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MLA General Format
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MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages.
Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material produced by other writers.
If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the MLA Handbook (9th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition). The MLA Handbook is available in most writing centers and reference libraries. It is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.
The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA Style :
- Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor).
- Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
- Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the “Tab” key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.
- Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
- Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis.
- If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).
Formatting the First Page of Your Paper
- Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested or the paper is assigned as a group project. In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor.
- In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
- Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks. Write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
- Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text. For example: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
- Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
- Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number. Number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit the last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)
Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:
The First Page of an MLA Paper
Writers sometimes use section headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.
MLA recommends that when dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.
MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing , 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.
If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.
Sample Section Headings
The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.
Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left
Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left
Level 3 Heading: centered, bold
Level 4 Heading: centered, italics
Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left
MLA Style Guide: 8th Edition: Heading and Title
- Works Cited examples
- Direct Quote
- Block Quote
- Indirect Quote
- Multiple Authors
- In-Text Exceptions
- Personal Communications
- MLA Handbook/Other Resources
Heading and Title
An MLA-formatted research paper does not need a title page (unless your instructor requires one, of course). Instead, include at the top of your first page a heading – consisting of your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date – and the title of your paper.
The title should be centered and double-spaced. Do not italicize, bold, underline, or put your title in quotation marks (unless using a quote in the title), and do not use a period after your title.
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MLA Style Guide
- How Do I Format My Paper?
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Printable Version of the MLA Quick Guide
All of your papers, for every class, should be in MLA format.
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For More Information
- Purdue OWL - Online Writing Lab at Purdue University You can find examples of every type of citation you might need here.
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The MLA Handbook is Available at the Library!
The McCulloch MLA Quick Guide is based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: Eighth Edition . Modern Language Association, 2016.
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MLA Style Guide, 8th & 9th Editions: About MLA
- Works Cited entries: What to Include
- Title of source
- Title of container
- Publication date
- Supplemental Elements
- Book with Personal Author(s)
- Book with Organization as Author
- Book with Editor(s)
- Parts of Books
- Government Publication
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Multivolume Works
- Newspaper Article
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- About In-text Citations
- In-text Examples
- How to Paraphrase and Quote
- Citing Poetry
- Formatting Your MLA Paper
- Formatting Your Works Cited List
- MLA Annotated Bibliography
- MLA 9th Edition Quick Guide
- Submit Your Paper for MLA Style Review
Information about MLA Changes
The MLA Handbook Eighth Edition was published in April 2016 and adopted by IRSC Libraries in August 2016. In 2021, the Modern Language Association released the MLA Handbook Ninth Edition. There are no major changes in this edition. However, changes, updates, and clarifications found in the Ninth Edition are reflected in this guide. Many databases and citation generators have been updated to the Eighth Edition. Please check with your instructor about which version of MLA to use in your assignments.
Visit the IRSC LibGuide for MLA, 7th Edition.
About this Guide
Always refer to the MLA Handbook for authorized examples of citations.
Some of the citations in this guide are taken from the MLA Handbook; others are recommendations from IRSC librarians.
Always ask your instructor for specific directions pertaining to your assignment.
MLA Handbooks, 8th and 9th editions
Copies of the eighth and ninth edition MLA Handbooks are available at all IRSC campus libraries.
The Core Elements
The core elements of any entry in the Works Cited list are shown in the chart below. The core elements are in the order in which they should appear, followed by the appropriate punctuation mark. If an element cannot be found or does not apply to the source being cited, omit that element from the entry. End the entry with a period.
Each core element is explained in detail with examples on its own page under the Works Cited Entries Core Elements dropdown menu.
Image credit: Modern Language Association. Works Cited: A Quick Guide. 2021, MLA Style Center , style.mla.org/works-cited/works-cited-a-quick-guide/.
The standard citation style guide for the humanities, especially languages and literature, is the MLA Handbook , 8th edition, 2016. The Modern Language Association of America (MLA) publishes the manual. It is commonly referred to it as the "MLA Manual" or the "MLA Handbook".
The English departments at IRSC recommend MLA format for papers written in these fields.
Two types of citations are included in most research papers: citations within the text of the document and a list of reference citations at the end of the paper.
In-text citations appear in the body of your paper. They identify your use of an idea or quotation from one of your sources. The MLA Handbook uses the author-page citation system for in-text citations.
Information about the sources you use in your work are included as a separate list at the end of the paper. The MLA Handbook suggests using the title, "Works Cited", for the list.
Any source information that you provide in an in-text citation must correspond to a source in your Works Cited page.
Major Changes in the Eighth & Ninth Editions
- If a core element does not exist or cannot be found, simply omit the element from the Works Cited entry. Placeholders including "n.d." for "no date" and "n.p." for "no publisher" are no longer used.
