Formatting with MLA is important because it provides consistency from one student to the next. If every writer had the freedom to follow their own format, it would make it more difficult for the reviewer to get through each one. Citing with MLA also ensures that all the necessary information is included within the citation. This gives proper credit to the information’s source while also making it easier for the reviewer to find that source themselves should they have any questions about the data referenced or if they want further information.

How to Use MLA: 9 Handy Tips

Knowing how to use MLA enables you to format your paper as required. Keep in mind that if your instructor has additional requirements, these should be followed as well. Here are nine tips for how to use MLA successfully.

  1. Use 8.5 x 11-inch paper and set the margins so they are 1 inch on all sides.
  2. Double-space the text so it is easier to read.
  3. Set the font to Times New Roman. This font is recommended when using MLA since you can clearly see the difference between regular and italicized text. Additionally, the size of the font should be 12-point, making it large enough to read.
  4. Go into the header and select the option that enables you to place your last name in the upper right corner of the page, about one-half inch below the top and flush with the right margin, and number the pages automatically. For example, if your last name is Smith, the citation on the first page would read “Smith 1.” (Read your project instructions carefully as some instructors request that you leave the page number off the first page. In this case, you would set the header up to start numbering with the second page.)
  5. On the first page, put your name, the instructor’s name, the name of the course, and the date in the upper left corner (double-spaced). Next, space down one double-space and type the title using Title Case, centering it on the page. Double-space once more and you can begin typing your first line.
  6. When typing the paper, indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch. While you can do this by hitting the space bar five times, using the tab key is recommended instead.
  7. If your paper has different sections or chapters, MLA suggests separating these sections using an Arabic number versus Roman numerals. Type out the number, followed by a period, then a space before listing that section’s title. An example would look like this: “1. History of Writing.” If the section or chapter is segmented, this is designated as 1.1, 1.2, etc.
  8. Only put one space after punctuation marks.
  9. Follow the MLA’s guidelines for citing your sources.

Citing with MLA

Part of knowing how to use MLA involves also knowing how to cite your sources per these guidelines. A list of citations is included on the last page of your research paper and titled “Works Cited.” The structure of each citation changes based on the type of source used. Here’s what you need to know when citing with MLA.

  • Physical book: Author’s Last Name, First Name). Book Title. Publisher, Publication date.
  • eBook: Author’s Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Title of the container, E-book, Publisher, Publication date. Database Name, URL.
  • Article from journal: Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Journal Title, Volume, Issue number, Publication date or year, page number. Database Name, URL or DOI, Accessed date.
  • Article from online magazine or website: Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Online Magazine Title or Website Title, Volume, Issue number, Publication date, URL, Accessed date.
  • Article from newspaper: Author’s Last Name, First Name (if not anonymous). “Article Title.” Newspaper Title [City of newspaper if not in the title}, Edition, Publication date, Page numbers. URL (if article is online), Database Name.
  • Webpage, non-article based: Author name (if listed). “Webpage Title.” Website Name, Website publisher (if different than website name), Publication Date. URL.
  • Website (as opposed to just one page): Editor or author (if known). Website Name. Publisher, institution or organization name (if known), Name (unless same as website name), Publication or Last Modified Date (if known), URL. Accessed date.

Knowing how to use MLA ensures that you follow certain formatting requirements. Citing with MLA does the same while giving proper credit to the information’s source. For more guidance, you can check out the latest edition of the MLA Handbook. This supplies more in-depth guidance about how to use MLA.