MLA Writing Guidelines: How to Follow the Correct Essay Format

The MLA format is a writing style that is commonly used when working within the humanities and liberal arts fields. It presents formatting guidelines for writers dealing with essays or other types of reports. It’s important that a person who chooses this format stay consistent throughout and doesn’t switch to another style at any point. Here is a simple guideline showing you how to correctly follow MLA style when writing an essay:

Paper Size and Margins

Your MLA format paper should be printed on good quality, white 8” x 11” inch paper. The margins should be 1” inch all the way around. This margin space is standard in most academic writing as it allows for reviewer or editor comments in an easy to read format.

Font Size and Typeface

Your paper should be 12-pt font throughout. Headers and sub-headers can be the lone exemptions, but this is largely a stylistic choice and not necessary. The typeface should be legible, preferably one that is sans serif (Arial or Calibri). When you select your font be sure that you check that the regular and italic forms of the font are significantly different enough from one another.

Paragraph Line Spacing

Line spacing is pretty simple in this format, requiring that you use double-space throughout. This goes for the title and the space between each body paragraph. Avoid adding extra “stylistic” spacing after headers and the title. Also be mindful of having just a single space after each sentence period.

Textual Indentation

At the beginning of each paragraph add about half an inch from the left margin. This should be equal to about 5 spaces and can usually be put in by simply pressing the tab key on most word processing programs. Using the tab key can also ensure consistency throughout the essay.

Pagination and Ordering

Use a header to number all of your pages, preferably on the upper right hand corner of your essay. The header should be placed exactly half an inch from the top, flushed with the right margin. Double-check with your instructor to be sure there aren’t any special instructions. Use a number on every and stick with Arabic numerals.

Endnotes and Works Cited

Finally, your endnotes, if you have any, should be placed on a separate page immediately following the main portion of your text and preceding the works cited page. Your works cited page should include complete citation information for every resource material you borrowed from.




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