of poems, the individual poem is the source, while the larger collection is the container. The title of the container is usually italicized and followed by a comma, since the information that follows next describes the container.

Kincaid, Jamaica. "Girl." The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.

The container may also be a television series, which is made up of episodes.

“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.

The container may also be a website, which contains articles, postings, and other works.

Wise, DeWanda. “Why TV Shows Make Me Feel Less Alone.”  NAMI,  31 May 2019, . Accessed 3 June 2019.

In some cases, a container might be within a larger container. You might have read a book of short stories on Google Books , or watched a television series on Netflix . You might have found the electronic version of a journal on JSTOR. It is important to cite these containers within containers so that your readers can find the exact source that you used.

“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation , season 2, episode 21, NBC , 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix,

Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal , vol. 50, no. 1, 2007, pp. 173-96. ProQuest, doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005966. Accessed 27 May 2009.

Other contributors

In addition to the author, there may be other contributors to the source who should be credited, such as editors, illustrators, translators, etc. If their contributions are relevant to your research, or necessary to identify the source, include their names in your documentation.

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Translated by Richard Howard , Vintage-Random House, 1988.

Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room . Annotated and with an introduction by Vara Neverow, Harcourt, Inc., 2008.

If a source is listed as an edition or version of a work, include it in your citation.

The Bible . Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. 3rd ed., Pearson, 2004.

If a source is part of a numbered sequence, such as a multi-volume book or journal with both volume and issue numbers, those numbers must be listed in your citation.

Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, Accessed 20 May 2009.

Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. Translated by H. E. Butler, vol. 2, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980.

The publisher produces or distributes the source to the public. If there is more than one publisher, and they are all are relevant to your research, list them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).

Klee, Paul. Twittering Machine. 1922. Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Artchive, Accessed May 2006.

Women's Health: Problems of the Digestive System . American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2006.

Daniels, Greg and Michael Schur, creators. Parks and Recreation . Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2015.

Note : The publisher’s name need not be included in the following sources: periodicals, works published by their author or editor, websites whose titles are the same name as their publisher, websites that make works available but do not actually publish them (such as  YouTube ,  WordPress , or  JSTOR ).

Publication date

The same source may have been published on more than one date, such as an online version of an original source. For example, a television series might have aired on a broadcast network on one date, but released on  Netflix  on a different date. When the source has more than one date, it is sufficient to use the date that is most relevant to your writing. If you’re unsure about which date to use, go with the date of the source’s original publication.

In the following example, Mutant Enemy is the primary production company, and “Hush” was released in 1999. Below is a general citation for this television episode:

“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer , created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, Mutant Enemy, 1999 .

However, if you are discussing, for example, the historical context in which the episode originally aired, you should cite the full date. Because you are specifying the date of airing, you would then use WB Television Network (rather than Mutant Enemy), because it was the network (rather than the production company) that aired the episode on the date you’re citing.

“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, WB Television Network, 14 Dec. 1999 .

You should be as specific as possible in identifying a work’s location.

An essay in a book or an article in a journal should include page numbers.

Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi. “On Monday of Last Week.” The Thing around Your Neck, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, pp. 74-94 .

The location of an online work should include a URL.  Remove any "http://" or "https://" tag from the beginning of the URL.

Wheelis, Mark. "Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." Emerging Infectious Diseases , vol. 6, no. 6, 2000, pp. 595-600, Accessed 8 Feb. 2009.

When citing a physical object that you experienced firsthand, identify the place of location.

Matisse, Henri. The Swimming Pool. 1952, Museum of Modern Art, New York .

Optional elements

The ninth edition is designed to be as streamlined as possible. The author should include any information that helps readers easily identify the source, without including unnecessary information that may be distracting. The following is a list of optional elements that can be included in a documented source at the writer’s discretion.

Date of original publication:

If a source has been published on more than one date, the writer may want to include both dates if it will provide the reader with necessary or helpful information.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. 1984. Perennial-Harper, 1993.

City of publication:

The seventh edition handbook required the city in which a publisher is located, but the eighth edition states that this is only necessary in particular instances, such as in a work published before 1900. Since pre-1900 works were usually associated with the city in which they were published, your documentation may substitute the city name for the publisher’s name.

Thoreau, Henry David. Excursions . Boston, 1863.

Date of access:

When you cite an online source, the MLA Handbook recommends including a date of access on which you accessed the material, since an online work may change or move at any time.

Bernstein, Mark. "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web." A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 16 Aug. 2002, Accessed 4 May 2009.

As mentioned above, while the MLA handbook recommends including URLs when you cite online sources, you should always check with your instructor or editor and include URLs at their discretion.

A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source is locatable, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.

Alonso, Alvaro, and Julio A. Camargo. "Toxicity of Nitrite to Three Species of Freshwater Invertebrates." Environmental Toxicology , vol. 21, no. 1, 3 Feb. 2006, pp. 90-94. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1002/tox.20155.

Creating in-text citations using the previous (eighth) edition

Although the MLA handbook is currently in its ninth edition, some information about citing in the text using the older (eighth) edition is being retained. The in-text citation is a brief reference within your text that indicates the source you consulted. It should properly attribute any ideas, paraphrases, or direct quotations to your source, and should direct readers to the entry in the Works Cited list. For the most part, an in-text citation is the  author’s name and the page number (or just the page number, if the author is named in the sentence) in parentheses :

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

Again, your goal is to attribute your source and provide a reference without interrupting your text. Your readers should be able to follow the flow of your argument without becoming distracted by extra information.

How to Cite the Purdue OWL in MLA

Entire Website

The Purdue OWL . Purdue U Writing Lab, 2019.

Individual Resources

Contributors' names. "Title of Resource." The Purdue OWL , Purdue U Writing Lab, Last edited date.

The new OWL no longer lists most pages' authors or publication dates. Thus, in most cases, citations will begin with the title of the resource, rather than the developer's name.

"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL, Purdue U Writing Lab. Accessed 18 Jun. 2018.

Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format

MLA Format: Everything You Need to Know Here

Welcome to an overview of “What is MLA Format?” in relation to paper formatting. You’ll find in-depth guidelines, examples, and visual samples to help you easily format your paper. This guide does not serve as a reference for MLA citation format.

For help determining the proper structure for citing, refer to the other guides on Here is another informative site which may help with further understanding of MLA citation format.

