7 Tips on How to Write an Essay in MLA Format

MLA style or Modern Languages Association format is very helpful when we speak about academic papers. Many educational institutes require to use of MLA style while students are citing sources for their writings. Usually, when students need to write an essay and use MLA style in their research, they have some important things to remember. Therefore, we prepared relevant information in this article to get useful tips on writing an essay in MLA format.

1. Find out what MLA style is.

MLA style is essentially just guidelines for formatting, documenting, and writing sources in scholarly papers. It helps readers to identify sources the author used in their research. All of the rules you need to follow have been written down in the MLA Handbook, 8th edition. Get this book by your side to understand MLA better and do all things right white formatting your paper.

Some students could prefer to read the open formatting style and guide instead of the paid handbook version. One of the most extended guidelines’ explanation you can find at Purdue Online Writing Lab. Actually, there is nothing complex in citing any type of source. The main point is to get acquainted with the method and follow rigid rules.

2. Remember about paper headings.

MLA requires a running header with your last name, space, and then a page number on the top right-hand side. Your instructor may not want you to have a number on the first page, so always ask if you are uncertain of their specific requirements. Consequently, it is still best to set up your header automatically. In this case, your page number and last name format won’t get changed as you type.

Still, you need to find out how it works, so we recommend to work on headings manually. Headings are essential to increase the content’s readability. Split your essay into parts and designate with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the part name. Whether your headings are formatted as unnumbered, consider depict them as in the following example:

    Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left

    Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left

                                                       Level 3 Heading: centered, bold

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                                                        Level 4 Heading: centered, italics

    Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left

3. Come up with a title.

A separate title page typically isn’t an MLA style requirement, but you will still need to create a title for your paper, which comes after your heading. It should be centered and without any italics, underlining, or bold applied to the text. Use italics throughout your essay to specify the titles of longer works and emphasize when it is vital only. On the first page of your paper, you should also include your name, teacher’s name, discipline, and date in the upper-left corner. Use standard capitalization for title case and avoid using quotation marks. Remember to double-space your text.

4. Get to know how to handle citation.

All quotations inside paragraphs in your paper are demanded close attention. The 8th edition was written in response to the rapidly changing way we access sources in our research. No print books are still heavily used. Digital publications of a journal, books, and scholarly research are becoming the norm. In-text citations are needed if you are paraphrasing or directly quoting the source. The format consists of the author’s name and the page number. Format citations following the author-page method:

As Hemingway stated, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” (115).

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” (Hemingway 115).

Hemingway stood for the author’s hardworking attitude (115).

Using one of the earlier examples, you will have accurate in-text citations following MLA guidelines.

5. Develop cited works in the end.

Citation format should consist of the author, title of the source, a container title (meaning the publication if it’s an article or a book if it’s a chapter). Also, don’t forget to include such details as other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, and location. Even though there were other changes in the 8th edition, such as listing details for time-based media, this was the most notable change. It doesn’t matter which source you cite, and it is still the same rule for every kind of it:

Article in a magazine:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

Web publication:

Author(s). “Title.” Title of container (self-contained if book), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs and/or URL, DOI or permalink). 2nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).

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Pay attention to where you should italicize references.

6. Note a few important things about MLA.

  • Use standard-sized paper 8 ½ by 11 inches for your page.
  • Double-space all paragraphs for easy readability.
  • Select a conventional font like Times New Roman. Although, MLA doesn’t necessarily dictate what font style to use.
  • Put one-inch margins on all sides of the pages.
  • Use the indent key when beginning a new paragraph to set the first line ½ inch from the margin.

7. Provide additional materials.

When you need to support your essay with tables, illustrations, or statistics in diagrams, use general guidelines to insert them correctly. Remember that using images has to keep the essay’s informativeness and be related to the topic. Any figures, tables, or musical illustrations can’t replace the text. For essay length, the text is still considered as a primary informational source. Instead of adding captions, you can also convert them to in-text references. For example:

Musical illustration reference:

First excerpt: Tchaikovsky-Nutcracker Suite: Waltz of the Flowers, opening arpeggios.

In-text reference:

Figure 4 shows the first excerpt’s score, the two opening arpeggios of Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers in the Nutcracker Suite.


When writing in MLA format, there are many things to consider. Because it is impossible to talk about every source you’ll come across in this short article, just remember that MLA has changed the way you go about citing. Therefore, follow the seven lucky tips we’ve shared with you here and refer to your handbook for more specific information about your references.

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