Introduction to the MLA Format

MLA style is one of the most valued formatting styles within the academic community. Most educational establishments along with publishing houses require that writers adhere to MLA formatting when submitting their documents or publications. In general, this formatting style lays out how to reference literature both within the text of a paper and at the end of it, as well as provides an insight into the peculiarities of paper formatting for a publication. Though MLA is a quite prevalent style recognized in a range of disciplines, it is mainly used in the humanities.

This step-by-step guide includes two logical categories, i.e. formatting and in-text citations, as well as brief yet clear explanations along with examples for demonstration purposes.

Basic Formatting

The MLA styling guide says that the general formatting requirements are as follows: double spacing, paper of 8.5 inches by 11 inches, 12 pt. legible font (preferably Times New Roman). Additionally, requirements that are more specific include:

Title Page

Your personal information should be located in the upper left hand corner of the first page and consist of the following details: name, your instructor/professor, course, and date. The title of your paper should be two spaces away from the box with identifying information.

A header of your paper should appear on every single page and include your last name along with the number of a page. They should be separated by one space.


The top, bottom, and sides of a paper need to have a 1-inch margin. Indent each paragraph with a 1/2 inch left indentation. As for the header, it also has to have a 1/2 inch margin in relation to the top of the paper and be aligned to the right.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations (also referred to as parenthetical references) are a hallmark of such formatting guides as APA and MLA. These citations need to be added whenever you use outside sources whether in the form of paraphrase, summary, or quote. Throughout the text of your paper, these sources are marked by the author’s last name and the number of a page in the parenthesis. In addition, you should provide the details of every article, book, or other work mentioned or used in your paper on the works cited page. Note that if the author’s name is mentioned in the signal phrase or elsewhere in the paper, it is not necessary to repeat it in the parenthesis. See examples to get the hang of it:

  • As Johnson states, “The chances of women being discriminated in the workplace have doubled” (15).
  • The chances of women being discriminated in the workplace have doubled” (Johnson 15).

Website Resources

When referencing web sources, in-text citations should coincide with what is listed on the work cited page. Thus, references to online sources should similarly be followed by the author’s name, if available, in the parenthesis. Keep in mind that you do not need to indicate page numbers when citing web sources; the same concerns the URL address of a website unless it coincides with the beginning of the entry of this same source on the work cited page. For websites, in-text citations are comprised of the name of a website and its ending (for example, healthline.com).


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