Guidelines for Formatting a Paper in MLA

These guidelines come from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”

MLA Guide Overview

There are various sections in this guide. Each section provides an in-depth overview of the different components to keep in mind when developing an MLA paper.

This guide includes the following sections:

If you need more guidance, a website like usually has guides and tools to help you out. There’s also resources on other styles, like our guide on “ APA reference page ”, otherwise known as a “References” page.

MLA Format Background

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization responsible for developing MLA format. It was developed as a means for researchers, students, and scholars in the literature and language fields to uniformly format their papers and assignments. This uniform, or consistent, method to developing a paper or assignment allows for easy reading. Today, MLA is not only used in literature and language subject areas; many others have adopted it as well.

The Modern Language Association released the 9th and most current edition of their MLA Handbook in April 2021. The Handbook provides thorough instructions on citing, as well as guidelines for submitting work that adheres to the Modern Language Association’s rules and standards. Although we’re not affiliated with the MLA, our citation specialists bring you this thoughtful and informative guide on the format.

Looking for information about previous editions to the Handbook ? Want to learn more about the origin of “What is MLA format?” Click here to learn about the previous editions to the Handbook .

Actually, are you looking for help on using another style? See how to cite an APA journal , learn to create an APA book citation , and more!

Formatting the Header in MLA

To create a header for your first page, follow these steps:

MLA Formating Paper

General Paper Formatting

Paper choice.

While many professors, instructors, and publications allow electronic submission, some prefer printed, hard copies of papers. This section focuses on the type of paper to use for printed submission.

If you choose to print your paper, use white paper only. Do not use ivory, off-white, or any other shades or colors.

Choose a standard, high quality paper to print your project on. Do not use cardstock. It is not necessary to use resum é paper. Use typical, high quality printer or copy paper.

When it comes to size, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper is the recommended size. If you’d like to use a different size, ask your teacher prior to submission.

Use One-Inch Margins in MLA

Use one-inch margins around the entire page. The running head should be the only item seen in the one inch margin (see below for more on running heads).

Most word processing programs automatically default to using one inch margins. Check the page settings section of the program to locate the margin size.

Indenting Paragraphs in MLA

Indent the first word in every paragraph. Sentences should begin one half inch from the left margin.

It is not necessary to manually measure half an inch. Use the “tab” button on the keyboard to create a half inch space.

Double Space Paragraphs in MLA

MLA research paper format requires that the entire research paper or MLA format essay includes double-spaced lines. Double-spaced lines should be found in between the written body of the work, in the heading, and also on the MLA reference page.

While it may seem tempting to place a few extra lines between the heading, title, and beginning of the paper, lines should all be double spaced.

Font and Font Size in MLA

In an MLA paper, it is acceptable to use any font type that is easy to read. Many source types, such as books and articles, use fonts that are easy to read, so if you’re seeking an appropriate font style, look at other sources for guidance. Two of the most commonly used fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.

It is important for the reader to be able to distinguish the difference between italicized and regular font, so if you choose a font style different than Arial or Times New Roman, make sure the difference between the two type styles is evident.

The use of a 12-point font size is recommended as this is the default size for many word processing programs. It is acceptable to use another standard size, such as 11-point or 11.5-point.

Some professors or instructors will provide guidance on how to secure hard copies of projects. If your instructor does not provide you with any expectations or guidance, a simple staple in the top left corner should suffice. If a stapler is not available, some instructors allow paper or binder clips.

Do not fold the top left corner down to secure the pages together. The page could easily unfold, causing a mess of papers. While binders and plastic holders are cute, in reality, they add bulk to a professor or instructor who may like to take the papers home for grading purposes. Keep the binding simple and clean. Staples work best, and binder and paper clips are the next best option.

As always, follow any instructions your professor or teacher may provide. The guidelines found here are simply recommendations.

MLA Heading & Title Page Instructions

The web page “Formatting a Research Paper” gives two options when it comes to creating the header for your project:

If choosing option one, creating an MLA heading, you’ll need to include four main components:

The first item typed on the paper should be your full name.

Here’s an example:

how to write in mla format

The assignment’s title should be placed below the due date, after a double space. Align the title so it sits in the center of the MLA format paper. The title should be written in standard lettering, without underlines, bold font, italicized font, or any quotation marks. Only include italics or quotation marks if your title includes the title of another source.

Here is an example of an MLA header for an MLA format essay, paper, or assignment:

Neal E. Bibdarsh

Professor Haujeemoto

English 201

The Trials and Tribulations of Lincoln’s Reciting of “The Gettysburg Address”

*Note: The quotation marks here are around the title of a speech included in the paper’s title.

Most research papers use a standard MLA format heading, like the one seen above. If your instructor requires you to create a standalone title page, ask him or her for specifications. MLA does not have specific instructions for developing an MLA title page. We recommend you use an MLA header for your project.

If your teacher or professor requires a standalone title page, but has not provided any guidance or specifications, here are a few suggestions from and this MLA guide :

Click  additional information about essays to see an example of a formatted header.

You can either create a title page using the EasyBib Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.

how to write in mla format

Running Head & Page Numbers in MLA

A running head is a brief heading that is placed in the top right corner of every page in a project. The Modern Language Association Style Center (online) states that the running head consists of:

General tips to keep in mind:

APA formatting page number

Before adding this information manually onto every single page, check to see if the word processor you’re using has the capability to automatically add this information for you. Try looking in the settings area where page numbers or headers can be added or modified.

Google Docs: Adding a header

Microsoft Word Document: Adding a header

Quotations in MLA

Quotes are added into assignments to help defend an argument, prove a point, add emphasis, or simply liven up a project.

Quotes should not take up the majority of your paper or assignment. Quotes should be sprinkled sparingly throughout, and quotes longer than 4 lines should be formatted as MLA block quotes . Use direct quotes from outside sources to enhance and expand on your own writing and ideas.

Words from quotes belong to the individual who spoke or wrote them, so it is essential to credit that individual’s work. Credit him or her by adding what is called an “in-text citation” into the body of the project.

There are three ways to add quotes: 1. With the author’s name in the sentence (a citation in prose).

Dan Gutman shares a glimpse into the overall plot by stating, “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman is the author of the book that this quote is pulled from.

2. Without the author’s name in the sentence (a parenthetical citation).

The main character’s confusing experience is realized and explained when he states “I didn’t know it at the time, but a baseball card—for me—could function like a time machine” (Gutman 5).

