MLA Document Formatting Tips

Follow these instructions in order to correctly format documents according to MLA guidelines in Microsoft Word 2003 or earlier versions.
    1. Open Microsoft Word. If using another program, these instructions may still apply, but remember to save the document as an rtf (rich text format) file before submitting it.
    [File → Save As → Save as Type: Rich Text Format]

    2. Margins: Select “File” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Page Setup”. A “Page Setup” window will appear on the screen. Set the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right margins to 1 inch each. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Page Setup” window. The margins are now set.
    [File → Page Setup → Set Top, Bottom, Right, and Left margins to 1 inch]

    3. Font: Select “Format” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Font”. A “Font” window will appear on the screen. Set the “Font” to one of the selections below. Under “Font Style” select “Regular”. Under “Size” select “12”. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Font” window. The font is now set.
    [Format → Font → Set font, font style, and size]

      The following fonts are appropriate for use in most academic assignments:
      1. Times New Roman
      2. Arial
      3. Courier
      4. Garamond
      5. Georgia
      6. Tahoma
      7. Verdana

    4. Spacing: Select “Format” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Paragraph”. A “Paragraph” window will appear on the screen. Under “Spacing” set the “Line Spacing” to “Double,” and set “Before” and “After” to “0pt”. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Paragraph” window. The spacing is now set.
    [Format → Paragraph → Set Spacing to Double]

    5. Pagination: Select “View” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Header & Footer”. A “Header & Footer” toolbar will appear on the screen. On the document toolbar at the top of the page, set the text alignment right. Type your last name, capitalizing only the first letter. Hit the space bar once. On the “Header & Footer” toolbar, click the Insert Page Number button; it is usually the first button from the left. It looks like a dog-eared page with a single pound sign (#) in the middle. Your last name should now be followed by the page number. Click the “Close” button on the right side of the “Header & Footer” window. The pagination is now set.
    [View → Header & Footer → Set text alignment to Right → Type Last Name + 1 space → Insert Page #]

    6. Heading and Title: On the very first line of the document (not including the pagination line discussed above), type your full name and hit the “Enter” key. Type the course professor's name and hit the “Enter” key. Type the Course name and hit the “Enter” key. Finally, type the date (Day Month Year) and hit the “Enter” key. The title of an MLA formatted paper is centered on the first line below the heading. Select “Format” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Paragraph”. A “Paragraph” window will appear on the screen. In the drop-down menu next to “Alignment” select “Centered”. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Paragraph” window. The title line is now centered.
    NOTE: With the exception of the title and pagination, all other text, including the heading, body, works cited, etc. is aligned “Left”.
    [Format → Paragraph → Set Alignment to Centered]
    The original title of the document should appear in the same font style and size as the rest of the document. It should not be in "Quotation Marks", Underlined, or in Bold. The only exception is in the case of a title within a title. The title of a short story, novel, etc. appearing within the original title of a document should be underlined or set off by "quotation marks" as appropriate. After typing the title, hit the "Enter" key and set the paragraph alignment back to "Left".

    7. Body: The first line of each paragraph should be indented 1/2 inch, so hit the "Tab" key once and start typing. Remember, there are no extra, blank lines in an MLA formatted document. Every line, from the heading to the Works Cited page, should be uniformly double spaced; don’t hit “Enter” twice. Also, in the body of the paper, do not hit the “Enter” key at the end of each line of text. The word processing program will automatically “wrap” the lines. Use the “Enter” key only at the end of each paragraph, indent the first line of the next paragraph by hitting "Tab", and continue typing.

    8. New Page for Works Cited: When the paper is finished and the Works Cited page must be created, select “Insert” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Break”. A “Break” window will appear on the screen. Under “Break Types” select “Page”. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Break” window. A new document page has now been created for Works Cited.
    [Insert → Break → Select "Page"]

    9. Hanging Indents for Works Cited Page: Select “Format” on the menu bar in the top, left corner of the window or screen. In the drop-down menu, select “Paragraph”. A “Paragraph” window will appear on the screen. In the “Indentation” section, open the drop-down menu under “Special”; select “Hanging” from the list. Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the “Paragraph” window. Hanging indents are now set for the Works Cited page. Remember; do not hit the “Enter” key at the end of each line of text; the word processing program will automatically “wrap” the lines. Use the “Enter” key only at the end of each citation.
    [Format → Paragraph → Set "Special" indentation to "Hanging"]

    10. See the “MLA Hierarchy of Data in Works Cited Entries” page, The Little, Brown Handbook section on MLA formatting, and the sample document for more information on parenthetical citation, bibliography, and general formatting.

    Download printable MLA formatted Example (Rich Text Format)


Design & Content by J. Massengill, all rights reserved.     Published 3 March 2006.