Even though MLA Style lacks explicit rules about specific pages to include in your paper and how to organize those pages, it does have many formatting rules that you need to follow.
Following MLA Style shouldn’t detract from the overall work of your paper, however. It takes some work to achieve the proper MLA format, but it’s important to not allow the paper format to prevent you from focusing on writing the paper. These tips will give you some additional help to follow MLA Style with your paper.
TIP 1. DOUBLE-CHECK ALL CITATIONS.
With MLA Style, it’s important to make sure you have properly listed all of the in-text citations, making it easy for readers to find each citation in the Works Cited list. Make sure you spell all authors’ names correctly in the Works Cited list, too, so you don’t confuse readers about the author.
TIP 2. FOLLOW YOUR INSTRUCTOR’S INSTRUCTIONS.
You may have an instructor who gives you directions for composing the thesis or dissertation that differ slightly from those in MLA Style. Follow your instructor’s guidelines in those instances.
TIP 3. GRAMMAR GUIDELINES.
Papers that follow proper grammar are more likely to receive favorable marks from an instructor. For example, always write in active voice, rather than passive voice. In other words, make certain the subjects of your sentences are doing something in the sentence, rather than the subjects having something done to them. Avoid using contractions in your paper, if possible. Do not use slang or jargon in your paper, unless you’re writing about a subject that requires such language. Do not write in the first person; in other words, do not use the words “I” or “me” in any sentence. Try to avoid making absolute statements, especially when you are describing an opinion. Do not use numerous quotations just to fill a word count or page count; make sure quotations add to your argument.
TIP 4. PROOFREADING, A NECESSARY TASK.
For most people, proofreading is the least enjoyable task for compiling a formal paper. However, it’s a key task. You might have the most compelling argument your instructor has ever seen, but inadvertently, allowing several grammatical and spelling errors to appear in your paper will make it tough to take your argument seriously. Proofread your paper at least a few times before submitting it. If possible, take a few days off between proofreading sessions. A fresh look at the paper after a break will help you catch a few errors that you may have missed the first time around. Remember that, although word processing software spell checkers are handy, they do not catch every error, such as “to,” “too,” and “two.” Proofreading is vital to having a successful paper.
TIP 5. TAKE YOUR TIME.
During the writing phase or the proofreading phase, you need to leave plenty of time to finish the paper. If you force yourself to hurry to meet a deadline, your writing will suffer, and you’ll make mistakes. Start early on the paper, set goals for finishing different aspects of it — initial research, detailed research, first draft, second draft, detailed proofreading, and final draft — and you’ll have a much better finished paper.
TIP 6. WORKS CITED LIST.
Throughout the research process for your paper, it is important to track all of the sources you use. For every idea or quote you use from one of your sources, you will have to cite the idea in the paper and list the source in the Works Cited list. Collect extensive information about each source, which will allow you to cite each source properly in your paper. It’s important to give credit for any ideas you use from other people. Citing sources properly will ensure you don’t inadvertently commit plagiarism. If you’re unsure whether to use an in-text citation for a source, you probably should use it. It’s better to be safe than sorry when citing sources.
TIP 7. FINAL TIP.
If you ever are unsure about the formatting style you should follow when citing a particular source, turn to the MLA Style Manual. It has examples and explanations of every type of source that you’ll ever encounter.
However, be certain that you’re using the latest edition of the MLA Style Manual. The changes in the latest edition are subtle, but there are enough of them that you don’t want to make some silly formatting errors, just because you were using an old edition of the MLA Style Manual. If you have a difficult time finding the newest edition of the MLA Style Manual, check with your instructor. He or she might not care if you use the previous edition.
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