MLA Style: General Guidelines

Over the last couple of days, we have been looking at how to cite properly within the formatting guidelines of MLA—or Modern Language Association—style. Just to remind you, MLA is the style you will be asked to use when writing papers for classes that can be classified as humanities (i.e. history, English, religious studies). Today, to wrap up our three-part series on MLA style, we will be discussing overall formatting under the current MLA guidelines.

First of all, your paper needs to be double-spaced, in a twelve or eleven point legible font (such as Courier New or Times New Roman), and have one-inch margins on all sides. To most people, I know this seems like a given, but sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to mess up. Check these things before you even start your paper, that way you will be sure that the format is right.

Secondly, every paragraph must be indented five spaces. Most word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, do this for you, but check anyway. Also, and this is important, there should only be one space between sentences. This is different than in APA style, where there are two. Sometimes this is a hard habit to get into, but you can set your settings on just about any word processing program to show you your spaces.

MLA style, unlike APA, does not require a separate page for your title, unless your instructor specifically asks for one. Because of this, the first page of your paper should be formatted as follows:



Course Name

Instructor’s Name

Title of your paper (Centered, NOT underlined, NOT in italics)

Your pages must be numbered!!! The page numbers should be in the top, right-hand corner of your pages and start on the second page of your paper, unless you are specifically asked to start numbering from the first page.

Your paper should be written in third person. Do not say something like, “When reading Dr. Seuss, I felt like children could relate to his illustrations and rhyming syntax.” Instead, try something like, “The illustrations and rhyming syntax utilized by Dr. Seuss allows children to relate to his stories.” See this difference between the two? One sounds like an opinion anyone could have, while the other lays out the same thesis with authority.

Congratulations! We have officially made it through MLA style formatting! Happy writing!