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MLA Style Guide

MLA Style refers to The Modern Language Association's guidelines for preparing scholarly manuscripts and student research papers. These guidelines are used in the United States, Canada and many other countries by hundreds of scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, magazines, and other periodicals.

The MLA documentation style is known as one of the "big three" The other two most commonly used sets of guidelines are published by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the University of Chicago Press.

The MLA guidelines concern the documentation of sources within a research paper, as well as the mechanics of writing, including punctuation, quotation, and sentence spacing, etc. It is commonly used when writing papers in literature, the humanities, or the arts in subjects such as history, philosophy, languages, English, and art.

The guidelines indicate what need to be documented (e.g., direct quotes, paraphrases, words specific or unique to the author's research, theories, or ideas; an author's argument; scientific or historical facts; articles or studies you refer to), what does not need to be documented, (e.g., proverbs and sayings; well-known quotations, common knowledge), and exactly how to do so in great detail. For example, the basic form of a journal article is the author's last name, first name. "article title: subtitle."

Other general guidelines include the following:

  • Double space between the title and the first line of the text.

  • The text of a paper should be double-spaced.

  • A legible font such as Times New Roman or Courier should be used.

  • Only one space should be left after periods or other concluding marks of punctuation.

  • If a title begins with a numeral, spell it out.

  • The first line of a paragraph should be inset one half-inch (five spaces or press tab once) from the left margin.

  • Pages should be numbered consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin.

  • Use either italics or underlining throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis.

  • If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page.

If asked to use MLA format, one should consult the latest edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and also the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.

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