Academic Tutorial on How to Write an Essay in MLA Format


The most popular academic writing standards today are the MLA, the APA and the Chicago styles. If you study humanities or social sciences, you need to use the MLA (Modern Language Association) format. It is helpful for students who need to work with different kinds of literature sources, as there are many details, e.g. one can find guidelines about how to cite non-traditional forms of media sources. Before you start writing, check the main requirements to keep in mind:

  • Double space is used all the time. The citation page does not have to contain any extra breaks.
  • It is recommended to place footnotes and subscripts, so you can provide additional explanation and add some vital details.
  • Past tense is used only when you write about historical events, otherwise present tense of verbs is encouraged.
  • All the margins should be 1 inch. The same margins apply for each page.
  • Time News Roman font is required. The font size is 12 pt.
  • In the text, the sources are cited with the author’s name and the page number. This information is placed in parentheses, e.g. (Smith, p.44).
  • One space is used after all punctuation marks.
  • The tab key serves to make a 1.5 inch margin for the first lines of your paragraphs.
  • The MLA requires the headers at every page. It should include your last name and a page number, e.g. “Collins 5”.
  • Italics is usually avoided, but it is possible to outline the longer citations.
  • Works cited list is written at a separate page. The authors and their works are listed alphabetically.

Now you can easily set a format in your word processor and start writing. Each essay should be properly structured and contain the following elements:

  • An introduction explains the topic and holds the general statement.
  • Body paragraphs provide supportive arguments to your claim. Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence. It expands the topic and gives necessary details.
  • A conclusion summarizes the whole paper.
  • A list of works cited is a vital element of an essay. Make sure you use correct formatting and do not forget to cite all the sources you used.

Though MLA format does not require a title page, sometimes instructors ask you to prepare it. Online you can find sample title pages for free or your instructor can give you an example and specify the demands. Anyway, do not forget to place your last name in the header, and check if you need to number a title page.



Structured Content and Logic Presentation

Each of essay sections should be well defined and written clearly. This means you should know what details to include while minimizing the amount needed. You may need to rewrite each section more than once before settling on your final copy. You should also remember to proofread, edit, and revise as these elements help make your structure more solid. Think about your details in how you want readers to view it from your perspective.

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