Caleb S.
Caleb S.

MLA Format and Citation - Step by Step Guide

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Published on: Apr 20, 2018

Last updated on: May 26, 2023

MLA format and citation

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Is formatting your paper stressing you out so much that you can't focus on your research?

Formatting can be a real pain, and if you get it wrong, your professor will dock points. If you've ever struggled with citing sources or formatting your papers, you're in the right place. 

With this writing guide, you'll not only learn the ins and outs of MLA style, but you'll also find examples and tips that will make your papers stand out. Let's face it, no one wants to lose points for improper formatting or a missing citation.

So, let’s read on to find out how to properly format your paper!

What Is an MLA Format?

MLA format is a style used mainly in subjects like literature, history, and language. It follows rules made by the Modern Language Association (MLA). These rules include citing sources inside the paper, making a list of sources at the end, and using in-text citations.

MLA format also has rules for how information should look in the paper, like font size, margins, and line spacing. It even has rules for using punctuation marks.

Following these rules is important because it makes your writing look professional and organized. This helps readers understand what you are saying.

It is entirely different from other formats as it is more focused on providing detailed references of the sources as additional information for the readers. It includes everything including in-text citations, endnotes, footnotes, and a bibliography.

Difference Between APA and MLA Format?

What makes it different from the APA style? Check the table below to understand.

MLA Format

APA Format
Used in Humanities subjects like Literature, history, arts, etc Used in Social Science Subjects like Psychology, Sociology, etc
Cite paintings, books, and other literatureUsed for citing science and technical work
Use the author’s last name and page number as referencesUse the author’s last name and year of publication as references
An integrated system of parenthetical CitationParenthetical in-text citations

General MLA Formatting 

The general format for an MLA paper should include the following elements: 

  • A page header at the top of every page. The page header is a shortened version of your paper’s title. It shouldn’t exceed 50 characters including punctuation and spacing. 
  • An appropriate title centered on the first page is typed in 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • One-inch margins on all sides of the page. 
  • A heading for the author’s name in the upper left corner of each page, including a page number in the upper right corner. The header should be half an inch from the top of each page and should include the author’s last name, a space, and then the page number.
  • Double-spacing throughout the document, including quotations of more than four lines and the Works Cited page. 
  • Indentation on all paragraphs except those following a heading or subheading.
  • Appropriate MLA format font size is typically 12-point - Times New Roman. 
  • In-text citations, including the author’s last name and page number in parentheses after a quotation or paraphrase. 
  • A Works Cited page at the end of the document, listing all sources cited within the text as well as any related research that was consulted but not directly cited. 
  • A title page is optional in most cases. 
  • Use easy-to-read fonts like Times Roman or Arial. Keep the font size at the default settings of your word or document processor.

You can follow these guidelines to ensure that your MLA formatted paper is correctly presented and looks professional.

Your professor or instructor may have specific requirements for formatting your paper, so always make sure to check with them before beginning your project.

How to Do MLA Format?

An MLA format is different from other citation and reference styles. Predominantly, it includes the author’s name and the page number of the citation source, the book, or the edition.

MLA Cover Page

Unlike other referencing-style papers and essays, an MLA-style paper does not have a separate title or cover page. The student writes his full name, his teacher’s name, the course title, the course number, and the paper’s due date on the first page as the header of the page. In case your professor asks you to make the title page separately, follow the below example.

MLA Format Header

Since an MLA format paper does not include a separate title page, it has a header or top heading on the first page. The heading, or the header, contains:

  • The student’s full name
  • The teacher’s full name
  • The name and number of the course
  • The assignment deadline

To make the right MLA header, follow the below instructions:

  • Type your full name and position it 1 inch from the left margin and at the top of the page
  • Beneath your name, add a double space
  • Add the name of your teacher
  • Add your course name
  • Add the deadline of your assignment
  • Follow double space throughout the heading
  • The title of the essay should be centered and in title case, with no additional formatting (no bold, underlining, or italics). 
  • Each page should have a header in the upper right corner that includes your last name and page number. 

MLA Headings and Sub-headings

Here's a table outlining how headings and subheadings are formatted in MLA format:

Level of HeadingFormatting
First-level HeadingFlushed left, Boldface, Title Case Heading
Second-level HeadingFlush Left, Italicized, Title Case Heading
Third-level HeadingBoldface, Centered
Fourth-level HeadingItalicized, Centered
Fifth-level HeadingFlushed left, Italicized

Follow the instructions closely and make sure that you add the correct details.

