0.1) If you’ve been asked to submit a paper in MLA style, your instructor is asking you to format the page and present the content in a specific way. Just as football referees dress a certain way, and Japanese chefs cook a certain way, writers in certain disciplines follow a certain set of conventions. This document will show you how to format an essay in MLA style.
For the most complete information, check your campus library or writing center for the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 8th ed.
1. Document Settings
Your word processor comes with default settings (margin, line height, paragraph spacing, and typeface) that will likely need adjustment. For MLA style, you need:
|(Jump directly to instructions for adjusting MS-Word settings in Windows or Mac; or, skip ahead to 2) Page Header.)|
1.1 Adjusting Document Settings in MS-Word (Windows)
My copy of Microsoft Word for Windows defaults to
- 1-inch margins all around
- 1.15 line height
- 10pt spacing between paragraphs
- Calibri 11-point typeface.
Changing to MLA Style (Windows)
- The default margins in my test run were fine, but if you need to change them:
Page Layout -> Margins -> Normal (1-inch all around)
- The default line height is too low. Change it to 2.0.
Home -> Line Spacing -> 2.0.
(You could try fudging it to 1.9 or 2.1 to meet a page count, but any more than that and your instructor may notice.)
- The MS-Word default adds extra space after paragraphs.(MLA Style instead requires you to signal paragraph breaks by indenting the first line.)
CTRL-A (select all your text)
Home -> Line Spacing -> Remove Space After Paragraph
- Change the typeface to Times New Roman 12-point.
Home-> Font Face Selector (change to Times New Roman)
Home -> Font Size Selector (change to 12)
1.2 Adjusting Document Settings in MS-Word (Mac)
My copy of Microsoft Word for Mac defaults to
- 1.25 inch left and right margins, 1 inch top and bottom
- 1.0 line height
- no extra spacing after paragraphs
- Cambria 12-point typeface
Changing to MLA style (Mac)
- In my test run, the left and right margins are too big. To change them:
Layout -> Margins -> Normal (1-inch all around)
- The default line height is too low. Change it to 2.0.
Home -> Line Spacing -> 2.0
- My Mac copy of MS-Word does not add extra spaces after paragraphs. If yours does:
Home -> Line Spacing -> Line Spacing Options… (a new window will pop up)
Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style (check this box) -> OK
- The 12-point Cambria will probably be fine, but to change the typeface:
Home -> Font Face Selector (change to Times New Roman)
Home -> Font Size Selector (change to 12)
2. Page Header
In the top right of every page, use your word processor’s “Page Header” function add an automatic page number and your surname.
2.1 Adding the Page Header in MS-Word (Windows)
- Insert -> Page Number -> Top of Page -> (choose the right-justified “Plain Number” option)
- The cursor will jump automatically to the right place for you to type your surname.
- Click anywhere in the body of the paper to exit the header area.
2.2 Adding the Page Header in MS-Word (Mac)
- Insert (in the top menu) -> Page Numbers… -> (Set “Position” to “Top of Page (header)” and “Alignment” to “Right”)
- Click just to the left of the new page number, and type your surname.
- On my test document, my name was too far over to the left; grab the triangular tab adjuster just above your name, and drag it a notch to the right.
3. Title Block
In the upper left corner, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number and section, and today’s date. Centered on the next line, type an informative title that actually informs the reader of your main point (not just “English Paper” or “A Comparison between Hamlet and Macbeth”).
- Like all the other text in an MLA style paper, the title block is double-spaced.
- The title is in the same font as the rest of the paper — it is not boldface, or enlarged.
- There is no extra space above or below the title.
- A truly informative title will include the general topic, and your precise opinion on that topic. (So, if you pan to compare Hamlet and Macbeth, your title should state the unique point you want to make about Hamlet and Macbeth. Reuse part of your thesis statement.)
This handout presumes you already know why you should cite your sources (to establish your authority, to introduce persuasive evidence, to avoid plagiarism, etc.), These instructions focus on how you format the page. (For a resource to help you determine how to cite a specific source, see the MLA Bibliography Builder).
To fully cite a source requires two stages. The first happens in the body of your paper (the “in-text citation”) and the second happens on a separate page at the end of your paper (see “Works Cited List,” below.)
4.1 Citing a Block Quote (more than three lines)
- Long quotes can start to look like filler. Only use a block quote if you have a very good reason to include the whole passage. (You can usually make your point with a shorter quote.)
- If you do have a good reason to quote a passage that is several lines long:
- Select the text and click the “Increase Indent” icon (see image, right).
- Place the parenthetical citation (the author’s name and the page number) after the period. (This is different from inline quotes, below.)
- There is no comma between the author’s name and the page number.
- If the quotation runs across more than one page: (Wordsworth-Fuller 20-21) or (Wordsworth-Fuller 420-21).
- Skip wordy introductions such as, “In his informative guide The Amazing Writing Book, published by Elizabeth Mount College in 2010, the noted composition expert Maxwell Wordsworth-Fuller describes the importance of citations in MLA style papers.” Cutting the filler leaves more room to develop your own original ideas. (See “Integrating Quotations.”)
