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Some Reminders about Manuscript Form
Using MLA Style

  • Title all essays with a title specific to the content and scope.

  • Double space all essays, observe one inch margins, and use 12 pt. type with no fanciness such as special typefaces or boldfaced type.

  • Number all pages after the first one.

  • Give page references in parentheses after each paraphrase, indirect quotation, and direct quotation. In short quotations, the parenthetical reference goes outside the quotation marks but inside the end punctuation. In long quotations, the parenthetical reference appears two spaces after the end punctuation.

  • Short quotations--quotations of three lines or less--appear as part of your own sentence, with a helpful introductory phrase, and they are enclosed in a pair of double quotation marks. The end punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. In the special case where you might be quoting poetry, indicate the line breaks by using a slash at each break.

  • Long quotations--quotations of more than three lines--are indented two tab stops from the left margin only: they extend to the right margin (highlight the quoted material, select "indent" rather than "center" or "tab," and indent twice). Long quotations are double spaced just as the rest of the essay is, and there is no extra space before or after the quotation. Indenting takes the place of quotation marks, so do not enclose long quotations in quotation marks. In the special case where you might be quoting poetry, begin each new line of poetry on a new line on your page: do not use slashes.

  • For your "works cited" list, select "hanging indent" for each entry. Every line in the list is double-spaced, just like the rest of the essay, with no extra space in between entries.

  • Use ellipses only to indicate that you have omitted material from the middle of a quotation. Your reader will assume that there is material before and after, so do not begin or end a quotation with ellipses. Do not use ellipses if you are not quoting. Remember that ellipses are periods with a space before and after each one. If the end of a sentence comes in the part of the quotation you are omitting, use four spaced periods; otherwise, use three.

  • Use brackets (not parentheses) to indicate that you have added or changed material in quotation. Do this rarely, only when it is absolutely necessary to explain something that the quotation leaves unclear. Chances are that most explanations can be made before or after the quotation or that you can begin or end the quotation at a point that will make such an explanation unnecessary.

  • Do not interchange hyphens for dashes--they are very different marks of punctuation. Dashes are formed by typing two hyphens with no spaces before or after, as in the sentence above. Microsoft Word will create a dash automatically for you when you form a dash this way.

  • Pay attention when your word processor marks what it considers to be a spelling or grammar error. Microsoft Word underlines spelling mistakes with a jagged red line and grammar problems with a jagged green line. Do not consider your proofreading complete by just responding to these colored lines, however. Microsoft Word considers their and there as correctly spelled words but may not consider their different meanings and the embarrassment it could cause you to use one in the place of another. Train your eyes to look for possible errors, or partner with someone in the class and read each other's papers to check for errors.



John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,