Title pages are discouraged in MLA. Instead, include the following details at the top of the first page, left-aligned and double-spaced: your name, your professor’s name, the course name and code, and the due date. On the following line, list your title and subtitle, centred.
View a sample of how this information should be formatted on your first page.
If a professor requests a title page for an MLA paper, they should provide you with the formatting details they want.
Include your last name and the page number in the top right corner of all pages.
MLA typically discourages the use of headings. One reason for this is that English courses (where MLA is primarily used) does not typically use headings, preferring instead that the body of your text naturally transition from paragraph to paragraph.
You may, however, use headings where appropriate in longer papers. There is no definitive structure to the format of these headings, other than that headings of the same level should have consistent formatting.
An MLA paper should be written in 12 pt. font, Times New Roman, and double-spaced. Do NOT include extra spacing between paragraphs; instead, indent the first line of each paragraph by one half-inch.
Citation Rules and Common Sources in MLA
Formatting In-Text Citations
Whenever you integrate sources into your paper, whether as a quotation or a paraphrase, you must give credit where credit is due. There are two ways to do this in MLA.
Parenthetical Citations are where you include the author’s last name and page number in brackets at the end of a sentence (Lastname 25):
- Quotation: “[S]piritual mentoring does not belong only in the hands of the specialists … [S]piritual mentoring is the work of the community of faith just as friendship belongs to all people” (Anderson and Reese 56).
- Paraphrase: In many ways, the Church has failed to understand the plight of Guatemala’s indigenous people (Menchu 234).
Narrative Citations are where you include the author’s name as part of your sentence. In that case, still include the page number in brackets at the end of the sentence.
- Quotation: Anderson and Reese elaborate: “[S]piritual mentoring does not belong only in the hands of the specialists … [S]piritual mentoring is the work of the community of faith just as friendship belongs to all people” (56).
- Paraphrase: Rigoberta Menchu charges the Church with failing to understand the plight of Guatemala’s indigenous people (234).
Note: Subsequent citations from the same author only require you to include the author’s last name in the first in-text citation of the chain. For example, use (Johnson 26) for the first in-text citation of the chain, but just (28) when the next in-text citation also refers to Johnson. However, once that chain is interrupted by a citation from another author, you must again include the first author’s last name in the in-text citation the next time you cite them to avoid attributing the quote/paraphrase to the wrong person.
Additionally, for the sake of clarity, you should always cite the author’s last name in your in-text citation if the source of that quote/paraphrase is ambiguous, even if it is part of a chain of repeated citations. An example of this is when the lead up to a quotation mentions another person’s name. Your reader might assume that the name referenced before the citation is the author of the quote, when in fact, they are not. By including the author’s name within the in-text citation, you clarify that the actual author of the quote is different than the person you mention before the quote.
For a quotation of more than 4 lines of prose, more than 3 lines of poetry, more than 3 lines of dialogue by one character in a play, or lines of dialogue between multiple characters in a play, use block quotation formatting. Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase and a colon. Forgo quotation marks (except to note quotations within the quotation) and indent the quoted material 1 half-inch from the left margin. Keep the block quotation double spaced.
...(Let's pretend this block quotation comes in the middle of a paragraph. Before starting the quotation, provide a contextualizing sentence like the next one.) Later in the article, Turner and Pérez-Quiñones describe some of the pitfalls of electronic notetaking:
The results showing that most students in our survey do not modify their notes (or even review them) frequently imply that the benefit of easy modification, which comes with a digital medium, may not be that important. Similarly, since there was only a lukewarm response to the sharing of notes between students, that may also not be of much use. (266)
More study will need to be done to determine if these cons outweigh the pros of taking notes on a computer.... (And then you would keep going with more sentences that elaborate on your quotation and continue your paragraph. Note that you do not indent the beginning of this part because it is not a new paragraph.)
Formatting Works Cited
In addition to in-text citations, MLA also requires a Works Cited. This is an alphabetized list of every source quoted and paraphrased in your paper.
Begin your Works Cited on a new page with the centred title “Works Cited.” Double-space the entire page, start entries at the left margin, and use a hanging indent of half an inch for entries that spill onto two or more lines.
When including titles in your Works Cited, use “Title-Style Capitalization.” This means that you should capitalize the first letter of all titles, the first letter of all subtitles, and any other major words in those titles (e.g., “Mission” and “Physical” but not “for” or “a”). Titles of shorter works (journal articles, chapters, etc.) should be in quotation marks. Titles of most other works (journals, databases, anthologies, etc.) should be in italics.
When citing online sources, provide a DOI number whenever possible. If there is no DOI number available, provide a Permalink or Stable URL.