- For sources with three or more authors, list the first author's name followed by ", et al.".
- The city of publication for books is no longer included.
- Journal volumes and issues are now formatted: "vol. 12, no. 3,".
- If a journal issue includes a publication month or season include that in the publication date, like: "Spring 2016," or "Jan. 2016,".
- If an organization is both the author and the publisher, list the organization only once as the publisher and begin the citation with the title.
- Include a DOI (digital object identifier) when available using the format "https://doi.org/############". If a DOI is not available, use a stable URL.
- The URL, without http:// or https://, should be included for Web sources. Angle brackets are no longer used.
- The source's medium (Print. Web., etc.) is no longer included.
- In the Works Cited entry, "p." is used before citing a page number and "pp." is used before citing a page range. These are not used in the in-text citation.
Read more about the changes to the new edition in this article from the Modern Language Association .
Changes from MLA 8th Edition to MLA 9th Edition
Additions in the ninth edition.
The MLA Handbook Ninth Edition was published in 2021. It does not feature any major changes from the previous edition - mostly additions and clarifications. Copies of the MLA Handbook Ninth Edition are available at each IRSC Libraries location. The MLA Handbook Ninth Edition includes:
- additional examples and visuals
- more information about paper formatting
- new guidelines for group projects
- new guidelines for using inclusive language
- a new section on annotated bibliographies
- information on including footnotes and endnotes (optional)
The MLA Handbook Ninth Edition includes a new section with guidance on using inclusive language when discussing race and ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, and economic or social status. See pp. 89-93 in the MLA Handbook. Some highlights include:
- Do not include terms that specify a subject's race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, or economic or social status unless it is meaningful to the context because including it for no reason may imply that this characteristic places the subject outside of the norm.
- Reword gender-specific terms for gender neutrality. For example, use "humankind" instead of "mankind".
- Avoid using gender-specific terms to refer to people. For example, use "server" instead of "waitress".
- Use people-first language. For example, use "a person with HIV" instead of "an HIV positive person" as this puts the person ahead of the identity. Some individuals prefer identity-first language so reflect the subject's expressed preferences when they are known.
- When the dictionary gives both the capitalized and lowercased form as acceptable options, choose one and be consistent. For example, "deaf culture" or "Deaf culture". If the preference for the individual or group you are writing about is known, use their preferred capitalization.
- Do not place quotation marks around or italicized words used to define a person's or group's identity even if the terms do not yet appear in the dictionary.
- Instead of writing "he or she" when discussing people or groups in a context where the gender is not relevant, rewrite the sentence to avoid the use of pronouns. For example, instead of writing "he or she will take the exam" write "the student will take the exam".
- Use the preferred personal pronouns for individuals, if known. The pronoun "they" may be used in a singular sense as a person's preferred pronoun or "as a generic, third-person singular pronoun to refer to hypothetical or anonymous people" (MLA 92).
- Avoid the assumption that all individuals identify as male or female.
- Avoid language that can evoke emotions or imagery that may not be accurate such as describing a person who uses a wheelchair as "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair".
- Consult a current dictionary to see if a term is considered offensive before using it.
- If you are quoting a slur from a work you are writing about, you can give the first letter then a dash to avoid reproducing the full word in your paper. If you are paraphrasing, try to find an inoffensive and current term to use in place of terms that are no longer respectful.
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- Last Updated: Sep 15, 2022 11:57 AM
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- Creating an MLA title page
MLA Title Page | When You Need One & How to Format It
Published on July 12, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 2, 2021.
In MLA style , a title page is usually not required for your paper. Instead, MLA recommends including a header on your first page listing your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the submission date, followed by the title of your paper.
However, you should include a separate title page instead in these cases:
- Your instructor requires it
- The paper is a group project (i.e. you need to list multiple authors)
The formats for a separate title page and a first-page header are shown below. You can also use our templates in Word or Google Docs.
Word template Google Docs template
Table of contents
Mla title page format, creating an mla header, frequently asked questions about mla format.
To create an MLA format title page, list the following on separate lines, left-aligned at the top of the page:
- Your co-authors’ names, each on its own line, if it’s a group project
- Your instructor’s name
- The course name and number
- The submission date
Then leave a few blank lines and list the title of the paper, centered and in title case, halfway down the page. All text should be double-spaced and in the same font as the rest of the paper.
Most MLA papers will instead list this information in a header , which appears on the same page as your opening paragraphs instead of on a separate page before them. In the header, left-aligned, list
Then on the next line, write the title of your paper, centered and in title case. On the line after that, start your first paragraph. The header and title should be double-spaced, like the rest of the paper.
