A Complete Outline of MLA Essay Writing Requirements

The following is a complete but easy to follow outline for essay writing and citing research sources in MLA. Keep this with you for convenient reference whenever you write an essay in the humanities (English, History, etc.). Always follow the instructor’s specific requirements if they are given for any assignment.

General Requirements

  • Your essay should be printed on a standard 8.5 x 11-inch white paper with 1” inch margins all the way around and a legible font such as Calibri or Times New Roman set to 12pt.
  • The first sentence of each paragraph needs should be indented. Five spaces or half an inch is the requirement. Using the tab function on your keyboard achieves this automatically.
  • Include a header in the upper right hand corner of the page, which should include your last name followed by a page number. Do not number the works cited page.
  • Unless specifically required to do so, do not include a title page. Instead, on the upper left hand corner of the first page put in your name, course information, and date all double spaced. Below this include the essay’s title in normal font centered.

Formatting Works Cited

  • The works cited page should be an entirely separate page placed at the end of the essay, labeled as Works Cited placed at the top of the page centered without using bold or italics.
  • If a citation goes past a single line, the following line(s) should be indented half an inch (use the tab key function). The first letter of each word in a citation should be capitalized. Underline or italicize the title of books or journals. Put smaller works, such as articles, in quotations.
  • Each citation should begin with the author’s last name, followed by the first name. Next, put in the name of the work, city of publication, name of the publishing house, and year of publication.
  • If there are two or more authors you should list the in the same order in which they appear on the title page of the work.
  • If you use a resource that is part of a larger work (such as an article in an anthology) you need to include the author’s name, title of the work, the name of the editor, translator, or the compiler, the edition number, the book title, city of publication, name of the publishing house, and year of publication. The book title should be underlined or italicized.