Following format guidelines is of the utmost importance in academic writing. The way you format your work and recognize your sources may have a big impact on how clear and powerful your message is. The Modern Language Association (MLA) has developed a set of guidelines in order to standardize academic writing, which are widely utilized in humanities, language, and literature courses.

Even for experienced authors, navigating the MLA formatting guidelines may be difficult. There are several requirements for referencing sources, formatting papers, and producing a works cited page, therefore maintaining track of them all may be challenging. 

What Is MLA Format?

In 1951, the Modern Language Association (MLA) format was created as a method of documentation and citation for literature, language, and other humanities subjects. The MLA was formed in 1883 as an organization for language and literature academics and professors, and its style guidelines were developed to offer a consistent approach to recording and citing sources in academic writing.

The MLA style guidelines were originally designed to document and cite printed resources such as books and articles. However, as technology and our access to and use of information have evolved, so have the MLA guidelines. MLA is now used to document and cite a broad variety of sources, including electronic and online materials, film and video recordings, and even social media posts.

To keep up with developments in technology and scholarly activities, the MLA format has undergone multiple modifications throughout the years. The 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, published in 2016, represents the ongoing development of scholarly communication and citation guidelines. 

Despite its extensive history, the MLA style is still a valuable resource for academic writers and scholars. Adhering to the guidelines ensures that writers give accurate and extensive documentation for their sources and contribute to the academic community’s exchange of ideas.

When To Use MLA Format

The MLA format is commonly used in the humanities, language, and literature fields for writing and documenting sources. Many English and language arts courses, as well as courses focusing on literary analysis, cultural studies, and related disciplines, use this style.

Many academic conferences and symposiums in these fields also expect papers and presentations to adhere to MLA guidelines.

How To Set Up Your Paper In MLA Format

Setting up your document in MLA format requires many important elements, including paper selection, margins, paragraph structure, and heading information. Here are crucial guidelines to prepare your paper in MLA format:

MLA Format Rules

Paper and Margins:

  • Use 8.5 x 11-inch white paper.
  • Set the document’s margins to 1 inch on each side. 

MLA Paragraph Indentation & Double Spacing Paragraphs: 

  • Indent the initial line of each paragraph by 0.5 inch.
  • Double-space the whole manuscript, including the works cited page and block quotes.


  • Do not bind your document with a binder, staple, or paperclip.
  • Submit it unbound in a folder or envelope.

Headings and Title Pages:

  • Include your name, instructor’s name, course title, and date in the top left corner of the first page. Double-space the content and align it to the left margin.
  • Include the title of your paper on the following line. Double-space the title and center it on the page.

Running Head & Page Numbers:

  • In MLA format, a running head is not necessary.
  • Except for the title page, include your last name and page number in the upper right corner of each page. Align the data to the right margin.
Via Chegg

MLA Style Rules

  • To attribute sources, use in-text citations: To give credit to the sources, use parenthetical citations within the text of your manuscript. In parenthesis, provide the author’s last name and page number, for example, (Smith 42).
  • Make a list of works cited: Include a list of all the sources you used in your paper at the end of your paper. This should be labeled “Works Cited” and structured in accordance with MLA guidelines. 
  • Titles should be italicized: Italicize book titles, journal titles, and other lengthy works. 
  • Quote marks: For shorter works such as articles, essays, and poems, use quote marks.
  • Discuss literature in the present tense: When discussing a work of literature, use the present tense to explain events that occur within the text.
  • Personal pronouns should be avoided: MLA style usually discourages the usage of personal pronouns such as “I,” “me,” and “you.” Instead, concentrate on the issue and employ third-person terminology.
  • Use standard formatting: 12 point font, double spacing, and 1-inch margins on each side. Make certain that your paper is consistently formatted throughout.
  • Use reputable sources: Use reputable and reliable sources, and make sure to properly cite them. Avoid utilizing biased or untrustworthy sources.
  • Conduct your research in an ethical manner: Follow ethical research norms, such as gaining informed consent from study participants, preserving their privacy, and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Revise and edit: Finally, make sure to carefully revise and edit your work to ensure that it is clear, concise, and error-free.

How To Cite Sources In Mla: Citation Examples

There are precise guidelines to follow when referencing sources in MLA format. Here are some examples of common citations:

How To Present Evidence And Quotes In Mla

Follow these guidelines when presenting evidence and quotes in MLA format:

Including Evidence

  • Begin with a signal phrase that includes the author’s name and a verb, such as “argues” or “claims.”
  • Any precise words obtained from the original material should be enclosed by quotation marks.
  • Give the quotation context, such as an explanation of what it means and how it pertains to your point.

Example: Jane Smith states that “the use of technology in the classroom can improve student engagement and achievement” (22). This shows that technology has a favorable influence on student learning and should be used in classrooms.


  • Use quote marks around any precise words taken directly from the original text.
  • If the quotation is longer than four lines, format it as a block quotation by indenting it one inch from the left margin and leaving off the quotation marks.


Original quote: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” (From Walt Disney). 

In the paper: Walt Disney famously stated, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” (quoted in Johnson 35).


  • Paraphrasing is the process of restating the original source’s thoughts in your own words.
  • Even if you paraphrase, you must add an in-text reference with the author’s name and page number.

Example: Smith, for example, claims that introducing technology into the classroom can lead to greater learning results (22).

In-Text Citations In Mla

In-text citations in the MLA format include the author’s last name and the page number(s) where the material may be accessed. Here are some MLA in-text citation examples:

One Author

(Smith 22)

Two Authors

(Smith and Johnson 35)

Three or More Authors

(Smith et al. 42)

No Author

If the source lacks an author, use the work’s title in italics, followed by the page number(s) in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

 (“How to Write a Research Paper” 8)

Multiple Works by the Same Author

Include a shortened version of the title in the in-text citation if you are citing multiple works by the same author.

