Skip to main content

MLA Style Guide, 8th Edition: Formatting Your MLA Paper

This LibGuide reflects the changes to MLA style as directed by the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition.

Typography

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 Name

Your Instructor's Name

Course Number or Name

Date

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.

Styling Headings and Subheadings

According to the MLA Style Center website, writers should avoid using headings in shorter papers. If you are writing a longer, research paper, you may want to include headings and subheadings to help organize the sections of your paper. Advice from the MLA Style Center:

"Levels

The paper or chapter title is the first level of heading, and it must be the most prominent.

Headings should be styled in descending order of prominence. After the first level, the other headings are subheadings—that is, they are subordinate. Font styling and size are used to signal prominence. In general, a boldface, larger font indicates prominence; a smaller font, italics, and lack of bold can be used to signal subordination. For readability, don’t go overboard: avoid using all capital letters for headings (in some cases, small capitals may be acceptable):

Heading Level 1

Heading Level 2

Heading Level 3

Note that word-processing software often has built-in heading styles.

Consistency

Consistency in the styling of headings and subheadings is key to signaling to readers the structure of a research project. That is, each level 1 heading should appear in the same style and size, as should each level 2 heading, and so on. Generally avoid numbers and letters to designate heads unless you are working in a discipline where doing so is conventional. Note that a heading labeled “1” requires a subsequent heading labeled “2,” and a heading labeled “a” requires a subsequent heading labeled “b.” 

Position

In a project that is not professionally designed and published, headings should be flush with the left margin, to avoid confusion with block quotations. (The exception is the paper or chapter title, which is centered in MLA style.)

Spacing

For readability, it is helpful to include a line space above and below a heading, as shown in this post.

Balance

No internal heading level should have only one instance. For example, if you have one level 1 heading, you need to have a second level 1 heading. (The exceptions are the paper or chapter title and the headings for notes and the list of works cited.) You should also generally have text under each heading.

Capitalization

Capitalize headings like the titles of works, as explained in section 1.2 of the MLA Handbook.

Length

The shorter, the better."

Work Cited

Modern Language Association. "How Do I Style Headings and Subheadings in a Research Paper?" MLA Style Center., 13 December 2018, style.mla.org/styling-headings-and-subheadings.

MLA Style Paper Template

You can save a personal template in Microsoft Word (IRSC students, download Office for free). Above is a template you can use every time you need to set-up a research paper using MLA style format. Simply open the template and type your own information every time you need to write an MLA style paper. Microsoft Word will allow you to save personal templates. Once you have the template opened in Word

Click "Save as"

Give the file a name

Under "Save as type", select Word Template

Then when you open Word, you will be able to choose a template rather than a blank document. You might have to select Personal to find your template.

Sample MLA Paper

MLA 8th Edition Paper Formatting 

 

 

 

MLA Format Setup in Word 2013