MLA Format

The Essentials

The Basics of the 9th Edition

MLA Format can be broken down into four main sections, as you will see below. There are specific rules for how to format the layout of your document, how to include quotations, and how to properly cite your researched material.

Make sure to carefully follow all of the rules whenever you're writing an assignment.

1. First Page

Your first page must have:

  • A header with your last name and page number in the top right corner
  • Your name, teacher's name, course code, and date at the top left, double spaced
  • Your title, centred

Pro Tips:

  1. Before you type anything into your document, set the correct font and click on the spacing button to double space your entire document.
  2. When creating your header, in Word click on "Insert" and then "Header." Select the first option, type in your last name and press the space bar. Then click on "Page Number" and choose "Current Position" then select the first option. Finally, highlight your header and click on "Align Right" under the "Home" tab. Now your header is set up and will appear automatically on all your pages with the correct page numbers.

See the sample in the image below for what it should look like.

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2. Every Page

Every page in your essay must adhere to the following rules:

  • Your essay must be typed in Times New Roman 12 point font
  • Every time you write the title of a text, it must be formatted correctly. Titles of novels, plays, and films are put in italics. Titles of songs, poems, short stories, and articles are put in quotation marks.
  • The first line of every paragraph must be indented (use the TAB key)
  • Your header (last name and page number) are on every page.
  • Do not include extra spaces between your paragraphs.
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3. Quotations & In Text Citations

All quotations and research must be cited properly. This is important to do correctly, because otherwise you can be accused of plagiarism. Remember, any idea or words that did not originate from your brain, must be properly formatted.


  • All direct quotations must be put in quotation marks.
  • Set up your quotation with context, and use a comma before the quotation.
  • If you are integrating a quotation into your sentence, and need to change a word for it to make sense grammatically, put the changed word in square brackets [ ].
  • Shakespeare: you must indicated line breaks in the text with a /

For example:

  1. Research shows that "the number, rate, and direction of time-zone changes are the critical factors in determining the extent and degree of jet lag symptoms" (Coleman 67).
  2. Lear loses the final symbol of his former power, the soldiers who make up his train, when Goneril says, "What need you five-and-twenty, ten or five, / To follow in a house where twice so many / Have a command to tend you?" (Shakespeare 2.4.255-257).

Long Quotations

If your quotation is longer than four lines of your essay, then you must separate it. To do this:

  • set up your quotation and end with a colon
  • drop down to the next line, and indent
  • the entire quotation must be indented
  • do not use quotation marks
  • at the end, put a period then do your citation
  • drop down to the next line and continue your paper flush with the margin
  • Shakespeare: type it out exactly as you see it on the page

For examples, see image below.

Quotations Inside of Quotations

Sometimes you will want to quote text and dialogue. When you do, the dialogue must go in single quotation marks, while your overall quotation must be in double quotation marks.

For example:

"I can't do anything, not even in art class. Mr. Freeman, a pro at staring out the window himself, thinks he knows what's wrong. 'Your imagination is paralyzed,' he declares"(Anderson 118).

In Text Citations

In Text Citations are important because they identify words and ideas that are not yours, and let your reader know where they came from. They are like little fingers pointing to your Works Cited page.

Each different type of source has a specific way of formatting the In Text Citation. Here are some examples:


(Author's Surname page #) - e.g. (Martel 320)


(Author's Surname Act.Scene.Lines) - e.g. (Shakespeare 1.4.68-74)


(Author's Surname, OR if no author, then "Title of Website") - e.g. ("Purdue Writing Lab")

The author's surname must be included unless you are sticking to the same author. Then it can be dropped (after the first citation) as long as there is other information provided in the citation. For example, the second time you quote from Shakespeare, you can just write (4.2.55).

However, if you are citing from more than one source in your paper, every time you change authors, you must include the author's name.

In Text Citation Punctuation

The period always goes after the citation if you are ending your sentence, in a normal quotation. Note in this example the location of the period:

Research shows that "the number, rate, and direction of time-zone changes are the critical factors in determining the extent and degree of jet lag symptoms" (Coleman 67).

The only time the punctuation is included before the citation, is when it is a question mark or exclamation point. The period after the citation is still included:

Frustrated, Lear exclaims, "O, reason not the need!" (Shakespeare 2.4.258).

If it is a long quotation, however, the period goes before the citation. For examples, see the image below.

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If using an ellipsis to exclude text that you do not need, be mindful of your in text citations.

If the second part of your quotation is on a different page/line to the first, then use a comma in your citation to indicate this.



"The kids behind me laugh so loud I know they're laughing about me. I can't help myself. I turn around. It's Rachel...Her eyes meet mine for a second. 'I hate you,' she mouths" (Anderson 4, 5).



"My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand / To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss...O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do" (Shakespeare 1.5.94-95, 102).

4. The Last Page

The last page is always your Works Cited page. This is where you provide the exact information for your sources. This is important because there are often multiple editions of a single text, and their page numbers do not usually correspond. So it helps your audience to know exactly which text you used in your paper.

When citing your sources, you are asked to identify and include the following information (brackets below include formatting and punctuation notes):

Author (Last Name, First Name.)

Title of source (Novel. Film. Play. or "Article." "Poem." "Short Story.")

Title of container (Website. Journal. Netflix.)

Other contributors (Translators, Editors,)

Version (edition,)

Number (vol., and/or no.,)

Publisher (publishing company,)

Publication date (most recent year listed,)

Location (pages, paragraphs).

Date of access (only if a web resource, the date you accessed the source.)

These elements should be put together in order, using the appropriate punctuation. If any of this information is not available to you, then you skip it, and continue along.

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Some great resources to help you with this are:

The MLA Style Centre:

Purdue OWL:

Some key rules to follow:

  • your references must be in alphabetical order - do not try to group together your entries in categories or with subheadings, do not use bullet points or numbers
  • be mindful of your punctuation, and make sure your titles are written according to the rules (italics or quotations marks)
  • your title is "Works Cited" and it should be at the top of the page and centered
  • make sure that your header with your last name and page number is at the top - the page number should correspond to the last page of your document
  • this page must be fully double spaced; if your citations are more than one line long, then indent the additional lines

Pro Tip:

When creating your Works Cited page at the end of your document, don't just hit enter until you get a new page. Insert a Page Break to create a new page. That way your header will automatically pop up, and no matter how you edit your document after, it will always stay on the last page.

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Note, in the above image, there are three separate entries on this Works Cited page. Each of the entries is from a different type of source - the first is a novel, the second is a website, the third is an edited text.

Notice also how the second and third entries are too long to fit on one line, so the additional lines are indented.

Finally, the list is prepared alphabetically - excluding the "The" as it does not count when creating your Works Cited list.

Purpose and Plagiarism

The whole point of properly formatting your documents is to give credit to your sources. In this manner, you can avoid plagiarism. But what is plagiarism exactly, and what does it look like? Check out the video in the link below to gain a better understanding.

Additional Support

The following links have more than just how to use MLA format, but also lots of excellent resources for writing and grammar.