MLA Format Paper: All The Answers In One Article


Reading time

10 minutes

MLA Format Paper: All The Answers In One Article

Studying at college or university is always a challenge. And it is easy to understand: when you deal with difficult tasks, you’re developing. It is impossible to gain new knowledge, skills, and experience when you are still in the same spot.

However, students’ life is full of challenges. And sometimes it is just impossible to carry them all out. That’s why a lot of young people have to ask for professional help. Especially when it comes to various formatting assignments.

You may be ok with the task of writing an essay, the research paper, the case study, and so on. But what about formatting? Why should you remember all these rules that are so useless? We receive hundreds of messages with these words from students who are in the same situation. And we are ready to help you. Let us provide you with the essential information on the MLA style.

Basic MLA Style Paper Formatting Rules

If you’re a student of the first year, most likely, you haven’t even heard about any kinds of formatting. But even if you’re toughie, it doesn’t save the situation. In this article, you’ll find the basic and the more complicated information so that you have what to start with.

The first thing you should know is that the MLA format is not the only one. It is the second most used. The first one is the APA. The main difference between them is the field where it is used. As it stands from the name, the APA (American Psychological Organization) is common for psychologists. MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, and researchers in various humanities spheres mainly use it. e.g., languages, literature, philosophy, and so on. Students should be aware of the formatting style as well, for several reasons. Firstly, it is important to be prepared for “real life”, to know the game's rules. Some talented students can publish their works somewhere, so it is very important to make them standardized.

MLA Paper Heading Title Page Recommendations

Now, when you understand MLA's importance, you need to know that there is an official guide with all rules. It has several editions, and students should use the last one because it is up-to-date. Of course, it is impossible to include all the information from the guidelines in one article, but this piece of content will get you prepared. Many students feel just frustrated when they open that guide and realize what they should deal with.

So, What About The Paper Heading And Title Page?

You should know that you have only one opportunity to make a first impression. That’s why it is important to start with the bang, i.e., with the MLA heading. Pay attention to the fact that there is no need to provide a separate title page (until your professor has to do it). In most cases, you need a title block with the main information on your work that contributes to its credibility.

This block should include:

  • Your name;
  • Name of your instructor;
  • Course number;
  • Date of delivery;
  • Title of the paper.

Place this information at the top of the first page, following the rules from the official guide. It would help if you remembered about left margins, double space between different sections, etc.

Indicate Running Head And Don’t Forget About Page Numbers

Most students are not happy when they have to deal with the formatting. Especially they don’t like such details as the running head, page number, and so on. They don’t affect the content, and therefore, they seem useless. However, even the smallest error can spoil the overall impression of your paper.

What is the running head? It is a brief title that you should place in the top right of each page of your research paper. Provide your last name along with the page number. And don’t think that’s it. There are so many details to keep in mind! For example:

  • You should place the running head half an inch from the top margin;
  • There should be one inch from the right margin;
  • When you include the page number, you may want to add “page” or “p” before the figure. Don’t do it!
  • It is also crucial to find out whether your professor wants you to include the first page number.

As you may understand, the official guide shouldn’t be the only source you use. Your professor may provide you with some additional instructions to follow.


One of the essential reasons why you should use the correct formatting is academic integrity. Students’ works can’t contain plagiarism in any of its forms. Of course, it is also impossible to write a good paper when you don’t use other sources. But you shouldn’t copy them, just provide quotes to illustrate your point and give credit to the author.

If you need to defend your argument or liven up your content, use the quote but remember that it shouldn’t take up most of your document. Sprinkle various quotes throughout the paper sparingly. And never forget to indicate the author! You can credit him or her with the “in-text citation” with the author’s name in the sentence, without it, or with a block quote when you have 4 lines or more. All MLA works cited should be formatted correctly, otherwise, your paper can be considered plagiarism, and it is crucial not for your grades only, but the academic reputation as well.


In some cases, you can use paraphrases. Some students think that they can paraphrase the quotes, and it provides them with the opportunity not to indicate the author. However, it is not the right decision. You have such an option, but only when you decide to summarize some ideas and introduce them in your writing style.

And it doesn’t matter that you modify the information, it is still taken from another source. So, it would help if you credited it with the proper format. Follow these instructions:

  1. Find a phrase or section you want to use in your paper;
  2. Read the piece attentively to understand its meaning. Pay specific attention to some tricky words and information between the lines.
  3. Put the original text to the side and take time to think about what you’ve read, and analyze this information.
  4. Rewrite it in your own words. Show off your understanding, don’t just substitute words with synonyms.
  5. Include an in-text reference according to the official guide.

Using Abbreviations

Abbreviations are often used in many source types, e.g., websites, journal articles, blog posts, books, etc. However, when you deal with the student or research assignment written in the MLA style, you can find out that the official handbook states that you shouldn’t use abbreviations too often.