Green, Beth. Redeeming the Buzzword: A Distintcly Christian Approach to "Innovation" in Education. Hamilton, ON: Cardus, https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/innovation-in-education/.
Constructing Works Cited Entries
Works Cited entries in MLA all follow the same basic format. Start with:
- Author. (Lastname, Firstname)
- Title of Source. – This is the title of the piece the author wrote. Examples include the title of a novel, a chapter in a collection of essays, or an article in a journal.
Then, provide any “container” information. A container is the larger document that your source is part of (if applicable). For example, the container of a journal article is the journal. The container of a chapter is the anthology it is in. The container of a commentary is the series the commentary is a part of. When a source has a container, cover the following:
- Title of container,
- Other contributors, (This is editors and/or translators)
- Version, (This is edition numbers or names – e.g., 3rd ed., Rev. ed., etc.)
- Number, (This is volume and/or issue numbers – e.g., vol. 2, no. 3)
- Publishing Company,
- Date of Publication, (in most cases, just the year)
- Location, (This is things like the page range of a journal article, the URL of an online source, or the university where a lecture took place. This is NOT the publishing city.)
- Access Date. (Only applicable to some online sources.)
NOTE: Some sources might have two containers – For example, when you cite a chapter (source) in volume 1 (container 1) of a three volume work (container 2). In this case, you need to provide information for both containers. However, when information is shared between container(s), you should place the shared information as late into the Works Cited entry as possible.
For example, all 3 volumes of the multi-volume work would share the same publishing company and date. Therefore, the publication information should be included after the title of the multi-volume work, NOT the title of the first volume.
Lastname, Firstname. “Title of the Chapter.” Title of the First Volume, vol. 1. Title of the Multi-Volume Work, Publishing Company, Year.
However, let’s say there was a translated essay in an anthology. In that case, the translator’s name has to go after the title of the essay, not the title of the anthology.
Lastname, Firstname. “Title of the Essay.” Translated by Translator’s Name. Title of the Anthology, Publishing Company, Year.
The following is a template for how to construct all Works Cited entries. Only include applicable pieces:
Lastname, Firstname. Title of Source. Title of Container, other contributors, version, number, Publishing Company, Year, location. Title of Second Container, other contributors, version, number, Publishing Company, Year, location. Access date.
Citing Poetry and Drama
While there are virtually no changes to the Works Cited entries of poetry and drama sources, there are some unique rules for how to format quotations and in-text citations for poetry and drama.
For 2-3 lines of poetry, or 2-3 lines of dialogue by one character in a play, use a front slash (/) to identify line breaks (the end of a line). For 4 or more lines of poetry or lines of dialogue by one character in a play, format it according to block quotation style.
For in-text citations of poetry, you should use line numbers instead of page numbers. Similarly, for poetic plays (such as Shakespeare or ancient Greek plays), you should cite using act, scene, and line numbers, with periods in between, as applicable. NOTE: If a play does NOT use line numbers, use page numbers instead.
Citing Lines from a Poem
Tennyson employs the techniques of alliteration and onomatopoeia to produce a chilling effect in The Lady of Shalott: “Willows whiten, aspens quiver, / Little breezes dusk and shiver” (10-11).
Citing Lines from Poems with Multiple Books (e.g., The Iliad, Paradise Lost, etc.)
When a poem has multiple books as well as line numbers, identify the book number first, followed by a period, and then the line number(s).
Deceit is another vice hated by the Greeks: “For as I detest the doorways of Death, I detest that man, who / hides one thing in the depths of his heart, and speaks forth another.” (Homer 9.312-313).
Citing Dialogue for One Character in a Play with Line Numbers
Even Darius, in Aeschylus’s The Persians, recognizes that trying to hold back the strength of the gods is “but madness of the soul” (750).
Citing Dialogue for Multiple Characters in a Play
Cite this according to block quotation formatting, except indent subsequent lines of the same person talking an additional quarter of an inch. Include character names at the beginning of applicable lines, and format your quotation according to the same line divisions as the original source.
Shakespeare’s protagonists express mutual contempt in a witty exchange:
BENEDICK. What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
BEATRICE. Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come
in her presence. (Shakespeare 1.1.106-110)
Citing Dialogue for Plays without Line Numbers
Many plays do not use line numbers. When that happens, use page numbers in your in-text citation instead. For lines of dialogue by more than one character, use block quotation formatting (see previous example). For lines of dialogue by one character, quote it like you would a normal prose quotation:
Sometimes the best metaphors are unexpected ones, like in Death of a Salesman: “The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress!” (Miller 41).