The MLA Writing Format

Posted by admin on September 9, 2007 in Uncategorized |

The Modern Language Association (MLA) developed the MLA style as guide for formatting, writing, and referencing research and scholarly papers. There are currently two official guides published by the MLA:

• MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: Recommended for high school and undergraduate college students.
• MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing: Recommended for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.

Formatting Your Page

General Guidelines
• Output: Typed or a printout documents on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
• Margins: Set margins to one-inch all around.
• Line spacing: Double-space line within paragraphs and between paragraphs.
• Font: Use Times New Roman or Courier font faces.
• Paragraphs: Indent the first line of a paragraph one half-inch using five spaces or the tab key from the left margin.
• Character spacing: Enter one space after periods and other punctuation marks.
• Page numbering: Place at upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from top margin. Format page numbers using last name followed by page number.
First Page Guidelines
• Heading: Place at upper left-hand corner. List name, instructor’s name, the course, and the date
• Title: Center the title and use title case

Common Writing Mechanics


• Names of places: Spell out all names of countries, states, counties, provinces, territories, bodies of water, mountains.
• Acronyms: Define acronyms the first time they are used unless the acronym is used as a common word. For example, FBI and IRS.
• Latin abbreviations: Write out the English equivalent if it is not a commnly used form. Common forms acceptable are: et al. (et alii, and others), e.g. (exampli gratia, for example), etc. (et cetera, and so forth), i.e. (id est, that is), and N.B. (nota bene, take careful note).


Title or Subtitle

• Capitalize the first word and the last word.
• Capitalize all principal words.


• Capitalize the first word.
• Capitalize the first word after a colon.
• Capitalize all proper nouns.


• Place a word or phrase in quotation marks if used ironically, or in a nonstandard sense.
• Place a word or phrase in italics if it is a foreign word or special term introduced for the first time.


• One to two word numbers: Write out numbers that are one or two words: one, ten, thirty-five, one hundred.
• Compound numbers: Hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine, and compound words beginning with a number (e.g., a five-fold increase).
• Fractions: Hyphenate the written form of fractions. For example, one-half.
• Beginning a sentence: Write out numbers or a date that open a sentence, or if possible rewrite the sentence.
• Symbols and Units: Do not mix the written number with its symbol or unit. Write out both the number and its symbol or unit: 5%, or five percent.
• Mixed numbers: Do not mix numerals with written numbers when referring to the same subject. For example, “Only 5 out of the 120 marbles were green.”

Bibliography :
• MLA Style Crib Sheet
• OWL Materials: MLA Formatting and Style Guide
• What Is MLA Style?

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