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Osceola Writing Center

Basic MLA Formatting

MLA style is probably the most used style in undergraduate classes. This page explains the basics, but if you need more detailed information, check out the links on our styles guides page. Remember that MLA formatting relates to both how the paper is formatted (margins, font, etc) as well as how citations are formatted. Even if you don't do any research or use sources, which would require citations, you may still be required to use MLA formatting for how your paper looks.

For a visual guide to basic MLA formatting, click HERE. For more information about formatting MLA papers, visit The MLA Style Center.

General MLA Requirements

Here are the basics:

  • Name & page number on the right side of the header
  • Include your name, the professor's name, the class name, and the date on the top left of the 1st page only (not in the header)
  • Have a title (use correct capitalization, don't bold or make a larger font)
  • Size 12 font (including the header info)
  • Font family: Times New Roman (or similar easy to read font)
  • Double-spaced
  • 1 inch margins all around
  • Indent each paragraph (use the tab key)

An example of how to format the 1st page of an MLA paper


Tip: By default, word usually adds extra space any time you hit the enter key. You want to turn this off because once you double space your document, the extra space also gets doubled, so it looks like you have extra space between your paragraphs. Download our step-by-step MLA formatting guide and see step 2 for how to fix this issue. If you have already completed your paper, make sure to highlight everything before completing step two.


Basic MLA In-text Citations

The word "citation" is often used for both types of citations in MLA: those citations in your text (in-text citations) and those that are listed in your works cited (works cited entries).

Keep in mind that you will need to include both in a paper. If you have a works cited page, you will also need in-text citations (and vice versa). See our page about citing and plagiarism for more info.

In-text Citations

In-text citations are those that occur in the sentences of your paper. Sometimes they are called "parenthetical citations" because they are put between parentheses.

1) For MLA, the author's last name and the page number are what are put in the parentheses.

ex. Most frogs can see in the dark (Smith 25).

Make sure you put the period after the citation.

Notice that there is no comma between the name and page number.

2) If you don't have a name, a title or shortened title is most often used.

ex. Cell radiation plays a key role in healthy cell function ("Healthy Cells" 52).

For this example, notice that the title is put between quotation marks.

3) If you don't have a page number (such as for websites), then you don't put anything (but you could put a paragraph number if you want).

ex. Twenty-three percent of Twitter followers check Twitter more than 3 times a day (Davidson).

4) You can include the name/title of your source in the text of your sentence rather than at the end, but the page number will still go in parentheses at the end.

ex. According to Tim West, mowing your grass more than twice a week can cause lawn disease (34).

For more information about MLA in-text citations, or for information on creating entries for your works cited, see our style guides page.


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