9.4 How to Format and Cite an Essay

Your first and last name

Instructor’s name (spelled correctly)

Course (number and section number)

Assignment (Type or Name)


(a specific, original title goes here [centered]: do not use bold font)

This is the way your papers should look according to the MLA format. Use this format for all essays this semester. As you can see, you do not need a cover sheet (a title page). All the necessary information goes in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Indent each new paragraph using the TAB key (an automatic indent of one-half inch). Notice that the paper is double-spaced, that the page has one-inch margins all around, and that there are no extra blank lines between paragraphs. Use a 12 point font; it is easy to read and not too big. For your essay, use Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, or a similar font. To put your last name and page numbers in the top right corner, look under “Insert” or “View” in your word processing program for a function titled “Headers.” You can also use this function to put your instructor’s name in the”Footer.”

You will need to refer to specific works in the critical analysis essays for this class. When you quote or paraphrase from a text, you should include an in-text citation as well as a Works Cited page with your paper. An in-text parenthetical citation should follow the quotation. Use the speaker/author’s name in the signal phrase that introduces the quotation and identify the location of the reference in parenthesis at the end of the quote. Here is an example from The Prince: Machiavelli recommends the “conqueror must arrange to commit all his cruelties at once” (1).Note that the period that would normally end the sentence is moved after the parenthetical citation. It is also a literary convention (customary practice) to use the present tense when referring to a quoted passage in a text.

Drama and poetry citations require some other elements. Use a slash to indicate the end of a line of verse for both drama in verse or poetry. Greek tragedy is written in verse, so use slashes to indicate ends of lines. Here’s an example from the play The Bacchae: In the Prologue Dionysus warns, “I’ll show myself to him and all of Thebes/a god indeed. /And when everything has happened as I wish, /I’ll remove myself to another land /” (80.46-49).1 Notice that in the citation you will need to include the page and line numbers so a reader curious to read the entire passage can more easily and quickly locate it. Here is a second example from The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath wherein the wife confesses, “And thereupon I hit him on the cheek/” (123).

The titles of short works (short poems, short stories, essays) are normally indicated by quotation marks around the titles. According to the revised MLA documentation guidelines, long works (entire books, dramas [The Bacchae for example] epic poems, the titles of works of visual art and musical compositions) should be italicized. Consult a handbook such as The Everyday Writerif you aren’t sure.(This has an orange cover with a green medallion on the cover indicating that it includes the 2009 MLA Update.)

Works Cited (or Bibliography) entries are in alphabetical order and without numbers. Use a hanging indentation (indent second and subsequent lines one-half inch). Double space between entries and between lines of individual entries. Another recent change is that you should specify the medium of your source. For hard copy sources, include the word “Print” at the end of the entry. For sources you access electronically, include the word “Web” and then the date of access. You are no longer required to include the URL. See the examples below, and consult the Everyday Writer 4th edition with the revised MLA Update for more examples.

With this handout I’ve tried to show, rather than just tell you, what papers for this class should look like. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to ask me or go to the PPCC Writing Center for assistance. The Writing Center also has copies of The Everyday Writer, 4th ed. with the revised MLA Guidelines.

Works Cited(examples)

Aragon, Jose. Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe. C. 1820-1835. Polychromed wood.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO.

“Brueghel the Younger.” El Prado Museum. SpanishArts.com. n.d. Web.

12 Dec. 2009.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. Selected Canterbury Tales. New York: Dover Publications.

1994. Print.

Euripides. The Bacchae. Trans. Paul Roche. Three Plays by Euripides. New York: W.W.

Norton & Company, 1974. Print.

Exekias. Dionysus in a Boat. Attic Black Figure Kelix. Staatliche Antikensammulungen,


Humanities: New Meaning From the Ancient World. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Pikes Peak

Community College, 2020.

Marien, Mary Warner and William Fleming, eds. Arts and Ideas 10th ed. Australia:

Thomson, 2005. Print.

Martin Luther. Dir. Cassien Harrison. 2002. PBS Home Video. 2005. DVD.

Musee d’Orsay: The Visit. Dir. Philippe Truffault. Coproduction: Musee d’Orsay. RMM

Ex Nihilo. 1996. Videotape.

Plato. “The Apology.” The Trial and Death of Socrates. 3rd ed. Ed. John M.

Cooper. Trans. G.M.A Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000. Print.


1Euripides. The Bacchae. Trans. Paul Roche. Three Plays by Euripides. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974. Print.


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