MLA Format Complete Guidelines

Do you want to understand how to format your paper using MLA style? This article covers all the guidelines for MLA format while writing with Google Docs.

Many students must clearly understand the MLA format for their papers to correctly reference and cite authors in their research papers. 

What is MLA? The MLA Paper Format is a referencing style created by the Modern Language Association of America for research papers and academic writing.

In April 2021, the Modern Language Association updated its style guide and published the most recent MLA. The MLA Handbook attempts to meet writers' ever-changing demands besides establishing universal documentation standards. The 8th edition laid the groundwork, and the 9th edition built upon it.

The MLA format has two types of document citation formats, namely: in-text citations and works cited, which refers to the list of references at the end of a paper. These references acknowledge the sources of the information obtained and allow others access to them. Students are required to follow a particular style when using MLA format. This article explains the MLA formatting guidelines and how to apply them to your paper.

Authors can cite their references according to their particular assignment requirements using the principal elements for works cited. The MLA style format gives greater flexibility, credibility, and exceptional readability, especially for researchers and scholars in the humanities fields.

The MLA format guidelines refer to the basic requirements for formatting your work before publishing it. According to the latest MLA style guide, here are some of the MLA format guidelines you must use in your paper:

  • Font: Times New Roman with 12 pts. 
  • Paper size: 8 ½ x 11”.
  • Page Margins: 1 inch long for all sides.
  • New paragraph indents: ½ inch.
  • Line spacing: double, including work cited.
  • Headings: Title Case capitalization
  • After periods and punctuation marks: One Space
  • Title text: Centered
  • The last name and page number are at the top-right corner of each page.
  • Your name, instructor name, and due date will align at the top of the first page. 
  •  Use hanging indentation to separate the Works Cited page.

There is an option titled "Special" under the section "Indentation" in the settings window. Select Hanging from the drop-down menu under Special. In most cases, the hanging indentation's default spacing is 0.5 inches, which is the MLA's recommended standard spacing. You can change the spacing if necessary by altering the number in the By section to the right of that Special section.

Using MLA format guidelines simplifies the work for you, your lecturer, or your professor and helps you avoid the consequences of plagiarism. 

MLA Format in Google Docs

MLA formatting on Google Docs can be done in two ways: manually or automatically through templates for formatting documents. 

How to Set up MLA in Google Docs using a template

The Google Docs Report MLA add-on is one available template. Below are the procedures on how to do MLA format in Google Docs;

  • Click on File > New > From Template to open a new document.
  • A different browser tab will open to display the template gallery. 
  • Select Report MLA Add-On in the education section by scrolling down.
  • You can enter your text in the templates in a brand-new document that will open. 
  • The Google Docs will already have the document formatted. Only the words will have to be changed.

How to Manually Apply MLA Format to Documents:

You can manually set up MLA format style in Google Docs if you do not trust templates or have an altered version you must follow. Then, as soon as the format is set up, you can save them as your customized templates, so you do not have to recreate them every time.

It would be best if you used Times New Roman with font size 12 pt.

  • Click Insert > Headers & Footers > Header.
  • Change the font for the Header to 12-point Times New Roman, then select Right Align.
  • Change your Page Numbers settings, then click Apply.
  • Click or tap anywhere below the Header, then select Format > Line Spacing > Double.
  • Type your name, the instructor's name, the course name, and the due date on separate lines.
  • Click “enter” to go to the following line, then select Center Align and type the title of your paper.
  • Click “enter” to go to the following line, then select Left Align.
  • Start typing your first paragraph after clicking the Tab key to indent. Begin every new paragraph with an indent.
  • After you finish the body of your paper, select Insert > Break > Page Break to create a blank page for the Works Cited.

Below is the MLA guideline and an example of MLA Works Cited in Google Docs:

  • Author name (last, first); "Title." date (day, month, and year). URL. Accessed date.

