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What is MLA

The abbreviation MLA stands for Modern Language Association. This format was created for literature and language academics to format their papers and assignments uniformly. MLA has also been adopted by other disciplines besides language and literature. MLA formatting style is a consistent method for writing papers and assignments in an easily readable way.

MLA is an important writing style

Person writing on Computer

Why MLA was Created

MLA format was created in the late 1800s by college teachers who wanted to inspire the learning of modern languages in America at a time when classical languages were declining. Therefore, the format was established to see if it would encourage more students to learn modern languages.

MLA Versions

Since its creation, MLA has undergone various revisions to evolve with the present-day style of writing. Currently, the format is in its 9th edition which was released on April 2021. Some institutions, depending on their preferences, still use older versions of MLA formatting. However, the latest edition is considered the best. The latest edition is a handbook with updated methods of formatting a paper or an assignment in MLA. The manual has guidelines and standards that meet the 9th edition MLA. Primarily, the MLA formatting style is an organized way of presenting papers and assignments that are precise in their citations.

Basic Formatting Style

The MLA format has some unique formatting basics that identify it.

  • Use 8.5 x 11-inch paper
  • Use 12-point font in Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Begin each paragraph with a one-half inch indentation, and double-space all sentences.
  • Set margins at the top, bottom, and side to one inch.
  • Put full stops at the end of every sentence, and, as is customary, begin every sentence with a capital letter.
  • Binding: For hard copy assignments, it is preferable that individuals take instructions from their professors, but the commonly acceptable MLA binding involves using staples and paper binders at the top-left corner of the paper.

Other Reminders and Rules

The above list cites the basic rules of MLA formatting, but different tutors and professors may have their own preferred way of writing MLA papers. Therefore, it is imperative to inquire regarding the instructor’s preferred way of writing and using MLA. If they have no specific preferences, it is best to follow the primary MLA formatting method.

Headings and Title Page Instructions

The title page presents the essential contents that need to be included with clear details on who is writing, to whom the paper is addressed, when it was written, and the title of the write-up.

Title Page Formatting:

  • Centered
  • Double-spaced
  • Times New Roman font
  • Font Size 12
  • No page number
  • The first letter of each word should be in capital letters, except articles, coordinate conjunctions, and prepositions, such as a, or, the, and, of’.’
  • Contains details such as name, tutor’s name, the name of the course, and the date. These names and dates should be written on separate lines.

The heading provides a basis for the subsequent headers and sections in the document. An Example of a heading written in MLA Format is as follows;

Is The World Economy Risky: An Assessment of Globalization Today

MLA Headings Formatting:

  • Begin the first line 1 inch from the top-left of the paper.
  • Center-aligned
  • Written in 12pts font
  • Double spaced above the first line of the essay or paper
  • Level 1 heading should be bold, or aligned with the left margin
  • Level 2 heading should be italicized or aligned with the left margin
  • Level 3 heading should be centered on the page and in bold
  • Level 4 heading should be italicized and centered on the page
  • All headings must have content or text under them

Header and Page Number Instructions

The requirements for header and page numbers in MLA are quite unique. An MLA paper requires that every page has a page number on the top-right of the page with the last name/surname of the student. In order to successfully accomplish this using MS Office, students need to double-tap on the top of their first page. This action will partition the page into three different sections: the header, body, and footer. On the menu bar at the top of the MS Office screen, there is an option titled “page number.” Students should click on this option and chose a number that will appear at the right side of the header. Next, the student should input his or her last name/surname next to the page number.

In-Text Citations

MLA format helps in citing scholars and other publications

Books in a Library

In order to avoid plagiarism (presenting someone else’s ideas as one’s own original work), writers must use citations in their essays or work. A citation is an acknowledgment by an author that they have used another person’s work to build an argument or set forth a point in their research. For the in-text citations, MLA formatting prefers that the last name of the author and the page number containing the information be indicated in parentheses, for example (Author, 45). If there are more than two authors, the initials ‘et al.’ are used to indicate additional authors. For example, (Author et al., 56). It should be noted that these citations are put at the end of sentences, preferably in the body paragraphs of the paper rather than the introduction or conclusion. Another way of doing in-text citations is using an author(s) full names by placing it in a sentence and showing the page number in parenthesis/brackets e.g. According to Jack Robin, the world is slowly becoming a global village (29).


MLA formatting of quotations will vary according to the length of the quotation. Short quotations (four typed lines or less) should be enclosed with double quotation marks. Then, the author’s last name and page number should follow in parenthesis.

For long quotations, place the quote as a block of indented lines (each line indented) and do not include quotation marks. Then, the author’s last name and the page where the block of words was taken should be indicated at the end of the block in parenthesis.

However, it is important to note that quotes should be used sparingly in a paper. The use of quotes is advised for content that needs to be stated verbatim to avoid changing the original author’s meaning. However, it is advisable to paraphrase content and use quotations when it is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, block quotes can be used in a paper but should never end a paragraph. This means that they should help in explaining a point which is then explained in clear detail afterward to close the paragraph.


Paraphrasing is the use of another person’s work but in different words. It involves reading another person’s work and writing it according to your understanding. This form of writing also requires citations at the end of the paraphrased sentence. To effectively cite paraphrased work, the student should indicate the author’s last name and the page number from where they got the information. It is essential to note that paraphrased words do not need quotation marks. For instance:

Global warming is the increase in temperature in the Earth’s climate due to human activities (Author, 58).

Works Cited Page

The works cited page appears as the last section in a separate page(s), listing the bibliography information of sources used in the paper. This separate page should begin with the title ‘Works Cited‘ one inch from the top in the center of the page. The Works cited page includes sources such as books, peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, websites, newspapers, videos, chapters, etc. All the references must follow an alphabetical order from A to Z with the surname that starts with A being the first, and the last being the surname starting with Z. Next, the references are written with the following arrangement: Last name, Other names, (if there are other authors, then an et al.). “Title of Journal or article in Quotes.” The volume, series year and page numbers then follow. For books, the author’s name or names are followed by the title, publisher, and edition, and lastly, the publication date. These references should be double-spaced.


Newspaper or Online Article – Ambia, Casy. “End of an Era.” The XYZ Times, 29 September 2021, Accessed 29 September 2021.

Journal – Banks, Joly. “Economics and World Today.” International Journal of XXX, vol. 50, no. 7, 2021, pp. 2-30.

Book – Clinton, May. What is Life: The Springboard of the Earth. Publisher name, 2021.

Lesson Summary

MLA is a writing format for uniformly identifying language and literature papers. This method was developed in 1883 and has been in use since then. Other disciplines are adopting it, and it is widely used in universities and colleges. MLA is an organized way of presenting papers and assignments including citations, and, if applied appropriately, it is very presentable.

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