A part of college writing is learning to adapt to the professional style of the fields you are working in. In the English department (and many other humanities) the Modern Language Association (MLA) publishes a handbook which is used to standardize the appearance of documents, grammar, style, and citations. Just as language evolves over time, the MLA handbook is updated to adjust to changes. This post will cover the basics of MLA formatting for a paper. We will cover MLA citation basics next week.
The first thing to know is Microsoft Word IS NOT set up in MLA format. It is often a good idea to adjust the formatting settings from the very start of your paper, so you don’t forget. This will mean changing the font, spacing between paragraphs and sometimes adjusting the margins. In most Word programs, these changes can be accomplished in the Format/Page Layout tabs.
For those of you who are more visual, Purdue OWL has a great sample paper with all of these rules illustrated on their webpage.
- No cover page needed
- Heading: left side of the page: Name, Instructor’s Name, Course, Date
- Header: last name and page number in right corner (not in body of text), starting on the second page (Header -> Different 1st page)
- Title: Centered below heading, should be original (not Paper 1). Does not need to be underlined, bold or a different size.
- Double space the whole document
- The space between paragraphs (Before/After) is set to 0 (Paragraph -> Spacing between paragraphs -> After = 0)
- 1 inch margins on top/bottom, left/right
- Document should be left justified (not fully justified, which makes the spacing look strange) This is usually the first of the justify buttons.
- Font: Times New Roman, 12 point
- All paragraphs indented 1/2 inch (Standard tab, usually done automatically by Word). No extra spaces/lines between paragraphs.
- Work Cited page: Starts on a new page (Insert -> page break). Follow MLA work cited rules (see post next week for more).
If you are submitting your MLA formatted paper in hard copy, you should print it out on fresh, blank 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper in black ink (that is clear and easy to read) and staple them in the upper-left hand corner.
If you are submitting your paper via Sakai or other internet system, you should always save your file with your last name in the file name: FitzsimmonsClassificationPaper.docx. (Our Sakai system freaks out a little about spaces in file names, so try to avoid those as well.)
Also, for this class, you need to be sure that you save your files in one of the permitted file formats: either as a Word document (.doc/.docx) or as a PDF (.PDF). I can not guarantee that I will be able to open any other file type, and if I can not open it, it can not be counted as turned in.