MLA 8th Edition Formatting Guide

How to Format MLA Style
By Nikki Borgel on Oct 2, 2020
MLA Style

As an author, you know the importance of avoiding plagiarism claims by properly citing references within your research documents, and you are also aware of possible setbacks and/or rejection by not adhering to the publisher’s guidelines. All style formats have their intricacies, including the style guide from the Modern Language Association (MLA). MLA is most popular within the language arts and is used by universities and publishers alike. MLA is also a common citation method for intermediate and secondary schools.

As with any citation style, the complexity is in the details, and it can take a significant amount of focus to master this format as it is updated regularly. Fortunately, many professional copy editors specialize in MLA and their latest standards, including the editors at eContent Pro International. Utilizing a professional editor or service will help you avoid publication delays and potential accusations of plagiarism. Find below key guidelines from eContent Pro International’s expert editorial team on how to properly format MLA.

General Guidelines

MLA has strict formatting guidelines in comparison to other style guides that place their primary focus on citation methods. MLA has formal guidelines for font size, margins, and more. Below, you can find a brief overview of these guidelines.

  • Font should be a legible style such as Times New Roman or Arial and 12pt. in size
  • All aspects of the paper should be double-spaced including the Works Cited page
  • A 1-inch margin should be found on the top, bottom, and both sides of the page
  • A header should appear in the upper right-hand corner of every page and include the author’s last name and page number
    • Ex: Wilson 3
  • Footnotes should appear at the bottom of their respective page when necessary and endnotes should appear on a separate page after the Works Cited when needed
  • Headings throughout the essay should include Arabic numerals followed by a period, space, and then the heading title whenever needed

First Page

Unlike with other popular styles such as APA, no title page is required in MLA format unless specifically requested by an instructor or publisher. With this in mind, there are several important requirements on the first page of a manuscript in MLA.

A heading is to be included on the top left corner of the first page of an article or research paper and include all of the important identifying information, with each requirement beginning on its new line. This should be double-spaced and include:

  • Author’s first and last name
  • Course instructor or journal title
  • Course name or publisher
  • Submission date in day month year format with the month being spelled out in its entirety

The first page should also include the title of the paper centered on the line immediately following the date. The title should not include italics or quotation marks unless it includes the title of another work, and it should appear in title capitalization.

In-Text Citations

MLA uses parenthetical citations for its in-text citation method, and all in-text citations are required to match with a longer form citation listed on the Works Cited page at the end of the document. The most basic form of an in-text citation in MLA is the source author’s last name followed by the page number where the cited information can be found, both enclosed in parenthesis with the sentence punctuation following the citation. An example can be found below.

  • Ex: (Smith 14).

Certainly, there are times when the author’s name and page number are not accessible with the source you are utilizing. Below is a brief list of the most common in-text citations.

  • If the author name or title is used within the text, there is no need to list it again within parenthesis.
    • Ex: Smith notes this phenomenon within her research (32).
  • If there is no author, use the title of the source.
    • Ex: ("Formatting Style" 264).
  • If your Works Cited includes multiple works by the same author, replace the author's name with a shortened version of the source title.
    • Ex: (Jane Eyre 126).
  • Blockquote format should be used with direct prose quotes longer than 4 lines and poetry quotes longer than 3 lines. These sections are indented an extra 1/2 inch, the quotation marks are removed, and the parenthetical citations come after punctuation on the same line.

Works Cited Page

Rather than referring to the complete list of references as a bibliography or reference list, MLA requires that the section be titled “Works Cited.” This page should include:

  • The heading “Works Cited” centered at the top of a new page following the conclusion of the main body of text.
  • This page should continue to be double-spaced
  • Employ hanging indents to set the sources apart from one another

The complete list of sources should appear in alphabetical order and follow this standard layout:

  • Title. Title of container (do not list container for standalone books, e.g. novels), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI), Date of Access (if applicable).

Additional details on each aspect of the MLA Works Cited citations can be found below.

  • Author
    • Works with one author should be listed in Last Name, First Name format followed by a period.
      • Ex: Shakespeare, William.
    • For works with two authors list the first author’s name in the inverted format and the second authors in the usual format.
      • Ex: Shakespeare, William, and Ernest Hemingway.
    • Works with more than two authors will list the first author in the inverted format followed by et al in place of the other.
      • Ex: Shakespeare, William, et al.
  •  Title
    • Titles should be written in title case and followed by a period.
    • Names of long-form, full works such as books or newspapers should be italicized.
      • Ex: The Wall Street Journal.
    • Names of shorter works such as articles, poems, chapters, or short stories should be enclosed in quotation marks
      • Ex: “Hills Like White Elephants.”
  • Title of container
    • This is utilized only when the title of the work is in a short form, such as an article, and is part of a more complete work, such as a journal
    • The title of the container should be Italicized in title case capitalization and followed by a comma
      • Ex: "Hills Like White Elephants." The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway,
  • Other Contributors
    • Translators and relevant editors should be added right after the container and always end with a comma
      • Ex: Translated by Edward Jones,
  •  Version
    • Also referred to as the edition, this is most often used with books that have multiple versions or updates available at once.
    • Should always end with a comma
      • Ex: 3rd,
  • Number
    • This is where volume/edition/season/episode numbers are listed
    • Always end with a comma
      • Ex: vol. 4,
  • Publisher
    • Name of the organization or company responsible for making the work available followed by a comma
    • Exclude business words such as LLC
    • Use UP instead of University Press when applicable
  • Publication Date
    • Include the year of the publication whenever possible and always use the year of the edition you used
    • Include day, month, and even time when available and relevant
    • Follow with a comma
  • Location
    • DOI, URL, or page numbers of source used
    • DOI preferred over URL when possible
    • When using URLs, remove the https:// from the beginning of the URL
    • When citing one page, place ‘p.’ before the page number and for a range of pages, use “pp.” before the page numbers
    • Follow the location with a period
  • Date of Access
    • This is only required for online sources. The date should be listed in day month year format with the month being fully spelled out and followed by a comma
      • Ex: 29 September 2020

The above guidelines are only the beginning to understanding MLA. Due to the challenges of formatting manuscripts in MLA, and to assist scholars in easily implementing and following publisher guidelines, eContent Pro International offers affordable, high-quality Copy Editing & Proofreading services. Our team of professional, native-English-speaking editors have helped thousands of authors correct any faulty spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow, and much more in addition to formatting their documents to adhere to MLA, Harvard, APA, Chicago, AMA style, and others. Avoid unnecessary surcharges and/or conditional acceptances from standard and Open Access publishers by submitting professionally copy-edited work with a certification from a professional.

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