In the above example, Dan Gutman’s name isn’t included in the sentence. It’s included in the parentheses at the end of the sentence. This is an example of a proper MLA style citation in the body of a project.

3. In a block quote, which is used when a large quote, of 4 lines or more, is added into a project.

Using footnotes and endnotes

The Modern Language Association generally promotes the use of references as described in the sections above, but footnotes and endnotes are also acceptable forms of references to use in your paper.

Footnotes and endnotes are helpful to use in a variety of circumstances. Here are a few scenarios when it may seem appropriate to use this type of referencing:

To include a footnote or endnote, add a superscript number at the end of the sentence the footnote or endnote refers to. They can be included mid-sentence if necessary, but be sure to add it after any punctuation, such as commas or periods. Find a location that doesn’t distract the reader from the content and flow of the paper.

Within the text example:

Numerous well-known children’s books include characters from a wide range of races and ethnicities, thus promoting diversity and multiculturalism.¹

At the bottom of the page (footnote) or at the end of the section (endnote):

¹See Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez. While Parr’s work features characters of various colors, such as pink or blue, children easily correlate it with individuals of different races and ethnicities.

On the last page of the assignment, the writer includes the full references for the books by Isadora, Parr, and Velazquez.

For more on block quotes and a further, detailed explanation on the use of quotes, including MLA footnotes, refer to our MLA In-Text Citation and Parenthetical Citations Guide. In this guide you’ll find further information including directions for the use of quotes without an author, page numbers, and how to properly credit work from electronic sources.

For guides on citations in another style, check out APA parenthetical citation and APA in-text citation .

Paraphrases in MLA

Paraphrases are created when text or speech from another source are added into a project, but the writer chooses to summarize them and weave in his or her own writing and writing style.

Even though the writer modifies the information from another source, it is still necessary to credit the source using proper format ( Handbook 98). Paraphrased information uses the same MLA reference format as stated in the section directly above this one.

Here is an acceptable paraphrase:

Original text:

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs encouraged students at Stanford to continue with their determination, drive, and ambitious behavior. They should never be simply satisfied with the status quo. They should continue to push themselves despite possible obstacles and failures.

To develop a well-written paraphrase, follow these simple, step-by-step instructions.

Wondering if it’s better to quote or paraphrase?

An essential part of the research process involves adding direct quotes and paraphrases into projects. Direct quotes provide word-for-word evidence and allow writers to use another author’s eloquent words and language in their own projects. When it comes to paraphrases, writers are able to take a block of text and shrink the scope of it into the their papers. Paper writers can also use paraphrases to demonstrate their ability to analyze and reiterate information in a meaningful and relevant way.

If you’re wondering which one is better to consistently use, quotes or paraphrases, there’s a clear winner. Paraphrases come out on top. Sure, direct quotes are incredibly beneficial, but copying and pasting too many of these into a project can cause a reader to lose sight of the writer’s own voice. Mixing your own voice with another author’s too much can make for choppy and disjointed reading.

The ultimate goal of a research project is to have your voice and research merged together as one. Paraphrases allow just that. When you combine information from outside sources with your own writing style, it demonstrates your ability as a researcher to showcase your understanding and analyzation of a topic.

Remember, whether you’re adding direct quotes or paraphrases into a project, both types of additions need references. References are placed after the quotes and paraphrases, and also at the end of an assignment.

If you’re looking for additional help with your punctuation or grammar, check out the EasyBib plagiarism checker !

how to write in mla format

Using Abbreviations in MLA

Abbreviations are commonly used in many source types including websites, blog posts, books, and journal articles. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in all of these sources.

When it comes to school and research assignments, however, the MLA   Handbook states that abbreviations should be used rarely in the prose of your paper (293). Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meanings is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion from your reader.

There are times when you may feel it is perfectly acceptable to use an abbreviation rather than its typed out counterpart in a paper. If you do abbreviate, be sure you are using commonly accepted abbreviations, which you can find in the dictionary. You can also review Appendix 1 in the  MLA Handbook .

General Abbreviation Tips

Abbreviating Months

Type out entire month names when being used in the body of a research paper or assignment.

She rented out the beach house from May through September

When it comes to references, MLA bibliography format requires months longer than four letters to be abbreviated.

Other abbreviations that are perfectly acceptable to use in a bibliography (not the body of a project) include:

Again, these abbreviations should only be used in the final page(s) of a project, the MLA Works Cited list. They should not be used in the body of a project.

For more information on bibliographies, see our MLA format Works Cited List page.

Abbreviating Publishers

One of the quirkiest things about this particular style is how publisher names are structured on the final page of references. Certain words are abbreviated, some words are omitted, and other words are written in full.

Words describing what type of business the publisher is are omitted from the works cited. Here’s a breakdown of the words that should be excluded:

If a publisher’s name contains the words “University” and “Press” (or the equivalent in another language), the words should be abbreviated to the letters “U” and “P” in your citation. But if only one of the words appears, it should be written out normally.

Here are a few examples:

All other words related to the names of publishers should be written out in full.

Abbreviating Titles

Certain classical and biblical works are abbreviated in a bibliography, but also in any parenthetical references in the text.

The official handbook provides a lengthy list, spanning over multiple pages, of the preferred abbreviations to use for classical and biblical works ( Handbook 295-301), but here’s a quick snapshot of some of the commonly used ones:

Hebrew Bible or Old Testament = OT

New Testament = NT


Again, the titles above are allowed to be abbreviated both in references in parentheses in the body of a project and also on the final page of references. If you’re wondering why, it’s because they’re cited often and it’s unnecessary to type out the entire title names.

Formatting Numbers in MLA

Use of numerals.

If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.

Other items to keep in mind:

In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study

Arabic Numbers

When including a number in a paper, spell out the number if it can be written as one word (such as six ) or two words (such as sixty-two ). For fractions, decimals, or longer numbers, type them out using digits. For larger numbers, write the number itself ( Handbook 82-84).

If the number comes before a unit of measurement or label, type the number using digits.

More on Numbers

Starting a sentence with a number is generally frowned upon. Try modifying the sentence so that the number, or number word, is found elsewhere.

Instead of:

225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Use this sentence:

A total of 225 children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

If modifying the sentence is not possible or does not work well with the flow of the assignment or paper, type out the written number:

Two hundred twenty five children were found in the warehouse, some malnourished and diseased.

Do not include any ISBN numbers in your paper.

