Guide to Using MLA Format

All take-home papers for the Upper School English Department should follow MLA style formatting and documentation.

All take-home papers should have:

· MLA style margin, line spacing, and font settings

· a first-page heading

· a title

· a header on every page with the studentís last name and page number in the upper right hand corner

· parenthetical page citations for every quotation

· a list of works cited

Below you will find standard MLA formatting procedure for each of these items and hints on how to set your word processor for each. (Instructions are for Microsoft Word. If you use another word processor, you may have to consult your manual.) You can also view a sample first page and a sample of the format for using an epigraph.

For instructions on proper MLA formatting in a list of works cited, go to

MLA Style Margin, Line Spacing, and Font Settings

MLA style requires you to have one-inch margins on every side of your paper. That means that there is one inch of space between the text and the edge of the paper. You will probably want to sent one-inch margins as the default on your computer; most computers are set at 1.25" or 1.50" as the default. You can check your settings by going to "Page Set Up" (on your File menu), which displays margin information.

MLA style also requires all papers to be double-spaced. To set spacing, look in the "Paragraph" section of your "Format" menu. All spacing should be double-spaced, including the space between your first page heading items, between the title and the first paragraph, and between paragraphs.

Use a readable, 12-point font that looks like a typeface you might find in a book. Do not use fonts that look like handwriting or other fanciful styles. Present your work seriously if you want to be taken seriously.

First Page Heading

A title page is not necessary unless the teacher specifically asks for one. Your first page should have a heading in the upper left-hand corner that provides the following identifying information in this order:

Your full name.

Your teacherís name.

The class title.

The date that the paper is due.

These lines should be double-spaced. See the sample first page for an example.


Your title should be in 12-point type, NOT in a larger font. It should also be in normal text. DO NOT use boldface, italics, underlining, quotation marks or other effects for your title. If you include a book, story, or poem title in your own title, you should then follow proper format for that title (i.e., underline if it is a full length work, use quotation marks if it is a poem or short work). The title should be one double-space below the last line of your heading.


A header is a line of text that appears on every page. In MLA format, a header with your name and the page number should appear at the top of every page. To create a header, pull down the "View" menu and choose "Header and Footer." Insert your last name in the autotext, and then repeat the procedure and choose the page number icon. If you are careful to insert your name first and then the page number, your header will be properly formatted with your name to the left of the page number. Be sure to set the header in the upper right hand corner. This way, every page will be identified, even if one gets misplaced in the shuffle of papers.

Parenthetical Page Citations

Every quotation cited in your paper must be integrated grammatically and smoothly into your writing and followed by a parenthetical page citation, according to MLA guidelines. The page number (alone, without "#" or "p." or "page") should appear either directly after the quotation or at the end of the sentence.


Paul asks his mother what luck is, and she answers that "itís what causes you to have money" (858).

Nelly says that Catherineís "spirits were always at high water mark" (42) during the time that her father was ill and her brother was away.

For full instructions and more samples, see the Bedford Handbook, pp. 573-581 or the MLA Handbook, section 5.4.2 on pp. 211-214.

List of Works Cited

You must have a list of works cited for every paper. Because the English Department does not assign research papers, you will likely need to cite only one text, but you still must list that text properly in a list of works cited. You might list two texts if you are doing a comparison and contrast paper or if you use an epigraph before your introduction.

In the interest of reducing paper usage, your list of works cited may be printed at the bottom of your last page if you are citing only one or two works and if there is ample room for your list. Before your text citation, type "Works Cited" and center it. Below, cite your sources in proper MLA format. See the website listed above for a link to a cite listing format instructions.

Sample First Page

Click here for a sample first page.

For more sample papers with formatting instructions, see your Bedford Handbook beginning on page 616 or your MLA Handbook starting on page 292.


The MLA Handbook lists no specific formatting instructions for an epigraph (a quotation used before an introduction). Most students adapt the rules for indented quotations. Thus, the epigraph should be placed one double-space below your title. It should be indented on both sides one inch further than your regular margin (i.e., two inches from the edge of the paper), and, in the interest of not taking up a disproportionate amount of space, your epigraph should be single-spaced. The authorís name should appear below it, on the right side of the text. Donít forget to include your source in the list of works cited.

Click here for a sample first page with an epigraph.