MLA Format

1. What is the MLA format used for?

The MLA format is used for papers in the humanities, especially in literature and language studies. It was established in 1883 as the official format of the Modern Language Association of America. The last edition (8th) was proposed in 2016.

2. General guidelines of the MLA style

The standard paper size of 8 ½” x 11” should be used, with all four margins set to 1”. Each paragraph should start with a 1/2” indentation unless it follows a heading. Large quotations should be enclosed into blocks that should indent 1” from the left margin.

The MLA style also recommends using common readable fonts and a font size of 12. Each meaningful part of the paper, as well as the title page and the references, should be double spaced.

3. Structure of the paper

3.1 Title

In an MLA paper, a student’s personal data can be given either on a separate title page or on the first page of the paper as a header; in the latter case, it should be flush left. In both cases, the information is given with double-line spacing, and in the following order: student, professor, number of the class, and date.

3.2 Main Body

According to the MLA format, each page of the paper should have a running head, which consists of the student’s last name and the number of the page (without punctuation marks or “p” for “page”).

If the main body of the paper contains a table, there should be a title and an Arabic number above it (e.g., Table 1). The lines should be flush left and have double-line spacing. Under the table, sources and notes (if any) should be listed. Notes for tables are labeled with letters, so there is a difference between notes to the text and the tables.

Just as with some other formats, MLA avoids large explanatory footnotes or endnotes, though it allows them for short links to sources that might be useful to the reader. To make a note in the MLA format, put a superscript number next to the corresponding phrase.

4. MLA citation style

The MLA format citation is used both in the main text of the paper and in the list of references, which is called the “Works Cited” page. To cite the source in the text, the MLA citation guide proposes using the author-page system.

The last name of the author and the number of the page are enclosed in the parenthesis after the direct quote (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) or a paraphrase, with no punctuation marks between them or “p” for a page (e.g., Hawking 56).

The “Works Cited” part starts from a new page. The phrase “Works Cited” (with no quotation marks or italicization) is centered and used as a header. All lines except for the first one in each entry should have a 0.5” hanging indent.

The notional words in the titles of all sources should be capitalized. The titles of large works should be italicized, while the names of shorter works that are parts of bigger works should be in quotation marks.

The list of sources should be given in alphabetical order by the author’s last name (the first author if there are several). The first name of the author is written after a comma in full form and with a full stop after it (e.g., Hawking, Stephen.). If the author of the article or any other piece of information is unknown, such an entry should be listed by its title.

If the entry misses any details, they should be omitted. There is no “n.d.” for “no date” anymore in the latest edition of the MLA guidelines.

According to the MLA citation instructions regarding electronic sources, the DOI should be used instead of the URL where possible.

In a in-text MLA citation, the “p.” and “pp.” for pages are not used. They should be used in the Works Cited section if there is a need. If the cited piece of text includes several pages, a hyphen should be put between the page numbers.

4.1 Examples of different media citations

As a rule, any medium should include these elements:

  • Last name, first name of the author
  • Title of a smaller source (article)
  • Title of a larger source (journal)
  • Other contributors
  • Number/volume of the issue
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Location

Here is the MLA citation format for different sources:

Book: Hawking, Stephen, W. Title. Publisher, 2018.

MLA website citation: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Web Page Title.” Website Title, Publisher, 2018, URL/DOI. Date of Access.

Online journal article: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Title of a Journal Article.” Journal Title, volume/issue, 2018, page(s). Database or Website, URL/DOI

MLA citation of a lecture: Hawking, Stephen, W. Title of a Lecture. 2018, Location.

Newspaper from a website: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Title of an Article.” Title of the Website of the Newspaper, 10 Sep. 2018, page(s), URL/DOI.

Encyclopedia: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Article Title.” Encyclopedia Title, Publisher, 2018.

Online encyclopedia: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Encyclopedia Entry.” Title of the Encyclopedia Website, Publisher, 2018, URL/DOI

Films: Film Title. Directed by Stephen Hawking, performance by Albert Einstein, distributor’s name, 2018.

Magazine: Hawking, Stephen, W. “Article Title.” Magazine Title, volume/issue, 2018, page(s) or URL/DOI

Interview: Hawking, Stephen, W. (person interviewed). Title if any (if there is no title, “Interview” should be put). Albert Einstein (interviewer).

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