Outline Format

The Modern Language Association does not have any requirements regarding the structure of an outline. If your teacher asks you to create an MLA outline, we recommend using roman numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.

Here is an example of a recommended outline structure:

how to write in mla format

In addition to outlines, use roman numerals for suffixes.

Using Images, Tables, & Musical Scores in MLA

Photographs, data sets, tables, graphs, and other images are often added into projects or papers to promote or aid understanding. They provide meaningful visuals for the reader. If the illustration or visual image does not enhance the quality of the paper, do not include it in the project.

Tables and illustrations should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.

For an image to be significant and easily identifiable, place it as close as possible to the text in the project where it is discussed.

It is not acceptable to simply place an image in a project without including identifiable information. All images must include information about its origin.

Here are the directions to properly attribute an image:

In the text of the project or paper where the figure is discussed, include the label in parentheses to ensure the reader knows where to find the figure in your paper.

In the text:

Sarah’s tattoo design was filled with two of her favorite flowers: lilies and daffodils along a thinly curved vine (fig. 1).

Image formatting:

(Image Would Be Here) Fig. 1. Sarah’s Tattoo. barneyWILLIAMSable, Deviant Art , 2011,

APA image caption

Fig. 1. White Studio. “Houdini and Jennie, the Elephant, Performing at the Hippodrome, New York.” Library of Congress ,

When adding a table or data set into a project, it is formatted a little differently. Above the data set, include the label “Table” with an Arabic numeral, and title it. The table number and title should be located flush left and on separate lines. The first table seen in the project is labeled as Table 1. The second table in the project is Table 2, and so on. The table’s title should be written in title case form (the first letter of each word is capitalized, except for small, insignificant words).

Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.

International Scholars from India Enrolled at Yale University a

Source: “International Scholars Academic Year 2015-2016.” Yale University , Office of International Students and Scholars, a. The numbers reflect students who are enrolled full-time.

The information included above and below any images or table should be double spaced, similar to the rest of the project or paper.

how to write in mla format

Musical Scores

Musical scores need to be labeled as well. When including a musical score in a project, label musical scores with “Ex.” which is short for example. This label should be placed below the musical score. Next to the abbreviation “Ex.”, assign the score an Arabic numeral. The first musical score in the project should be labeled as Ex. 1. The second musical score found in an assignment should be labeled as Ex. 2., and so on.

If possible, provide a caption after to the label. If the caption below the sheet music includes enough information about the source, it is not necessary to include the full reference at the end of the assignment.

Here is an example of a possible label and caption:

Ex. 4. Scott Joplin, The Entertainer, piano, C major.

Another example:

Music sheet APA formatting caption

Here’s more on tables and illustrations.

Using Lists in MLA

It’s appropriate to add lists into an MLA format essay as long as the proper rules are followed.

Lists created using MLA essay format look different than a grocery list or any other type of vertical listing of items. Items in a list are included in your prose, rather than the traditional vertical style.

Often, you will use a colon between the introductory sentence and the list. But you should not include a colon if the first item in the list is part of the sentence.

List Example #1

Here is an example of how a list may look incorporated into the prose of a research project or assignment:

William Shakespeare wrote numerous plays, many of which were considered tragedies: Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear .

List Example #2 Here is an example of how a list may look in a research project or assignment when the list is part of the introductory sentence:

Many of William Shakespeare’s were tragedies. Some of his most popular tragedies include Romeo and Juliet , Hamlet , Macbeth , Othello , Julius Caesar , and King Lear.

MLA Works Cited Format has a full, comprehensive guide to creating a proper works cited MLA format , but here are a few items to keep in mind when developing this portion of a project:

For more detailed information, make sure to check out the EasyBib guide to MLA format Works Cited pages.

MLA Citation Format

The majority of this guide focuses on MLA formatting in regards to MLA paper format rules and guidelines. If you’re seeking information related to the proper formatting of an MLA citation, refer to our individual pages and posts on various types of citations.

If you’re simply looking for the general structure for full references, which are found on the final pages of projects, here’s the proper order:

Author’s Last name, Author’s First name. “Title of Source.”* Title of Container , Names of other contributors along with their specific roles, version of the source (if it differs from the original or is unique), any key numbers associated with the source that aren’t dates (such as journal issue numbers or volume numbers), Name of the Publisher, publication date, location (such as the URL or page numbers).

*Note: A title may be in italics instead of quotation marks, depending of the type of source. The general rule is that works that are self-contained (like books, journals, or television shows) are formatted in italics. Works that are part of a larger work (like articles, chapters, or specific episodes) are formatting in quotation marks. 

MLA Format Citing FAQs:

“What in the world are containers?”

Containers are what hold the source. If you’re creating a reference for a chapter in a book, the title of the chapter is the title of the source , and the container is the title of the book . The book holds the chapter, so it’s the container. If you’re searching for how to cite a website, here’s a tip: the title of the source is the name of the individual page and the title of the container is the name of the full website.

“This seems like a lot of information for a reference. Is it all necessary?”

The short answer is “No!” When citing, only include the components that help the reader locate the exact same source themselves.

It isn’t necessary to go digging for items such as numbers, version types, or names of other individuals or contributors associated with the source if they aren’t applicable. If you think it’s beneficial for the reader, then include it.

Related to citations, here are helpful pages on:

If you’re looking for an MLA citation generator, head to the EasyBib homepage. Our formatter will help you create citations quickly and easily!

Need APA, too? There are also EasyBib tools and an APA citation website reference guide to help you learn the basics.

Edits and Proofreading

Editing and proofreading your assignment prior to submission is an incredibly important step in the research process. Editing involves checking the paper for the following items:

Smart idea: running your paper through a paper checker before you turn it in. EasyBib Plus offers a checker that scans for grammar errors and unintentional plagiarism. 

Check out our MLA sample papers . Also, check out the EasyBib MLA Annotated Bibliography Guide.

Don’t forget to use the EasyBib citation generator to develop your Modern Language Association style also has helpful guides on APA format and more styles . Lastly, stay up-to-date on what’s coming by following our EasyBib Twitter account.

Works Cited

“Formatting a Research Paper.” The MLA Style Center , Modern Language Association of America,

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Published October 31, 2011. Updated July 25, 2021.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau . Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at You can find her here on Twitter. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

Citation Examples

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The works-cited list provides the reader full information so that a reader can locate the source for further use.

Basic formatting

The works-cited list appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes if they are present.

Page margins

All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.