4.2 Citing an Inline Quotation
When the passage you want to quote is less than three lines long, use inline style. Here we have two brief passages, taken from the same page of the same source, so we can handle both with a single parenthetical citation.
- The parenthetical citation appears outside the quoted material.
- The period that ends the sentence comes after the close parenthesis. (This is different from block quotes, above.)
- In this example, we have changed the first word a little, lowercasing it in order to fit it into our own sentence. To let the reader know what we changed, we put  around it.
- Again, note the absence of a full sentence that explains who Wordsworth-Fuller is and where the quote comes from. All that info will be in the Works Cited list, so we leave it out of the body of the paper.
4.3 Citing a Paraphrase
Let’s imagine we want to reference Wordsworth-Fuller’s general idea about citation as a way to establish credibility, but we don’t need to include any of the technical details. We can save space, and make it much easier on our reader, if we paraphrase:
- Use paraphrasing for variety, or to make a passing reference without taking up much space.
- If we use an author’s idea, rephrased in our own words, we must still cite the idea.
5. Works Cited List
A research paper isn’t a research paper unless you end with full bibliographical details on every source you cited. This part can be tedious and tricky; leave yourself plenty of time to do it.
- Start a new page.
- MS-Word Wind: Insert -> Page Break -> New Page.
- MS-Word Mac: Document Elements -> Break -> Page.
- Title your new page: Works Cited
MLA style calls for no extra spaces above or below the page title; no special formatting.
5.1. How to Create an Individual Works Cited Entry
Exactly what goes into each item in your bibliography depends on what kind of item it is. The following pages give you some questions to answer, then let you push a button to get an individual works-cited entry.
MLA-Style Bibliography Builder: Create Works Cited Entries by Filling in a Form
- Article (in a periodical, or chapter; printed or electronic)
- Book (printed or electronic)
- Web Page (corporate web page, blog entry, YouTube video, etc.)
If you prefer a more narrative explanation, see Purdue OWL’s handouts for how to create a bibliography entry for a book, an article in a periodical (such as a journal or newspaper), or an electronic source (such as an email, web page or a YouTube clip). See also this list of other common sources (such as a personal interview or a movie).
5.2. How to Organize Your Works Cited list
Sort the entries alphabetically by the author‘s last name.
- If the author is an organization (such as a government agency or non-profit foundation), alphabetize according to the name of the organization.
- If you are citing a painting, or a composer, then obviously “author” has to be interpreted a little loosely.
- Unless your instructor ask you to organize your Works Cited list differently, everything should be alphabetized together, in a single list. MLA does not require that you separate works of different kinds, or that you cite works in the order that they appeared in your paper, or that you write annotations to go along with each item.
- Use double-spaced line height. (in my copy of Word, I select the text and choose Format -> Paragraph -> Line spacing -> Double -> OK.)
- Use hanging indent paragraph format. (In my copy of word, I select the text then choose Format -> Paragraph -> Indentation -> Special -> Hanging Indent.)
29 May 2011 — new document posted, replacing outdated handout written in 1999.
06 Jun 2011 — expanded section on organizing the Works Cited list, since several readers asked for clarification.
07 Jun 2011 — reorganized for emphasis
19 Apr 2012 — added numbers to more subheads
24 Mar 2014 — added details on Works Cited paragraph formatting.
02 Oct 2016 — updated with MLA 8th Edition details.
30 Nov 2016 — added annotated Works Cited sample image.
Related Writing Links
|Dennis G. Jerz|
Researched Papers: Using Quotations Effectively
If your college instructor wants you to cite every fact or opinion you find in an outside source, how do you make room for your own opinion? Paraphrase, quote selectively, and avoid summary.Dennis G. Jerz
MLA Works Cited Citation Builder
Choose a form, fill it out, and push the button… you will get an individual entry for a “Works Cited” page, which you may then copy and paste into your word processor. The BibBuilder is more like a guide than a full-fledged utility, but you may nevertheless find it helpful.
|Jerz’s Literacy Weblog|
Purpose and importance of essay title
An essay title bears great importance which is why a wrong headline choice can make or break the quality of the paper you submit. Why? The reason is simple, the title you choose has to intrigue your professor or other readers, make them want to start reading the whole thing to find out what you wrote and how you developed an argument (especially important for argumentative essay). That is why the words you use and how you craft a title is vital to the success of the entire work. While it is easy to assume that the text itself is the only thing that matters, to get positive feedback and a good grade, every part of your paper plays a big role.
The title is, in fact, the first thing your professor, client, or other readers see and your job is to get the “This seems very interesting” reaction, rather than “Oh God, this will be boring.”
Choosing a title that incents people to read your essay because they’re curious and want to find out more, also allows you to find a fertile ground to showcase your knowledge, wisdom, and writing skills at the same time. This is particularly important for freelance writers whose success depends on the number of people who open and read their essays, articles, and so on.
What are the qualities of good essay title
Before you start writing a title for your essay, it is always useful to know more about qualities that every headline should have. When you are aware of all characteristics of good titles, you’re bound to make wise decisions and complete this part of essay writing process successfully.
