How To Write An Academic Essay: MLA Writing Guidelines

The Modern Language Association (MLA) publishes the MLA style manual, an indispensable tool for all students when they write academic essays. MLA documentation and formatting is the most common style used in the humanities, including English literature, women's studies and the study or foreign cultures and philosophies. It is updated every few years to reflect changes in the rules regarding the use of italics, underlining and so on.

Investing in a copy of the MLA Style Guide is a wise move if you are studying any of the previously mentioned subjects. Even if they are not your planned area of expertise, there is a very good chance that at one time or another you will need to submit an essay that follows the MLA format. We have put together a list of some of the key points to remember when following the MLA format on your next assignment.

What Are The Basic Formatting Guidelines For Font, Spacing, And So On?

Avoid fancy fonts, and stick to Times New Roman or Arial, in a size 12, with standard 1 inch margins. The text should be aligned from the left, double spaced, and each paragraph indented five spaces from the left.

When And How Do I Cite Sources In My Essay?

Always include your source (in parentheses) when you use someone else's words verbatim, theories, or ideas. If you include a statistic or fact, be sure to cite your source. You do not need to cite commonly known facts, for example, the earth is round, or The Beatles were a British band.

How Can I Insert Cited Text Into My Essay?

Put the author's name, followed by the page number of the work being cited in parenthesis following the quote or fact. Once you have used the author's name, subsequent references need to only include the page number. Note that there are variations where more than one author wrote a book, or where multiple books are referenced.

How Can I Create A Works Cited Page?

The works cited page should be on a separate page at the end of your essay, but it should be numbered along with the rest of your composition. The title “Works Cited” does not need to be underlined or put in italics, but it should be centered at the top of the page. Each entry should be formatted using a hanging indent, and double spacing used throughout.

This is just a start! Be sure and consult with your MLA guide of professor if you need more advice.

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