MLA for Regular People

MLA for Regular People

regular dude

This post is created from notes on our MLA class lecture/game show quiz. MW, you guys got the short end of the stick because I misplaced my list of questions and, being the imperfect person that I am, I couldn’t remember the full list. TTH, you got the full list. Everybody got candy, but to even things out, and provide a written resource you can turn to any time, I am summarizing what we talked about below.

Remember, MLA changes rules from time to time. It is possible that by the time you are writing senior papers in college, that what is on these pages might no longer apply. Use Purdue Owl as a regular resource, like everyone in the English-speaking world does.

The least you should do is this: any time you cite something, give Purdue Owl a quick read to make sure you remember your rules. And don’t just guess on how to do something. If you come across something new to you, I promise you….it already exists and there is a rule for how to cite it. So do your homework on how to cite. Do not turn anything in that is cited wrong. It steams me up, and more important, it will lower your grade. We have the luxury of rough drafts in this class, so we have time to address any MLA citation questions that come up long before the final draft is due.


Here goes:

General Guidelines Summary, thanks to Purdue Owl:

  • 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 12 point Times New Roman font to be safe. Nobody complains about Times New Roman. If you feel wild and want to use a different font, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are recognizable one from another.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks.
  • 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.

First Page Formatting (again, thanks to Purdue Owl):

  • 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. Double-space it.
  • 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” We forgot to talk about what to do in class with title of book in title, but it’s logical….if you italicize a title in body of work, italicize it in title. If you would quote it in body of work (article or chapter title), quote it in title.
  • 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. Start this on page 2. Other instructors may want this on page one. Just do what your instructor says and it should go well for you. Here is a correctly formatted first page from Purdue Owl:purdue owl first page format image

Citing sources in Works Cited Page (note: Works Cited for more than one work cited, Work Cited if you are citing one source.

For the best rundown on how to do articles: click PO here.

For books, click here. Purdue Owl leaves no stone unturned, as you can see from this section.

It includes how to cite web, print, single authors, multiple authors, editors only, multiple editors instead of authors, and importantly, what to do with online sources that were originally in print. This is common nowadays, and it needs to be cited a certain way. Note that authors are no longer required to include the url in electronic sources unless an instructor or publisher insists on them.


Click here. Someone at Purdue Owl has a mainline to someone at MLA. These detail-oriented people get together and make mad order out of an increasingly complex webby world.

Electronic-Specific Citations

You want to know how to cite a tweet? Click here. The Owl will tell you everything you want to know about citing electronic sources.

In-Text Citations

Here you go. Everything we talked about and more, according to Purdue Owl’s vast storage of MLA information.

Don’t be afraid of MLA. Don’t ignore it, either. If you have questions, look it up. Did you note that I gave Purdue Owl credit for every time I referenced their information?


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