Paper Formatting

What are the MLA guidelines for setting up your paper?

To start for this, let’s turn to the OWL at Purdue:

Here is what it says at the OWL:

General Guidelines

  • Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are recognizable one from another. The font size should be 12 pt.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor).
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the Tab key as opposed to pushing the Space Bar five times.
  • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor’s guidelines.)
  • Use italics throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis.
  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
  • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor’s name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
  • Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks; write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
  • Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in “After Apple Picking”
  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
  • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)

Moving forward from what it says at the OWL at Purdue, I have provided you an example of what it should look like:


But, here is the catch, the sample above here is one that I have already adjusted. Typically,when one opens up a MS Word program, typically, it is not already in MLA format.

So, you have to begin by adjusting this yourself.

Whether you are doing this on a PC or MAC, there are typically some minor differences, but you can do yourself a favor by practicing putting your documents in MLA formatting.

Let us begin with simple, General format, as with what the OWL at Purdue provided us with above.

General MLA format begins with Paper Formatting



Times New Roman Font and Font Size

This is the font we will utilize in our papers. Often when one opens a MS Word program, the standard default font is Calibri or Cambria.









You can change this often times by simply locating the font box in the left hand corner of MS Word and highlighting the font there and typing in Times New Roman (TNR).





Once you have your font set in Times New Roman (TNR) you will want to make sure your font size is 12. Often times it may be set to 11.





You want to adjust the size box located next to the font box in the upper left hand side of the program.


Margins and Line Spacing

In addition to font and font size, you need to make sure you properly adjust the margins of your paper. This will NOT be something everyone will need to do and it will depend on what version of MS Word you are using. If you have one newer than 2003 it will automatically be set to 1” margins at left, top, right, and bottom. If for some reason you left and right margins are set at 1.25”, you will need to change those to 1”





You also need to change your line spacing for your paper too. Under formatting, you want to locate Paragraph, where you will want to locate line spacing.

With a MAC version of MS Word, look up in the top tool bar and locate FORMAT


Clicking on FORMAT will show you the bar below, where you can select PARAGRAPH to enter PARAGRAPH SETTINGS

7.pngFor a PC version, you will want to locate the PAGE LAYOUT take in the MS toolbar, clicking on that you will find the PARAGRAPH function. In the bottom right hand corner you should be able to access the PARAGRAPH SETTINGS.

In the paragraph settings, you will want to look for and check the following:

1.Typically there is after spacing (10 or 8). You want to change all after or before spacing to 0

2.You also want to adjust the line spacing. It may be either default set to single or multiple. Make sure you change it to double spacing.


When you have done all of this, then your paper is ready to go and for you to start working.