MLA Paper Formatting

First, understand that your professor may have specific requirements that are different from what we describe below. If that’s the case, follow your professor’s instructions. Be sure to check the syllabus, as well as individual assignments.

As a rule, unless specified elsewhere, use Times New Roman 12-point, black font color, left justified, for your papers. Most papers will also be double-spaced, with 1/2-inch indentations at the start of each paragraph. There should not be extra spacing before and after each paragraph, which some word processing programs add by default. In Microsoft Word, you can remove that formatting in the Paragraph dialog box. If you’re not sure how to open that dialog, see Help for your version of the program.

Unlike APA formatted paper, there is no cover sheet or title page for MLA-format papers. At the top of the first page, to the left, list your first and last names. On the next line, add your professor’s name: Professor Mary Shelden, for example, or Dr. Jennifer Roudabush, depending on your professor’s preference. On the next line, list the class the paper is written for: UNIV 200, English 307, History 232. The next line should show the date in Day, Month, Year format: 12 September 2015. On the next line, centered, add the title of the paper.

Your paper should include a strong, clear title that indicates what the paper is about, and is also interesting to the reader. A common format is to use a short, intriguing title, followed by a colon (or a question mark) and a more descriptive subtitle. If you’re aiming to publish the paper you’re writing, also consider including common keywords that people might use when searching for a paper like yours. For example: “Strangers in Paradise: Griggs v. Duke Power Co. and the Concept of Employment Discrimination” or “Confucius at Walden Pond: Thoreau’s Unpublished Confucian Translations.”

Papers should also have headers on the top right of each page, consisting of your last name and the page number. Do not try to insert these manually! Once you learn how to use the header function of your word processor, it should be easy to use them. Each program works differently, but you should be able to easily figure out how using Help or doing a web search for instructions. Your friends, the writing center, and your professor should also be able to help with these matters if you have trouble figuring it out.

When you’re using quotations, if the quote is longer than four lines, you should use what’s called a block quote. These quotations are indented an additional 1″ from the left margin, and no quotation marks are used. See our sample paper for an example of how it should look. Note that no more than 10% of papers in UNIV 200 should consist of quotations, and this is a good rule to follow for most papers.

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