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Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:
- Your instructor requires one, or
- Your paper is a group project
In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.
If you’re working on a group project and therefore need to list multiple authors for your paper , MLA recommends against including a normal header . Instead, create a separate title page .
On the title page, list each author on a separate line, followed by the other usual information from the header: Instructor, course name and number, and submission date. Then write the title halfway down the page, centered, and start the text of the paper itself on the next page.
MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.
MLA Style is the second most used citation style (after APA ). It is mainly used by students and researchers in humanities fields such as literature, languages, and philosophy.
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How to Write an Essay Title in MLA Format
MLA format is a style of writing and citing references developed by the Modern Language Association and published in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. It is the style standard adopted by many university professors and scholarly journals, especially in the humanities and social science divisions. Learning to write an essay title in MLA format is a necessary skill for any scholarly writer.
Creating Your Title
Write down four to six title ideas that give the reader an idea of what to expect in your essay.
Eliminate any ideas that use first-person nouns or pronouns unless the essay is about you. For example, eliminate "My Ideas on Improving Child Care in America," but keep "Summer in the Park: My Life as a Professional Nanny."
Eliminate any ideas that refer to your essay or research itself. For example, eliminate "Hamlet: A Research Paper."
Eliminate any ideas that contain words that could discriminate against a person's gender, race, religion, age or sexual orientation, including those that use the words "he, him or his" to indicate both genders.
Choose from the remaining ideas the title that would most likely catch the attention of your readers and make them want to read more.
Formatting Your Title
Type a left-aligned, double-spaced title block in the top left corner of the first page that lists your name, your instructor's name, your course title and number and the date. Type each of the four items on a separate line.
Type your working essay title in a plain 12-point font using centered alignment on the next double-spaced line. Do not italicize or bold your title. Do not add any quotation marks around the title and do not put a period after your title.
Italicize any other book titles used in your title, and use quotation marks around any other published articles or essays used in your title.
Capitalize the first and last words of your title, any word following a colon and all major words. Do not capitalize short prepositions or articles--of, as, with, and, but, the, an, for example--unless they are the first or last word of the title.
Begin writing your essay in left alignment on the next double-spaced line.
Citing Published Essays in Your Work
Begin the entry for an essay from a book or anthology with the essay author's last name. Follow the author's last name with the author's first name, the title of the essay in quotation marks, the title of the book or anthology in italics, the name of the editor, the place of publication, the publisher, the year it was published, the range of page numbers that include the essay and the medium of publication in which it appeared (usually "print" or "web").
Separate each piece of information with proper punctuation, as illustrated by the following example.
Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of book or anthology in italics. Edition editor's name. Place of publication: Publisher, year. Range of page numbers that include the essay. Medium of publication.
List the entry for an essay from a periodical using the information, formatting and punctuation contained in the following sample.
Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of periodical in italics. Date of publication: Range of page numbers that include the essay. Medium of publication.
List the entry for an essay from a website that does not have a printed duplicate with the information, formatting and punctuation contained in the following sample. Note that the entry ends with "n. pag" to indicate the lack of page numbers, "Web" as the medium of publication and the date you accessed the material online.
Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of scholarly journal with edition number or periodical in italics (date of publication): n. pag. Web. 1 Jan 2001.
Arrange the essay entry in alphabetical order with the others by the essay author's last name on your works cited page (if you cited it in your work) or on your bibliography page (if it was part of your research, but was not cited).
Essays in MLA format are always double-spaced.
MLA style does not call for a title cover page. When following MLA format, use a title cover page only if it is specifically requested.
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition; Modern Language Association; 2009
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MLA Style Guide Eighth Edition
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Title of Source. The title is usually taken from an authoritative location in the source such as the title page. It is the name of the source you are using. Capitalize the following parts of speech in a title: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, subordinating conjunctions (although, because, unless, after, until, when, where, while, etc.). Do not capitalize articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, the "to" in infinitives if they appear in the middle of the title. A colon separates the title from the subtitle unless it ends in a question mark or exclamation. Titles should be italicized or enclosed in quotation marks. Titles that are independent and self-contained (e.g., books) and titles of containers (e.g., anthologies) should be italicized. Titles that are contained in larger works (e.g., short stories) should be in quotation s. Exceptions to the above rule are: 1) Scripture (Genesis, Bible, Gospels, Upanishads, Old Testament, Talmud, etc.) Titles of individualized scripture writings, however, should be italicized and treated like any other published work.(e.g. The Interlinear Bible) 2) Names of laws, acts and political documents (Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta, Treaty of Marseilles, etc.) 3) Musical compositions identified by form, number, and key (Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A, op. 92) 4) Series titles (Critical American Studies, Bollingen Series, etc.) 5) Conferences, seminars, workshops, and courses (MLA Annual Convention, English 110)
The title of the work follows the author and ends with a period . Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind . New York: Macmillan, 1961.
