Superb MLA Essay Format Guide: Top Tips

MLA Essay Writing

Simple Steps that Make Writing an MLA Essay Easy

MLA is an abbreviation of the term ‘Modern Language Association,’ and it is the style that research papers are often written in. It is common practice for the MLA essay format to be used in religion-style papers, in the social sciences and similar subjects. The process of writing a paper in the MLA style is no less troublesome than in any other style. There are just certain ways to do things.   


Check any Instructions You are Given

There are currently many books available that explain the rules of the different writing styles as these relate to research papers and essays. You should also find that these books are regularly updated. To start with, you should be careful to adhere to any instructions and/or resources provided by your professor to ensure you are doing everything correctly. Some professors may even refer you to their own online guide and they may recommend the best books to use. Consequently, the advice provided here is just for guidance and you are welcome to use it, unless you have instructions to the contrary.

Spacing and Margins

The standard line spacing for an MLA-style paper is double-spacing. This also applies to any related notes, quotes and reference pages. The reason for this is possibly that double-spacing makes text easier to read and possibly because this made it easier for professors to mark-up and indicate changes back in the days of hand-written assignments. Where margins are concerned, it is recommended you allow a one-inch margin on all sides of the page, at the bottom, top, left and right-hand sides.

Adding Quotations to Your Work

Place citations in parenthesis and list them in your reference or “Works Cited” page. When you present citations in parenthesis, you are acknowledging that you are quoting directly, indirectly, paraphrasing someone else’s material or simply rewriting something. It is perfectly acceptable to quote, paraphrase or rewrite provided you indicate you are doing so. However, you are unlikely to get a good score if you try to pass someone else’s work off as your own.    

Citations and Page Numbering

It is fine to comment on any references or cited works you use and remember to introduce citations in the present tense. You should only use the past tense if that is the tense a particular quote is in. Page numbers should be displayed in the top right-hand corner of the page. Book titles and the titles of other source material should be underlined. It is, however, more usual to indicate works like these in italics, so please refer to the instructions your professor provided.

MLA Papers and Plagiarism 

In academic terms, plagiarism is defined as the deliberate act of trying to pass off another person’s work as one’s own. Arguably, you could say you drew the same conclusions and had the same ideas as various other writers, and if the circumstances are genuine, then the act is not a deliberate one. If it is the case you use an idea or text you found in a book, you must say by way of reference where that idea or text came from. This rule applies in particular to any hard facts you quote or indeed to any cited material. If you even rewrite the words of other people, no matter to how small an extent, you are also plagiarizing that material.  

Plagiarism of the Unintentional Variety

This does happen and it can cause you to be suspended or expelled from your course. So be careful about acknowledging any source material you use and make sure you cite any text you rewrite. If you have any concerns that you have plagiarized some material unintentionally, check back through your research notes and identify anything that looks strikingly similar to your own words. If your concerns are sufficiently grave, then add a note indicating your uncertainty and your professor should be able to provide some useful tips and feedback on your first draft.