How to write an MLA format essay

Posted: October 12th, 2020

MLA Format Essay Writing Help

Writing and submitting essays is an integral part of college life. Writing essays helps a student develop essential skills, especially those learning languages and related disciplines. Also, writing essays enables the student to organize a writing method that passes information to the reader without any doubt. As a student, you cannot escape writing essays. However, you can always order an essay from essay writing service providers. Today, we will be discussing an MLA format essay.

There are different essay formats that a student will be required to use when writing an essay. The three common essay formats are APA, MLA format essay and Chicago. The preferred format depends on the course the student is undertaking. When discussing the APA format essay, we mentioned that it is commonly used in science-related disciplines. Shortly, we will dive into the fields which use MLA format essay.

You will find all the information you need to know about MLA format essay in our guide. At the end of this article, you will have gained knowledge of paper formatting, styling, and referencing using the MLA format.

What is MLA format?

MLA is an established system for documenting sources when writing scholarly documents. The system is published by the Modern Language Association, based in the U.S, and widely used across other countries such as Canada.

MLA format essay is common when writing these fields- English, literature, modern languages, humanities, and related disciplines. It is a standard writing style used for secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate schools.

How to Format Your MLA Essay

Here are general guidelines you must follow before handing in your MLA Format essay.

  1. Write your essay on a white 8.5 by 11-inch paper
  2. Leave a one-inch margin all around. That is at the top, sides, and bottom
  3. Ensure that the first word in each paragraph is indented at 1.5 inch
  4. All set-off quotations should be indented from the left margin at one inch
  5. Use an easily readable font such as Times New Roman. When using italics, make sure the reader can distinguish the italics from the standard typeface
  6. Use a 12 font size
  7. Use double spacing when writing the paper, even for the citation section
  8. Always leave one space after using punctuation marks such as periods. Not unless your professor asks you to double space after punctuation.

The MLA 8th edition is the currently used handbook. It was launched in April 2016. And it provides instructions on anything on Modern Language Association rules, citing, references, and guidelines for submitting MLA format essays.

Here is how to structure each section of your MLA format essay

  1. Header

 Follow these steps to create an appropriate header for your MLA format essay;

  • Leave a one-inch difference from the top of the page
  • Flush left
  • Write your name, the course instructor’s name, course number, and the date. Each of these details should be on a separate line, with double spacing in between.
  • Double-space, and write the title. The title should be centered.

Note: You should not underline or write the title either in bold or in all capitals. You should only italicize words that should be italicized. For example, Character Development As in The Great Walkby

Also, you shouldn’t add a period after any heading or after the title. You should also double space after the title, before the first line of the text. 

  1. Paper Choice 

The paper choice depends on your institutions and your instructor. Most professors require their students to submit printed copies, while some prefer electronic copies.

If your instructor requires you to print the paper, you should only use high-quality white paper. It is not necessary to use cardstock or off-white papers. An 8.5 by the 11-inch paper is the standard size. If you would like to use a different size, consult your professor before submission.

  1. MLA Title Page and Heading

When writing an MLA format essay, you have two options. You can use an MLA format heading for the first page or use a title page. If you choose the latter, note that there aren’t any specific instructions regarding writing the title page.

However, if you choose to use a heading, it should comprise of four main components;

  • Your name in full
  • The name of the instructor
  • Course title, name, or code
  • The due date for the assignment

This is how your paper should appear with the above details

MLA format essay title page

Like we stated earlier, you should leave a one-inch margin on all sides. Thus, your name should be at a one-inch distance from the top and one inch from the page’s left margin.

Once you have written your name, leave a double space, and write your professor’s name. Double-space and add in details of the course, and below it, double space and include the due date of the assignment.

