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Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Write an MLA Style Essay

Proper formatting is a crucial part of any academic exercise and must be taken seriously. This means that formatting instructions should be followed to the letter since they are considered when awarding marks. When issued with instructions to format your essay in MLA style, it is important to first understand the basics. Here are the points to consider and ensure that your work meets the highest expected standards.

Uniform Spacing

Everything in the paper should be double spaced. This rule applies to the main text, quotations, notes and all the work that is cited in your writing. It also includes the spaces between headings or subheadings and the main text.


All margins should be one inch in length. The one-inch margin covers the left and right of your paper as well as the top and bottom. These setting can be standardized at the beginning of the writing process. MLA formatting style provides room for this rule to be relaxed in case the teacher deems it necessary.


Parenthesis should be used for direct and indirect quotations as well as other ideas that have been copied or adopted from other writers. An independent page titled Work Cited should contain all works cited in the parenthesis.

Acknowledgement of Titles

Titles of pamphlets, periodicals, plays, movies, articles, etc should be in italics. There is an option to underline the titles but this provision was preferred for hand written essays. Films, television programs, poems, songs and other reference documents are also identified using italics and underlining.


Page numbers should be placed on the upper right hand corner. In case your essay is divided into sections, Arabic numbers should be used to identify them. The heading or sub-heading should be separated from the number by a period and a single space. You have the freedom to use multiple layers of numbers. These numbers must be consistent throughout the paper.

Tense to be Used

Quoted and cited material should be introduced using the present tense. Personal comments on such material should also be made in present tense. Historical events and direct quotations in past tense are allowed to be present to past tense.

An MLA format essay does not need a title page unless it is an express requirement. Proper use of MLA will enhance the credibility of your work. It further shields you from the accusation of plagiarism.