Running head

Write the running head in the top right of the page at 0.5 inch from the top. Use the running head “Surname Page #.”

The font should be clear enough to read. For example, Times New Roman font set to 12 points.

Formatting entries

Entries should be double-spaced, including a double-space between the heading and the first entry. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin.

Formatting the title

The title should be “Works Cited.” Center the title. Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title. If you cite only one source in the list, the title should be “Work Cited.” If you include sources that you only consulted and didn’t cite directly, the title should be changed accordingly to “Works Cited and Consulted.”

Arranging works cited

Works-cited-list entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name (or the editor’s last name for entire edited collections). Double-space all entries. Begin each entry flush with the left margin. If any entry runs over more than one line, indent the subsequent line(s) 0.5 inch from the left margin (sometimes called a hanging indent).

Example works cited

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness . Vintage, 2000.

Hill, R. T. “Legitimizing Colonial Privilege: Native Americans at a Quincentenary of Discourse.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 16, no. 1, 1996, pp. 92–100.

MacDonald, Shauna M. “Performance as Critical Posthuman Pedagogy.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 34, no. 2, 2014, pp. 164–81.

Zilio, M. “Canada Will Not Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Federal Government Says.” The Globe and Mail . 7 Sept. 2017, .

An in-text citation is a short citation that is placed in the text. It is styled in two ways: a citation in prose or a parenthetical citation.

The basic element needed for an in-text citation is the author’s name . The publication year is not required in in-text citations. Sometimes, page numbers or line numbers are also included, especially when directly quoting text from the source being cited. When including a page number, do not include a comma or any other punctuation mark between the author’s surname and the page number.

Parenthetical citations usually add only the author’s surname at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Sometimes they include a page number or other locator. An example of a parenthetical citation is given below:

The spiritual geography of the landscape is explained (Cooper).

If you want to cite a chapter number, a scene, or a line number, follow the abbreviation guidelines below:

When including a more specific locator number rather than a page number, place a comma between the author’s surname and the label.

(Cooper, ch. 2).

Here are a few examples of in-text citations for sources with different numbers or types of authors:

Use only the surname of the author in parenthetical citations. If you want to add a page number (or another indicator of the place in a work), add it after the author’s surname without any punctuation between the surname and the page number.

(Abraham 7).

Two authors

Add only the surnames of the authors. Use “and” to separate the two authors.

(Langmuir and Einstein).

Three or more authors

Add only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.”

(Low et al.).

Corporate author

Shorten the organization name wherever possible, excluding any initial articles and using the shortest noun phrase (e.g., shorten Literary Society of Tamil Culture to Literary Society).

(Literary Society).

If there is no author for the source, use the source title in place of the author’s surname.

When you add such in-text citations, italicize the text of the title. If the source title is longer than a noun phrase, use a shortened version of the title. For example, the title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is shortened to Fantastic Beasts .

( Fantastic Beasts 160).

MLA Citation Examples

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MLA Paper Format: Simple Guidelines to Follow

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If you’re new to writing research papers, setting everything up can be intimidating. However, breaking the MLA paper format down into the basics makes it much easier to digest. Learn how to set up your paper, cover page, headings, headers, tables, and figures in your MLA paper.

Citation generator

MLA Paper Format General Guidelines

In general, the MLA style formatting guidelines are flexible. That’s why so many teachers and students like to use this writing style for their middle school, high school, and college research papers. However, while MLA is flexible, it still has a few formatting rules students need to adhere to. The fundamental break down for formatting an MLA paper includes:

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to look at the different formatting aspects you need for your cover page, headings, headers, text formatting, and tables.

MLA Cover Page

MLA papers don’t typically have a cover page. But, if a teacher asks for one, it’s essential to know how to do it. An MLA cover page includes a few things like: 

And that is pretty much it. Everything is centered on your cover page. The school name or university is at the top, and the title in the middle. Your name, course, professor, and due date are toward the bottom.

MLA cover page example

MLA Headings & Headers

Rather than a cover page, your paper typically has a heading and title on the first page of your work. Your MLA heading and title include your name, instructor, course, and date aligned to the left. The title is centered before you start the body of your paper. Additionally, each page of your paper has a running header with your name and the page number, including the works cited.

how to write in mla format

MLA Text and Body Formatting

In the body of your paper, MLA offers recommendations for you when it comes to fonts, spacing, formatting, numbers, and abbreviations.

MLA Paper Formatting: Readable Font

When it comes to writing your paper, you need a readable font. Your teacher doesn’t want to bust out the magnifying glass to see your work. And to make sure of that, MLA recommends a font that is easy to read and distinguishes regular and italicized text like Arial or Times New Roman. Additionally, use a standard font size like 11 or 12 point. Making everything a 14-point font doesn’t make your paper look longer.

Spacing and Formatting for an MLA Paper

When it comes to the spacing and formatting of your paper, stick with double spacing throughout the entire body and works cited and make sure your text is left-justified, so the right margin has a ragged edge. It’s also vital to indent every new paragraph five spaces by hitting the tab on your keyboard. To keep everything neat and tidy, follow the standard punctuation rules for commas and periods.

Numbers in MLA Formatting

Using numbers in MLA isn’t hard, but you must follow a few rules. MLA clarifies when to use Arabic and Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers or just use the Arabic form. For example, if you can spell a number out in a few words, go for it. However, if you need a whole sentence, it’s better to stick with Arabic numerals like 1,345,267. Your fingers might start to hurt writing out that one.

Number Examples

Ten, twenty-six, two million

129, 879, 3 ¾

Abbreviations in MLA Formatting

To keep your fingers from cramping, you can use  abbreviations in MLA formatting . But like everything else, rules need to be followed for abbreviations. For example, end abbreviations with a period if they end in a lower case letter, and abbreviate months longer than four letters. 

Abbreviation Example 

Jan., Feb., ACL

Formatting Tables & Illustrations in MLA

Another crucial part of your MLA paper formatting is the tables and illustrations. Not only do they add color to your work, but some things must be shown rather than read. When it comes to tables and figures, keep the figure as close to the text as possible, and follow MLA formatting rules.

Formatting a Table in MLA

Formatting a table isn’t hard in your MLA paper. And, you can include as many as you want. Just keep these formatting rules in mind.

example MLA table

Figures in MLA Papers

Now, it’s time to look at MLA figure formatting. MLA format is excellent for art and language paper topics. Therefore, images, illustrations, and maps could be a big part of your paper. Formatting an image in MLA is similar to a table, but there are a few distinctions in formatting.

