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MLA Citation, 8th ed.: Formatting Your Paper

Designed to provide a basic understanding of the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation and writing style. MLA is commonly used for writing in the Arts and Humanities.

General Guidelines

Remember: These are just general guidelines. Your instructor may provide specific instructions on margins, fonts, and other formatting. 

  • Margins: 1 inch on all sides.
  • Font: Use 12 pt. serif font (e.g., Times New Roman). Regular and italic styles should be distinct.
  • Spacing: Double-space the text of your paper. Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks. 
  • Paragraph Breaks: Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin. 
  • Page Numbers: Number all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin.
  • Italics: Use italics throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, to provide emphasis.
  • Endnotes: If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Title the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout the paper, including the first page. 
  • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list:
    • your name
    • your instructor's name
    • the course
    • the date
  • Double space between the date and the paper title.
  • Center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
  • Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text:
         Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play
         Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
  • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin.

Section Headings

Writers sometimes use Section Headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.

MLA recommends that when you divide an essay into sections that you number those sections with an arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.

  1. Early Writings
  2. The London Years
  3. Traveling the Continent
  4. Final Years

Sample Section Headings

The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.

Numbered:

1. Soil Conservation
1.1 Erosion
1.2 Terracing
2. Water Conservation
3. Energy Conservation

Formatted, unnumbered:

Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left

Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left

     Level 3 Heading: centered, bold

     Level 4 Heading: centered, italics

Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left

Work Cited Page

Formatting the Works Cited Page

  • Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper.
  • Label the page Works Cited (do not italicize the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
  • Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.
  • Indent the second and subsequent lines of citations by 0.5 inches to create a hanging indent.

Formatting Citations

  • List page numbers of sources efficiently. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as 225-50. Note that MLA style uses a hyphen in a span of pages.
  • If you're citing an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form but that you retrieved from an online database, you should type the online database name in italics. You do not need to provide subscription information in addition to the database name.
  • For online sources, you should include a location to show readers where you found the source. Many scholarly databases use a DOI (digital object identifier). Use a DOI in your citation if you can; otherwise use a URL. Delete “http://” from URLs. The DOI or URL is usually the last element in a citation and should be followed by a period.
  • All works cited entries end with a period.
  • Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc, but do not capitalize articles (the, an), prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title or subtitle: Gone with the Wind, The Art of War, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
  • Use italics (instead of underlining) for titles of larger works (books, magazines) and quotation marks for titles of shorter works (poems, articles).

Listing Author Names

Entries are listed alphabetically by the author's last name (or, for entire edited collections, editor names). Author names are written last name first; middle names or middle initials follow the first name:

Burke, Kenneth
Levy, David M.
Wallace, David Foster

Do not list titles (Dr., Sir, Saint, etc.) or degrees (PhD, MA, DDS, etc.) with names. Do, however, include suffixes like "Jr." or "II." Suffixes appear after the first or middle name, separated by a comma: 

A work by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be cited as King, Martin Luther, Jr.

More Than One Work By An Author

If you have cited more than one work by a particular author, order the entries alphabetically by title, and use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every entry after the first:

Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. [...]
---. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]

When an author or collection editor appears both as the sole author of a text and as the first author of a group, list solo-author entries first:

Heller, Steven, ed. The Education of an E-Designer. [...]
Heller, Steven, and Karen Pomeroy. Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design. [...]

Work With No Known Author

Alphabetize works with no known author by their title. In this case, Boring Postcards USA has no known author: 

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulations. [...]
Boring Postcards USA. [...]
Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]

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