MLA format is one of the citation styles used to cite external sources in professional and academic writing, including essays and research projects. Students must include an in-text citation with their corresponding work cited list for external sources. MLA style is an important guideline in the writing process for literature, language, liberal art, and other human subjects.

Read through this blog to learn the MLA formatting guidelines and specific elements that must be included to set up your MLA paper format easily.

What is MLA format?

MLA stands for Modern Language Association which is an organization that focuses on language and literature. Depending on the subject, your professor may ask you to format MLA style. MLA format is often used for literature, language, liberal art, and other humanities subjects. The most recent and updated version of MLA citation is the 9th edition.

While doing a research paper, you should make in-text citations in the body of your paper, which points your reader to the corresponding full source in work cited list. The in-text citation is a concise note directly after the idea you are citing. At the end of the paper, you should create a work cited list that includes all sources you referenced in your writing.

Examples of MLA formatting

Below are the most common citations followed by the formatting guideline and examples for both work-cited lists and short in-text citations;

  1. Book
  • Format

Work cited list: Author’s last name, first name, book title, publisher, year.

In-text: (Author last name page number)

  • Example

Work cited list: Olsen, Dale A. music of El Dorado: The Ethnomusicology of Ancient South American. Florida, 2002.

In-text: (Olsen 25)

  1. Journal article from a database
  • Format

Work cited list: Author’s last name, first name, “title.” Journal/magazine/newspaper title, publication information (volume, issue/number, year, pages). Name of the database, DOI, permalink, or shortened URL for an article in the database.

In-text: (Author last name, page number)

  • Example

Work cited list: Latartara, John. “The Timbre of Thai Classical Singing.” Asian Music, vol.43, no. 2, 2012, pp.88-114. Project MUSE,

In-text: (latartara 97-8)

What is MLA citing?

The modern language association standardizes how scholars document their sources and format their papers. When authors write sources the same way, it becomes easy for the reader to understand the sources used in a project and explore them. MLA citations are created to credit other sources you have used in your research or assignment.

You may place citations in the body of your project depending on the information you include in your work. In-text citations in MLA should have the Author’s last name and the page number. Reference entries in MLA should have; the Author’s last name, first name, the title of the book, edition, publisher, and year of publication.

Ultimate MLA format guide

The following are MLA format general guidelines;

  • Type your paper on a standard white 8.5 by 11-inch piece on your computer
  • Use a legible font, e.g., times new roman, with a font size of 12 points. MLA recommends that the italic and the regular type style contrast enough and are distinct from each other.
  • Leave only one space after periods or punctuation marks before the next sentence.
  • All text in your paper should be double-spaced
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph 0.5 inch from the left margin. MLA recommends using the “tab” key to indent the line.
  • Create a right-justified header 0.5 inches from the top edge of every page with your last name, followed by a space and the page number. Your pages should be numbered with Arabic numerals starting from the first page.
  • Use italics (rather than underline) to indicate the titles of longer works such as books or plays only when necessary. You should also use italics on words or phrases to provide emphasis though you should do it rarely.
  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your work cited page.
  • The first page of your paper should be double-spaced, even the header, just like the rest of the document. In the main part of the page, include your first and last name, instructor name, class name, and date.
  • The title of your paper should be centered and in the title case. It should not be bold, italicized, or underlined.
  • If you include subheadings, they should be bold and left justified, not indented or centered.

 MLA format essay

When using MLA format in your essay, you should know the formatting components and how to do them correctly. Citing your sources is a crucial component of writing essays, and it’s the only way to avoid plagiarism. The following are instructions and examples for formatting a paper;

  1. Header and titles

The headers of MLA format should be left-aligned on the first page of your paper and should include the following;

  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • Course name or number
  • The due date

After the MLA header, press ENTER and write your paper’s title. The title should be centered and with title-case capitalization. You can use a separate title page for an essay with multiple authors.

  1. Running head

You should include a running head at the top of every page, including the first page containing your last name and the page number. To set up a running head in a word document, you should;

  • Double-click at the top of a page
  • Type your last name
  • Insert automatic page number
  • Align the content to the right
  1. Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings can help you structure and organize your paper, especially in longer assignments. Headings in MLA format should be in title case, left aligned, and not end in a period. The heading font and size should be the same as the body text and in title case capitalization. Italics are appropriate for subordinate headings, while boldface indicates greater prominence.

  1. Tables and figures

Tables and other illustrations, such as figures, should be placed close to the relevant part of the text as possible. MLA provides guidelines to format them as follows;

  • MLA format for tables

Tables should be labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title placed above the table. The label and number should be bold. Below the table, you should provide a caption with information about the source.

You should include any explanatory note marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter indenting the first line of each message. Just like the rest of the paper, the table should be double spaces with title case capitalization of the title.

  • MLA format to figures

Figures in your paper should be labeled and numbered. Below the image, you should include a caption placed at the center. In the caption, abbreviate the label ‘figure’ to ‘fig,’ followed by the figure number and a period. Then, you can give full source information or just a basic description of the image (Author, title, publication year) in the rest of the caption.

  • Source information in tables and figures captions

If your caption includes full source information in the tables and figures, not in the text, do not include it in the reference list. You should give source information in a caption in the same format as a work cited list without inverting the Author’s name. If the caption includes basic information, you should ensure that the caption contains enough information with Author and title.

  1. Reference page

The reference page appears on a separate page at the end of your paper and should contain the sources cited in your essay. You should list all the courses you used in your writing alphabetically. In the center at the top of the page, place the title ‘work cited’, then press ENTER and insert your MLA references. All entries should be double-spaced and use a hanging indent for those longer than one line. 

MLA format essay example

Angela 1

Angela Bella

Professor Chavez

English 302

10th Dec 2022

Regular Use of Cell Phones on the Road

            Irresponsible use of phones on the road is irritating because they put our lives at risk. Drivers get distracted by dialing and chatting while driving, which results in weaving between lines (Hatcher 11). Regulations are needed because drivers using phones are impaired and laws on negligent and reckless driving are insufficient to punish offenders.

            Cell phones have caused traffic deaths and injuries over the years (Pena 34). Early in November, a two-year-old boy was killed by a driver distracted by his cell phone. His mother reported that the driver “ran a stop sign at 45 mph, broadsided my vehicle, and killed my son as she sat in her car seat”. Two weeks later, a corrections officer guarding prisoners was killed by a woman distracted by a phone call (Besthoff).

Bottom line

MLA format is one of the citation styles used to cite external sources in academic and professional writing. Students cite sources while writing essays to avoid plagiarism. MLA citations are used to credit other sources you have used in your research or assignment. Use this blog’s guide to write an excellent essay paper in MLA format.