Guide on Writing an Essay in MLA Format

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is the organization responsible for developing the MLA format. It was developed as a tool that allows researchers, students, and scientists in the field of literature and language to use a single way to format their work and assignments. This unified or consistent method for developing an article or assignment makes it easy to read. Today, MLA is used not only in literature and language subject areas; many others also accepted it.

MLA Heading & Title Page Instructions

  1. An MLA format heading can be placed at the top of the first page, or,
  2. A title page can grace the front of the assignment. If you choose to create a title page, keep in mind that there aren’t any official title page or cover page guidelines. See more information below.

If choosing option 1, creating an MLA heading, you’ll need to include four main components:

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  • Your full name
  • Your instructor’s name
  • The name of the course or class
  • The assignment’s due date

Title Page

Most scientific papers use the header of the standard MLA format. If your instructor requires you to create a separate cover page, ask for his or her specifications. MLA has no specific instructions for developing an MLA cover page. We recommend using the MLA headline for your essay.

If your teacher or professor requires a standalone title page but has not provided any guidance or specifications, here are a few suggestions:

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  1. Place the title of the assignment in the center of the page.
  2. Use italics for the titles of any sources in the title of your paper.
  3. The title should be written in title case form.
  4. Add the same information from the header (your name, the name of your instructor, the name of the course or class, and the assignment’s due date) and center the information in the middle of the paper below the title. 
  5. Double-space the entire page.
  6. Keep the font size at 12 pt., or a size close to it, to make it look professional.
  7. Use the same font as the text of the paper. The Modern Language Association recommends any font that is easy to read. Times New Roman and Arial are recommended, but many other fonts work as well. 
  8. Include a page number in the top right corner of the paper.
  9. We do not recommend adding any images or cover art to the title page. 

Margins

Use one-inch margins across the page. The running head should be the only object visible at a distance of one-inch. Most word processing programs automatically use one-inch margins by default. Check the settings section of the program page to determine the size of the field.

Paragraphs

Indent the first word of each paragraph. Proposals should start half an inch from the left margin. No need to manually measure half an inch. Use the tab button on your keyboard to create half an inch of space. As in all other sections of the assignment, paragraphs should be separated by double spacing.

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Quotations

Quotes are added to assignments to help defend an argument, prove one’s point of view, add emphasis, or simply revitalize a project. Quotations should not occupy much of your work or assignment. Quotes should be scattered throughout. Use direct quotes from external sources to improve and expand your own letters and ideas.

Spacing

The MLA research format requires that an entire scientific article or essay in MLA format contain double-spaced lines. Between the written text of the work, double lines should be found in the title, as well as on the MLA links page. Although it might seem tempting to put a few extra lines between the headline, title, and beginning of the article, all lines should be double-spaced.

Punctuation

Commas: Use commas when it makes sense for individuals to pause while reading or to help with understanding.

Concluding Sentences: When closing out a sentence with the use of a punctuation mark, begin the following sentence after one space, not two spaces.

Quotes: When including a quote in your paper or assignment, place the period outside of the parentheses, at the end of the entire sentence.

Images, Tables, & Musical Scores

Photographs, data sets, tables, graphs, and other images are often added into projects or papers to promote or aid understanding. They provide meaningful visuals for the reader. If the illustration or visual image does not enhance the quality of the paper, do not include it in the project. Tables and illustrations should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.

Binding

Some professors or instructors will provide guidance on securing copies of projects. If your instructor does not give you any expectations or directions, a simple paper clip in the upper left corner is enough. If the stapler is not available, some instructors allow paper clips or folders.

Do not fold the upper left corner down to fasten the pages together. The page can easily turn around, which will lead to confusion of papers. Although the bindings and plastic holders are nice, they are actually of great benefit to the professor or instructor, who may want to take the papers home for evaluation. Keep the binding simple and clean. Paper clips work better, and paper clips and paper clips are the next best option.

As always, follow any instructions your professor or teacher may provide. The guidelines found here are simply recommendations.

Edits and Proofreading

Editing and proofreading your assignment prior to submission is an incredibly important step in the research process. 

Editing involves checking the paper for the following items: spelling, grammar, punctuation, attribution.

Good luck, guys!

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