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Getting handle on writing styles: how to write a term paper in MLA format
There are two academic writing styles currently in use, the APA, and the MLA formats. Typically, MLA is used for the humanities as opposed to the technical or scientific research that requires an APA format. MLA is a standardized format used in colleges and academic settings. MLA, also known as the Modern Language Association style, is also used in documenting literary research, so you will also see it a lot if you are taking an English class. Another advantage of MLA is it is much better on the citation of books, literary works, and non-traditional forms of media are detail.
First, to get it out of the way, MLA has a few ground rules that must be gotten out of the way before we talk about the paper proper:
- All lines are double spaced, and on the citations page there are no extra line breaks in between citation
- Footnotes are allowed and encouraged, using subscripts, to provide additional or non essential, tangential information
- Present tense of verbs is also used much more commonly than in the APA format, where past tense is often used
- There are one inch margins on each page
- 12 point times new roman is used
- In text citations are to be used with the only, the author is last name, as well as a page number. These should be placed in parentheses, like so: (Morgan, p.2 2)
- Leave only one space after punctuation marks, as opposed to two spaces from some other formats
- All first lines of paragraphs should be intended one half inch from the margin, to the left; in electronic writers, you should use your tab key other than repeated space bars.
- Like APA, MLA uses a header on each of the pages of your paper. This might or might not include the first page, but the header should have your last name on the page number, for example “Smith 3”
- Italics can be used to provide titles of longer works but should be avoided otherwise
After the essay itself, of course, a works cited page is needed. The words cited page should list these works alphabetically by last name of the author. The order for what elements in the reference and the specifics of how to display the references is a bit beyond the scope of this article, unfortunately, but a quick search on any search engine will regal you with the proper format for each piece of media. This should be enough to get you started on properly formatting an MLA paper!