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What is an MLA format essay?

It is an academic style guide that students use in subjects like language, English literature and liberal arts. The Modern Language Association presented the format, which is known by its acronym, MLA. When writing an essay in MLA format, students need to follow precise instructions in order to satisfy the style criteria. Nerdpapers research paper writing service team has presented a thorough explanation of in MLA format in this post, along with advice on which approaches to use in order to finish perfect essays that meet academic standards. 

In academic writing, how you present the information is often valued just as highly as the ideas you present. You can convey the depth of your research in a way that is understandable to other academics in your field by properly citing, quoting, and referring to your source material. By allowing other people to evaluate and contrast your work in accordance with these predetermined standards, you help your teachers focus on the work itself rather than getting distracted by minor technical errors.

General Guidelines for MLA Essay Formatting


To style an essay in MLA format, follow the following guidelines listed in the MLA manual:

  • The recommended font style in MLA format is Times New Roman.
  • The font size should be 12 points.
  • A one-inch page margin is recommended for all pages.
  • Line spacing should be doubled
  • The indents of the new paragraph: ½ inches
  • Headings: Capital letters

These guidelines are crucial not only for crafting well-formatted essays but also for structuring term papers in MLA format. Next, you will learn how to write an MLA format for essay heading that will be displayed on the top of your essay. Before following the instructions, check with your instructor to see if there is a preferred MLA essay heading format.

MLA Format Requirements

Before moving towards the details, let's ask ourselves: what is MLA format for essays? This style is suitable for completing papers in the humanities—literature, history, and composition. In contrast to other formatting styles, the cited format in APA vs. MLA discussion is less data-centric. Learn a few mla format requirements and its unique characteristics.

Paragraphs in MLA essay format

Understanding paragraph formatting guidelines helps to understand MLA essay formatting. The MLA guide stipulates that every new paragraph must begin with an indentation that is positioned half an inch from the right margin, even though it doesn't specify how many sentences a paragraph must have.


Every page, including the bibliography and appendices, needs to have these elements set to one inch on all sides. It is easy to meet this requirement as this is a default setting for many word processors. That way, you won't have to worry about MLA essay format margins when you start finishing your document.

Spacing in Essay Format MLA

According to the MLA format guidelines, double spacing is required in all sections, including the bibliography and appendices. In the body text, the spacing between paragraphs also needs to be doubled. It is advisable to confirm with your instructor before submitting your college essay because single spacing is not accepted by universities. However, some allow it for digital content. This provides enough room for your professor to edit and provide feedback on a printed copy before final grading.


In essays formatted according to MLA guidelines, proper English grammar is given top priority. Even though punctuation rules are more lenient, there are still some crucial things to keep in mind. For example, use the standard title case when creating your paper's title in MLA format. To decide on where to put your inline citations, you should also research MLA punctuation guidelines for quotations.
Additionally, it is also crucial to finish lists with three or more points in a sentence by using Oxford or serial commas. The conjunction that comes before the last item on the list should have a comma before it. Maintaining consistency with this writing style will help you gain credit for your reliable and well-written texts.

Font style and size

Anyone who wants to learn to write an essay in MLA format must use an appropriate MLA format font. This is because using a messy or inappropriate font can distract readers from the seriousness of your work. Times New Roman is a commonly used and readable MLA font that is suggested for academic writing. To make your MLA formatted paper readable, use a 12-point font size. By doing this, you can be sure that the text will not be either too big or too small to make it difficult to read or focus on the content.

Title Page

Usually, this format can be used without a title page. Rather, you start the first page with a header. However, you only need to use the MLA format essay title page when instructed to do so by your teacher or when working on a group project. In those circumstances, you create a title page on a different page that contains the same data as the header.

Header and Title

You have two options for adding a header: you can put it at the top of the first page or, if you want, on the essay title page. The MLA format essay header must follow the four main rules such as

  • Full name of the student
  • Professor's Name
  • Course or class name
  • Deadline

These must be placed in the correct sequence. Every header element needs to be double-spaced and have one-inch margins on all sides.
Unless a title page is used, the work's name should come after the final header element (the project deadline) in an MLA essay format. The next page should be the start of the paper, not the title page. The mla format title of essay ought to be in the middle. It doesn't need to be underlined, bolded, italicized, or enclosed in quotes.

MLA format running header and page numbers

This component is a short heading that appears at the top right corner of each page. It usually consists of the author's last name and the page number, separated by a space. The following prerequisites must be met in order to create a running header for MLA format:

  • It needs to be positioned on each page in the upper right corner.
  • It should only contain the author's last name as well as the page number.
  • In MLA essay format, don't put the abbreviation "p." before the page number.
  • The running head must be placed 1 inch from the right margin of pages and half an inch from its top margin.

Headings & Subheadings

To logically organize and structure your paper, you must add headings and subheadings in your text. In MLA format for an essay, you will probably need to add the titles of chapters, section headings and other subheadings. 
Specific guidelines for formatting various titles are not included in the MLA style guide. Rather, it provides the following advice to consider:

  • A period should not come after your heading.
  • Throughout your entire document, maintain consistency in the heading formatting you choose.

Make sure that every text element has the same font and size. All that needs to be altered is the font style. Subheadings are the least significant heading type and should continue to use the standard font style. Moreover, use italics for the least important section headings and bold font to draw attention to the chapter titles. 

