How to Write In MLA Format In Google Docs

Google Doc Mte Hero

Whether you are a student trying to deliver your next A+ paper or an aspiring scholar looking to share your ideas with the world, you can utilize the MLA format to establish credibility behind your content while also bringing order to even the most complex concepts. Thankfully, Google Docs contains everything you need to make the grade when it comes to perfecting the MLA format. Ready to get fancy with your formatting?

Tip: this guide follows standard MLA formatting rules according to the widely-used Purdue OWL guidelines. It is strongly recommended that you clarify the formatting requirements with your instructor, publisher, department, etc.

MLA Format at a Glance

The easiest way to interpret MLA format, short for Modern Language Association format, is to think of it as a style guide for research and academic papers. Much like the way social media templates or distinct company branding can bring uniformity to content, the goal of MLA format is to optimize written works for maximum readability and optimal reference. Listed here are the key aspects of MLA format that you will need to remember:

  • One-inch margins on all sides
  • Times New Roman font (12 pt.)
  • Double-spaced body text
  • Centered title text
  • Left-aligned name, instructor name, and due date at the top of the first page
  • Indent the first word of every paragraph by half inch
  • Indent block quotes by one inch
  • Llast name and page number aligned to the top-right corner of every page
  • Separate Works Cited page using hanging indentation

Tip: this guide covers MLA formatting instructions for tools that are accessible via the Google Docs website and not the Google Docs app. Accessing Google Docs via the Web enables more versatile and straightforward formatting options that will save you considerable time.

1. One-Inch Margins

Before you start typing in Google Docs, you will need to make sure to toggle one-inch margins for the bottom, top, left, and right sides of your paper. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Select “File” from the list of menu options in the task bar.
Mla File
  1. Click on “Page setup” in the drop-down menu.
Mla Page Setup
  1. Ensure that the margins for the top, bottom, left, and right side are set to “1” and apply to the “Whole document.”
Mla Margins
  1. After you are finished adding these specifications, select “OK.”
Mla Margins Ok

Tip: would you prefer to handwrite your text first? Read on to learn how to convert your handwriting to typed text on Android.

2. Times New Roman

Technically, MLA format only requires that you use a “legible” font, which debunks the myth that Times New Roman is the only font allowed in MLA format. Nonetheless, Times New Roman remains a popular choice for writers, as it is a serif typeface.

Serif Example Times New Roman

Studies show that using serif-clad typefaces, aka typefaces with small lines or strokes attached to the ends of each character, can optimize long passages of text for optimum readability. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Click on the font menu highlighted below. The default font called “Arial” is a sans-serif font, so you will need to change it before you can start writing your MLA document.
Mla Font Default
  1. Scroll down to the bottom of the font list and select “Times New Roman.”
Mla Font Tnr
  1. Use the -/+ icons to the right of the font tool to set your point size to 12.
Mla Font Size

Tip: learn how to add a text box in Google Docs.

3. Doubled-Spaced

MLA format requires that all of your body text be double-spaced. If the idea of tediously jamming away at the space bar enough times to send your thumbs into a spasm has you dreading your next term paper, rest assured that you can automatically double-space your text in just a few clicks with Google Docs, as you will see in the below instructions.

  1. Select “Format” in the taskbar.
Mla Format
  1. From the drop-down list of items, select “Line & paragraph spacing,” then choose “Double.”
Mla Line Paragraph Double

4. Additional MLA Format Requirements

Once you have added headers and a title, writing your next essay will feel like clockwork. Documents written in MLA format must include your last name printed before each page number in the top-right corner of every page. You can have Google Docs number and initial each page for you. Follow the instructions below to add your surname and page numbers, as well as other requirements.

  1. Select “Insert” from the taskbar.
Mla Insert Task Bar
  1. Click on “Page numbers” and select the upper-left corner option.
Mla Page Numbers
  1. Type your last name on the first page in front of the page number. You will only have to do this once, as Google Docs will automatically label each subsequent page for you.
Mla Label Name
  1. Locate the alignment options (left, center, right, justify) highlighted below and ensure that your text is aligned to the left before you construct your main header, which should read as follows from top to bottom: Your full name, your instructor’s name, the name of the class, and the current date.
Mla Left Justified

Tip: note that some instructors will ask you to write the due date of the assignment and not the date it was assigned in your header.

  1. Use the text alignment toggle to add a centered title for your paper.
Mla Centered Title
  1. For each new paragraph, including your very first paragraph, use the tab key to automatically add the required half-inch indent.

Good to know: learn how to improve your writing with OneLook.

5. Works Cited

Before you wrap up your document, a crucial element of the MLA format is a separate Works Cited page that displays the sources that you referenced throughout your essay. In addition to listing your sources in alphabetical order, the Purdue OWL guide for MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format describes how each citation should be formatted based on origin, source, and media type. Follow these general rules:

  1. Use the alignment tool to center the Works Cited header.
Mla Header Alignment
  1. Add hanging indents by indenting every subsequent line of text following the first line of each entry.
Mla Hanging Indent

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a way to automatically add hanging indents in Google Docs?

Yes. Highlight the body text on your Works Cited page, then select “Format -> Align & Indent -> Special Indent: Hanging -> Apply.” You can also use the built-in Ruler tool to change margins on Google Docs.

Does Google Docs include any other built-in tools for students?

Yes. You can follow our comprehensive guide to discover how to edit Google Docs and other tips, with everything from how to monitor word count to how to find and replace text. You can learn how to add graphs, watermarks, and custom backgrounds for your documents.

How can I be more productive when writing in MLA format in Google Docs?

Perhaps the best way to speed up your workflow is to study our Google Docs Keyboard Shortcuts Cheatsheet. While practicing keyboard commands may seem cumbersome at first, you will spend more time writing and less time using your cursor to dip in and out of menus once you have committed just a handful of these shortcuts to memory.

Does Google Docs offer a built-in template for MLA format?

Yes. If you are in a pinch, you can save some time by navigating to the “Google Docs homepage -> Template Gallery -> Education -> MLA [Add-on].” While using Google’s MLA template may save you a few steps, note that it is easy to overlook several formatting cues without a manual checklist to go through as you construct your document. The Google Docs template for MLA format additionally overlooks a number of common requirements set by most professors. When using any template, something as simple as adjusting the font can offset key spacing parameters.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots taken by Brahm Shank.

Brahm Shank
Brahm Shank

Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur and tech enthusiast Brahm Shank is captivated by the impact of consumer tech: “It’s profoundly moving when people discover that the phone in their pocket or the tiny computer on their wrist has the power to enrich their lives in ways they never imagined.” Apple, Inc. and its unique position at the intersection of technology and the creative arts, resonates deeply with Brahm and his passion for helping people unleash their potential using technology. Over the years, Brahm has held various podcasts - including famed technologist David Pogue of The New York Times on topics such as Big Tech and digital wellness.

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