MLA Quick Guide to Citation & Format

The most common format for an academic paper is the MLA format. This style guide has been used for decades and is still a popular option among many students. However, if you are new to academic writing and need help formatting your paper properly, this guide can help.

This article will walk you through the basics of using MLA headings and MLA outline format in your research project or thesis paper so that you can make sure it looks professional once published online or printed out on paper.

What does MLA stand for?

MLA format is a style of formatting for citing sources in research papers, and it is used in many English-speaking countries. The Modern Language Association (MLA) was founded in 1883.

MLA format outline

Writing an MLA outline for your research paper is similar to other forms of writing which include a thesis statement, headings, and subheadings. The major difference is in the formatting of titles, paragraphs, spacing, font sizes, and so on.

MLA title format

  • The title of your research paper should be capitalized and italicized if the sources are self-contained and independent.
  • Do not use a period after your title.
  • It should be double-spaced.
  • The first word of a title is capitalized, but not if it is a subtitle or subtitle phrase; this includes words like “and,” “but,” or “however.”

MLA format spacing

When you format a paper in MLA style, there are some basic guidelines to follow:

  • Always use double-spacing in the whole academic paper.
  • Setting your space is quite simple: go to the “Paragraph” section of your “Format” menu. Or you check the “Layout” menu if you are using Word.

Margins in MLA format

Margins are the blank spaces around a text. For the MLA writing style, they should be 1 inch on all sides, including the top and bottom. The margin is not included in your page count; it is simply there to allow us to see how much space you need for your citations and references.

How to cite multiple authors MLA

If there are more than three authors, list only the first author’s last name and replace the other names with the phrase “et al.” – this means “others” in Latin. As seen, a period is always used after “al” in “et al.”

What font size is MLA format?

The typical font size used in MLA style is 12 pt. 

For your font style use either Times New Roman, a serif font, or a sans serif font for the body of your paper. These are the most common type of font, and it is what you will see in publications like The New York Times or Washington Post. Serif fonts have small tails on their lowercase letters (the ones that flare out from each letter), whereas sans serif fonts feature clean lines without these decorative elements.

Abbreviations used in MLA format outlines and notes

MLA abbreviations are formatted according to the guidelines set by the Modern Language Association. To cite an item, you’ll need to use one of these two formats:

  • An acronym or abbreviation is a shortened version of a word or phrase that has been formed by excluding letters from their full form. When writing in MLA style, use an abbreviation in its full form, with the shortened version enclosed in a bracket next to the full form.
  • Avoid using periods or spaces between letters in an abbreviation that consists of capital letters (for instance: Ph.D.)
  • Use periods and space on initials that make up a person’s full surname (such as J. K. Rowling)
  • Avoid using periods on abbreviations that completely make up a person’s full name (such as JFK) 


If you follow these guidelines for MLA citation formatting, then your paper will be easy to read and understand. In addition, it will give your paper more credibility than other papers that may have been written using different formatting styles. Remember that the MLA page number format requires all page numbers to be 11/2 inches from the top.

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