Most papers use a heading format, the one we have discussed above. However, some instructors may request their students to use a standalone title page. In this case, you should ask your professor for specifications. In case none are provided, use these specifications;

  • Center align the title without adding unnecessary punctuation marks such as quotations
  • Use italics when writing the title of any source. For instance: A Complete Analysis of the Characters in Harry Potter
  • Use Title Case to write the heading
  • Include the same information which you include in a header- your name, followed by the course instructor’s name, etc.
  • Double-space the page
  • Make the title and the entire paper appear professional by using TMN, font size 12
  • Ensure that the first page has a page number. The number should be at the topmost right corner

We strongly discourage any student from using an image or art for their title page.

  1. Page numbers and the Running Head

A running head refers to a brief heading that appears at the top right corner on each page of your essay. The running head is a short version of the title. MLA format essay guidelines state that a running head should include a page number and the surname of the paper’s author.

For example;

Jackson 8

MLA format essay page header

It should be 0.5 inches from the top and be spaced an inch from the margin’s right side.

When writing a page number, refrain from using the name “page” before the number. Instead, use an abbreviation such as pg. or p. as a prefix for the page number.

Note: Most instructors do not want students to add a page number on the first page. Therefore, if the instructor did not mention anything about the page number appearing on the first page, it is necessary to consult them.

Also, the running head begins to appear on the second page. However, some professors require the students to include the running head from the first page. You should always follow your professor’s guidelines.

For easy formatting of your MLA essay, we recommend checking if your word processor can manually add these specifications. If you are using Google Docs, here is how to add a header;

  • Go to the menu, and select “insert.”
  • Find “page numbers” and choose the option that adds the page number on the topmost right corner
  • A page number will show
  • Move the cursor to the left side of the page number
  • Type your surname and add a space
  • You will now have a page header for each page

how to add page header when using Google Docs

If you are using Microsoft word, here is how to add a header

  • Go to the menu bar, and click on “Insert.”
  • Select “page numbers” and choose the option that adds the page number on the topmost right corner
  • Double click the location of the page number, or manually click “header” and choose “edit header.”
  • Type your surname
  • You have a well-formatted header for each page of your paper 
  1. Quotations

Quotes are added to a scholarly document to add emphasis, prove a point, defend an argument, or liven up the essay. An MLA format essay shouldn’t have too many quotes. Instead, quotations should be sprinkled sparingly to expand your writing ideas or sources.

Words placed in quotes should be direct words as written or spoken by a third party. After the quote, you should credit the author by adding an in-text citation.

There are three ways in which you can add quotes;

  1. By including the name of the author in the sentence.

For example;

Anne Morris shares her opinion about it and says, “According to me, the characters did fit the context but..”

  1. By omitting the name of the author

For example;

The editor shares her opinion about it when she states, “To me, the characters did fit the context but..

3. Writing it as a block quote when quoting four or more lines.


Use of footnotes and endnotes

 MLA promotes the use of references. However, the use of both footnotes and endnotes are acceptable. The two can be quite helpful in different circumstances such as;

  • When referring to different sources, which are written by different authors. It will be necessary to use endnote or a footnote to share the information. It will encourage your reader to remain focused on going through your paper, other than first having to go through your referencing information.
  • When you are sharing some additional information with your reader, which doesn’t fit your paper’s title but is beneficial to your reader, in this case, footnotes and endnotes will come in handy to explain translations, share background information, and counterexamples to research.

Here is a guide to help you add footnotes;

how to add footnotes

If you need to use endnote or a footnote, add a subscript number after the sentence to mark what it refers to. In critical situations, you can also add the notes mid-sentence, but only after punctuation (a comma, or a period). The notes should be added at a location that won’t distract the reader from the main content of your paper.

We have covered the basic guidelines for writing an MLA format essay. Here is a sample MLA format essay for a better understanding of the concepts.

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Having read our guidelines above, it is an excellent call to write your MLA format essay. However, chances of you getting everything write on the first try are slim. To ensure you are on the right path, it is essential to seek professional MLA format editing help. Having written MLA papers for years, our academic writers can edit your paper and send you a well-formatted paper that is ready for submission.

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