MLA Format – A Complete Guide with Example

Introduction to MLA Format

We need to acknowledge people for their writings and contributions to the literary and academic world in order to work as an ethical writer and honor people for their valuable input. In order to achieve our target to give credit to the original writer, we follow some referencing styles.

Referencing includes mentioning all the sources consulted to write an article or academic essay as in-text citations as well as at the end of your work in the reference list or bibliography.

The referencing styles used today include Harvard referencing, Chicago referencing, American Physiological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA). In this article let us cast light on everything you need to know about one of the most credible referencing style i.e. Modern Language Association (MLA).

Definition of MLA 

The Modern Language Association is an organization which has designed the MLA format used for the purpose of referencing. This format was created so that students could use it to acknowledge the consulted sources while writing research papers, academic writings and college essays.

Example: Specific formatting for foot notes in the essays.

MLA Format

Headings in MLA Format

Everything needs to be formatted in a uniform way. As your piece of writing begins with a heading or title page. There is a specific format that is to be followed while writing the headings. Headings should not be in bold letters, italicized, capitalized or present in quotations marks.

They should also be placed in the middle of the page. If certain sources are used in the title so the writer should italicized them. A title case format is to be used as well which states that the first letter of the title, first letter of the last world should be capitalized. Double spacing should be present on the entire title page.

In order to achieve a professional look, the font size should be kept between 12-14 and the font style should be the same in the entire article and title page. MLA format prefers Times New Roman and Arial. Images should not be a part of the title page as it takes away the professional look and adds casualness to the title page.

Headings should also be written in descending order of importance. An MLA Formatted title page should include the following information:

  1. Student’s Name
  2. Professor’s Name
  3. Course’s Name
  4. Date

Page Numbering and Bibliography in MLA Format

On every page of a research thesis or project, a running head is placed which includes the author’s last name and the page number in the top right corner of every page. The page margins should also be set to 1 inch. Do not use any abbreviation, hyphen or symbol before mentioning the page number.

You can also use automatic generation of  page number for every page. At the end of the project, include a reference page or bibliography. It includes a list of all the consulted sources in alphabetical order.

Paragraph Formatting in MLA 

The first word present in every paragraph of the research project should be indented. Initiate every word from half an inch of the left margin. This can be done by using the tab key. Moreover, every paragraph should be double spaced as well.

There should only be a single space between every word of the paragraphs. The headings of every paragraph can also be given to increase the professionalism of the research project. Different paragraphs should also be numbered by using Arabic Numbers rather than bullets etc.

Certain paragraphs have sub-sections as well, in MLA formatting the writer should use a consistent type of formatting in the entire piece of work to avoid any discrepancy. Abbreviations of certain words can be mentioned while writing paragraphs.

Using Impactful Quotations in MLA Format

As quotations from influential people and experts can increase the credibility of a research project, almost all the writers try to include some sayings of experts of the field they are writing about. Quotations enhance the writing style of writers as it proves that writers have conducted effective and extensive research while jotting down a piece of writing.

Hence, the writers include many quotations through out a research project. As people might be familiar of the speaker of those quotations and also to achieve the status of an ethical and plagiarism free writer, a writer needs to acknowledge the original writer/speaker.

This can be done by referencing properly. In MLA referencing, the writers of those quotations are acknowledged by using in-text citations. The three ways to add a writer’s name are mentioned below:

  1. Including the original author’s name by stating that it was said by him. Example: Steve Jobs said, “We are here to put dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here” (5)
  2. Including the original author’s name at the end of the quote in brackets. Example: “We are here to put dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here” (Jobs)
  3. Footnotes are the least preferred way to acknowledge an author but still a writer can include the references in the footnote of every page. This can be done by including a superscript number at the end of the sentence which draws the reader to the footnote mentioned at the end of the page.


Another technique used in MLA referencing is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means to read a text and write it in your own words. In order to paraphrase the writer needs to conduct extensive research to gain in-sight and in-depth information of the original piece of writing.

After understanding the text completely, the writer should interpret and perceive it in his/her own words. This removes any chance of plagiarism from the writing. Even though paraphrasing removes plagiarism, giving credit to the author is still essential in MLA formatting.


  • Original Text: We are here to put dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here”-Steve Jobs
  • Paraphrased: Steve Jobs claimed that we were created to impact the universe in one way or another, otherwise our creation becomes useless.


This article shows the best possible way to acknowledge the sources used to write an impactful essay, academic articles and research papers. MLA formatting can be done by following the guide generated in this article.

As all this information can bewilder a beginner, he/she should only remember to write in such a way that it leads the reader to the original consulted sources. To attain this skill, just follow this guide and create a powerful and professional piece of writing.

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