Always Fashionable: MLA Style

Always Fashionable: MLA Style

Author: Meghan Hatalla

What is MLA style?
When and where should it be used?

Tag: ENCO117

This packet will provide an overview of Modern Language Association (MLA) style, as well as provide resources and examples of citations, footnotes and bibliographies.

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What is M(odern) L(anguage) A(ssocation) style?

MLA style is a set of documentation guidelines used primarily for works about arts, languages and humanities. If you've used other styles (like APA), MLA style will probably seem much simpler and more intuitive.

Using MLA style property enhances your argument by properly citing and using source materials, or previously written works. Maybe even more importantly, proper usage of MLA style--particularly citations and works cited pages--will protect you from being accused of plagiarism--whether intentional or unintentional.

Terms used in this packet

What is a citation?

A citation is a short description of a specific information source that is used to give credit to the original author(s) and also provide information to find the original source.

What is a works cited page?

A works cited page is an alphabetical listing of the sources used in a paper (listing only the works that you have actually cited).

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is like a works cited page, except the bibliography lists ALL sources used to write a paper, not just the ones cited. Typical MLA styles does not call for a bibliography (just a works cited page), unless your teacher asks specifically for a bibliography.

MLA Formatting

Setting up your paper:

  • Set 1 inch margins on all sides.
  • Double space, and use a 12 point font (i.e. Times New Roman, Helvetica, etc) whose italics and normal styles are recognizably different.
  • Unless your instructor specifies otherwise, type only one space after all punctuation (periods, exclamation points, etc).
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented 0.5 inches from the left margin (hint: use the TAB key, not the spacebar).
  • Place the page number in the top right of the page, and write your name before the page number in the top header. Some instructors prefer no number on the first page. Always follow their guidelines.

The first page:

  • MLA style does not require a title page.
  • In the top left corner, write:
         Your name
         Your instructor's name
         The course title
         The date (all should be double-spaced)
  • Center the title on the next line. Don't use any formatting (i.e. italics, bold, or underline).

Here's an example of the first page of an MLA-formatted paper. Note the double-spacing and name in the header.

In-Text Citations & Works Cited

This MS PowerPoint gives examples of the 2 biggest factors in MLA style:

1. In-text citations (paranthesis containing the author's name and page the information comes from), and
2. Works Cited page (usually the last page in a paper, it lists all the works used in the paper).

It also discusses the differences between direct quotes, paraphrasing, and other ways to avoid plagiarism.

Other Resources

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab - Comprehensive resource for citations, sample papers, even a poster for you to hang
  • MLA.org - Lists frequently asked questions regarding MLA style, and also resources for the most up-to-date version of MLA style
  • UW-Madison Writing Center - Provides a podcast on MLA basics intended for introductory literature students