MLA 8th Edition - Paper Format Guide

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The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization responsible for developing MLA format. It was developed for the researchers, students, and scholars belonging to the literature and language fields to use a uniform way to format their papers and assignments. This uniform or consistent, method to develop a paper or assignment allows for easy reading. Today, MLA format is not only used in literature and language subject areas; many others have adopted it as well. The Modern Language Association released the 8th and most current edition of their MLA Handbook in April 2016.

General Guidelines for the Paper Format

Here are general guidelines that apply to your entire paper. These guidelines come from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”

  • Use white 8 ½ x 11” paper
  • Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides
  • The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch
  • Indent set-off quotations one inch from the left margin
  • Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface.
  • Use 12 point size
  • Double-space the entire research paper, even the works cited page
  • Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks unless your instructor tells you to leave two spaces

Making the Document Header

To create a header for your first page, follow these steps:

  • Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
  • Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
  • Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby
  • Do not place a period after the title or after any headings
  • Double space between the title and first lines of the text

Running Head and Page Numbering

A running head is a brief heading that is placed in the top right corner of every page in a project. The Modern Language Association Style Center (online) states that the running head consists of:

  • Last name of the paper’s author
  • Page number

Here is an example of a running head that might be seen in the top right corner of a research paper:

There are some points that should be followed while putting your running header in the document:

  • The running head is placed in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top, flush with the right margin.
  • Type your last name before the page number. (To make this process easier, set your word processor to automatically add the last name and page number to each page).
  • Do not place p. before the page number.
  • Many instructors do not want a page number on the first page. Ask your instructor for their specific preferences.
  • Quite often, the running head begins on the second page, but your instructor may ask an essay writer to include the running head on the first page of the assignment. As always, if your instructor provides you with specific directions, follow his or her guidelines


Indent the first word in every paragraph. Sentences should begin one-half inch from the left margin. It is not necessary for you to measure half an inch yourself every time. Use the “tab” button on the keyboard to create a half-inch space. Like all other sections of the assignment, paragraphs should be double spaced.

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