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MLA General Format
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MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages.
Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material produced by other writers.
If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the MLA Handbook (9th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition). The MLA Handbook is available in most writing centers and reference libraries. It is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.
The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA Style :
- Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor).
- Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
- Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the “Tab” key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.
- Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
- Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis.
- If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).
Formatting the First Page of Your Paper
- Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested or the paper is assigned as a group project. In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor.
- In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
- Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks. Write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
- Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text. For example: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
- Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
- Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number. Number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit the last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)
Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:
The First Page of an MLA Paper
Writers sometimes use section headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.
MLA recommends that when dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.
MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing , 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.
If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.
Sample Section Headings
The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.
Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left
Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left
Level 3 Heading: centered, bold
Level 4 Heading: centered, italics
Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left
Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / Creating an MLA title page
Creating an MLA title page
If you are writing a research paper in MLA style 9th edition for a class, then you may need to include an MLA format title page. An MLA title page is the cover of your paper, and they aren’t always required. So, how do you make a title page that adheres to the MLA formatting guidelines, and how do you know when you need one?
This page contains all the information you need to know to make the perfect MLA title page, so that you can prove that you are an expert researcher and get the best possible grade. This MLA sample paper will show you how the rest of your paper should be formatted.
Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:
Title page vs. MLA heading on first page
Title page / cover page, first page: mla heading (no title page), troubleshooting.
The current edition of the Modern Language Association (MLA) handbook does not require a title page , but your teacher, professor, or other reader may require one. In this case, you will need to know the differences between a title page and an MLA heading, and which one to use depending on your reader’s preferences. Other citation styles look slightly different, like this APA title page .
A title page, or a cover page, is a single page that comes before your MLA abstract (if required) and the content of your paper. It introduces your paper and quickly shows a reader the following information about your paper:
- author name (your name, since you wrote the paper)
- course information (if applicable)
It does not include any of the research paper itself.
First page with MLA heading
MLA format recommends adding an MLA heading to the first page of your paper. This contains the same information as a title page, but the information is formatted differently and is on the same page on which your actual research paper begins.
Unless otherwise specified by your instructor or teacher, this should be how you format your first page.
Before you start typing your MLA research paper title page, you will need to gather some information.
What you will need
If you are creating an MLA heading on the first page of your essay instead of a title page, you will need most of the same information, but you will format it differently.
To create a title page, you need to include:
- The name of your high school, college, or university (if applicable)
- The title of your paper
- The subtitle of your paper (if you have one)
- Your first and last name
- Your teacher or professor’s name (if applicable)
- The class name or course number (if applicable)
- The date the paper is due (in “day month year” format)
Follow these formatting guidelines when typing your MLA title page:
- Times New Roman font
- Size 12 font
- The first letter of each word should be capitalized, with the exception of very short words such as the, and, of, or, a, an, for, in , etc. However, the first word should always be capitalized.
- Do not include a page number heading on your title page
Here are the steps you need to take to create the perfect MLA title page:
- At the top of the page, type the name of your high school, college, or university (if applicable).
- Skip down approximately one-third of the page and type the title of your research paper using title case.
- If you have a subtitle, type it on the line following the paper title.
- Skip down to the bottom third of the page and type your first and last name.
- On the following line, type the course name and number (if applicable).
- On the following line, type your instructor’s name (if applicable).
- On the following and final line, type the due date of your paper in “day month year” format.
Although it’s important to know how to create an MLA essay title page in case your instructor requires it, in most cases you will use an MLA heading on the first page of your paper instead.
Remember, you should only create a title page if your instructor requests it .
Otherwise, use these guidelines to create an MLA heading. If you create a title page, then you usually won’t need an MLA heading on your first page, but you should ask your instructor for their specific requirements.
To create an MLA heading on your first page, you will need to include some of the same information you would use for a title page, including:
- Left-justified text for MLA header
- Centered text for title
- Right-justified text for page number header
- In the top left corner of the first page of your essay, type your first and last name.
- On the following line, type the due date of your paper in “day month year” format.
- On the following line, switch from left-justified text to centered text and type the title (and the subtitle on the same line, if you have one) of your paper in title case. Do not italicize, underline, or place your essay title in quotation marks. Do not use quotation marks unless you are referring to other works in your title and need to enclose the referenced works in quotation marks.
- Your research paper should begin on the following double-spaced line.
