Cathy Aranda
Cathy Aranda

MLA Formatting Style | Learn with Examples

9 min read

Published on: Apr 1, 2024

Last updated on: May 2, 2024

MLA Format

Are you working on your MLA research paper? Do you find the formatting rules and guidelines difficult and overwhelming? Well, this blog is perfect for you!

In this blog, you will find a detailed breakdown of different rules in MLA for each section of a paper. You will also find examples that will make it easy to understand the rules and how to use them in your paper. 

So let’s get started!

General Guidelines for Formatting Papers in MLA

MLA format (full form: Modern Language Association) handbook (8th Edition) helps create consistent, professional, and clear documents. It is a commonly used citation style, in addition to the APA, Harvard, and Chicago, etc.

Here are the general rules you should follow to format your paper in MLA style:

Page and Paragraph Settings 

Here are the general rules about page and paragraph settings in MLA style:

Margins: Set uniform margins of 1 inch on all sides of your document. This creates a balanced, professional look.

Font: Opt for a readable font like Times New Roman, and stick to a standard size of 12 pt to maintain clarity and uniformity.

Line-Spacing: Double-spacing is mandatory throughout your document, including notes, quotes, and the works cited page.

Indentation: The first line of each paragraph should be indented by half an inch from the left margin, which can be easily set using the tab key.

Title, Header, and Page Numbers

Title, header, and page numbers are the first things that appear on your document. Here are the general rules for each of them:


Your title should be centered, capitalized, and in title case. It should also be positioned above the main text without underlines or italics.

Header and Page Number: 

The header in an MLA page is on the top right corner of each page with your last name followed by the page number.

Here is an MLA Format Template for a Header:

MLA header

Section Headings

If your paper is lengthy, use numbered section headings to improve readability. Here is what you should remember about different section headings in MLA:

First Level Heading:

They use title cases, are centered, and are bold. Use this type of heading for major parts like Introduction, Methods, Results, etc.

Second-Level Heading:

These levels of headings are italicized and aligned to the left. They’re used for sections like the Literature Review, Data Analysis, Limitations, etc.

Third-Level Heading:

These headings are centered and bolded. They are used for detailed parts like Research Questions, Findings, etc.

Take a look at this infographic for a better understanding:

MLA Heading Format

Tables and Figures

Tables and figures can help explain your points, but they shouldn’t break up the flow of your writing.

Here are some general rules you should follow:

  • Title each table or figure with a clear description. Start with “Table,” add a number, and then the title.
  • Place the title above the tables. Align it with the left margin, and use the same font and size as your text.
  • If you’re using data from other sources, you need to credit them. Add a note below the table with the source in parentheses.
  • In your text, refer to the table by its title and number to guide your readers to it.


When using direct quotes, you should cite them properly. Here is how you can format different quotation types. 

Short Quotes: 

For quotations that are fewer than four lines, enclose them in double quotation marks and incorporate them into the text.

Here is an example for a better understanding:

According to Jane Doe, "There's nothing a piece of chocolate can't fix" (45).

Long Quotes: 

Also known as block quotes, quotations that extend to more than four lines should be formatted as a block of text, indented one inch from the left margin.

Take a look at this example for a better understanding:

Jessie James eloquently describes the essence of chocolate:

"Chocolate is not just a treat; it's a celebration of life's sweetness. With every bite, we embrace the joy that resides in the simple pleasures. It's a confectionery symphony that plays on our taste buds, leaving behind a melody of happiness and contentment" (112).

Formatting Additional Material in MLA

Here is how you can format additional materials in MLA style:


In MLA style, abbreviations should be used sparingly. Common trends include:

  • Uppercase letter abbreviations: No periods or spaces, except in proper names (e.g., US, MA, HTML; C. S. Lewis).
  • Lowercase letter abbreviations: Use a period if the abbreviation ends in a lowercase letter (e.g., assn., conf., Eng.).
  • Time Designations: Abbreviate month names longer than four letters (e.g., Jan., Feb., Mar.).
  • Scholarly Abbreviations: Adhere to common scholarly abbreviations (e.g., anon. for anonymous, ch. for chapter, ed. for edition).


Here are the rules for formatting numbers in MLA style:

  • Spell out numbers that can be written in one or two words (e.g., one, thirty-six, ninety-nine).
  • Use numerals for numbers that require more than two words (e.g., 101, 137, 1,256).
  • Maintain consistency within the same category (e.g., in a list of ages, use all words or all numerals).

