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Guidelines for Making a Heading in MLA Format

Rucha Phatak Jun 18, 2019
In the liberal arts and humanities fields, MLA, short for Modern Language Association is a commonly used format for writing papers. Using this format gives the papers, a good structure and makes the content easy to understand.

Quick Tip!

Section headings aren't required for the MLA writing style. However, using them definitely increases the readability of a paper.
MLA or Modern Language Association format is mainly used for writings in the field of humanities, especially literature and language. It is considered simpler than most of the other writing styles like APA (American Psychological Association) and Chicago manual, which are opted for writing in different disciplines.
Though considered to be relatively simple, the MLA format does have a set of guidelines that the writer needs to follow. Students, especially those writing research papers, need to pay particular attention to the rules of MLA writing style. Here we give you some guidelines for making a heading in the MLA format.

Page Setup Instructions

Before writing a paper in the MLA format, there are a few things every writer should keep in mind:

► Each page should have a 1-inch margin on all the four sides. It means that there should be a 1-inch gap between the edge of the paper and the content. With a page setup option, Microsoft Word makes it easier to have an MLA-style heading in a word file.
► Each line on the paper should be double-spaced. It means that the space between lines should be double the usual. Double spacing should be followed in the title, headings, between two paragraphs, and within the paragraph as well.
► A readable font should be used while writing the paper. Legible fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Lucida, etc., can be used. The MLA format demands that the regular and italic style of a particular font should be different from one another and easily recognizable.
► A paper in the MLA format should be written in 12-point font only. Everything from the title to the conclusion should be in that size.

Headings in MLA Format

► Like the rest of the paper written in the MLA format, headings should be in 12-point size and in a legible font. It should be double-spaced from the text above and below it.

► Follow numbered or unnumbered format to write headings for the sections in the paper.
► The headings should be grammatically similar. It means that if a writer writes the first heading as a complete sentence, then the other headings should be in complete sentences as well. If the writer uses a noun-phrase form in one heading, then he has to use the same form for all the other headings too. This brings uniformity in the writing style.

Heading on An Opening Page

► As there is no title page essential for the MLA style paper, it becomes necessary to include the writer's information on the first page of the paper.

► On the upper left-hand corner of the paper, the writer should write his or her name.
► Below that, using double spacing, the name of the instructor or professor should be written.

► Then, the class information should be added.
► Lastly, the date of submission should be mentioned. In the MLA format, the date is usually written in the day-month-year format. The date and year should be written in numbers, and the month should be spelled out.

► In some cases, the month-day-year format of writing a date is also used. However, it is best to get it confirmed from the instructor.

Section Headings

As mentioned before, it is not mandatory to include headings for the different sections in an MLA-styled paper. However, sometimes, the length of the paper and the complexity of ideas may compel the students to make different sections in the paper. The sections become easy to recognize after appropriate headings are given to them.

Numbered Section Headings

A writer can use the MLA format of numbered section headings. He can divide the paper into different sections. Each section will consist of a heading, and each section will be numbered.
In this MLA heading format, the section headings will be numbered in a sequence. If a section consists of sub-sections, then there will be one main-section heading, and the first sub-heading will be numbered "1" preceded by the main-section heading number suffixed with a dot.
For example, the first sub-heading of a main-section heading with number "3", will be "3.1", second sub-heading will be "3.2", and so on. For a new section, the next number of the previous main-section heading number should be used. Numbering makes it easier to locate the sections in a paper.

Unnumbered Section Headings

When the ideas discussed in the paper are complex, the writer can use the MLA unnumbered section heading format.
With such formatting of the headings, the writer can easily distinguish between the different levels of organization of points. For example, the content of the paper can be divided into sections with level-1 headings. However, points with lesser importance should be discussed in sections with level-2 headings, and so on.
The different format in the MLA unnumbered headings makes it easier for the writer to show the difference between their levels of importance or gradations. The first-level heading is always written in bold and aligned with the left margin of the paper. Aligned in the same way, the second-level heading is styled in italic.
If a paper consists of third and fourth level headings, then they are center-aligned. The third-level heading is written in bold while the fourth is in italic. The fifth-level heading, which is the last-level heading of the MLA format, is always left-aligned and written with an underline.
It is the writer who should decide which MLA heading format to use in his paper. However, students can take help of their instructors to make the choice.