Using MLA to Write an Academic Essay

Modern Language Association, also known as MLA, is a form of citation. This form of citation is usually used in the Humanities such as theatre, arts, and languages and has very specific rules. It is also one of the most used forms of citation next to using the APA style. First, it is important to understand the difference in using MLA and APA in your academic essay.

Differences in Styles

MLA format has a page titled “works cited” while APA calls the same page a “references” page. MLA format dictates that an author citation starts with the last name, first name while APA requires the last name, first initial. While MLA does not require the year the material was published, APA format does. When writing an academic essay using MLA format, you must remember to double space the entire paper, including the works cited page. Any information that is not your own needs to be cited and the citations need to be in alphabetical order.

Rules of MLA

MLA citations have a strict format. The guidelines to properly citing work in MLA format are changed every so often so it is crucial to keep up with the new guidelines. Here are some of the general guidelines to follow when you write your essay in MLA format:

  • When it comes to titles, italics are used for larger titles and quotations for shorter ones.
  • On the works cited page, all cited works must include where the information came from. For example, print, web, television, or DVD.
  • Names are arranged in alphabetical order according to last name.
  • The ampersand is no longer used; it has been replaced with the word “and”.
  • Page number abbreviations p. and pp. are no longer used.

Writing in MLA format can be very tricky. One thing that can help is to keep a reference book handy with examples of various ways to cite different sources in MLA format. Make sure to have an updated version since the guidelines have recently changed. Also, there are websites out there that will do the MLA citation for you. All you have to do is out in the appropriate information and the citation is given to you in seconds. These are very helpful hints when dealing with MLA academic essays. Another option is to take your sources to the college writing center and have a fellow student or teacher’s aide go through them with you.


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