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MLA Essays

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Your Name Goes Here
Nancy King, Instructor
English 0950.51 [or 58, depending on which section you’re in]
August 31, 2009
The Title of Your Paper Goes Here
This essay is formatted according to a modified “MLA style,” which is simply
an accepted guide for writing academic essays. This essay is meant to illustrate
how, according to “MLA style,” an essay ought to look. Remember, of course, that
each teacher’s preferences may differ slightly from this standard; it is your job, as the
writer, to learn exactly what you need to do. Also, keep in mind that your essays in
this course should be from 800 to 1,000 words long. (This essay, including the
Works Cited page at the end, is 1093 words long.)
Line spacing and margins are important. When using “MLA style,” you
should double-space everything, from your name at the top to the very last line. To
double-space your essay using Microsoft Word Version 97-2003, highlight the entire
essay after you have typed it in. Then go to “Format” and select “Paragraphs”. A
window will open up in which you will see a place to change the line spacing to
“Double.”
If you use Word 2007 instead, double-space like this: look for the tiny
x by the word “Paragraph” under the Home tab in the menu bar. If you click on that
tiny x, it will open up a box that lets you change the line spacing from “Single” or
“Multiple” to “Double.” Your paper’s left margin should be one inch or so, but you
don’t need to adjust the left margin. Just keep the default margin settings in your
word-processing software. Do, however, make sure to make the right margin
“ragged” instead of “justified” by clicking on the “Align Text Left” icon. A ragged
right margin makes reading easier.
Essays are written in paragraphs made up of series of sentences that discuss
the same idea. A new paragraph is created every time you press the ENTER key, so
don’t hit the ENTER key until you are ready to start a new paragraph. Especially,
don’t press the ENTER key when you come to the end of a line. Instead, let your
word processing software automatically “wrap” each sentence onto the next line for
you. When you are ready to start a new paragraph, press the ENTER key. This will
put your cursor on the next line. Paragraphs should be indented. (Notice that the
first line of this and all other paragraphs here begins a preset number of spaces from
the left margin; that’s called indenting. To indent the first line of your new
paragraph, simply hit the TAB key on your keyboard. Be sure to use the TAB key,
not the space bar, each time you indent.
At the top left corner of the first page, you should put your name and class
information as shown above. Double-space these as you would the rest of the paper.
Also, you should create a “header” that includes your last name and the page
number. By creating a header, your name and the page number will repeat on all
other pages of your essay as well, and if you use the “Insert Page Number” option in
Word, the page number will automatically change from page to page. Note that
your name and page number should be right-justified so that they appear next to the
right margin of each page.
Be sure to include a title for your essay. Center your title using the Center icon
located in the menu bar near the top of your screen. (Don’t use the space bar or
TAB key to center your title.) Also, don’t place quotation marks around your essay’s
title. Quotation marks are only used around a title when it is quoted elsewhere, as
in this sentence: I read Juanita Doe’s essay, “Time for a New Plan,” and liked it a
lot.
“MLA style” does not specify fonts and font sizes. You should ask your
instructor what he or she prefers. I would like you to use either the Georgia or
Times New Roman font style and a size 10- or 12-point font. (I used 12-point
Georgia font for this document—except for the title, which is 16 points high.) Also,
never use italics for all the text in your essay. Use italics only occasionally for
emphasis. Also, there is no need to make paragraph text bold. If you want to
emphasize a point, use a stronger word or phrase to get your readers’ attention, not
bold text or lots of exclamation points.
The general rule in keyboarding is to use one space after a comma and two
spaces after a period or other punctuation mark placed at the end of a sentence.
(But when a period is used after an abbreviation in a sentence—as in “I saw Dr.
Garcia every day”—press the space bar only once.) Always put a comma or period
directly after the word it follows. Also, never put a space in front of a comma or
period.
When required by the instructor, include a Works Cited page at the end of
your essay to list the sources of borrowed information you’ve included and cited in
the essay itself. See the Works Cited page I’ve appended as a new page at the end of
this “essay” to see what I’m talking about. To start a new page for your Works Cited
page, hold down the CTRL key and then tap the ENTER key, and a new page will
appear below the current page. Center the title, Works Cited, at the top of the page.
Then list an entry for each source of information you included in your essay that
came from somewhere other than your own head. For example, I borrowed the
information here from a fellow instructor, Amy Christensen, who posted it on her
academic web site, so I have to give her credit for it here in the body of my “essay”
and again on my Works Cited page.
Okay, that’s it! Follow these suggestions, and your essay will have the look of
“MLA style.”
This style will serve you well in all your future English classes and in
other classes as well. If you want, you can download this file and save it on your
home computer or flash drive and use it as a template (model) for your future essays.
All you’ll have to do is replace the text here with your own words. How easy is that?
Christensen, Amy. “MLA Format for Papers.” 7 Jan. 2009
planet.cnm.edu/achristensen/DE0950/essayassignments/MLA_format_for_papers.doc
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