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Mastering MLA Format in Microsoft Word: A Simplified Guide

Getting your documents to meet the MLA (Modern Language Association) format in Microsoft Word might seem tricky at first glance, but it’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. This quick overview will walk you through setting up your document with the correct margins, font, spacing, header, and works cited page – all the essentials to align with MLA standards. By following these steps, you’ll be able to format your papers accurately and efficiently, saving you time and stress.

Once you’ve completed these steps, your document will look professional and polished, adhering to the MLA guidelines. This not only helps in presenting your work in a clear and organized manner but also in meeting academic standards.

Step by Step Tutorial on Using MLA Format in Microsoft Word

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to understand what we’re aiming for. The MLA format is widely used in the humanities, especially in writing related to literature and language studies. By following these steps, you’ll ensure your document is set up correctly, making your writing more credible and easy to follow. Visit for additional guides to formatting content in the Microsoft Word application.

Step 1: Set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.

Open your document in Microsoft Word and go to the Layout tab. Here, you’ll find the Margins dropdown. Select ‘Normal’ to set all margins to 1 inch.

This step ensures your document aligns with the MLA requirement for uniform margins, making your text more accessible and neatly organized.

Step 2: Choose Times New Roman 12pt font.

Head to the Home tab, find the Font section, and select Times New Roman from the font options. Then, set the size to 12pt.

This font and size are the MLA standard, ensuring your text is clear and professional.

Step 3: Double-space your document.

Still on the Home tab, look for the Paragraph settings. Click on the icon with two arrows pointing up and down with lines next to them, then select 2.0 or Double from the spacing options.

Double-spacing makes your document easier to read and leave room for comments or corrections.

Step 4: Create a header with your last name and page number.

Go to the Insert tab, click on ‘Header’, and choose a simple style. Type your last name, add a space, then click on ‘Page Number’, ‘Top of Page’, and ‘Plain Number 3’. This will automatically add your last name and the correct page number to every page.

This header is a requirement for MLA formatting, helping readers track pages and associate your work with you.

Step 5: Set up a Works Cited page.

Start a new page at the end of your document by inserting a page break (CTRL + Enter). Title this page “Works Cited” and list your sources in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. Remember to apply hanging indent for each entry.

This page is crucial for avoiding plagiarism and acknowledging the sources you’ve consulted.

Tips for Using MLA Format in Microsoft Word

To make your MLA formatting journey smoother, keep these tips in mind:

  • Always check the latest MLA guidelines, as they can update.
  • Use the ‘Paragraph’ settings to ensure your document is properly double-spaced.
  • For your Works Cited page, use the ‘Hanging Indent’ option under ‘Paragraph’ settings to format entries correctly.
  • Save your settings as a template for future documents to save time.
  • Remember to manually check your document for any formatting issues Word might have missed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I need to include a title page?

MLA typically doesn’t require a title page for most student papers, but if you’re instructed to include one, center your title, name, course information, and date on the first page.

How do I cite sources with no author?

On your Works Cited page, start the entry with the title of the source instead. Keep everything else formatted the same.

Can I use fonts other than Times New Roman?

While Times New Roman is the standard, MLA does allow other legible fonts like Calibri or Arial. Just ensure consistency throughout your document.

How should I format quotations longer than four lines?

Format these as block quotations: start a new line, indent the entire quote one inch from the margin, and do not use quotation marks.

What if my source doesn’t have a publication date?

If no date is available, use “n.d.” (no date) in place of the year in your in-text citation and Works Cited entry.


Navigating the MLA format in Microsoft Word doesn’t have to be daunting. By breaking down the process into manageable steps and applying some helpful tips, you can master this formatting style, ensuring your documents meet academic standards and present your work professionally. Remember, the key to mastering MLA format is attention to detail and consistency throughout your document. With practice, this will become second nature, and you’ll be able to focus more on the quality of your writing rather than formatting details. Whether you’re working on an essay, a research paper, or any other academic writing, knowing how to properly format your documents in MLA style will serve you well throughout your academic and professional career. Keep experimenting with Word’s features to make the process even easier, and don’t forget to check for any updates to the MLA guidelines, as staying current is crucial in academic writing. Happy formatting!

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