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What Is MLA Format: Here’s The Complete Rule book for Students!

MLA Format

Formatting the papers, uniformly, is one of the most important specifications of research paper writing. In several instances, university guidelines demand of styling the paper in MLA format. But, many students possess no-clue about how to write a research paper in this referencing style.

“Are you one among the amateurs? Then you are in the right place!”

This blog happens to explain all the essentials of composing an MLA paper making the whole process easier for students. As you proceed reading, you can find distinct specifications for paper structure, Title page, paraphrasing, use of numerals and many other factors. But before everything else, understand the underlying concept of MLA format.

What is MLA format?

MLA stands for Modern Language Association, is one of the most famous referencing style explicitly used over the world for formatting research papers. Many times, universities ask the students to draft their dissertations in MLA format. This style of writing is mostly exercised in academics for cross-referencing sources, from which you have derived data.

Typically, scholars prefer this formatting style, for a perfect research paper, as it makes the assignments easy-to-read. Though previously, MLA format used to be common for literature students, but now, it has been widely adopted by Management students and pupils of other departments. The sole reason is nothing but it proffers a professional look to the paper that happens to acquire the highest grades at the end of the semester.

And, to compose your paper preserving all the nitty-gritty of MLA format, you need to get acquainted with this referencing style, first.

Practical Details of MLA Format Paper

After studying your research paper topic and gathering data,  you have to begin with the writing. If you have to compose the draft in MLA format, there are certain instructions to be followed. Below list introduces you to the MLA format writing criterions.

1. Instruction for MLA Header

Normally, an apt research paper outline drafted in MLA referencing style skips the idea of a distinct Title page. Rather, you have to create a header to serve that purpose. It is a set of four lines which sits on the top-left corner of the first page. Here are the information to be included in the individual lines –

  • Line 1 – Full name of the student
  • Line 2 – Name of the professor/guide
  • Line 3 – Course-name, Class, Section (if applicable)
  • Line 4 – Assignment deadline

There should a double-spacing in-between these four lines and the subsequent to it, there will be the Title of the paper. Select “Center” for aligning the Title and keep it simple – no-bold, no-italics, no-underline. Only “Italicize” if there is mention of any referential source in the Title.

Running Head and Page Numbers

In the top-right corner of every page, you have to write the running title and the page number. It starts from the second page; the first page contains only the page number at the top-right corner. In MLA, the writer’s last name becomes the running head.

MLA Format header & Introduction

2. Paraphrasing Approach in MLA Style

Often, students borrow ideas from pre-published works and include them in your paper. But, direct input is restricted as the consequences of plagiarism are worse so, paraphrasing the content is vital. Now, that you have stated his or her work, even though in a paraphrased manner, it is extremely important to cite the author’s name. This type of referencing comes under MLA citation style. There are a few different scenarios that call for parenthetical quotation –

  • Author’s name mentioned in the content
  • Sentence deprived of the writer’s name
  • Block quotes or long cited paragraphs
  • Corporate Authors or government authors
  • Anthologies or books with an editor’s name
  • Sources having no-page-numbers

To learn details of in-text citation through illustrations and descriptions, visit the blog on MLA format example.

3. Abbreviation Rules in MLA Format

For every referencing style, there are specific rules of abbreviations but, MLA prefers rare insertion of ellipses. In case you are using any acronym, spell out the full-form and mention its meaning, as well. This helps readers to get conversant with the abbreviation and avoids confusions. Also, maintains the usual flow of language in your paper. Beneath are a few tips with suitable examples –

  • Capital letter abbreviations must not have periods in between. Human Immunodeficiency Virus is HIV, not H.I.V.
  • MLA accepts in-between periods for lower case abbreviations. For example is e.g.
  • In an abbreviation having both upper case and lower case letters, do not use periods if the upper case letters are more in number. Example: Ph.D., EdD, etc.
  • MLA format bibliography expects abbreviation for month names that have more than four letters. Otherwise, the month name remains as it is. June = June but, October = Oct.
  • Here are some acronyms that are accepted on using in annotated bibliography section of research paper but, you can never use them in the body paragraphs.


  • / p. for pages / page respectively
  • Edition (ed.)
  • Volume (vol.)
  • Number (no.)
  • Chapter (ch.)
  • Revised (rev.)
  • Translation/translated (trans.)

For an illustrative view of the above abbreviations being used in the Bibliography, check the blog MLA Citation Styles.

4. MLA Specifications About Numerals

Similar to abbreviations, MLA format paper has some strict numeral rules, as well. The style of Arabic number insertion differs a bit from Roman approach. Here’re the examples.

Arabic Numerals

  • Generally, you have to write in numerals for any measurement followed by its unit or label. Example: 24 kilograms, 7 pounds, 2 tablespoons, 5 chapters, 11 September 2018, 10 a.m., 2 o’clock, and like that.
  • Also, you have to input numbers for mentioning specific sections or pages in your paper. Such as: In page 7, section 3.1, of the study.
  • Always, spell out one-word or two-word numbers in your paper. Example: four, forty-three, etc.
  • Use numerals for three-word or more numbers, fractions, decimals, and recurring digits. Like: 252, 8765, 5 ½, 12.336, and so on.

Roman Numerals

  • Normally, an MLA format outline is done using Roman numerals.
  • Use as suffixes. Like Edward VIII, William III of England, Elizabeth II, and more.

Note: Never start a sentence with numbers. Either use it somewhere in the middle or spell it out in the beginning.

  • Incorrect: 5 children are there in the family.
  • Correct: There are 5 children in the family.
  • Correct: Five children are there in the family.

Here end the factors to be considered while writing the document in MLA format. The subsequent section discusses the responsibilities, after finishing the draft.

After-Writing MLA Format Essentials

1. Be Cautious During Paper Choice

Though many professors allow digital submission, some do not! In that case, you have to prepare for hard copies. While getting your draft printed, follow the subsequent set of instructions concerning to paper type and quality.

  • Use white papers for MLA documents. Never use off-white, ivory-white or any other colorful pages
  • Print your final draft in typical, high-quality, standardized papers. Avoid card-stock and resume papers (not necessary)
  • Generally, the recommended size of paper is 8 ½ by 11 inches. If you wish for a different size or if your project requires so, grant permissions from the professors, beforehand

2. Secure Draft with A Proper Binding

Once the copy is printed, the next big chore is keeping the pages safe and organized. Loose papers tend to get messy and disordered so, binding is the way to protect them. Normally, university guidelines articulate the expected way of binding the pages. If there is no such mention, use either from the below mentioned options.

  • Staple the top-left corner, carefully, ensuring the papers are tightly affixed. It is said to be the best choice for binding your research paper
  • If you don’t have a stapler, use binder clips or paper clips to fasten the pages. It is the next best option, but make sure, the clips are new and tight

In any way, folding the top-left corner is just not acceptable. Neither it looks good, nor does it keep the pages intact. Also, plastic holders aren’t a great option. They make grading quite challenging for the professors. Whatever way you choose, keep it simple, clean and easy-to-handle.

3. Follow Professor’s Words for Submission

Generally, professors suggest either of the three common ways to submit a paper. Ascertain that you follow the instruction as that satisfy the guides and also, make it easier for them to locate the paper. Take a look at the possible options.

  • Hard-copy or in printed format
  • Via email to the concerned person
  • Electronically through a Course Management System

By far, you must have apprehended the essential factors that help in composing a winning MLA format paper. But, if you need more consultation, get in touch with a reliable and cheap custom academic writing service. PenMyPaper is, certainly, a great choice in this concern with experts possessing years of experiences and plethora of knowledge. Contact, now, for a free quote!

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