General MLA Formatting Guidelines

Note: If your instructor has his or her own requirements, follow them. These guidelines are the most commonly required.

Click here to see a sample.

1. Use Times New Roman or a similar font, 12 point in size with standard 2.54 cm ( 1 inch) margins.  Avoid decorative fonts.

2. Double-space throughout the essay, including for block quotations and the list of works cited.

3. When beginning a new paragraph, indent five spaces. Keep the text alignment to the left.

4.  MLA style no longer calls for a title page, but some professors still will ask for one. If not including a  title page, on the first page, at the top left margin, put the following:    your name on the first line, your instructor's name on the next line, the course name and number  on the third line, and finally, the due date. Double-space and then put your title, centred. Double-space and begin the essay. See a sample.

5. Don't underline, italicize, or bold the title, and it is not necessary to put it in quotation marks or in block capitals.

6. The rules for capitalization of titles are as follows:

  • Capitalize the first word, the last word, a word following a colon,    and  all principal words: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, subordinating conjunctions.

  • Don't capitalize the following parts of speech when they fall in the middle of a title: articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, "to" in an infinitive, such as to go, to sleep, to believe. For example of nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc, see here.                                         

7. Number all pages at the top right corner, except the title page if you have one. You don't need p or pp, or any punctuation following the number. You may include your last name before each page number as a precaution against lost pages: (Bealey 4). Microsoft Word will save you time by numbering every page and will let you create a running head of your name and the page number.

8. Until recently, it was usual to print on one side of the paper only, and many professors still prefer it. Others allow or call for printing on both sides of the paper in order not to waste it.  

9. When submitting a hard copy, staple or clip pages together at the top left-hand corner. Don't bind or put the essay in a folder unless required to by your professor. Use only white, 8 ½  by 11 inch good quality paper.

10.  For electronic submission, follow the directions from your instructor.  Keep file names clear and relatively short by using your last name and date or course code, unless indicated otherwise.  Save your file in a standard format (.rtf is often best).

11. Don't forget to proofread carefully as well as running a spell check and grammar check. There are many differences among Canadian, American, and British spellings of some words, so choose your  preference (Canadian) and make sure your spell check is set to it. Be consistent throughout your essay. Don't spell the word "centre", as "centre" in one place and as "center" in another.

12. If, after printing, you find a few mistakes, write the correction neatly directly above the line involved, using carets (v) to indicate where correction go. If the mistakes are numerous, reprint the page.