If your teacher has asked you to write an MLA essay and you don’t know where to begin, do not panic, use these tips on Modern Language Association style to professionally format your paper.
MLA style is a proven way to list a source material for many kinds of humanities documents. It is the simplest style guide among other styles such as Chicago manual of style and APA style. It has only two requirements. They include:
- The list of works cited should be presented in an alphabetical order that corresponds to the citations in text and is placed at the end of the paper.
- Short parenthetical citations in the text
Simply put, you include a reference to your source material in parenthesis in the text and then you least all the sources you have referred to in alphabetical order at the end of your paper.
How to format a paper
If you’re thinking about how to deliver a research paper that is strong both in writing and formatting, you will find useful recommendations below. Writing an MLA essay means following the style manual of the Modern Language Association that tells you how to format your paper and every cite you use. It also gives you instructions on how long a paragraph should be, how to correctly punctuate a title, and how to properly use commas.
Here are the general provisions of the MLA style:
- The papers must be typed on a computer regular paper or handwritten.
- You must use a double interval and a readable font. It is recommended to use a common font and italics, and the difference between them should be easily perceived.
- After the full stops and other punctuation there should be only a single space, unless otherwise agreed by the editor or supervisor.
- The top and bottom margins should be 1 inch.
- The red line should be half an inch from the left edge. It is recommended to use the Tab button rather than clicking the Space button five times.
- Number the pages in the right corner at the top.
- Use italics to highlight long work titles or only if, indeed, you need to highlight one or another piece of text.
- If in your work has notes and explanations, print them on a separate page before specifying the list of quoted works. The page should be called Notes. The title should be centered.
Formatting the first page
These are the instructions you need to follow when formatting the first page of your MLA essay:
- Do not create a cover page, unless it is included in the list of requirements for the publication of the research paper.
- In the upper left, indicate your name and surname, the name of your supervisor, the name of the course, and the date. Make sure you use a double interval.
- Make another double indentation and place the name of your scientific work in the center. Do not separate the title in italics, do not underline or enclose the name in quotation marks. Follow the standard rules for the use of capital letters in the name of scientific works (standard capitalization).
- Use quotation marks and/or italics for when mentioning other works in the title of your article.
- Make a double indent between the title of the article and the first line.
- In the upper right corner, create a title with your name and page number. Sequentially, number the pages in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). Perhaps your editor or supervisor will ask you not to use this header on the first page (in this case, always follow the requirements for each particular publication).
Formatting the list of sources used
When the reference is made to materials in a paper document, the author-page reference style is used, where the text link in parentheses is indicated by the author of the publication/article and the number of the page used without a comma:
- Poetry of the romantic age can be characterized as a spontaneous outburst of powerful feelings (Wordsworth 263).
If the author has already been specified in the text, only the page number will remain in parentheses:
- According to Wordsworth, romantic age poetry can be described as a spontaneous outburst of powerful feelings (263).
If the author is an organization, then the name of the organization (or abbreviation) and page number in parentheses are used (TLÜ 24).
If there is no author in this work, then you should use the first words of the title in quotation marks, then add the page number:
- In North America, there are more places affected by climate change because there you can get more information on climate change, and a lot of research has been done on this issue. (Impact of Global Warming).
If there are several authors with the same surname, the initials of the name are added: (R. Miller 12).
In the presence of several authors, there are two options for both authors, indicate the names of both authors and page number:
- The authors claim that a superficial reading... (Best ja Markus 9)
- Best and Marcus argue that the text should be read... (9)
If there are more than two authors, then indicate the name of the first author and for others add the Latin abbreviation et al:
- (Franck et al 327)
- According to Franck et al... (327).
When using several works of one author, indicate the title of the work or article and the page number. The title of the book is written in italics, and the title of the article in quotes:
- The rooms were filled with birch branches to sleep better and the food was more pleasant (Tõde ja õigus 246).
- The agency proceeds from a study according to which, many European citizens believe that the economic crisis can have a negative impact on safety and health of work “Mida arvavad töötajad...” 28).
You can also add the author’s name, if it is not mentioned in the text (Johanson, “Mida arvavad töötajad...” 28)
If different numbers of the same periodical edition are used in the work, the number of the cited publication should be included in the brackets, then the colon, and then the page number or range of numbers:
- As mentioned in the magazine «Good Child» the most dangerous fungus is the white toadstool (11: 14-15)
References to electronic sources
In the case of the MLA style, the electronic sources used are not usually indicated separately in parentheses. Rather, it is recommended that you specify the author’s name or source name directly in the text of your material. However, it is very important to indicate all the sources used, at the end of the material in the source list.
In the case of video/animation and audio recordings, indicate the exact temporal location of the material in parentheses (00:02:15 - 00:02:35).
Keep in mind that the references to electronic periodicals and books, however, are analogous to paper documents, i.e. indicate the author and the page number or the title and page number in parentheses.
In summary, a text link in the MLA essay style is more flexible and not as rigorous as in the APA, giving the author several options for linking to the source. The author can decide for himself what is important to indicate in parentheses and what should be mentioned in the text.
However, the list of sources used should be designed in accordance with a very strict system.
Some additional rules
When formatting your document in the MLA style, you need to follow a series of rules that define all aspects of creating a paper. Most students think of the MLA style when trying to decide what style to use to cite the sources applied as references in a document. But, MLA style sets the rules for various things of document formatting referring to sources.
- Align the text to the left. If you use a word processor, for example MS-Word, you can easily align the text both to the left and the right side.
- Footnotes and notes. You can use footnotes or endnotes with MLA style, but they should only be used to further explain the term or complex ideas, which you can’t include in the main text.
- In the style of MLA, headings and sub-headings that split the text are optional. Check with your instructor, before using them.
- You need to set the indent in the first line of any paragraph by half an inch from the left margin. If you do not use word processing software, indent five spaces.
- For the title of large work, italics should be used. MLA style also allows you to use italics in the text body to highlight a particular word or phrase, but use the italics when it is necessary.
- All four sides of the MLA paper top, bottom, right, and left require a 1-inch field. The only elements that should be displayed outside the field are the page numbers.
- Follow all standard punctuation marks with only one space, including a colon, commas, periods, and a semicolon. Some instructors still prefer the old rules of using two spaces after periods that end with full stops. MLA style allows some flexibility in punctuation when the instructor requests a change from the MLA style standard.
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