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Essays and Term Papers


Formatting, Citations, and Editing

If your instructors have their own rules for citations and formatting, follow them. However, the following guidelines, based on the citation rules of the Modern Language Association, are standard for most situations.


Basic Formatting Rules

  • Standard paper: 8.5 inches x 11 inches

  • Font: 12-point Times New Roman

  • Double-spaced

  • Margins: 1-inch margins on all sides

  • Paragraphs indented 0.5 inch from the left margin

  • Block quotations indented 1 inch from the left margin

  • Page numbers: Number the first page in the upper right-hand corner. On all subsequent pages, place your last name before the page number (Garcia 12). Put the page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the page, 0.5 inches from the top.

  • The heading should include your name, your instructor’s name, the course name, and the date. Double-space the heading.

  • Title: You do not need a separate title page. Center the title and place it one double space below the heading. Capitalize all principal words. Do not underline or italicize. Double-space titles longer than one line.



  • Three lines of text or fewer: include in the text, surrounded by double quotation marks.

  • Three lines of text or more: indent 1 inch from the left margin of the text; omit quotation marks.

  • Three lines of poetry or fewer: include in the text, using solidi (/) to indicate line breaks.

  • Three lines of poetry or more: offset as you would more than three lines of text (see rules above). Include line breaks. Do not use slashes to indicate line breaks.

  • To indicate errors in the original text: use [sic], italicized and bracketed.

    Example: “Stephen Kin [sic] has written many horror novels.”

  • To indicate an omission: use an ellipsis (three periods in a row with spaces between them). If the omission is at the end of a sentence or more than one sentence, add a period to the ellipsis.

  • To insert or change material: place the inserted or changed material between brackets.


Citing in Text

For every quotation or reference in the text of your paper, indicate the author and page number of the referenced work in a parenthetical note immediately following the reference. The final quotation mark comes before the first parenthesis, and the sentence’s punctuation comes after the final parenthesis. If you do not directly quote the author, but still reference his or her ideas, these rules apply. For information on when you need to include a reference, see the section on plagiarism.

  • Works by one author: In parentheses, after the quote, include the author’s last name and the page number. If you name the author in the text of the paper, include the page number but not the author’s name.

    Example: It has been said that “all men may be created equal, but not all men live equally well” (Howard 421).

    Example: Finton Howard firmly insists that “all men may be created equal, but not all men live equally well” (421).

  • Works by two or three authors: Include each author’s name in the parentheses, separated by “and.”

    Example: “A man who knows where the fish eat may soon eat fish himself” (Rogers and Llewellyn 15).

  • Works by more than three authors: Either list every author in the parenthetical note, in the same order in which they appear in the Works Cited section, or list only the first author, followed by “et al.”

    Example: The Platonic theory of forms had nothing to do with Plato and “probably would have been entirely unfamiliar to him during his life” (Cheng et al. 301).

  • Two or more works by the same author: Include a short version of the work’s title in the parenthetical note, separated from the author’s name with a comma.

    Example: In her theory of representation, on the other hand, she is less interested in notions of beauty than in notions of “linguistic accuracy” (Martin, Language 143).

  • Poems and verse dramas: Cite act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods. Do not cite page numbers. Do not use Roman numerals. When poems are not divided into acts or scenes, cite only line numbers.

    Example: (Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.23.218–219)

    Example: (Keats 14–16) or (Keats lines 14–16)

    When poems are offset in block quotes (more than three lines), include the parenthetical citation to the right of the last line of the quote. If it doesn’t fit, include it on the next line, aligned with the right margin of the page.


Works Cited

The Works Cited section should follow the end of your paper. The purpose of this section is to make it possible for your readers to identify and consult the sources that you use to make your argument.


  • The Works Cited section must include every work you cite in your paper.

  • Place the Works Cited section at the end of the paper, starting on a separate page.

  • Single-space entries but leave an additional space between entries.

  • Center the words “Works Cited” one inch below the top of the page.

  • Place the first line of each entry flush with the left margin of the page. Indent each subsequent line of each entry 0.5 inches from the left margin.

  • Alphabetize the entries by author’s last name. For works with no listed author, alphabetize by title.


    Henderson, Jonathan. Processes of Consciousness Encoded in Semiotic Sign-Sequences: A Political Approach. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

  • Books with one, two, or three authors: Authors’ names, title (italicized), city of publication (include state abbreviations for smaller cities), publisher, and date.


    Watson, Michael, and Samantha Willis. Chemistry and Chemists. New York: Random House, 1982.

  • Books with more than three authors: You may use “et al.” after the first author’s name.


    Kramer, Devin, et al. Microwave Cooking and You. Boston: Chef’s Press, 1992.

  • Books with authors and editors or translators: Include the name of the editor or translator after the title, abbreviating “editor” to “Ed.” and “translator” to “Trans.”


    Eliot, George. Middlemarch. Ed. Phillippa Howitzer. New York: Overlook Press, 1981.

  • Two or more works by the same author: Sort alphabetically by title. For every entry after the first, replace the author’s name with three em-dashes.


    Kelley, Randolph. My Time in Eden. Los Angeles: El Dorado Press, 1990.

    ———. You Can So Go Home Again. Los Angeles: El Dorado Press, 1972.

  • Journal articles: Authors’ names, title of article (in quotes), journal title (italicized),date or volume and issue number, and page numbers.


    Satchel, Marcus. “Shakespeare’s Women.” Shakespearean Times 26.7 (1982): 34–41.

  • Websites: Complete URL and, if available, author information, title information, date text was posted, date site was accessed, and company or organization information.


    Berry, Brandon. “Dodgers Strike Out on New Stadium Deal.” ESPN.com. 17 December 2001. 20 December 2001. http://www.espn.com/berry121701.html.

  • Articles in an encyclopedia or reference book: Author’s name, title of the article, title of the work, and publication information (including number of volumes).


    Ellerbe, Hyman. “Abraham Lincoln.” Encyclopedia of Political Leaders. Ed. Lavar O’ Denby. 4 vols. New York: Random House, 1977.

  • If no author is given, alphabetize by article title.


    “Prolegomena.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.