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How to Format a Paper in MLA Style

When formatting your paper in MLA Style, you'll need to follow a series of rules that outline all aspects of the creation of the paper. Most people think of when trying to determine how to cite sources used as references in the paper. However, MLA Style includes rules for many aspects of formatting the paper beyond citing sources. Here are 15 formatting tips you should follow.

How to Format a Paper in MLA Style

Brian Scott is a professional freelance writer with over a decade of experience. He recommends using an MLA writing software to correctly write and format papers in MLA Style, available at http://www.masterfreelancer.com/mla-writing-style-software.php

When formatting your paper in MLA Style, you’ll need to follow a series of rules that outline all aspects of the creation of the paper. Most people think of MLA Style when trying to determine how to cite sources used as references in the paper. However, MLA includes rules for many aspects of formatting the paper beyond citing sources. Here are 15 formatting tips you should follow.

1. ALIGNMENT. Align the text flush left. If your word processor, such as MS-Word, has a “full justify” setting, which spreads the text and aligns it both left and right, do not use it. Leave the text ragged on the right side.

2. BINDING. MLA Style calls for binding the pages with a simple paper clip or spring clip. Do not use a staple or other permanent binding system, unless your instructor requests it.

3. ENDNOTES AND FOOTNOTES. You may use endnotes or footnotes, but they should only be used to further explain a term or a complex idea, beyond what you’re able to include in the main text. Endnotes and footnotes should not be used to cite sources. Save those for the “Works Cited” page.

4. FONT. MLA Style calls for a 12-point font size, along with an easily readable font, such as Times New Roman.

5. HEADINGS. Headings and subheads that break up the text are optional. Check with your instructor before using them.

6. INDENTIONS. You’ll need to indent the first line of any paragraph by one-half inch from the left margin. If you aren’t using word processing software, indent by five spaces.

7. ITALICS. You should use italics for titles of longer works. MLA Style also allows use of italics within the body of the text for emphasis of a particular word or phrase, but use such items sparingly.

8. MARGINS. All four sides of the paper — top, bottom, right, and left — require a margin of 1 inch. The only items that should appear outside the margins are the page numbers.

9. PAGE NUMBERING. Place the page number in the upper right corner of every page. Use Arabic numerals for the page numbers. The page number should appear one-half inch from the top of the paper and even with the right margin (1 inch from the edge of the paper). If you choose to use an optional title page, you should not number it. If you choose not to create a separate title page, instead including the title and other relevant information on the first page of the main text, you must use “1″ as the number of that page.

10. PAPER TYPE. Use standard, 20-pound white paper that measures 8.5-by-11 inches.

11. PUNCTUATION. Follow all standard punctuation marks with just one space, including colons, commas, periods, and semicolons. Some instructors still prefer the old rule of using two spaces after periods that end sentences. MLA Style does allow some flexibility in punctuation when the instructor requests a change from the standard MLA Style.

12. QUOTATION BLOCKS. Whenever using a quotation that will be longer than four typed lines, set the entire quotation block apart by indenting it from the left margin 1 inch (or 10 spaces). Double-space within the quotation block. You do not need to use quotation marks with a quotation block.

13. SPACING. You’ll need to double-space all of the text within the paper, except in rare special circumstances as directed by your instructor. All quotations, notes, and lists of works cited should be double-spaced.

14. TITLE. MLA Style doesn’t require a separate title page. You can include the information used for the title on the first page of the paper, and begin the paper’s main text on the same page. All text should be double-spaced on the first page. You can place the page number in the upper right corner. In the upper left corner, flush left and beginning at the margins, include your name, the instructor’s name, the course, and the date. Then center the text for the title, mixing uppercase and lowercase letters. If you choose to skip the separate title page, you can begin the main text immediately after the title text.

15. UNDERLINING. With the third edition of the MLA Style Manual, the new guidelines have eliminated the use of underlining. Now italicize all published works, rather than using underlining.

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