Reliable Tips on How to Write an MLA Essay

An MLA essay utilizes specific guidelines per the Modern Language Association.  It is one of two styles students and professionals are expected to write in; the APA format (American Psychological Style) is the other. The MLA format is the preference for writing essays and papers related to humanities and liberal arts.  Here are reliable tips on how to write an MLA essay.  

Structure of an MLA Essay

  • Students often want to begin their essay with including the technical mechanics of MLA formatting.  You can do this with the easier parts, like double spacing and keeping a 1” margin. However, first attend to the essay content.  Afterward, you can apply the tedious MLA formatting into your second draft.  This will ensure the content of your essay is strong.  Students often get so bogged down by the formal aspects that the actual content is not the primary focus.

  • The overall writing structure of the essay is the same as any other style essay where you first present an introduction with the thesis statement, write paragraphs that support the thesis statement and conclude with a summary that restates your thesis.  Therefore, make sure you have all the components for a great essay.

General MLA Paper and Essay Formatting

  • After you have written your first draft, start your second draft with incorporating MLA as you write.  Here are the basics, refer to the MLA manual for all.  Set your margins to 1” on all sides of the paper, use a readable 12pt font like Times New Roman, begin each paragraph with an indent of half of an inch, double space the essay and use only one space after each period.

  • Specific to essays, it is suggested that you separate each paragraph into numbered sections and include a section title heading for each paragraph.  Ask your teacher or professor if this is relevant to your essay.

Citing Sources

  • You are expected to cite sources throughout your essay.  Citing is done by including the source in parentheses with the author’s last name and page number the full cited source can be found. 

  • A cited source list is typed on its own sheet of paper and written as a bibliography.  There are guidelines for the various types of sources, such as academic journals, online content and so forth.  Be sure to check with the current MLA handbook or with your teacher or professor for the exact format for each type of source.

Using these tips will help your essay flow and ensure you are turning in an essay with proper MLA formatting.  As a helpful last tip, always ensure you are consulting the most current handbook edition.

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