The Basics of MLA Formatting

MLA formatting is commonly used in Humanities classes and is a very common method of formatting. While it does change periodically from edition to edition, most changes are minor and have little direct effect for most people.

In MLA formatting, there are several key formatting issues to be addressed. The first is that all margins of the paper should be 1″. That includes top, bottom, and both sides.

There is usually no title page, but there should be information in the upper left corner of the document that includes your name, the instructor’s name, the course name, and the date. The title would then follow, but be centered. In addition, there should be a header in the upper right side of all pages (you can Insert headers in most word processing programs) with your last name and the page number.

The entire document should be double spaced, from the very start all the way through the Works Cited page.

Key aspects to note for MLA formatting:

  • 1″ margins for top, bottom, right side, and left side.
  • First line of every paragraph should be indented by 0.5″ from the left hand margin.
  • Set-off quotations (quotes longer than 3 lines in length) should be 1″ from the left hand margin.
  • Font should be consistent throughout and easy to read, generally in Times New Roman.
  • Font should be consistently sized throughout at 12 points.
  • The entire paper from title page to works cited should be double spaced.
  • There should be one space after all periods and punctuation marks.
  • There should be a header on the first page with your name, instructor name, course number, and date on the left side. The title would be after this, but centered. Do not put a period after the title.
  • There should be a header in the upper right corner with your last name and the page number.
  • Use italics in the document for the titles of longer words. For shorter works, use quotation marks.

Section headings

In MLA, you would use section headings to separate portions of the document. These sections should be numbered. For example:

  1. The beginning
  2. The middle
  3. The end


Jenny Mark

Jenny Mark is a graduate of California State University of San Bernardino and lives in Southern California. She is a part time professor for Baker College, Southern New Hampshire University, Vista College, and Baker College. She teachs composition, creative writing, and essential college skills. Check out her blog at

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