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MLA Style Guide: Formatting Your Paper

How do I Format My Paper?

     Let's say your professor wants you to format in MLA style, and you have no idea how to do it. Where do you start? And why do you need to use a format anyway?

     There are a few reasons why professors ask you to use a specific format. One reason is to provide consistency between papers while grading. Can you imagine what it would be like to grade 150 papers, and every single one is formatted differently? It would take them quite a bit of time to grade your paper! On top of that, they may be looking for specific things like citations, page numbers, certain paragraphs or names, etc., and using a consistent format helps them find what they looking for quickly and easily, resulting in a faster grade for you! 

     Another reason to learn a format is to prepare you for upper-division classes in your major. It's worth noting that every discipline has its formatting style preference, and learning a citation style like MLA, APA, or Chicago will give you an understanding of how basic style rules work.

Let's get started on the basic rules:

  • Your paper should be written using a standard (8.5x11 inch) sheet of paper with a common font such as Times New Roman. Some professors may request a different font, but Times New Roman is the most commonly accepted.

  • The entire document should be double-spaced, including the header and bibliography. You can easily double-space a paper by highlighting the entire document, then pressing the Ctrl button on your keyboard and pressing the 2 (Ctrl + 2).

  • Margins on the page's sides, top, and bottom are 1 inch. The only exception is with the page number and your name on the right-hand side of the header, which is 1/2 inch from the top of the page.

  • Pages should be numbered, along with your last name, in the top-right header of the paper.

  • Your Name, Professor's Name, Class Name, and Date should be double-spaced on the first page of your paper in the upper left-hand corner, with a 1-inch margin from the top and left sides.
  • The title of your paper should be centered, with no boldface, underlining, or italics, unless you include a title within your title.
  • Indentations should be 1/2 inch in from the 1-inch font.


Now that you've read this far and have an idea of what you need to do, there is a big shortcut you can use. Word has a few templates for various paper formats, including MLA, APA, and others. To locate these templates, select 'new' under file and type MLA in the search box. Then select the template you wish to use. Download the Word document to your computer, open the template, and begin typing. 

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