An MLA format for an online news article may appear like this:

  • Kelion, Leo. "Coronavirus: Africa contact-tracing app is ready for downloads." BBC News, May 2009. Accessed on the 8th of May, 2018.

MLA Header and Title

In MLA writing format, the header is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes:

  • Your full name.
  • Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name.
  • The course name or number.
  • The due date of the assignment.

After the MLA header, type your paper title and click “enter” once in Google Docs. Center-align the title and use title-case capitalization. 

Below are the MLA formatting rules used for MLA headings:

  • [Heading 1] Bold, flush left

  • A 12-point Times New Roman font in bold should be used for heading 1. All words except conjunctions and articles must be capitalized.

  • [Heading 2] Italics, flush left

  • Heading 2 should be left-aligned with italics in 12 font size in Times New Roman. Except for conjunctions and articles, each word must be capitalized.

  • [Heading 3] Capitalized, bold, center-aligned

  • In Times New Roman, heading 3 must be center-aligned with a bold 12-point font. The first letter of each word should be capitalized, excluding conjunctions and articles.

Below is how to write an MLA paper title:

  • Source title entries are listed in the citation in the same order as they appear on the source. They are typically found near the top or front of the source. Include every subtitle, as well as the full title.

For example,

Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Atheneum, 1987.

  • Put a colon between the title and the subtitle provided.

For example,

Sheff, David. Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World. Vintage Books, 1994.

  • The title must be in italics when it stands alone and is not part of a more extensive work. Place the title in quotation marks and the name of the more extensive work in italics if it is, in fact, a part of a more extensive work, such as a chapter in an edited book or a short story in an anthology.

For example, 

Hughes, Langston. “Red-Headed Baby.” The Amazon Books of Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol, Amazon University Press, 1992, pp. 365–370.

Works Cited Page

The reference list is titled "Works Cited" in the 9th edition of the MLA format paper. The basic MLA format requirements for the Works-Cited page are:

  • At the end of the document, begin the Works-Cited List on a new page.
  • The margin should be one inch, and the second and subsequent lines of the source should be indented 0.5 inches from the margin.
  • If there are several works by the same author, they should be arranged chronologically. If the works were completed in the same year, they should be arranged alphabetically by title.
  • It must be arranged alphabetically by the name of the first author.
  • All entries must be double-spaced.

MLA Style Citations

There are many ways to cite a reference in an MLA format essay, depending on the source, so we have compiled a comprehensive list of examples below. To ensure that you cite your sources correctly, you will also find MLA format examples for citations for articles, books, and more.

For Books

Work-Cited Format:

The general format for citations for books should be:

Author. Title, Title of container, Other contributors (editors or translators), Version (edition), Number (no. or vol.), Publisher, date of publication, location (paragraphs, pages, URL, or DOI).

Books composed by a single author:

Last name, first name Title of the book. City of Publication, Publisher, and Date of Publication.

For example, 

  • Carter, William. The Gray and Guilty Sea. Flying Raven, 2010.

Books composed by two authors:

Last name, first name (of author 1), and first name, last name (of author 2). Title of the book. Publisher, publication date.

For example, 

  • Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens, Workman, 1990.

Books composed by two or more authors:

  • Clayton, Dhonielle, et al., Blackout. Quill Tree Books, 2021.

Sources that do not have an author

If no author is listed, the title should be enclosed in quotation marks followed by a bracket. For example,

Direct Quotation: “The Impacts of World Wars.”

The section that is paraphrased is in the quotation.

For Periodicals

Newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals are examples of periodicals.

Format for works cited: Author title, container title, other contributors (editor or translator), number, publisher, publisher Date and location (pp.) The title of the second container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Date of Publication, Location (pp.)

A magazine article

Works cited by the author (s) "Article Title." Title of the Periodical, Day, Month, Year, Pages. Below are examples of the citation of magazines and the corresponding in-text citation;

  1. Beckah Weinstein. "Trying Before Buying." Psychology Today, May 2012, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 45-47

For the in-text citation of the above reference, use (author's last name, page number). 