- Create a right-justified text header one-half inch from the top of your paper that includes your last name and the page number.
- All pages of your paper should be numbered with your last name and the numerical page number. The page including your MLA header, title, and the beginning of your essay is page one (1).
- Your instructor may specify not to include a last name and page number header on your first page. Always follow your instructor’s guidelines.
Solution #1: What should I do if my paper is a group project?
If you have written a collaborative paper with multiple authors, list each author on your MLA title page or in your MLA heading in alphabetical order, with line breaks between each.
If your paper has multiple authors, omit the name from your page numbers in the upper-right corner of your MLA-format paper.
Example MLA heading for a group paper:
Example MLA title page for a group paper:
Solution #2: What should I do if my paper isn’t for a specific class?
If your paper is a thesis project for your degree, for example, or not for a specific class, you can omit that information from your MLA title page or MLA header.
Solution #3: Does my paper need a subtitle if I use a full MLA title page?
While an MLA title page allows for a subtitle beneath the title of your paper, it is NOT required to have a subtitle or make one up for your MLA title page.
If you didn’t intend to have a subtitle for your paper, there is no need to add a subtitle. Just leave that area of your MLA title page blank.
Solution #4: Will my MLA title page be part of my final page count?
A title page is not typically included in a paper’s final word count. Check with the teacher or professor assigning the paper to be sure, but it is highly unlikely a title page will count as a full page of your final paper.
Published October 25, 2020. Updated June 4, 2021
Written by Grace Turney , freelance writer and artist. Grace is a former librarian and has a Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology.
MLA Formatting Guide
- Annotated Bibliography
- Block Quotes
- et al Usage
- In-text Citations
- Page Numbers
- Sample Paper
- Works Cited
- MLA 8 Updates
- MLA 9 Updates
- View MLA Guide
- Book Chapter
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Newspaper Article
- Website (no author)
- View all MLA Examples
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The title page in MLA style gives basic information such as the name, the instructor’s name, the course name and number, the title of the paper, and the submission date. MLA style does not recommend using a title page unless specifically requested by your instructor; instead, it suggests creating a header.
The difference between a title page and a header in MLA style is that a title page appears as a page on its own before the main paper copy. A header, on the other hand, appears on the same page where paper copy begins.
Include the following elements on a title page. Follow the order as given below.
The university name
The title and subtitle of the paper
The course name and number
The instructor’s name
The submission/due date
If you are not required to create a title page, and only need a header, the following elements should be included in the header, in the order as listed:
While MLA does not generally recommend the use of a title page, some courses or professors may require it. The title page should include the university name, title of the paper, your name, the instructor’s name, the course name, and the submission or due date.
Formatting title page
MLA style does not have any specific guidelines for formatting a title page. However, you can use the below suggestions to format your title page if you are required to create one for your paper.
All margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be set at 1 inch.
The font should be clear and easy to read. A good option is Times New Roman font in size 12 pt.
Text on the title page should be double-spaced.
Elements of a title page
Include the following elements on the title page. Follow the order as given below.
Add a few blank lines before and after the title of the work. The title should be in title case and centered.
Beginning on the title page, the paper should also include a running head. The running head includes the your last name and the page number. This should be placed in the “header” area of the paper so that it is present on each page. Use the page number feature in your word processor so that the page number is generated automatically.
Example title page
Relationship Between Students and Their Teachers
Professor John Smith
21 September 2021
MLA Citation Examples
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- Knowledge Base
- MLA titles: Formatting and capitalization rules
MLA Titles | How to Format & Capitalize Source Titles
Published on April 2, 2019 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on October 24, 2022.
In MLA style , source titles appear either in italics or in quotation marks:
- Italicize the title of a self-contained whole (e.g. a book, film, journal, or website).
- Use quotation marks around the title if it is part of a larger work (e.g. a chapter of a book, an article in a journal, or a page on a website).
All major words in a title are capitalized . The same format is used in the Works Cited list and in the text itself.
When you use the Scribbr MLA Citation Generator, the correct formatting and capitalization are automatically applied to titles.
Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr
Table of contents, capitalization in mla titles, punctuation in mla titles, titles within titles, exceptions to mla title formatting, sources with no title, abbreviating titles, titles in foreign languages, frequently asked questions about mla titles.
In all titles and subtitles, capitalize the first and last words, as well as any other principal words.
