General Rules for Term Papers and Essays in MLA Format


MLA format is designed for formatting manuscript in the English language. This is a format most often used in Liberal Arts and the Humanities. The MLA style has formats for referencing resources in a specific way. The handbook for writers of research papers (7th edition). And the handbook for scholarly writing (3rd edition), both offer sample works to help the writer see how the style is used. Using these guidelines will help create a more acceptable paper.

  1. Basic Guideline
  2. First Page
  3. Citations
  • Basic Guideline
  • The paper should be typed on a 8.5x11 page, and double space the text, using 12 point font. The MLS format does not recommend any specific font. It does state that regular and italic fonts should be recognizable from each other. Unless otherwise stated, there should be a space after any punctuation marks. All margins should be set to one inch, with indentations on the beginning of each paragraph. The header has to be numbered for each page, a half inch from the top, flush to the right hand margin.

    Italics have to be used with all longer titles, and to provide emphasis. To regulate their usage throughout the paper. All end notes should be done on a separate paper before the references.

  • First Page
  • Unless requested, title pages are not required in MLA. On the upper left hand of the paper this will be listed; 1) instructor’s name, 2) the course, and 3) the date. Center the title in title case, using standard capitalization, do not use all capitals. Do not use italics, or any quotation marks on the title, it should be freestanding. If the title has reference to another title, then use italics/quotation marks only on what it refers to. There should also be a double space between the title and the first line.

    On the flush right hand margin, the author’s name and page number have to be placed. This has to be one half inch from the top. This must follow every page afterwards as well. Section headings need to be numbered in Arabic numerals, followed by a period. There should be one space between each number.

  • Citations
  • There are many different types of citations that can be used. It depends on how that reference is addressed in the paper. For this, refer to the handbook section on “Citations”. To find the right one for the way the reference is being used, look through the list of different types of citations.