For college students, it’s a good idea to become familiar with all formatting styles, however, you should be most familiar with the style used in your classes. MLA is very commonly used (APA is the other commonly used style). As with all writing styles, MLA has specific formatting guidelines which must be adhered to.
MLA formatted essays are always typed in TimesNewRoman font (12 pt). In word processing software, such as MS Word, the automatic font size may be much smaller (such as 10 pt). The most commonly used word processing software is MS Word and depending on the version you have, you can easily change the font and size using either the pull-down menus at the top of the browser or pre-set buttons (for example, at the top of my MS Word, I have buttons to choose the font and size near the top left-side of the page. To change the font and size, you’ll need to get into the formatting menu. This can also be accomplished by right-clicking the body of your page and choosing the “font” option.
Once your font and size have been set, it’s important that your margins fit MLA format style. All margins should be set at 1 inch. In newer versions of MS Word (like the version I am using), choose the pull-down menu for “Page Layout”. Click the “Margins” button at the top and choose the “Normal” option, which should show 1-inch margins all the way around. On older versions of MS Word, choose the pull-down “File” menu and then select “Page Setup”. Choose the “Margins” tab. Set all margins to 1 inch and then click on the “OK” button.
All text throughout the document should be double spaced. Again, depending on which version of MS Word you have, there will either be a button in the regular menu at the top of your browser or you can choose a pull-down menu to get into the “Paragraph” menu. Another easier option is to again right-click on the page and choose “Paragraph”. Set the spacing to “Double” under the pull-down “Line Spacing” menu.
In just about any version of Word, you can add a header by double clicking on the very top of your page. This should put you into edit mode for the header. You’ll need to make a header consisting of your last name and the page number. Depending on which version of Word you have, it may make more sense to insert page numbers in the upper right-hand header of the page using the “Insert” pull-down menu at the top and choosing the appropriate option for “Page Numbers”. After the page number has been inserted, put your cursor to the left of the page number and type out your last name, making sure to allow one or two spaces between your name and the page number.
In the upper left-hand corner of the page, begin typing in the paper and class information. The first line should include your first and last name. One the second line, include your professor’s name. On the third line, include your class name or information (for example, English 101) and on the fourth line, include the date in this format: “01, January, 2010”, rather than “January 1, 2010”.
The title of the paper should then be centered and in bold two lines down. Begin typing your essay two lines down from the title. There is no need to indent the first line of each paragraph. Include an introduction and a conclusion at the end. Make sure to save your work periodically as you go through the essay in case of computer or software malfunctions.
Please visit back for further information regarding proper formatting for MLA style citations and also for an MLA bibliography page. For students who are unsure of the work they’re submitting, an excellent source of help is either UK Essayist or HD Essays, both of which offer hundreds of example essays, dissertations, thesis statements and other research and editing help.