Musical illustrations follow the same rules as a figure, but you label them as an example (Ex. 1).

how to write in mla format

MLA Paper Format Made Easy

Faq mla paper format: simple guidelines to follow, how do you write a paper in mla format.

To write a paper in MLA format, you need a running header with your last name and page number, 1-inch margins on all sides, indents when starting a new paragraph, and a readable font. You'll also cite your sources in-text and on your works cited page using MLA format citations.

What should an MLA paper look like?

An MLA paper has a standard look for every page including 1-inch margins, a readable font, a running header including your last name and page number, and author-page in-text citations. At the end of your paper, you will include a works cited with a list of all the sources used in the paper.

How do you write a MLA research paper?

To write an MLA research paper, you must adhere to the guidelines set for by the Modern Language Association. Therefore, you must include scholarly resources that are cited using the author-date in-text citations. At the end of your paper, include a works cited listing your academic sources. When setting up your paper, use 1-inch margins, a readable font, indents for new paragraphs, and a running header.

How do you properly head a paper?

To properly head a paper in MLA format, include a running header that is right-aligned. Your running header includes the page number and your name.

What is MLA format template?

An MLA format template is created in a word processing software to set up the 1-inch margins, double spacing, and running header for your MLA paper. You can also do this yourself by following MLA page layout guidelines for these areas.

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Citing an Introduction or Afterword in MLA

How to cite a play in mla, mla 7th edition vs mla 8th edition, how to cite a short story from any source.

Please see this Guide to Modified Services for Summer 2021

MLA Style Guide, 8th Edition

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman font or another readable typeface (e.g. serif ).

Line Spacing & Margins

Use double-spacing throughout the entire paper.

Leave 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and each side.

Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

Quotes longer than 4 lines should be written as a block of text a half an inch from the left margin.

Heading and Title

An MLA research paper does not need a title page, but your instructor may require one. If no instructions are given, follow the MLA guidelines below:

Type the following one inch from the top of the first page, flush with the left margin (double spacing throughout).

Your Instructor's Name

Course Number or Name

Center the title on the next line. Follow the rules for capitalization. Do not italicize, underline, or bold the title. An exception is when your title includes a title.  Example:  The Attitude toward Violence in A Clockwork Orange

Indent the next line and begin typing your text.

Include your last name and page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of every page. The page numbers will be one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. If your instructor prefers no page number on the first page, begin numbering from 2 on the second page.

Sample Papers from MLA

There are three sample papers available in the MLA Style Center. Check them out to see the correct formatting.

Sample MLA Paper

MLA 8th Edition Paper Formatting

MLA Format Setup in Word 2013

How to Write In MLA Format In Google Docs

Brahm Shank

Whether you are a student trying to deliver your next A+ paper or an aspiring scholar looking to share your ideas with the world, you can utilize the MLA format to establish credibility behind your content while also bringing order to even the most complex concepts. Thankfully, Google Docs contains everything you need to make the grade when it comes to perfecting the MLA format. Ready to get fancy with your formatting?

Tip : this guide follows standard MLA formatting rules according to the widely-used Purdue OWL guidelines . It is strongly recommended that you clarify the formatting requirements with your instructor, publisher, department, etc.

MLA Format at a Glance

1. one-inch margins, 2. times new roman, 3. doubled-spaced, 4. additional mla format requirements, 5. works cited, frequently asked questions.

The easiest way to interpret MLA format, short for Modern Language Association format, is to think of it as a style guide for research and academic papers. Much like the way social media templates or distinct company branding can bring uniformity to content, the goal of MLA format is to optimize written works for maximum readability and optimal reference. Listed here are the key aspects of MLA format that you will need to remember:

Tip : this guide covers MLA formatting instructions for tools that are accessible via the Google Docs website and not the Google Docs app. Accessing Google Docs via the Web enables more versatile and straightforward formatting options that will save you considerable time.

Before you start typing in Google Docs, you will need to make sure to toggle one-inch margins for the bottom, top, left, and right sides of your paper. Follow these steps to get started:

Mla File

Mla Page Setup

Mla Margins

Mla Margins Ok

Tip: would you prefer to handwrite your text first? Read on to learn how to convert your handwriting to typed text on Android .

Technically, MLA format only requires that you use a “legible” font, which debunks the myth that Times New Roman is the only font allowed in MLA format. Nonetheless, Times New Roman remains a popular choice for writers, as it is a serif typeface.

Serif Example Times New Roman

Studies show that using serif-clad typefaces, aka typefaces with small lines or strokes attached to the ends of each character, can optimize long passages of text for optimum readability. Follow these steps to get started:

Mla Font Default

Mla Font Tnr

Mla Font Size

Tip: learn how to add a text box in Google Docs .

MLA format requires that all of your body text be double-spaced. If the idea of tediously jamming away at the space bar enough times to send your thumbs into a spasm has you dreading your next term paper, rest assured that you can automatically double-space your text in just a few clicks with Google Docs, as you will see in the below instructions.

Mla Format

Mla Line Paragraph Double

Once you have added headers and a title, writing your next essay will feel like clockwork. Documents written in MLA format must include your last name printed before each page number in the top-right corner of every page. You can have Google Docs number and initial each page for you. Follow the instructions below to add your surname and page numbers, as well as other requirements.

Mla Insert Task Bar

Mla Page Numbers

Mla Label Name

Mla Left Justified

Tip : note that some instructors will ask you to write the due date of the assignment and not the date it was assigned in your header.

Mla Centered Title

Good to know: learn how to improve your writing with OneLook .

Before you wrap up your document, a crucial element of the MLA format is a separate Works Cited page that displays the sources that you referenced throughout your essay. In addition to listing your sources in alphabetical order, the Purdue OWL guide for MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format describes how each citation should be formatted based on origin, source, and media type. Follow these general rules:

Mla Header Alignment

Mla Hanging Indent

Is there a way to automatically add hanging indents in Google Docs?

Yes. Highlight the body text on your Works Cited page, then select “Format -> Align & Indent -> Special Indent: Hanging -> Apply.” You can also use the built-in Ruler tool to change margins on Google Docs .

Does Google Docs include any other built-in tools for students?

Yes. You can follow our comprehensive guide to discover how to edit Google Docs and other tips , with everything from how to monitor word count to how to find and replace text. You can learn how to add graphs, watermarks, and custom backgrounds for your documents.

