What Is MLA Format for an Essay: Brief Guide

What Is MLA Format for an Essay: Brief Guide

MLA referencing is often a challenge for many students to adopt. Often, early high school years expose you to APA referencing, bringing about confusion as you adjust to the MLA format for college essay.

This article will analyse the essay format MLA to help you quickly overcome the learning curve. We’ll also tackle an MLA essay template to guide you in preparing for your assignment.

What is MLA format?

MLA is a formatting style that was developed by the Modern Language Association, hence the acronym. This referencing style is mostly used for writing papers in humanities, literature, liberal arts, and language. 

MLA essay format

The MLA referencing style is perhaps the easiest of various styles. However, mastering all the nitty gritty elements is essential to meet the MLA standards for essay. Some of the key rules to remember as you edit your essay in MLA are:

  • Use the Times New Roman font, size 12
  • Insert 1-inch page margins on all edges of your paper
  • Use double-line-spacing for all the sentences within your essay
  • Insert ½-inch indents on each new essay paragraph.

The title page

The MLA title page is the easiest to structure. Unlike other referencing styles, MLA does not necessitate a title page. As such, you may opt to insert details into the first page unless you are advised otherwise by your tutor. 

Your title page should entail your name, the tutor’s name, your course title, and the due date. If you choose to include these details on your first paper page, insert them in the upper left corner of your page.

Next, insert the title of your paper while including a double line space after all the details. You must remember that the MLA essay title should be centred and presented without italics, emboldening, or underlining.

Running head

Unlike other styles, an MLA running head simply contains your last name and the page number. The running head should be inserted at the top of each page in the right corner of your paper. 

When styling the running head, insert a one-inch space to the right margin and an ½ inch space to the top margin. 


The style of quotations in MLA is determined by the length of the quotes. Generally, quotations exceeding four sentences are presented as a block within a new paragraph. 

The quoted portion should feature a one-inch indent on all sentences within your block. Also, remember to add an in-text citation after your quote to avoid plagiarism of omission. Shorter quotes can be merged into your essay paragraphs provided that they are properly referenced.


It is vital to properly acknowledge the authors for various sources you have used in support of claims within your essay. However, note that MLA citations have slight differences from other formats. 

In-text citations

MLA in-text citations comprise the author's last name and the page number. This information allows the reader to spot the source in your works cited page and to easily find the page where the quoted information was retrieved from.

The in-text citations can be written in multiple forms provided they show the reader's name and the page number.

i.e., The limited awareness of drug abuse consequences results in higher abuse rates among college students (Hendricks, 34).

Hendricks attributed the high rates of drug abuse to low awareness of drug abuse consequences (34)

Works cited

The works cited section should appear after your conclusion and take their page. All entries in this section should be sorted alphabetically based on the author’s last name. Also, book titles, web names, and periodical titles should be italicized. 

The title ‘works cited’ should be centred and, like other headings, in plain text. If your reference entries exceed one line, use a hanging indent with the first line flush to the left and the subsequent lines featuring a ½-inch indent. 

The elements for your works cited entries include: 

The last name of the author. The author’s first name. “Source title.” Title of the Container, contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, date of publication, Location.

MLA essay outline

Student’s name

Instructor’s name

Course title

Due date


  1. Introduction
    • Hook
    • Background information
    • Thesis statement
  2. Body
    • Body paragraph 1
      • Topic sentence
      • Argument
      • Evidence
    • Body paragraph 1
      • Topic sentence
      • Argument
      • Evidence
    • Body paragraph 1
      • Topic sentence
      • Argument
      • Evidence
  1. Conclusion
    • Summary
    • Recommendations