Since you’re, probably, wondering about the most important qualities the title of your paper should have, here they are:
- Eye-catching – well, this is obvious. Think about it; do you prefer reading content or academic papers with boring titles or you’re more inclined to opt for something with interesting, eye-catching deadline?
- Believable – most students and freelance writers make mistakes by trying to make their titles catchy in such a way they stray away from the truth, thus making the headline inaccurate or a complete, blatant lie. Nothing will anger your professor like a title that doesn’t deliver
- Easy to read – nobody likes complicated and difficult-to-understand titles, not even your professor. Stay away from strange phrases, complicated structures, even some uncommon fonts when writing your headline
- Active voice – if your title contains verbs, always make sure they’re in active, rather than passive voice. For instance, instead of Is regression of society caused by celebrity culture, you should write How does celebrity culture contribute to the regression of society?
- Brief – whenever you can, make an essay title brief. Long headlines are confusing and don’t demonstrate your skills for concise writing
- Accurate – regardless of the topic or niche and under no circumstances should you ever write an inaccurate essay title. You should give your readers a clear idea of what they’re going to read in an essay. Never try to mislead, that can only harm the overall quality of essay and your professor will not appreciate it
What are the components of essay title?
Just like argumentative or some other types of essays have their outline formula you can use to write a high-quality paper, building your title has its own formula too. Below are the main components of your essay’s title:
- A catchy hook – introduces the paper in a creative way
- Topic keywords – the “what” of your essay. This component identifies concepts you’ll be exploring
- Focus keywords – the “where/when” of your essay. Together with topic keywords, these are vital for your headline and provide more info that make it professional
Example: Buy Me a Date: Consumerization and Theories of Social Interaction in 21st Century Online Dating Sites
- Catchy hook – buy me a date
- Topic keywords – consumerism, social interaction, dating
- Focus keywords – 21st century
How to create essay title
Now that you know the importance of essay titles and qualities they should have, it’s time to learn how to create them. If you’re struggling with the essay title, don’t feel bad about yourself. Even the most prolific writers experience a writer’s block when it comes to choosing an ideal headline, from time to time. The writer’s block isn’t the issue here, it matters how you overcome it and create the title. Here are a few ideas that you’ll find useful.
Write essay first, title last
It may seem logical to you to create the title first and then write your essay, but doing the opposite can be more beneficial. In fact, most authors never start with the title. Of course, you may have some working headline in mind and it allows you to focus, develop an argument, and so on. But, writing your paper first will give you a clear idea of what to use in your title. As you write and then reread your essay, you’ll know what to say in the title and intrigue your reader. You’ll experience your “Aha, I’ll write this” moment.
Another benefit of creating title last is that you won’t waste too much time. It is not uncommon for students to spend hours just on figuring out the proper title for their essay. That’s the time you could have spent on research, creating an outline, or writing itself.
Use your thesis
Here is yet another reason to leave the title for last. Good titles offer your reader (or more of them) the reason for reading your paper. Therefore, the best place to find that reason is the thesis statement you’ve already written in the introduction. Try working the thesis statement, or at least, a part of it into a title.
Let’s say your thesis statement is this: “The American colonies rebelled against Great Britain because they were tired of being taxed, and they resented British military presence in their lives and homes."
To create a title, you may use alliteration “Tired of Taxes and Troops” or you can opt for “Rebellion of American Colonies against British Rule: Taxes, Troops, and other factors”
Use popular phrases and clichés you can re-work
Popular catchphrases that apply to the essay&39;s topic make eye-catching titles too, particularly when the phrase is amusing or creates an interesting pun. Besides popular phrases, you can also go for clichés and make some tweaks to re-work and adapt them to the topic of your essay and title itself. For instance: “Fit to be tried: The battle over gay marriage in the courts".
Of course, the tone of your essay plays an important role in creating a perfect title. If writing about a serious topic, then don’t be witty, silly, or off-the-wall with your headline. If your essay is a personal statement and even contains some anecdote, then you can go for a witty, yet intelligent title. Always make sure the tone of title and essay match. Bear in mind that even in witty titles, you should avoid using jargon. Also, don’t use abbreviations in your headlines as well.
Use quote or central idea
This isn’t a general rule, but it comes handy when applicable. Your title can feature a quote or a portion of it about the specific essay topic you’re writing about. If appropriate and relevant to the subject, even a part of song lyric can serve the same purpose. In instances when your essay is about a book, you can take a fragment of a thought-provoking quote from the book. For example: “Toil and trouble: Murder and intrigue in Macbeth".
Sum up your essay in THREE WORDS
This is a useful technique to create essay titles; all you have to do is, to sum up your entire essay or a thesis statement in three words and use them to build the headline, put a colon and then insert what your essay is all about.
The success of your essay doesn’t only depend on the argument you develop, research you do, the title matters as well. Most students struggle to find an ideal headline, but with a few easy tips and tricks from this post, you can forget about frustrations, save some time, and create a catchy and informative headline to intrigue readers.