  • Weinstein (pp. 45-47)

  1.  Krugman, Andrew. "Fear of Eating." Newspaper Article. The New York Times, last edition, May 20, 2007, p. A1.

For the in-text citation of the above reference, use: (author's last name, page number).

  • Krugman, A1 

MLA Headings and Subheadings

MLA papers and essays include headings for organizations. This helps students use the MLA format style to make their books, manuscripts, theses, journals, or other literary pieces more readable and enhance their credibility as writers.

Indeed, the MLA guidelines do not specify the exact format for headings and subheadings, but there are general guidelines on how to do MLA format;

  • Headings and subheadings usually have a particular font size on Google Docs. You can reset the document body for each Heading or subheading to have a font size of 12 pt. and Times New Roman as the font style.  
  • They should be in the title case. (For example, Simple Stamps)
  • There is no end period for headings or subheadings.
  • There should be a half-inch indent after every heading and subheading.

MLA format uses five levels of subheadings. Readers will be able to easily distinguish each level of subheading by its size, format, and style.

Levels of subheadings and their formatting



1 bold, flush or aligned with the left margin

2 italicized, flushed, or aligned with the left margin

bold, centered on page

italicized, centered on page

5 underlined, flush/aligned with the left margin

Tables and Figures

To help readers understand the research, include figures, tables, and examples in MLA style format. It also helps provide a visual aid for your main points and thesis. It is a must to structure your essay's graphics appropriately. Like everything else in MLA formatting, there is the right way to accomplish it.

When adding tables, figures, or examples to your MLA essay, double-check everything, especially if you are embedding audio or video. Before submitting your essay, ensure that everything works properly.

Select your visual content with care. Consider whether they improve your paper and make your points easier to comprehend. You should not just add an image to increase your page count; this can make your research paper difficult to read. Your professor will quickly notice if you add unnecessary fluff to your essay.

MLA Style format for tables

Although labels and captions are similar, only some images require both. For example, tables have descriptive titles, labels, and numbers. The label and number are displayed in bold above the table, separated by a line. The captions should explain the example or, if applicable, provide its title.

The medium of the source illustration will always be used to document source information. All illustrations must include source information on the works-cited page.

The title should be capitalized in the title case, and the text should be double-spaced, just like the rest of the work (but not for the caption or notes).

An Example of MLA Style Format Table

The 2020 study found that 80% of US teens preferred YouTube over cable television, 67% of young adults preferred YouTube, 49% of US adults preferred YouTube, and 12% of US elderly adults preferred YouTube (see table 1).

Table 1

Preference for YouTube or cable television by US teens, young adults, adults, and elderly adults


Young Adults


Elderly Adults






C. Television





Source: Smith Polls, "Preference of YouTube or Cable Television by US Teens, Young Adults, Adults, and Elderly Adults," Smith Polls, July 2020, table 14B.

MLA Style Format for Figures

Figures (Image in your work that is not a table) must also be named and indexed, but in this case, the labeling and numbering are part of the caption that appears beneath the figure. 

Following the figure number and a period, the word "Figure" is reduced to "Fig." The rest of the caption provides the complete source citation or, in this instance, a brief description of the image (author, title, publication year).

MLA does not specify figure alignment guidelines, so readers can incorporate these images however they see fit. However, keep to the fundamental formatting conventions of MLA style (e.g., one-inch margins).

Below is how to cite images from a museum or gallery.

MLA style format: Artist’s last name, first name. Artwork title or description of the artwork Year, Name of Institution, City.

Below is how to cite images from a book.

MLA style format: Author’s last name, first name. Book Title. Publisher, Year.

Below is how to cite images from a journal article.

MLA format: Author’s last name, first name. “Article Title.” Journal Name, Volume, No. The Issue, Month, Year, pp. page range, DOI, or URL

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