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MLA 8th Edition Formatting - Quick Guide


  • 1’’ margins
  • An easily readable font (most professors prefer Times New Roman.)
  • Size 12 font
  • Double-spaced


  • Use active voice
  • Use present tense when referring to events that happen within the literature
  • Remain consistent with tense (especially important to keep in mind when writing about historic non-fiction)

First Page

  • Create a running header with your last name and page number in the upper right-hand corner (with only one space between name and number) one half inch from the top
  • In the upper left-hand corner, type your name, professor’s name, course name, and date
  • Center the title of your paper just below following standard capitalization rules for titles

Main Body

  • Your paper should include a thesis statement, “a single sentence the formulates both your topic and your point of view...your answer to the central question or problem you have raised”
  • Use only one space after a period unless professor prefers two
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph ½ of an inch
  • Use block quotes sparingly and only when the prose quotation exceeds four lines
  • Include parenthetical citations in your paper whenever you use another person's words or ideas. Usually this will include the author's last name and a page reference with no punctuation: (Smith 10)
  • When referencing plays and poetry, use the line number (not the page number)

Works Cited Examples

  • Your works cited page should have the words “Works Cited” center at the top. Your entries should begin right after and should be left-aligned with hanging indents. Eighth edition MLA citations operate on model. The model is a one-size-fits-all approach that asks for nine different elements and takes whatever are available.

These are the elements and the proper punctuation in a citation if they were all present in a source:

  • Generic example for all citations:
    • Author. “Title of Source.” Title of Container, Other Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication Date, Location.
  • Book:
    • Model: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.
    • Example: Smith, John. Hunting for Peace. Mifflin Publishing, 2004.
  • Work in an anthology:
    • Model: Last name, First name. "Title of Source." Title of Container, Other Contributors, Publisher, Publication Date. Location.
    • Example: Smith, Joanna. “The Squirrel Poem.” Poems about Wildlife, edited by John Smith, Harvard UP, 2016, pp. 122-23.
  • Journal article retrieved from database:
    • Model: Author. “Title of Source.” Title of Container, Number, Publication Date, Location.
    • Example: Smith, Sara. “Squirrel Habitat Reduction.” The Journal of the Environment, vol. 30, no. 2, 2009, pp. 127-56. JSTOR,
  • Website:
    • Model: Author (if available). “Title of Source.” Title of Container, Other Contributors, Publisher, Publication Date, Location.
    • Example: “Human and Animal Relations.” Wildlife Details, edited by John Smith, Turtles Inc., 26 May 2011, 

Information courtesy of MLA 7th edition and MLA 8th edition handbooks. 

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