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Citation Help

Learn to cite your sources correctly.

MLA Modern Language Association

MLA Style

This style is common in the humanities. This page will give you an overview and further resources.

Style Guide

This and other style guides are located at the front desk of the J. W. Martin Library.

Style Template

MLA Style includes specific rules for formatting your paper.

Since you will likely write more than one paper in this style, you should have a pre-formatted template in your word processor. Use this file to create a template in Microsoft Word:

To Use this Document

  1. Download and open the file in Microsoft Word.

  2. Select FileSave AsThis PC.

  3. Select any location to save the file.

  4. In the Save As dialog box, select Word Template (*.dotx) from the Save as type: dropdown menu.

  5. Give the file any name you wish (e.g., “MLA Format”) and select Save.

The template will now be available whenever you open Word. Use the style presets in the Styles pane to conform your document to MLA Style.

Formatting a Paper

Follow these guidelines:

  • Use a consistent, readable font. Most professors prefer 12-point Times New Roman.

  • Use one-inch margins on all sides. In most word processors, this is the default setting.

  • Use your word processor’s built-in headers and page-numbering features to add a page number to the upper right corner of every page.

  • Present your name and relevant class information in the top left corner of the first page (Figure 1).

  • Double-space your entire document and indent your paragraphs half an inch.

  • Use your word processor’s heading styles to create headings for your document. Divide your paper into sections and give each section a heading to keep your material organized.

  • Include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper (Figure 2).

Your professor’s requirements supersede anything in this guide. Be sure to read your syllabus and assignment instructions carefully.

Rules for Headings

There are no strict rules for formatting headings in MLA Style.

However, the headings should be double-spaced and have the same font and font size as your body text. Remember, do not skip heading levels.

Suggested heading levels and styles are as follows:

  1. Flush Left, Bold, Title Case

  2. Flush Left, Title Case

  3. Flush Left, Italic, Title Case.

Do not create headings by simply styling the font. Your word processor has a feature called Styles, which allows you to insert semantic headings and give them a consistent look.

If you use them properly, these headings will create a dynamic outline of your paper, making it more navigable both for you and for other readers. If you use the provided template, we have already styled these headings for you.

Sample Pages

These figures display pages of a sample paper.

Because these examples are designed to imitate the dimensions of an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper, they are best viewed on a desktop monitor. They will display on tablets and phones, but some text may be cut off or be illegible.

The examples are interactive! Tap or hover over any text with a dashed underline to learn more about styling your paper.

Josephson 1

Laura N. Josephson

Professor Bennett

Humanities 2710

Ellington’s Adventures in Music and Geography

In studying the influence of Latin American, African and Asian music on modern American composers, music historians tend to discuss such figures as Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin, Henry Cowell, Alan Hovhaness, and John Cage (Brindle; Griffiths 104–39; Hitchcock 173–98). They usually overlook Duke Ellington, whom Gunther rightly calls one of America’s great composers (318), probably because they are familiar only with Ellington’s popular pieces, like “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo,” and “Solitude.“ Still little known are the ambitious orchestral suites Ellington composed, several of which, such as Black, Brown and Beige (originally entitled The African Suite), The Liberian Suite, The Far East Suite, The Latin American Suite, and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, explore his impressions of the people, places, and music of other countries.

Not all music critics, however, have ignored Ellington’s excursions into longer musical forms. Raymond Horricks compared him with Ravel, Delius, and Debussy:

The continually enquiring mind of Ellington, … has sought to extend steadily the imaginative boundaries of the musical form on which it subsists … Ellington since the mid-1930s has been engaged upon extending both the imagery and formal construction of written jazz (122–123).

Ellington’s earliest attempts to move beyond the three-minute limit imposed by the 78 rpm recordings of the time include Black, Brown, and Beige (originally entitled The African Suite).

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

Fig. 1. Example page from MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Modern Language Association of America, ; 7th ed.; pp. 117–118). Additional text from Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum 1.10.32, trans. by H. Rackam (), rpt. in Lorem Ipsum (; ).

Josephson 10

Works Cited

  1. Agee, James. “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.” Oates and Atwan, pp. 171–75.

  2. Borrof, Marie. Language and the Poet: Verbal Artistry in Frost, Stevens, and Moore. U of Chicago P, .

  3. ---, translator. Pearl: A New Verse Translation. W. W. Norton, .

  4. Chan, Evans. “Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema.” Postmodern Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, . Project Muse,

  5. Cheyfitz, Eric. The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan. Expanded ed., U of Pennsylvania P.

  6. Oates, Joyce Carol, and Robert Atwan, editors. The Best American Essays of the Century. Houghton Mifflin, .

  7. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. National Endowment for the Arts, . Research Division Report 46.

  8. Rodriguez, Richard. “Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood.” Oates and Atwan, pp. 447–66.

  9. Tannen, Deborah. Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. 2nd ed., Cambridge UP, . Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics 26.

  10. Tomlinson, Janis A., editor. Goya: Images of Women. National Gallery of Art / Yale UP, .

  11. United States, Department of Labor. Child Care: A Workforce Issue. Government Printing Office, .

  12. Wallach, Rick. “Cormac McCarthy’s Canon as Accidental Artifact.” Introduction. My, Legend, Dust: Critical Responses to Cormac McCarthy, edited by Wallach, Manchester UP, , pp. xiv–xvi.

  13. Wellek, René. A History of Modern Criticism, 1750–1950. Yale UP, . 8 vols.

  14. Werner, Marta L. “Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan: Writing Otherwise.” Textual Cultures, vol. 5, no. 1, Spring , pp. 1–45.

  15. ---. Review of A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature and Surface and Depth: The Quest for Legibility in American Culture. American Literature, vol. 76, no. 3,

  16. William, Joy. “Rogue Territory.” The New York Times Book Review, , pp. 1+.

Fig. 2. Example citations taken from MLA Handbook (Modern Language Association of America, ; 8th ed.; pp. 102–123).

Research Librarian