MLA manuscript format
In most English and humanities classes, you will be asked to use the MLA (Modern Language Association) manuscript format. The following guidelines are consistent with advice in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th ed. (New York: MLA, 1999).
Use good-quality 8 ½"x 11" white paper. If the paper emerges from the printer in a continuous sheet, separate the pages, remove the feeder strips from the sides of the paper, and assemble the pages in order. Secure the pages with a paper clip. Unless your instructor suggests otherwise, do not staple the pages together or use any sort of binder.
Title and identification
Essays written for English and humanities classes do not require a title page unless your instructor requests one. If you are not using a title page, begin the first page against the left margin about one inch from the top of the page. Type your name, the instructor's name, the course name and number, and the date on separate lines; double-space between lines. Double-space again and center the title of the paper in the width of the page. Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all other words except articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions. Double-space after the title and begin typing the text of the paper. See our sample paper.
Margins, spacing, and indentation
Leave margins of at least one inch but no more than an inch and a half on all sides of the page.
Double-space lines and indent the first line of each paragraph one-half inch (or five spaces) from the left margin.
For a quotation longer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse, indent each line one inch (or ten spaces) from the left margin. Double-space between the body of the paper and the quotation, and double-space between the lines of the quotation. Quotation marks are not needed when a quotation is set off from the text by indenting. See our sample paper.
Put your last name followed by the page number in the upper right corner of each page, one-half inch below the top edge. (If you have a separate title page, the title page is uncounted and unnumbered.) Use arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, and so on). Do not put a period after the number and do not enclose the number in parentheses.
Punctuation and typing
In typing the paper, leave one space after words, commas, semicolons, and colons and between dots in ellipsis marks. MLA allows either one or two spaces after periods, question marks, and exclamation points. To form a dash, type two hyphens with no space between them; do not put a space on either side of the dash.
When an Internet address mentioned in the text of your paper must be divided at the end of a line, do not insert a hyphen (a hyphen could appear to be part of the address). For advice on dividing Internet addresses in your list of works cited, click here.
MLA neither encourages nor discourages use of headings and currently provides no guidelines for their use. If you would like to use headings in a long essay or research paper, check first with your instructor. Although headings are not used as frequently in English and the humanities as in other disciplines, the trend seems to be changing. (Click here for a paper that uses headings.)
MLA classifies visuals as tables and figures (figures include graphs, charts, maps, photographs, and drawings). Label each table with an arabic numeral (Table 1, Table 2, and so on) and provide a clear caption that identifies the subject; the label and caption should appear on separate lines above the table. For each figure, a label and a caption are usually placed below the figure, and they need not appear on separate lines. The word "Figure" may be abbreviated to "Fig."
Visuals should be placed in the text, as close as possible to the sentences that relate to them, unless your instructor prefers them in an appendix.
Note: Click here for guidelines on using MLA in-text citations and click here for info on preparing an MLA list of works cited.
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