Most professors ask their students to write papers using MLA format. This simple format, taught in a variety of high school settings, is classic – and easy to remember. We’ve compiled the seven basic rules of MLA formatting. If you can stick to these rules, you’ll never be marked down for formatting mistakes.
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- Include a separate citation page at the back of the essay. We just talked about your citation page, at great length, but we’re going to reference it one more time. If you don’t include a bibliography (or a citation page), you’ll lose more than a few points. In fact, your professor might refuse to grade your paper altogether. After all, the omission of sources is plagiarism. You could get into serious trouble for that. In other words, don’t forget your citation page. Please.
- Reference citations with a page number and the author’s last name. We’ll give you a quick example (Bondie 11). Did you notice how simplistic that was? In comparison to other styles, MLA is a walk in the park. Your in-text citation should include two parenthesis surrounding the last name of the author, followed by the page number (or paragraph number) in which the reference was found. In-text citations should always come at the end of a sentence, but before a period. This is extremely important. The citation is a portion of the sentence. It’s adding information. Make sure that information is included in the sentence itself, before the period that ends it.
- Make sure the paper itself is double-spaced. A single-spaced paper doesn’t fit the MLA profile. The intention is to make the paper easier for the professor to read – it also makes it easier for them to leave notes, as we’ve all learned. Don’t forget this rule. As a side note, you may want to try writing your paper in single-spaced form – then turn it into a double-spaced paper. You’ll turn a two page, tentative rant into a four page research paper in seconds. It works like magic.
- Use Times New Roman, twelve point font. Again, this is a basic rule for MLA format – probably the most basic, actually. If you mess up this part, your professor might not bother reading the rest of your paper. And if you dare to use Comic Sans, you’ll be sorry. Also, note that you need to make sure that your entire paper uses Times New Roman. That includes headers, footers, citations, and page numbers.
- Insert a page number and your last name in the upper right-hand corner of each page. There shouldn’t be a comma between them. Again, make sure these are both written in Times New Romance, twelve point font.
- Add necessary information for identification on the top left portion of the page. This should include your first and last name, the name of your class, the name of your professor, and the date – all on different lines, respectively. These four lines should be single-spaced, rather than double-spaced like the rest of the paper. Below this information, in the center of the page, you should include a title.
- Properly format your “Works Cited” page. You should use a hanging indent (create this effect by visiting your “Paragraph” settings). Your title should be centered. Your citation page should match the rest of your paper in terms of point size and font type. All of your citations should be alphabetized by last name (or subject). Also, in terms of most research papers, you should include at least three different sources. Your professor should specify per project, but you’ll benefit from maintaining a general rule-of-thumb number.