How can I be more productive when writing in MLA format in Google Docs?

Perhaps the best way to speed up your workflow is to study our Google Docs Keyboard Shortcuts Cheatsheet . While practicing keyboard commands may seem cumbersome at first, you will spend more time writing and less time using your cursor to dip in and out of menus once you have committed just a handful of these shortcuts to memory.

Does Google Docs offer a built-in template for MLA format?

Yes. If you are in a pinch, you can save some time by navigating to the “Google Docs homepage -> Template Gallery -> Education -> MLA [Add-on].” While using Google’s MLA template may save you a few steps, note that it is easy to overlook several formatting cues without a manual checklist to go through as you construct your document. The Google Docs template for MLA format additionally overlooks a number of common requirements set by most professors. When using any template, something as simple as adjusting the font can offset key spacing parameters.

Image credit: Unsplash . All screenshots taken by Brahm Shank.

Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur and tech enthusiast Brahm Shank is captivated by the impact of consumer tech: “It’s profoundly moving when people discover that the phone in their pocket or the tiny computer on their wrist has the power to enrich their lives in ways they never imagined.” Apple, Inc. and its unique position at the intersection of technology and the creative arts, resonates deeply with Brahm and his passion for helping people unleash their potential using technology. Over the years, Brahm has held various podcasts - including famed technologist David Pogue of The New York Times on topics such as Big Tech and digital wellness.

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How to MLA Format a Google Doc (Step-by-Step)

Marie Prokopets

You don’t want to lose points for silly mistakes in your papers, assignments, or essays. You might think that a little formatting mistake here and there doesn’t matter. But that might not be the case if the person who is grading your essay is particularly strict.

Even established academics need to brush up on their formatting skills sometimes. This is especially true if you’re new to using Google Docs. Or if it’s the first time you’re using Google Docs for a formal piece of work.

Now, there are various style guides for academic work. So, the first thing to do is check, double-check and triple-check what your institution, department, publisher, etc. requires.

If the format is MLA and you’re creating your work in a Google doc, we’ve got you covered:

What Is MLA Format?

MLA style, or MLA format, is a set of guidelines for formatting academic or research papers. It was originally introduced by the Modern Languages Association and used in the fields of literature and language.

Its purpose is to ensure the consistency and uniformity of submitted works. Nowadays, students and scholars of various disciplines use the MLA style.

Here are the basic MLA standards you need to adhere to:

There are quite a few items to check off the list here. But we’ll guide you through:

Step 1: Apply One-Inch Margins

Your Google doc should be set to one-inch margins by default. But, you may wish to check to be on the safe side.

1. Go to File > Page setup.

2. Ensure all margins are set to 1 and this is applied to the whole document.

how to write in mla format

Step 2: Change the Font and Size

1. Choose Times New Roman from the dropdown font menu.

2. Click on font size and select 12.

how to write in mla format

Step 3: Insert a Header

1. Go to Insert > Headers & footers > Header.

2. Click the right align button.

how to write in mla format

3. Enter your last name and hit space.

4. Go to Insert > Page numbers and click the first option.

how to write in mla format

If your font defaults back to the original go ahead and highlight your last name and the page number and change them to Times New Roman, size 12.

Step 4: Change the Line Spacing

1. Click the line spacing button in the toolbar.

how to write in mla format

2. Select Double.

Step 5: Enter Your Details and the Title on the First Page

1. Type in the following on separate lines:

2. Hit the return key then click the center align button.

3. Type in the title of your paper.

how to write in mla format

Step 6: Add Indentations

Indent paragraphs.

1. Press the tab key to indent the first word of every paragraph.

Indent Block Quotations

1. Highlight the text.

2. Go to Format > Align & indent > Indentation options.

3. Next to Left, type in 1 and click Apply.

how to write in mla format

Step 7: Add the Works Cited Page

The Works Cited page has some unique formatting details. Therefore, there are a few steps you need to complete to format it correctly.

Add a Page Break

After the final paragraph of your paper, you must add a page break to ensure your Works Cited page appears on a separate, new page.

1. Go to Insert > Break > Page break.

Add the Title

As with the main title, the title for this page needs to be centrally aligned.

1. Click the central align button.

2. Type in Works Cited.

Add Your List of Sources

There are a few points from the MLA guidelines you need to incorporate here. First, each of your sources must be listed alphabetically. Ensure you cite your sources in the proper format , for example:

Pinker, Steven. The Sense of Style . Penguin Random House, 2014.

And finally, each source must have a hanging indentation. Here’s how to do it:

1. Go to Format > Align & indent > Indentation options.

2. Click the dropdown menu under Special indent and select Hanging.

3. Set the indent to 0.5 and click Apply.

how to write in mla format

How Do You Cite in Google Docs?

Google Docs has a citations tool that will help you cite your sources in the proper format as you go along. You can also use this tool to automatically create a Works Cited page when you’ve finished your paper. Naturally, this is super useful as it will help you get the formatting correct every time and save you some time and energy.

1. Go to Tools > Citations.

2. Select MLA from the dropdown menu in the sidebar. (Other options are APA and Chicago.)

how to write in mla format

3. Click + Add citation source.

4. From the dropdown menu select a source type, e.g. book or journal, then select how you accessed the source, e.g. print or website.

5. Enter the details of your source into the form. (Click + Contributor if there are multiple contributors.)

6. Click Add citation source.

This will now be added to your list of sources in the citations tool.

7. Place your cursor where you want to cite the source, then click Cite next to the source in the sidebar.

how to write in mla format

You’ll now see an in-text citation in MLA format. Change the # to the appropriate page number.

8. When you’ve finished your paper, create a new page by adding a page break as mentioned above. Go to the citations tool and click Insert bibliography.

how to write in mla format

You’ll now see that Google Docs has automatically generated a list of sources in the correct MLA formatting based on the information you entered. You will need to change the title from Bibliography to Works Cited.

You may wish to double-check the formatting of the page for yourself. But, apart from the title, everything should be formatted correctly. Docs even adds in the hanging indentation which, of course, you need for your Works Cited page in MLA format.

How to Use the MLA Template in Google Docs

By far the simplest and quickest way to format your paper is to use a pre-formatted template. Google Docs has a number of templates in different academic styles, including MLA.

