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MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template

Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield.

The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers. This quick guide will help you set up your MLA format paper in no time.

Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:

Download Word template Open Google Docs template

(To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)

Table of contents

How to set up mla format in google docs, header and title, running head, works cited page, creating mla style citations, headings and subheadings, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about mla format.

The header in MLA format is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes

After the MLA header, press ENTER once and type your paper title. Center the title and don’t forget to apply title-case capitalization. Read our article on writing strong titles that are informative, striking and appropriate.

MLA header

For a paper with multiple authors, it’s better to use a separate title page instead.

At the top of every page, including the first page, you need to include your last name and the page number. This is called the “running head.” Follow these steps to set up the MLA running head in your Word or Google Docs document:

The running head should look like this:

MLA running head

The Works Cited list is included on a separate page at the end of your paper. You list all the sources you referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Don’t include sources that weren’t cited in the paper, except potentially in an MLA annotated bibliography assignment.

Place the title “Works Cited” in the center at the top of the page. After the title, press ENTER once and insert your MLA references.

If a reference entry is longer than one line, each line after the first should be indented ½ inch (called a hanging indent ). All entries are double spaced, just like the rest of the text.

Format of an MLA Works Cited page

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Prefer to cite your sources manually? Use the interactive example below to see what the Works Cited entry and MLA in-text citation look like for different source types.

Headings and subheadings are not mandatory, but they can help you organize and structure your paper, especially in longer assignments.

MLA has only a few formatting requirements for headings. They should

We recommend keeping the font and size the same as the body text and applying title case capitalization. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics are appropriate for subordinate headings.

Chapter Title

Section Heading

Tip: Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word allow you to create heading levels that help you to keep your headings consistent.

Tables and other illustrations (referred to as “figures”) should be placed as close to the relevant part of text as possible. MLA also provides guidelines for presenting them.

MLA format for tables

Tables are labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title. The label and title are placed above the table on separate lines; the label and number appear in bold.

A caption providing information about the source appears below the table; you don’t need one if the table is your own work.

Below this, any explanatory notes appear, marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note is indented; your word processor should apply this formatting automatically.

Just like in the rest of the paper, the text is double spaced and you should use title case capitalization for the title (but not for the caption or notes).

MLA table

MLA format for figures

Figures (any image included in your paper that isn’t a table) are also labeled and numbered, but here, this is integrated into the caption below the image. The caption in this case is also centered.

The label “Figure” is abbreviated to “Fig.” and followed by the figure number and a period. The rest of the caption gives either full source information, or (as in the example here) just basic descriptive information about the image (author, title, publication year).

MLA figure

Source information in table and figure captions

If the caption of your table or figure includes full source information and that source is not otherwise cited in the text, you don’t need to include it in your Works Cited list.

Give full source information in a caption in the same format as you would in the Works Cited list, but without inverting the author name (i.e. John Smith, not Smith, John).

MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .

Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.

The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.

This quick guide to MLA style  explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

Cite this Scribbr article

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Streefkerk, R. (2022, June 16). MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template. Scribbr. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/formatting/

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MLA General Format 

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MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages. 

Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material produced by other writers. 

If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the  MLA Handbook  (9th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  (3rd edition). The  MLA Handbook  is available in most writing centers and reference libraries. It is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.

Paper Format

The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the  MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in  MLA Style :

General Guidelines

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:

This image shows the first page of an MLA paper.

The First Page of an MLA Paper

Section Headings

Writers sometimes use section headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.

MLA recommends that when dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.

MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing , 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.

If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.

Sample Section Headings

The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.

Formatted, unnumbered:

Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left

Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left

Level 3 Heading: centered, bold

Level 4 Heading: centered, italics

Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left

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COMMENTS

  1. MLA Format

    Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document: Times New Roman 12 1″ page margins Double line spacing ½” indent for new paragraphs Title case capitalization for headings Download Word template Open Google Docs template (To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)

  2. MLA General Format

    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 each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.