It is recommended to spell them out in their full words. And you can also provide a short explanation of the meaning.

It is important to ensure that your readers understand the content and there is no confusion. Remember how you read different papers, especially research ones. You want to follow the natural flow of the language, not to come across choppy expressions.

If you open the official guide, you will find recommendations on using the abbreviations when it is impossible to avoid them. For example, when it comes to months, you should write July, but there is also an option to write “Nov.” when the word is too long.

Formatting Numbers

Depending on your discipline, you may deal with frequent use of numbers. It is common when you’re working on scientific research, or when it comes to some statistical data. There are some tips you can follow in this case:

  • use numerals that precede measurements (353 milligrams, or 34 pounds);
  • when it comes to divisions, include numbers (on page 10 of the book);
  • spell out the number if you can write it in 1-2 words (five, thirty-two);
  • when you deal with longer numbers, decimals, or fraction, use digits to type them;
  • for larger numbers, write themselves.
  • don’t start the sentence with the number. Try changing it so that the number is placed elsewhere.

Speaking about numbers, you should understand that it is straightforward to make a mistake. You can miss some nuances, and it would spoil the overall structure of the paper. So it is better to consider the opportunity to hire a proofreader who will check your content with a keen eye.

Using Images, Tables, Musical Scores

If you have the opportunity to make your paper more creative, don’t miss it. You can include different visual content: graphs, tables, data sets, photographs, etc. However, remember that they are necessary just to have something, they should enhance your paper's quality.

When it comes to illustrations and tables, place them as close as possible to the text's section that they refer to.


Your images should be easily identifiable, so place them in the appropriate part of the content. Don’t forget to include information that explains the visual and the data about its origin.

There are some recommendations to include the image:

  1. Create a label for it and place it beneath the visual. Start it with the “Fig.,” abbreviation (short for figure). If you use several images, assign them Arabic numbers in the order of their placement.
  2. Provide a caption with the title or brief explanation of the content. Along with the label, it should be provided underneath the image.
  3. Create a separate page with works cited if you don’t provide the complete information in the main body.


When you need to add some data or a table, the requirements are different. For example, there is no need to place the label “fig.” as in the previous case. Instead, you should include the label “Table”. An Arabic numeral also supports it. Locate the information above the table, and flush it left, on separate lines.

Writing a table’s title, use the title case form. It means that you should capitalize on each word's first letter but avoid small and insignificant ones.

Underneath the table, you can provide the source and some additional notes labeled with a letter so that your readers can distinguish the notes of the research paper and the notes of this table.

Musical Scores

If you’re going to include some musical scores in your paper, you need to label them as well. However, pay attention to the fact that it is not a table or a figure. In MLA, they should be labeled with Ex. = example. Place it below the score. Assign the Arabic numeral next to the abbreviation in the order of including.

If you can provide a caption, indicate it along with the label below the musical illustration. And again, you do not need to include the information about the musical score’s source in your bibliography if you have already provided it in the content part.

Using Lists

Students and scientists can add lists into their MLA papers as long as they follow the proper rules.

You may think that the list is the easiest thing in your paper, but it isn’t. Forget about the grocery list since you need to format items in horizontal order. And it can be a challenge for students who format items in a list in the common vertical style.

MLA Citation Format: Are There Some Pet Peeves?

As with any publishing style, the MLA citation format includes many difficult aspects, and you need to cite secondary sources appropriately. Read the guidelines and the list of requirements from your professor carefully. You need to provide your readers with accurate citations so they can quickly follow them to the reference page and locate any sources that might be interesting. Any deviations that may confuse readers are forbidden.

Proofread Your Paper With a Keen Eye

Regardless of the assignment’s type, you always have to proofread your content before delivery since it is elementary to miss the error or the typo, and it can be crucial. So, once you’ve finished your paper, take a pause, and get back to it with a refreshed mind. Your task is to read it several times with different goals.

4 Do’s You Shouldn’t Forget About:

  1. Start with the spelling proofreading: pay attention to all proper names, places, and other words with the correct spelling. You can use the free spell checker or such software like Grammarly to ensure your text is flawless. However, don’t rely on them only since such tools may miss the errors as well. If you need a guarantee, hire an expert proofreader.
  2. Grammar and punctuation. It doesn’t matter whether English is your first or second language, many students make grammar mistakes, and you need to ensure your paper is free of them. The same is related to punctuation: check all commas, colons, and other marks.
  3. Formatting. Follow the check-list from the official guide to make sure your paper is flawless.
  4. Content. Of course, you need to double-check the quality of your content. To ensure your pages are full of meat, not hot air.

Anytime you need professional help with your assignment, you can contact our experts, and we’ll do our best to exceed your expectations!

Originally published Feb 12, 2021, updated Feb 17, 2021

Confusing homework?

Get expert help in any course or subject

Get Help