So let's say that 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. Could 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 - and using a consistent format helps them easily find what they looking for quickly and easily, resulting in a faster grade for you!
Another reason to learn a format is that it is getting you ready for upper division classes in your major and maybe even graduate school, if you decide to go that far! It's worth noting that every dicipline has it's own formatting style preference and learning a basic style like MLA, APA or Chicago will give you a basic understanding of how basic style rules can work, and in turn, it will be much easier to learn a new style.
So let's get started on the basic rules:
Your paper should be written using a standard sheet of paper (8.5x11 inch) using a common font such as Times New Roman. Some professors may ask for a specific font, but Times New Roman is the most commonly accepted font.
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 holding down the ctrl button on your keyboard and pressing the 2 (ctrl + 2).
Margins on the sides, top and bottom of the page are 1 inch. The only exception is with the page number and your name in 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.
So now that you've read this far and have an idea of what you need to do, there is a shortcut you can use. Word has a few templates for a variety of paper formats, including MLA. To locate these templates, under file select 'new' then select the 'Reports' file in the bottom half of the window. Then select the template you wish to use. NOTE: The current MLA format is 7th edition, so double check the formatting with the infromation above to be sure it's correct.
You can also download a template we've created here. Just save the word document to your computer, and open the template, and begin typing. Make sure you save your paper with a new name, so you don't overwrite the template.