MLA Essay Format (With Example)

Updated: Nov 11, 2016

MLA (Modern Language Association) is a standard format for academic writing and citing sources within the humanities and liberal arts

MLA Essay Format (With Example)

MLA refers to a set of rules and formatting guidelines that are used by researchers within the humanities and liberal arts. These standards are described in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th edition), which is a 300-page manual, describing every aspect of MLA paper writing.

Note: if you would like to skip the long read, go to the MLA essay sample, which has already been duly formatted and referenced.

Update: There was a recent update to the MLA handbook, issued in summer 2016. While basic requirements remain the same, there are numerous minor updates to the essay writing process. The list of updates can be found here

You can also download an MLA-standard template, which allows you to skip the formatting part and use our pre-formatted file.

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Use standard white 8.5x11 inches paper.

Title Page

Unless this is a specific requirement set by your instructor, a title page is not needed.


Use legible 12pt font. While MLA has no specific requirements regarding fonts, use Times New Roman if unsure. Georgia, Courier New & Arial are good alternatives as well.


  • Use 1" margins on all sides
  • Use 1/2" margins from top to your name
  • Center your title, do not italicize it
  • If your quotation is longer than 4 lines, indent that paragraph 1". Do not use quotation marks!


Use Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3 etc) and number your pages consecutively. Check with your instructor - he or she might not want to see the number on the first page. Page numbers are placed in the upper right-hand corner of your paper. 


  • Use double spacing throughout your paper
  • Put one space after punctuation marks (commas, full stops etc). 


This sample MLA essay sample shows proper page formatting and other elements prescribed by MLA style manual, including: paper, title page, font, formatting, numbering, spacing, indentation, headings, citations & works cited page.


Indent all paragraphs 1/2". MLA recommends that you hit TAB once as opposed to pressing the space bar five times.


Headers should be capitalized - same way as you would capitalize words in titles. Center your headings and do not italicize, bold or underline them.


MLA is known as the 'author-page' style. It means that whenever making an MLA style reference, always indicate author's last name and a page you took the quote from. In-text citation in its most basic form defaults to this: (Name, 1).


The values are a representation of maximum loads which can be exerted on the material without causing deformation (Ashby 23).

The climate is changing but the biologists do not agree that it will threaten animals and plants with extinction (Stampf & Traufetter 132). 


  • The references page is placed at the end of your paper
  • It should start with a new page, have a centered 'Works Cited' title
  • Double space all citations
  • Create a hanging indent, to do so, indent second and subsequent lines of citations by 0.5 inches.

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