(Smith, “Technology in the Classroom” 22)

Footnotes And Endnotes In MLA

In MLA, footnotes and endnotes are meant to offer the reader with extra information or clarification without interfering with the flow of the main text. They are frequently used for explanatory notes, copyright permission, or credit sources that were not mentioned in the text. 


  • Footnotes are located at the bottom of the page to which they are referred.
  • Endnotes are located at the end of the document, right before the Works Cited page.


  • Footnotes and endnotes should be single-spaced and separated by a space.
  • The note number should be superscripted and inserted at the conclusion of the sentence or phrase under consideration.
  • Each note’s first line should be indented.


  • The author’s name, the title of the work, and the publishing information (publisher, date, and page numbers) should all be included in the footnotes and endnotes.
  • Use a shorter form of the citation if you are referencing a source that is already listed on your Works Cited page.
  • Include the page number(s) of the referenced material if the source is a book.
  • Include the page range of the article if the source is a journal article.

Footnote example:

John Smith, The Art of Writing (New York: Random House, 2001), 45.

Endnote example:

Jane Doe, “The Benefits of Exercise,” Journal of Health and Fitness 15 (2019): 22-25.

Remember that you do not need to add in-text citations for the same source if you utilize footnotes or endnotes.

Works Cited Page For MLA

The Works Cited page is an essential part of the MLA format since it contains a comprehensive list of all works referenced in the paper. Here are some MLA formatting guidelines for creating a Works Cited page:

Placement and Format

  • The Works Cited page should be put on a separate page at the conclusion of the paper.
  • The “Works Cited” page should be situated at the top of the page.
  • The first line of each entry should be double-spaced, with a hanging indent for each succeeding line.


  • Entries should be placed in alphabetical order by author’s last name. If no author is specified, use the work’s title instead.
  • The author’s name should be listed with the last name first, followed by a comma and then the first name.
  • Source titles should be italicized (e.g., books, journals) or surrounded by quotation marks (e.g., articles, chapters).
  • Include the publisher, publication date, and page numbers for books.
  • Include the volume and issue number, publication date, and page range for journal articles.
  • Include the URL and the date the source was accessed for websites.


Doe, Jane. “The Benefits of Exercise.” Journal of Health and Fitness, vol. 15, no. 2, 2019, pp. 22-25.

How To Cite Different Types Of Sources In MLA Format

Type of SourceWorks Cited Format
Book with one authorAuthor’s Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.
Book with two or more authorsAuthor 1’s Last Name, First Name, and Author 2’s First Name Last Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.
Book with three or more authorsAuthor 1’s Last Name, First Name, et al. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.
Journal articleAuthor’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, vol. Issue number, Publication Date, pp. Page range.
Newspaper articleAuthor’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper, Publication Date, Page number(s).
WebsiteAuthor’s Last Name, First Name (if available). “Title of Page or Article.” Title of Website, Publisher or Sponsor, Publication Date or Date of Access, URL.

Please keep in mind that this table only contains the most basic information for each type of source. Consult the MLA Handbook for more detailed citation guidelines.

Using Abbreviations In Mla

Certain words are commonly abbreviated in MLA style, both in-text and on the Works Cited page. The following are some MLA abbreviation guidelines:

  • For states, use standard postal abbreviations (e.g., CA for California, NY for New York).
  • For months, use standard abbreviations (e.g., Jan. for January, Sept. for September).
  • Use acronyms for generally known organizations or groups for corporate authors (e.g., FBI for Federal Bureau of Investigation, NASA for National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
  • Volumes (e.g., vol. for volume, no. for number) and page numbers (e.g., p. for page, pp. for pages) should be abbreviated.

Formatting Numbers In Mla

  • Numbers one through ninety-nine should be spelled out, while numbers 100 and up should be represented by digits.
  • For all monetary amounts (e.g., $5, $10), use digits.
  • Use digits for all page numbers, including those in the Works Cited list.
  • Dates should be written in Arabic numbers without a superscript (e.g., “May 1, 2023”).
  • For the time of day, use digits (e.g., “3:00 p.m.”).
  • For percentages, decimals, and fractions, use digits (e.g., “2.5%,” “0.75,” “1/4”).
  • For measures, use digits (e.g., “5 cm,” “10 kg,” “7 miles”).

When formatting numbers in MLA, remember that uniformity is essential. Maintain a consistent structure throughout your manuscript to guarantee a polished, professional appearance.

Using Images, Tables, & Musical Scores In Mla

There are certain guidelines you should follow when incorporating images, tables, and musical scores in your MLA paper:


  • Below the image, include the figure number and a descriptive caption.
  • If you did not create the image, provide a citation in the description and a corresponding entry in your Works Cited list.
  • Include the website name and URL in the citation if the image is from a website.
Via wikiHow


  • Above the table, provide the table number and a descriptive caption.
  • If you did not create the table, provide a citation in the caption and a matching entry in your Works Cited list.
  • For each column and row in the table, use clear and succinct titles.

Musical Scores

  • Include the title of the musical score, the composer’s name, and the page number in the citation.
  • Include a citation and a corresponding entry in your Works Cited list if the musical score is not your own.
  • Italicize the title of the musical score.
Via Columbia University Libraries

High Impact And Greater Visibility For Your Work

One of the most important benefits of adopting Mind the Graph is the increased impact and visibility it may bring to scientific endeavors. Visual elements that are well-designed can assist scientists in conveying their discoveries and ideas to a wider audience.


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