Table of content

Although there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to MLA essay format table of contents formatting, it is generally advised for longer essays with several sections. A table of contents can give readers an overview of the paper's content and make it simple for them to navigate to the sections that are most relevant to them. Think about starting your essay with a preface that acknowledges the primary sources that impacted it (this suggestion will also be helpful for those who are interested in learning how to write an essay in APA format). In order to provide readers with more information to examine or to clarify background information, you can also include a glossary or appendix with extra details.

Works cited page

This is a crucial part of a paper formatted in MLA and should be at the end of the document on its own page. All of the sources you cited in your essay must be listed alphabetically. Sources that aren't mentioned in the paper should be excluded. The works cited page is a critical component of both essays and research papers, providing a comprehensive list of sources used in the paper.
Start by creating a heading in the top part of your page that says Works Cited. After the header, press ENTER once before listing your sources. The second and subsequent lines in a reference entry that is longer than one line should be indented half an inch from the left margin. In keeping with the rest of the text, double-spacing should be used for all entries on the Works Cited page.

☑️Reading suggestion: “How to write a research paper in APA format

How to cite sources in MLA format in an essay?

Here are a few guidelines on how to cite an essay in mla format.

In text citation MLA format

You are required to include MLA format in text citations in your essay whenever you use someone else's words, ideas, or data. The name of the writer and the page number (if available) must appear in all in-text citations. You only need to add the page number in parentheses if you mention the author's name in your sentence.

For instance: Smith stated that the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall

The above example tells the readers that the information mentioned in the above sentence is located on page number 45. If readers want to learn more about this source, they can visit the Works Cited page.

Works cited page example

You can create a reference for any source by using the nine fundamental components provided by MLA. See an MLA format example below:
Author. "Source title", Container Title, Additional Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Date of Publication, Location.
You only add the information that is relevant to the kind of source you are referencing.

For example: Smith, John. The Art of Writing. Penguin, 2019.


The MLA essay format usually advises against using abbreviations and instead spelling words out completely to prevent confusion. Still, there are some circumstances in which abbreviations make sense. In these situations, it's crucial to follow certain guidelines:

  • Avoid using periods between capital letters. For example, for the word 'United States, ' use US instead of U.S.
  • Periods (e.g., "that is") can be used in place of words if the entire word is written in lowercase.
  • If the entire phrase consists of a combination of capital and lowercase letters, omit the periods where there are more capital letters (PhD, not Ph.D.).
  • When writing the main body of a paper, use the full month names. For instance, 'May' should be written in full, while longer month names like 'February' can be abbreviated as 'Feb'.
  • In the Works Cited page, abbreviations for specific words such as page p., chapter Ch., volume vol., etc., are acceptable.
  • Some publishers' names, in addition to biblical as well as classical sources, can be abbreviated on the Works Cited page (due to their frequency of citation). However, complete names are required in the document's body.

Numbers in MLA format essay outline

Follow these guidelines to use the numbers in MLA format for essays.

  • Measurements must be made using numbers (e.g., 5 kg, 8 m, 30sec);
  • Write numbers in words for one or two-word numbers and use digits for numbers with more than two words (e.g., five, twenty-two, 857).
  • Use digits to place numbers, fractions, and decimals before labels or measurements (such as 7 years, 5 a.m.);
  • Roman numerals can be utilized in outlines or to denote suffixes;
  • Don't include ISBNs in your writing;
  • Avoid beginning a sentence with numbers.

Lists in MLA essay format

If you want to make a list in MLA essay format, you must adhere to basic grammar rules. Additionally, there are a few specific rules to be aware of:

  • All the lists should be horizontal.
  • A colon should be used to split the list from the introductory sentence unless the list is part of the sentence itself;
  • For informal lists, use bullet points; in the case of formal lists, after the final line item, use semicolons followed by a period;
  • Whenever instructions are provided in a specific order, numbered lists are required;
  • Use lists sparingly to improve readability, but not so much that they take over the paper.

Tables & Figures

It's crucial to follow the MLA essay format instructions to present tables and figures in your paper. Adding visual elements to your paper is a great idea as long as they add value to your paper. Place images close to the relevant details. Moreover, make a label for every image you use, and place labels directly beneath each image. The initial letter on a label must be "Fig."

Put the image's unique number after the abbreviation "Fig." depending on where in the paper it appears. For instance, "Fig. 1" should be the label for the first image in the paper, and "Fig. 2" for the next, etc. To cite an image, put its label and image number in parentheses at the end of the article. In addition to the label, each image should have a short description directly below it, following the label.

If the caption of a picture or table gives detailed information about where it came from and you haven't referenced it in your writing yet, it doesn't need to be included in the list of references used.

FAQs for Essay MLA Format

Which MLA Handbook edition is the most recent?

For formatting articles and citing sources in MLA style, the most recent guidelines can be found in the MLA Handbook, 9th edition, which was released in 2021. This succinct MLA style guide provides the most recent suggestions for adhering to MLA standards.

What are the font and size specifications for MLA format?

MLA recommends using a Times New Roman font style with a 12-point size that is available on all PCs. The other widely used font styles are also appropriate, like Georgia or Arial. To choose the right font for your work, it's wise to speak with your supervisor if you're unsure.

Get Professional Assistance with Your Assignment

One of the most crucial steps in making sure your work complies with the requirements of academic papers is to follow our instructions on how to write an essay in MLA format. By following the rules for headings and margins, you can make sure that your content is presented in an understandable and professional manner. The purpose of these rules is to encourage consistency and clarity in your academic writing. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that your paper is easily readable, well-documented, and properly organized. Please get in touch with the writing professionals at Nerdpapers if you require any more advice or clarifications; they are always available to help you with your assignments. 

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