MLA “Works Cited” Page

MLA’s page of references is regarded as Works Cited instead of references. As of its latest 8th edition, you will format your MLA style paper references in the following way: 

  • Author’s name
  • Website’s title
  • Article’s title
  • Publication date (if available)
  • The URL
  • Place the name of the author in the reverse order
  • The last name first
  • Follow it with a comma
  • Then the 1st name is followed by a period
  • Use italics font for writing the title of the website
  • All entries are in alphabetical order

These are the latest changes in the said format. Here is an MLA Works Cited page example;

MLA Format In-Text Citation

The in-text citation is added whenever you add a quote or paraphrased content to your paper. How to do it correctly? In the case of one writer, add the last name of the writer in the parenthesis, like:


What to do if a website has more than one author? For two authors, take a look at the following example written in MLA format:

“Wadhwa, Vivek, and Alex Salkever. “How Can We Make Technology Healthier for Humans?” Wired, Condé Nast, 26 June 2018,”

Put the name of both authors in the parenthesis.

(Wadhwa and Salkever).

How to write MLA format in-text citations for more than 2 authors? Only include the 1st author’s last name. For rest, et al. will serve the purpose.

(Wadhwa, et al.)

How to Cite Quotes in MLA Format?

Do you use quotes in research papers?  You can directly quote or paraphrase them. However, learning the technique to use these quotes is important. The right way of doing it is to use them to support your claims and arguments.

Many students make the mistake of adding the quotes first and adding the arguments later. Your essay is your work and quotes should only be used to support and prove your claims, not the other way around. 

Do not let them eat up the majority and the main part of your paper. To avoid plagiarism and content theft, always cite the quotes whether you are adding them as it is or paraphrasing them.

You can cite the MLA format quotes in either of the following ways:

  1. Use the name of the person in the sentence.
  2. Add the whole quote and add the name of the person at the end, in the parenthesis.
  3. For larger quotes, use block quotes. For short quotes, you can add them with quotation marks.

MLA Format Book

Looking to cite a book in your paper? Citing a book is different from citing a website. For the citation, you will need the following information:

1.       Author(s)
2.       Publication information
3.       The book’s title

James, Henry. The Ambassadors. Rockville: Serenity, 2009. Google books. Web. 16 Mar. 2010.

The same MLA format is followed for each book.

While writing in-text citations, add the page number of the book with the name of the author like in the example below…

(Jones 134)

MLA Format Date

The date and year of the publication are added in an MLA format style. Besides, year and month, it may also include season.

Have a look at the example for a better understanding….

For example:

(27 Jan. 2018)
(Spring 2018)

If the month, year, and day are there, cite them all.

Citation Generator

Save time and ensure accurate citations now!

MLA Format Annotated Bibliography

Works Cited and MLA bibliography formats are not the same. A bibliography is a list of sources recommended by the writer for reading. However, the bibliography does not have a different referencing style or structure.

The only difference is that where the References or Works Cited only include the works that are used in the paper of the work.  The bibliography includes all the works that the writer has consulted or read when writing the essay or the paper.

An annotated bibliography is different from a simple list of References or Works Cited. Along with the references, the annotated bibliography also includes a critique of the reference. When making the said bibliography, you add the reference followed by a critique of the reference.

Often, an annotated bibliography is required before starting with the research paper. Professors want to see the sources that you are planning to use in your paper.

To help you understand and write a correct and proper annotated bibliography, follow the below tips:

  1. Every annotation should comprise 6-7 sentences.
  2. Each line must be double-spaced.
  3. When the list of citations is long, organize it by topic.
  4. Always use the third-person voice.

Annotated bibliographies demand critical analysis. To write a good and helpful annotated bibliography, investigate the author’s point of view, search for flaws, strengths, negatives, and positives, and explain how the original source is helpful for the research.

MLA Format Margins

What makes the paper look sleek and elegant? Margins! In MLA papers, 1-inch margins are used around the page. Word processing programs set the default to 1-inch margins.

If not, check the settings and locate the margin size.

Margins, headers, font, and spacing are the building blocks of a perfectly crafted paper in any format, including the MLA style.

MLA Format Website

To know how to cite a website in MLA format, learn from the below example:

“McNary, Dave. “Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter Returning for ‘Bill and Ted Face the Music.’” Variety, Penske Media Corporation, 8 May 2018,”

MLA Footnote Format

A footnote is a short reference placed at the bottom of a page that provides additional information on the text in question. 