A sub-title is included after the main title . Joyce, Michael. Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture. U of Michigan P, 2000. Baron, Sabrina Alcorn et al., editors. Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. U of Massachusetts P /Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 2007.
The title of a story, poem or essay in a collection, as part of a larger whole, is placed in quotation marks . Dewar, James A., and Peng Hwa Ang. "The Cultural Consequences of Printing and the Internet." Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. U of Massachusetts P /Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 2007, pp. 365-77.
Independent work in a collection When a work that is normally independent (such as a novel or play) appears in a collection, the work's title remains in italics. Euripides. The Trojan Women . Ten Plays, translated by Paul Roche, New American Library, 1998, pp. 457-512.
The title of a periodical (journal, magazine, or newspaper) is in italics and the title of the article is in quotation marks. Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010 pp. 69-88. Note: This rule applies to all media forms such as the title of a television series, an episode in a television series, a song or piece of music in an album, a posting or article on a web page. See examples below. Television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer . Created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mutant Enemy, 1997-2003. Episode in a television series "Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer , created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, Mutant Enemy, 1997-2003. Web site Hollmichel, Stefanie. So Many Books . 2003-13, somanybooksbkog.com Note: When giving a URL, omit http and https. Posting of an article on a web site Hollmichel, Stefanie. "The Reading Brain: Differences Between Digital and Print." So Many Books, 25 April 2013, somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital- and-print/. A song or piece of music in an album Beyonce. "Pretty Hurts." Beyonce , Parkwood Entertainment, 2013, www.beyonce.com/album/beyonce/?media_view=songs.
Untitled Source In the place of the title, provide a generic description of the source without italics or quotation marks. Capitalize the first word in the title and any proper nouns in it. Mackintosh, Charles Rennie. Chair of Stained Oak. 1897-1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Comment or review of a title in an online forum Jeane. Comment on "The Reading Brain: Differences Between Digital and Print." So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013, 10:30 p.m., somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital-and- print/#comment-83030
Review of a title in an online forum Mackin, Joseph. Review of The Pleasures of Reading of an age of Distraction , by Alan Jacobs. New York Journal of Books, 2 June 2011, www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/ pleasures-reading-age-distraction.
Tweet Reproduce the full text without changing anything and enclose within quotation marks. @persiankiwi."We have report of large street battles in east and west of Tehran now. - #Iranelection." Twitter , 23 June 2009, 11:15 a.m., twitter.com/persianwiki/status/2298106072.
E-mail message Use subject as the title. Subject is enclosed in quotation marks. Boyle, Anthony T. "Re: Utopia." Received by Daniel J. Cayhill, 21 June 1997.
Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterword Capitalize the term in the works cited list but do not italicize or enclose in quotation marks. The term need not be capitalized in in-text discussion. Felstiner, John. Preface. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan , by Paul Celan, translated by Felstiner W.W. Norton, 2001, pp.xix-xxxvi.
Translations of Titles Place translations of titles for foreign works in square brackets in the works cited list. The translation appears next to the title.
Shortened titles The first time a title is mentioned in your work, it should appear in full. If the title is repeated in the work, it can be shortened to a familiar one (e.g., Skylark for Ode to a Skylark).
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If the title of an essay I am citing is also the name of a work that normally appears in italics, how should I style the name of the essay?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .
If the title of an essay consists solely of the title of a work normally styled in italics, the title of the work should be both italicized and enclosed in quotation marks:
In the essay “ The Portrait of a Lady ,” about Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, the author provides a detailed character study of Isabel Archer.
Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis. If you have any endnotes
An MLA-formatted research paper does not need a title page (unless your instructor requires one, of course). Instead, include at the top of
The title should define the assignment or the topic of the paper. It should not be the title of the book, poem, essay, or short story about
Title of source (Works Cited) · List the full title as it is written on the source. · Italicize titles if the source is self-contained and
These rules apply to titles in the text, in parenthetical citations, and in Works Cited page ... Use quotation marks for a short story/essay/poem from an
MLA titles are capitalized, and appear either in italics (e.g. a book title) or in quotation marks (e.g. an article title).
In MLA style, a title page is usually not required for your paper. Instead, MLA recommends including a header on your first page listing
Type your working essay title in a plain 12-point font using centered alignment on the next double-spaced line. Do not italicize or bold your
Titles should be italicized or enclosed in quotation marks. Titles that are independent and self-contained (e.g., books) and titles of
If the title of an essay consists solely of the title of a work normally styled in italics, the title of the work should be both italicized and