What to capitalize
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Use the same punctuation as appears in the source title. However, if there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space, even if different (or no) punctuation is used in the source.
Example of a work with a subtitle
The exception is when the title ends in a question mark, exclamation point or dash, in which case you keep the original punctuation:
Sometimes a title contains another title—for example, the title of an article about a novel might contain that novel’s title.
For titles within titles, in general, maintain the same formatting as you would if the title stood on its own.
Titles and names that fall into the following categories are not italicized or enclosed in quotation marks:
- Scripture (e.g. the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel)
- Laws, acts and related documents (e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution , the Paris Agreement)
- Musical compositions identified by form, number and key (e.g. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67)
- Conferences, seminars, workshops and courses (e.g. MLA Annual Convention)
Sections of a work
Words that indicate a particular section of a work are not italicized or placed within quotation marks. They are also not capitalized when mentioned in the text.
Examples of such sections include:
- list of works cited
Introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords
Descriptive terms such as “introduction”, “preface”, “foreword” and “afterword” are capitalized if mentioned in an MLA in-text citation or in the Works Cited list, but not when mentioned in the text itself.
Example of descriptive term capitalization
In-text citation: (Brontë, Preface )
In text: In her preface to the work, added in a later edition, Brontë debates the morality of creating characters such as those featured in Wuthering Heights .
If there is a unique title for the introduction, preface, foreword or afterword, include that title in quotation marks instead of the generic section name when referencing the source in the Works Cited list or an in-text citation.
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For sources with no title, a brief description of the source acts as the title.
Example of a source reference with no title
Follow these rules for capitalization:
- Capitalize the first word
- Capitalize proper nouns
- Ignore other MLA rules for capitalization
There are some exceptions to this general format: descriptions including titles of other works, such as comments on articles or reviews of movies; untitled short messages, like tweets; email messages; and untitled poems.
Exceptions to general format for sources with no title
If you need to mention the name of a work in the text itself, state the full title, but omit the subtitle.
If you need to refer to the work multiple times, you may shorten the title to something familiar or obvious to the reader. For example, Huckleberry Finn for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . If in doubt, prefer the noun phrase.
If the standalone abbreviation may not be clear, you can introduce it in parentheses, following the standard guidelines for abbreviations. For example, The Merchant of Venice ( MV ) . For Shakespeare and the Bible , there are well-established abbreviations you can use.
When you abbreviate a title, make sure you keep the formatting consistent. Even if the abbreviation consists only of letters, as in the MV example, it must be italicized or placed within quotation marks in the same way as it would be when written in full.
Abbreviating very long titles in the Works Cited list
Titles should normally be given in full in the Works Cited list, but if any of your sources has a particularly long title (often the case with older works), you can use an ellipsis to shorten it here. This is only necessary with extremely long titles such as the example below.
In the Works Cited list, if you are listing a work with a title in a language other than English, you can add the translated title in square brackets.
Example of a reference with a translated title
If you are using the foreign-language title in the text itself, you can also include the translation in parenthesis. For example, O Alquimista ( The Alchemist ) .
You don’t need to include a translation in your reference list or in the text if you expect your readers to be familiar with the original language. For example, you wouldn’t translate the title of a French novel you were writing about in the context of a French degree.
Non-Latin script languages
For works in a language that does not use the Latin alphabet, such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, or Russian, be consistent with how you mention the source titles and also quotations from within them.
For example, if you choose to write a Russian title in the Cyrillic form, do that throughout the document. If you choose to use the Romanized form, stick with that. Do not alternate between the two.
Yes. MLA style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns , verbs, adjectives , adverbs , and some conjunctions ) are capitalized.
This applies to titles of sources as well as the title of, and subheadings in, your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization .
In MLA style , book titles appear in italics, with all major words capitalized. If there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space (even if no colon appears in the source). For example:
The format is the same in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. However, when you mention the book title in the text, you don’t have to include the subtitle.
The title of a part of a book—such as a chapter, or a short story or poem in a collection—is not italicized, but instead placed in quotation marks.
When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.
When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.
- In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
- In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
- In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.
The title of an article is not italicized in MLA style , but placed in quotation marks. This applies to articles from journals , newspapers , websites , or any other publication. Use italics for the title of the source where the article was published. For example:
Use the same formatting in the Works Cited entry and when referring to the article in the text itself.
The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.
This quick guide to MLA style explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.
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