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MLA Citation Guide: Basic Formatting

How to properly cite your sources in MLA 8th edition

What is MLA?MLA Handbook, 8th edition, bookcover

MLA style is the citation style put together by the Modern Language Association.  It’s the most commonly used style to write papers in the Liberal Arts and Humanities. Research papers may seem like a daunting task, especially citing your references, but don’t worry, MLA is very easy to use and understand.


Formatting your paper in Microsoft word

While the format of your paper may change from professor to professor, MLA has some very basic guidelines:

  • Font must be size 12 
  • Paper must be double spaced 
  • Margins must be set to 1 inch

You can set your font and paragraph settings to be the default choice by clicking on this Expand Section icon icon in the font and paragraph sections of the home tab:

Microsoft Word Banner

Microsoft Word Font box Microsoft Word Paragraph box

Microsoft Word Set as Default option

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First Page

  1. In the upper left corner, list your name, your professor, the course, the date,  and the assignment each on their own line.
  2. On the next line, click the center paragraph button and type in the title of your paper.
  3. Start your paper on the next line, using the left paragraph setting, indenting the first line.


Inserting Header and Page Number

  1. Click on “Header” and select “Blank”
  2. Tab over to the right side of the page and type in your last name
  3. Click on “Page Number,” choose “Current Position,” then “Plain Number.”

Microsoft Word Header

Microsoft Word Header step 2

Microsoft Word Header step 3

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