Footnotes/endnotes follow slightly different formatting rules than regular in-text citations: 

  • Footnotes/endnotes are numbered consecutively throughout the paper 
  • A superscript number should be placed in the text right after where the source is cited, like this¹ 
  • The footnote or endnote itself should begin with a corresponding superscript number and then list all of the relevant information about the source: author, title, etc. 
  • All of the information should be formatted according to MLA guidelines 
  • All footnotes and endnotes should be placed at the bottom of the page they are cited on or at the end of your paper after any appendices or other supplemental material 
  • The text in each footnote/endnote should be single-spaced and not indented. 
  • This section should only appear at the very end of your paper and not before any other sections. 
  • When citing a source, you should use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) to number the citation and the note itself. The note number should appear after any punctuation marks like commas or periods. 

For example….

“They argued politics is discriminatory.6”
"The cause of global warming is still unknown.1"
  • If you are providing the full citation information for the source. All of the elements of a citation (author, title, publication details, etc.) should be included, and punctuation should follow MLA stylistic conventions. For example:
1. Sally Doe, Global Warming: What We Know and Don't Know (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2020), 22.
  • For multiple citations of the same source, you should use “Ibid.” followed by the page number each time it is cited. For example:

2. Ibid., 25. 

  • Finally, if two or more notes have the same number, use a lowercase letter to distinguish between them like..  (1a, 1b). 

However, instead of numbering each note individually, they can be listed together in a section at the end of your paper titled “Endnotes” or “Notes.” 

MLA Research Paper Format

Literature, history, and other humanities subject's research papers are mostly written in MLA format.

Since these subjects are more detail-oriented and MLA allows the students and researchers to present their cited works in detail, they prefer this format.

Correct formatting will definitely affect your grades and help you earn your teacher’s appreciation. However, before you start, we have added some helpful MLA research paper formatting tips below:

  • Use 8 ½  x 11” paper, white in color
  • Keep 1-inch margins on all four sides of the paper
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented one-half inch (1.27 cm). This is sometimes called an “indentation” or “hanging indent.”
  • Indent the quotations one inch from the left side of the paper
  • You can use any font that is easy to use but the most commonly used MLA format font is Times New Roman. To differentiate any text, use italics.
  • Use a 12-point font size for your paper’s font
  • Use double spacing throughout the paper including your Works Cited page
  • Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks

Correct formatting is necessary for a perfect and A-grade-worthy paper.

MLA Format Outline

MLA 8th edition does not have definite guidelines for the MLA format outline.
If the teacher asks for one, use:

  • Roman numerals
  • Lowercase and capital letters
  • Numbers
  • For suffixes, also use Roman numerals
  • Ramses III
  • King George IV

MLA Format Essay

Once you learn the basics, you are ready to write your MLA format essay or paper. Below are some helpful tips that will keep you on track:

  • The text must be double-spaced.
  • The font size for the MLA format should be 12.
  • Leave one space after punctuation marks or periods.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.
  • The 1st line indent of the paragraphs should be a half-inch from the left margin. Do the same for the subsequent line. (Push the TAB key for a hanging indent)
  • For titles, use italics throughout the MLA format for your paper.
  • In the case of endnotes, mention them on another page than the Works Cited page.

Don’t forget to watch this helpful video on MLA style essay format.

MLA Format Example

MLA style can be tricky to handle. The best technique is to follow the instructions of the professor. At times, he may give you some guidelines for proper formatting.
Have a look at the example below to get a better understanding.

Can You Use Abbreviations in your MLA Format Paper?

Abbreviations are mainly put to use in many source types inclusive of books, websites, posts, blogs, and journal articles. It is alright to use abbreviations in all of these sources. However, when it comes to school and research assignments the Modern Language Association suggests against using them.

Spelling out abbreviations into their full words and meaning is recommended. This ensures understanding and avoids any confusion. Instead of coming across choppy abbreviations, readers can follow the natural flow of the language in the paper.

Many students also use an MLA format generator or citation generator to generate their citations but that may end up causing more trouble than it’s worth.

Although using an automated tool may be simpler and faster, it can also lead to incorrect citations which are not something you want in your paper! So, getting help from an expert is a better option.

To wrap it up, understanding the MLA format is an essential skill. This guide has provided you with a thorough overview o the things to keep in mind while formatting a paper in MLA style.

So let our guidelines and tips help you and start applying them to your work today!

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, our professional essay writers have got your back. Our essay writing service has a team of experienced writers who are skilled in all research paper formats! 

So if you need help, contact to get essay writing help according to your specified format.

Hire the best essay writer online now to get your paper.

Caleb S.


Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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