Look at the example below:


When including images such as photographs, maps, or diagrams, here is what you should remember:

  • Label images as ‘Fig’ (short for figure) followed by an Arabic numeral (e.g., Figure 1).
  • Provide a caption with a title or description.
  • Include the source of the image.

Here is an example:

Fig. 1. “An animated angry cat raising its paw, surrounded by flowers” Bing-AI

Note: The image above is AI-generated

Musical Scores 

Musical scores are treated similarly to images. Here is what you should remember:

  • Label musical scores as ‘Ex’ (short for example) followed by an Arabic numeral (e.g., Example 1).
  • Provide a caption with the title of the musical piece.
  • Include the source of the score.

Take a look at this example for better understanding:

Musical Scores in MLA

Ex. 1 Carl Orff, O Fortuna, 1936

Source: Virtual Sheet Music,


In MLA format, lists can be presented in two ways:

  • Run-in list: Incorporated into the text with a colon leading into the list.
  • Vertical list: Set off from the text with numbers or bullets, depending on the content’s hierarchy and structure.

MLA In-text Citations

Here is how you can add parenthetical citations in the text:

  • Include the author’s last name and the page number from which the information is taken in parentheses.
  • Place the citation at the end of the sentence, before the period.
  • If there is no author, use the title of the work.
  • If more than one work by the same author is cited in the text, include a shortened title for each work to distinguish them.
  • Ensure the in-text citation matches the entry on the Works Cited page.

Expert Tip

If you want to know about in-text citations, then check out this blog having detailed guidelines about MLA in-text citations

MLA Works Cited Page

Here are the general rules for citing your sources in MLA style:

  • Start your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper.
  • Maintain the same one-inch margins last name, and page number header as the rest of your paper.
  • Title the page “Works Cited” and center it at the top. Don’t italicize or put quotation or punctuation marks around it.
  • Align all citation entries with the left margin.
  • Double-space all citations, but don’t add extra spaces between them.
  • Use a hanging indent for lines after the first in each citation entry.
  • List page numbers efficiently and use a period at the end of each citation.

Examples of Different Citations in MLA

Here are the citation examples of different types of sources in MLA:

Citing a Book:

Jane, Eve. The History of Chocolate and Milk Combo. ChocolateFactory, 2020.

Citing a Journal Article:

Jones, Mary. “The Effects of Chocolate on Your Health.” Journal of Chocolate, vol. 15, no. 3, 2021, pp. 123-45. 

Citing a Website:

Jamie, James. “How to Make Chocolate Lava Cake.” James’ Cooking Blog, 15 Feb. 2021, Accessed 17 July 2022.

Here is an MLA format sample of a Work Cited list:

MLA Work Cited Page

Proofreading and Editing Your Paper

Now that you know how to format and cite the material, it is important to remember the most important step before submitting your paper:

Here is how you can proofread and edit your paper:

Consistency: Check for consistent use of font, margins, and formatting as per MLA guidelines.

Grammar and Punctuation: Look for grammatical errors and proper punctuation.

Verify Citations: Verify that all in-text citations and Works Cited entries are formatted correctly.

Outside Review: Have someone else review your work for an objective assessment.

Professional Tools: Consider using online tools such as paraphrasing or content improvement tool for additional help.

Say Goodbye to Citation Problems with’s Citation Machine

Do you want to save time citing your sources accurately? Try out our MLA citation machine today and let go of the hassle. 

Just enter the details of your source and get your citation formatted according to the latest MLA guidelines. Yes, it is that easy!

Our citation machine is reliable, user-friendly, and free. Try it today and see the difference.

Note: All information given in this article about the MLA Style Referencing has been obtained from the official manual, that can be accessed at:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a title page in MLA format?

No! In MLA style, a title page is usually not required for your paper. Instead, MLA recommends including a header on top of your page. However, if your professor asks you to include a title or if your paper is a group project, then create a separate title page.

Are Footnotes used in MLA?

In MLA style, footnotes aren’t typically used. However, you can still use footnotes or endnotes in MLA style for other purposes, such as:

  • Providing any extra explanation needed about your citation or translation practice
  • Elaborating on ideas
  • Providing additional examples that don't fit into the main text
Cathy Aranda


Cathy Aranda (Mass communication)

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

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