If you’re a student of social sciences or liberal arts, you are sure to come across the term ‘MLA paper format’ sooner or later. The quicker you come to grips with this formatting type, the better for you, as professors usually downgrade your score by 5-10% if the formatting style is wrong.

So, what is MLA and how to format papers in this style? On this page, you’ll find all kinds of valuable information about MLA and will receive handy tips on:

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An Introduction to MLA Format Paper

As we have already mentioned, MLA is a referencing format used in assignments on social sciences, English (or other languages) studies, and liberal arts mostly. The acronym stands for the Modern Language Association. This is because it follows an author-page number format, meaning that you reference the concrete page on which you found some information. This approach is useful when analyzing works of literature or poems, making your citations more valuable and easy to check.

Now let’s consider the general anatomy of an MLA quote. References are used when you cite any external information, so you’ll have to use references unavoidably in most academic works.

A typical MLA quote should contain:

If you cite electronic sources, additional components apply. Here, you need to make a clear distinction between the date of publication and the date of your access to the source (sometimes the outdated materials are archived, and people wishing to follow your steps and doublecheck your sources fail to find them).

Besides, you might need to include the URL of the web source for its quick access (though in later MLA versions, the URL is optional in most cases).

Check the Sample

If you’re looking for an MLA format example to refer to, here is an excerpt that illustrates the use of MLA citations well.

Stock trading is an exciting subject that so many ordinary people without economic education are exploring today. Kelvin pointed out that trading volumes have reached an all-time high in 2020 (25). Experts from Morgan and Stanley associate this with the recent stock crash upon the start of the COVID pandemic (Applebee and Johnson 56). However, the massive influx of non-professional traders is also regarded as a risk for the stock market due to the unpredictable consequences of rapid price moves (‘Encyclopedia of Trading’ n.p.).

Quick Formatting Guide for Beginners

Now let’s deal in a bit more detail with the ins and outs of in-text referencing with MLA. We provide an MLA format example of the most common citation types a book (with one and several authors), a journal article, a website.

BOOK – Author, name of the source, publisher, year. (the title is capitalized and italicized)


Johnson, Kate. Essentials of Referencing. Springer, 2020.

JOURNAL – Author, name of the source, name of the journal, issue/volume/number, year, pages (the titles of journal and article are capitalized; journal article’s name is italicized)


Elliot, Mark. “Trading in Waves.” Journal of Trading. vol. 1, no. 1, 2020. pp. 1-5.

WEBSITE – the name of the source (if not author is indicated), name of the website, publishing date, URL, date of access. (the name of the source is italicized if there is no author. If information about the author is available, the name of the website is italicized. All critical components – the title of the source and title of the website – are capitalized)


Encyclopedia of MLA Referencing. Oxford University, 2019, www.oxuni.edu/encyclopedia. Accessed 10 February 20201.

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In-Text Citations Explained

As you might see from our MLA paper example, references can look differently in the text.

Here we provide examples of the three most common types of quoting – blockquote, direct quote, and indirect quoting.

Elliot claimed that trading stocks come in waves (25).

During trading, the “stock price moves in waves” (Elliot 25).

When speaking about the stock price dynamics, Elliot formulated his theory of waves as follows:

The stock price usually moves in waves. It can’t move straight to the top or bottom as the price is traditionally formed by human sentiment, not market conditions. The first wave is insider trading, with only a few knowledgeable people buying the stocks. Then the price sets back for a while, and after grand news is published publicly, the crowd comes to buy the stock and pushes the price further up.

Basic Formatting Principles

As a recap, you should keep in mind the following MLA paper format rules and principles:

More Tips & Tricks

Now let’s consider the formatting basics that every MLA format example should follow. In fact, formatting is not only about ordering the author’s data in the reference or organizing the Works Cited list. Your entire work should correspond to the MLA rules to be considered consistent with this referencing approach.

Here are the primary rules experts recommend following to make the paper MLA-formatted:

Follow these essentials when completing the final check of your assignment before submission. Every tiny detail matters when it comes to formatting, and you can minimize the risk of losing some vital points from your grade by sticking to these rules.

Can’t Cope with Formatting Guidelines on Your Own?

Now, as you see, the process of polishing your MLA format essay and bringing it to perfection is not as easy as it might seem. You have to consider many tiny details and intricacies, and there is always a high risk of missing something. But don’t panic if you realize you can’t manage it on your own.

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