The template comes with some text as a placeholder. You just need to replace it with your own details and writing. Here’s how to find and open up the template:

1. Open a new Google doc.

2. Go to File > New > From template.

3. Under the header Education, you’ll see a template entitled Report with MLA written underneath it.

how to write in mla format

4. Simply click on this template and alter it as necessary.

Note that you may still need to go to the checklist above and double-check that everything is formatted correctly. For example, there isn’t a placeholder for your last name in the header of the template. Thus, you may forget the little things like this if you don’t check through the doc.

More Essay Writing Tips for Google Docs

1. try voice typing.

The voice typing tool is a useful tool for students with accessibility needs.

Furthermore, ideas flow quicker than you can get them down on the page sometimes. It might help to use voice typing on such occasions. You can go back to the text to work it into nice, neat sentences for your paper later.

To access voice typing, go to Tools > Voice Typing. Click on the microphone in the small window that appears to start dictating your text.

2. Speed Up Editing

Got a paper due tomorrow and need to make edits fast? It happens. Thankfully, there are ways to speed up the editing process in Google Docs.

First, if you want to reorganize your draft, you don’t need to copy and paste sections or paragraphs. You can simply highlight the text and drag it to its new location in your essay.

Moreover, when formatting your essay, you don’t need to do everything manually. Rather, you can use the paint format button to copy your formatting quickly.

how to write in mla format

This would be useful, for instance, if you have a lot of block quotations in an MLA style essay and you don’t want to manually indent the text every single time.

Similarly, if you realize you’ve made a recurring mistake in your document, you don’t have to go through your paper and correct the mistake every time. For example, you may have referenced the wrong author or failed to capitalize a word.

Fix it with the Find and replace tool. Go to Edit > Find and replace. Enter the correction and click Replace all.

how to write in mla format

3. Make Your Doc Available Offline

There are many instances where offline editing may come in handy. For example, if the wi-fi in your dorm goes down, it doesn’t mean you have to stop working on your essay. Or if you need to make a few quick changes to your doc while you’re on the train.

To turn on offline editing, go to File > Make available offline.

Any changes you make offline will be saved locally on the device you’re using. Then the changes will be synced to Google Drive the next time you go online.

4. Use Bookmarks

Bookmarks are a useful way to draw attention to a part of your essay. You can create bookmarks for yourself. Perhaps you want to come back to a section later and add more.

You may also want to leave bookmarks for an advisor. Say they’re checking your first draft before you submit the final piece.

To add a bookmark in Google Docs, first place your cursor where you want your bookmark to appear. Then go to Insert > Bookmark.

5. Consider Add-Ons

You can do a lot in Google Docs. However, if there’s a tool you need that Google doesn’t offer yet, there’s likely an add-on you can use instead. You may want to add a plagiarism checker or thesaurus to your arsenal, for example.

To browse add-ons, simply go to the Add-ons tab and select Get add-ons.

6. Share or Save Your Doc in the Right Format

There are tons of ways you can share, save or submit an essay using Google Docs. The first thing to do is check with the course advisor how they would prefer you to submit your essay.

To send it directly to them, click the share button in the top-right corner and enter their email address.

Note that you can add a message alongside your submission. You can also change the permissions of the recipient using the dropdown menu next to their email.

how to write in mla format

Alternatively, you may wish to create a shareable link which you can also do via the share button. To adjust the permissions here, click where it says Change to anyone with the link.

If you don’t want to send the doc but rather save a copy, go to File > Download. Here you have the option of saving your document in various formats, including .docx and PDF.

This is useful if your advisor wants you to send a copy in a certain format using a file attachment.

Correctly formatting a paper or essay in Google Docs may feel like hard work at first. But, soon enough, it will become second nature. This guide will help you get the fundamentals of the MLA style guide right.

It’s up to you whether you wish to use the MLA template for your paper. But, we’d recommend manually formatting your work in the MLA style if you have the time. This way you know for sure there are no formatting mistakes.

Finally, don’t forget that Google Docs is rich in useful features that could help you during the writing, editing and formatting processes. Go explore what Google Docs can do.

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How to Write in the MLA Format With Google Docs

If you need to apply MLA formatting to your academic or business paper, here's how to meet all the requirements in Google Docs.

If writing a paper wasn't complicated enough, you often have to contend with specific formatting requirements. Have you been told that your paper must use the MLA format? Do you have any idea what that means or how to apply it? Don't worry, we're here to help.

We're going to explain what the MLA format is and how to apply it to your documents in Google Docs, both through a template and manual set-up.

What Is the MLA Format?

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. According to the MLA website , it's a group that established itself in 1883 with the aim to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature". As part of the group's work, it publishes a style guide that many educational establishments and businesses adhere to.

If you're asked to use the MLA format, you should clarify the specific expectations. Though MLA sell a handbook, your school or organization may have slightly different requirements.

When it comes to setting up a Google Docs document to use the MLA format, these are the key formatting points to account for, as taken from the MLA Handbook :

How to Apply the MLA Format in Google Docs With a Template

Google Docs offers a range of templates so that you don't have to manually set up common formatting rules. Handily, one such template is for the MLA format. Here's how to use it:

Remember, you may need to follow slightly different MLA rules than what the template provides, so double-check everything is in order before submitting your document.

How to Apply the MLA Format in Google Docs Manually

Alternatively, you can apply the MLA formatting yourself. This is a good option if you have slightly different requirements from what the template offers, or if you want to be completely certain that you've applied all necessary formatting rules.

1. One-Inch Page Margin

Google Docs uses a one-inch margin on all sides of the document by default. However, you can double-check this:

2. Readable Typeface

By default, Google Docs uses Arial at size 11. Remember, MLA requires a readable type face, not necessarily Times New Roman at size 12, but many people prefer this. As such, to change the font in Google Docs :

3. Double-Spacing

To apply double-spacing to all your text:

4. Page Numbers

You need your surname and page numbers in the right of the header:

5. Course Information and Title

The information about yourself, your course, and the title of your document should appear on page one:

6. Indent Paragraphs

The first line of every paragraph needs to be indented by half an inch:

7. Works Cited

Finally, your list of cited works must be on a new page, with a half-inch indent for overflow lines:

Turn In Your MLA Formatted Paper With Confidence

Now that you've applied all the necessary formatting, the only thing left to do is write. Google Docs saves automatically, so you don't need to worry about losing your work. Just remember to keep track of everything that you want to cite at the end. Good luck on your paper!


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