There are specific instructions one should follow when writing academic papers in MLA. They tell writers how to format papers in this style properly. By adhering to the provided guidelines, you will know how to organize references and cite sources.

If you use the MLA style in the right way, readers will understand that you are fully aware of the presented material. What is more, properly organized papers in MLA will prevent you from being accused of plagiarizing. You do know that plagiarism is intentional or unintentional use of other writers’ ideas, don’t you?

In case you are assigned to produce a paper in the MLA style, mind to follow the directions described in the MLA Handbook, 8th edition. Additionally, you should consider using the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition. You can get the former almost in any library or bookstore. In addition, the MLA Handbook can be found on the Internet.

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One can find detailed description on how to arrange different pieces of writing in MLA in the sources mentioned above. However, you can also follow the directions for formatting papers in MLA provided below.

Basic Instructions

  • Use a computer for typing your academic work. Then, print it off on common while paper 8.5 x 11 inches in size.
  • The text should be double spaced. Apply the font that will make your work clear, Times New Roman, for example. No matter the selected font, it is advised that the regular and italicized types clearly differ from each other. The font should be 12 pt. in size.
  • Make one space after a period or any other punctuation marks if no specific requirements are provided.
  • Set 1″ margins on all sides.
  • The first paragraph line is to be indented ½ ″ from the left margin. It is recommended to use the Tab button in opposition to the Space Bar five times.
  • Make a running head presenting the page numbers successively in the upper right corner, ½″ from the top right-aligned. Mind that you may not need to put the number on the first page. Remember to follow professor’s instructions to the letter.
  • Italicize the titles of lengthy works in your paper only if it is required.
  • The endnotes, if there are any, should be presented on a separate page before the “Works Cited.” Name the item “Notes” which should be centered but not formatted.

Arranging the First Page

  • Create a title page only if it is specified by the provided guidelines.
  • Your name, your professor’s name, your course, and date should be placed in the upper left corner of the page. Remember to apply double spacing.
  • Use double spacing and center the paper title. Avoid using italics, quotations marks, or underlining. The title is to be created in the Title Case and capitalized in a standard manner.
  • If your title makes reference to other sources, italicize it or put it in the quotation marks. For example, Romeo and Juliet as Ode to Love, Family Relations in “Great Expectations.”
  • A paper title should be separated from the first line of the text with double spacing.
  • Create a running head in the upper right corner indicating your last name and a page number (make a space between these items). Use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). Place numbers ½ ″ from the top aligned to the right. (Attention: you may not need to create the running head including your last name and page number on the first page. Organize the paper according to professor’s specifications.)

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Section Headings

Section headings are sometimes used to make the paper easy to read. Such sections may comprise specific units or any other entitled items of a paper.

Arranging Essays

According to the MLA, the sections your paper consists of should be numbered with Arabic numbers followed immediately by a period. Then, make a space and present the section name.

  1. The Main Discoveries of the Century
  2. Animals and Plants
  3. Sea Inhabitants
  4. Endangered Species

Organizing Book Headings

There are no clear instructions on formatting book headings in MLA. In case there is only one level of section headings (it means that all section headings are parallel and noticeable without any extra divisions), all of them should be organized in the same way in terms of grammar. For example, if you intend to create brief headings, make sure all the headings within your paper are presented in the same way, meaning all of them are brief and not written in complete sentences. Note that you may format the headings in your own way. However, ensure all the headings in your work are arranged according to the chosen style.

In case of several levels of headings, (e.g. some of the paper parts include their own sections), you may give your professor a concise commentary on the selected heading level and the way it is formatted in.

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Section Headings: Examples

Examples of section headings presented below can be used as a model only. It is up to you to decide what type of formatting to apply to your section headings.


  1. Water Sports
  • Swimming
  • Diving
  1. Air Sports
  2. Indoor Sports

Not numbered, formatted:

  • Level 1 Heading: bold, left-aligned
  • Level 2 Heading: italicized, left-aligned
  • Level 3 Heading: centered, bold type
  • Level 4 Heading: centered, italicized
  • Level 5 Heading: underlined, left-aligned


Turabian Style Formatting