The Basics of Writing in MLA Style

by My Web Writers

Image Courtesy of the Modern Language Association- MLA.org

Formatting is an important component of any researched-based writing from high school essays to college term papers to published, academic work. For those who aren’t familiar with them, formatting styles can cause quite a headache, especially when left to the last minute. The best way to avoid the rush is to format before you begin writing and to follow the guidelines as you write.

In the humanities, MLA is the standard writing style for scholarly work. Students and professionals working in literature, cultural studies, media, and many commercial publications will need to understand and apply this style. Check out these tips to help you along the way.

MLA papers should…

–          be typed with 12-point font

–          use 8.5 x 11 inch paper with one-inch margins.

–          be double-spaced, with no spaces between paragraphs.

–          contain paragraphs with the first line indented one-half inch.

–          Page numbers should appear in the upper right hand corner. The author’s last name should appear before the page number.

First Page Formatting

–          List your name, the instructor’s name, the class and the date on separate lines. Like the body of the paper, the heading should be double spaced.

–          Include a centered title.

–          There should be one space between the title and the first line of text.

Betty Sue                                                                                            Sue 1

Mr. Howard

English 101

3 April 2012

Title

The first line of text should appear here. It should be followed by a second line of text. Notice that the first paragraph is indented.

In-text Citations

Generally, MLA uses author-page in-text citations. Citations allow the writer to give credit for ideas, paraphrases, and direct quotes that are not his or her own. Citations also allow readers to identify the sources for specific information in the paper and to correlate to the works cited page. In-text citations occur either directly after the quote or paraphrase or at the end of the sentence in which the quote or paraphrase is contained.  Notice that the end punctuation always appears after the last parenthesis. See the examples below.

“I sure hate flying airplanes” (Rider 16).

The girl says, “I sure hate flying airplanes,” even though she doesn’t mean it (Rider 16).

According to Rider, the girl “sure hates[s] flying airplanes” (16).

Works Cited Page

–           The works cited page appears on a separate sheet at the end of the paper.

–          The title should be centered and plain text.

–          Citations should be double-spaced with no extra spaces between citations.

–          All entries should identify the medium of publication (i.e. Print, CD, and Web).

–          EasyBib is a free site that generates reference pages in a variety of writing styles. Using this resource may save time when compiling a work cited page.

Basic book and web citations are shown below.

The format for citing a book is:

Author Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year Published. Publication type.

The format for citing a web resource is:

Name of Author or Editor. Website Name. Version Number. Publisher or sponsor of site, date resource was created. Medium. Date material accessed. <URL> (If providing the URL is required.)

Additional Information

Most colleges and universities now have online writing labs with style guides that explain formatting in-depth. A few useful sites are listed below. MLA also prints style guides. Be sure to check out their website for any annual updates.

Modern Languages Association 

Purdue University Online Writing Lab 

Texas A&M University Writing Lab 

Utah Valley University Online Writing Lab 

~Lindsey

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2 Comments

Filed under Citing Sources, Queries & Articles, Research Tips, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, The Writing Process

2 responses to “The Basics of Writing in MLA Style

  1. Pingback: How to Write a Big-Impact Proposal in a Short Amount of Time | My Web Writers - Website Content & Editing Ideas

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