Formatting papers in the MLA or APA style is tricky. Downloading a free template does some of the heavy lifting, automating some formatting.
Using the MLA template
To get a correctly formatted paper, Go to FILE > New and search for “APA” or “MLA” depending on what style you want.
Many things will format automatically, but make sure you check the easy gotchas, like spelling errors (words with a red squiggly line under it).
If you are in college and you are writing research papers, then you are most likely basing your formatting on this, the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
Now, when I say "Research Papers” I mainly mean papers for English comp, Literature, History, Political Science.
Other papers might use other handbooks, like the APA or Chicago, but the MLA is probably the most common, and it is easy to adhere to this handbook when you use Microsoft Word.
So let me show you how.
I am here with the start screen, right, where it gives you all sorts of fun templates to choose from.
I am going to search for the keyword MLA and then press Enter, and here we go.
We have the MLA style research paper, okay? I'm going to open that up in just a second.
There's also the APA here, okay.
It's also helpful if your Professor wants you to use that guideline or that handbook, but the MLA is the one we are going to use today.
I'm going to double-click that, and open it. And this is just a template, right? You've probably made templates before.
Select fields and fill them out. I put my course number in here, English Composition 100.
Now, look, I made a spelling mistake.
Actually when I asked a bunch of College Professors what their biggest pet peeves were. Surprisingly, the number one thing was students aren't using Spellcheck.
So if you see a red squiggle, right-click that, and replace it with the correct spelling.
The other thing about Spellcheck is that people are using it, but not being careful in replacing the suggested words with the right word. So, use Spellcheck and use it carefully.
The Date. You can go ahead and you can choose this little Content Control arrow here, and choose the due date.
This date is automatically formatted in the MLA style, so there's the day first, the month, and then, the year, okay? That little automation for you happens throughout this template. It's great.
For example, you have got a one-inch margin on the left, which is what the MLA specifies as, should be your left margin.
You have got a one-inch margin on the right. You have got a one-inch margin on the top.
You have got a half-inch margin here before your header, okay? This is all pre-built for you and ready for you to use, okay?
There's no need to type this out manually and build all these margins manually.
And then the template has all sorts of awesome instructions for particulars of your paper, okay? I'm going to go ahead and type in a title here, “Of Zombies in American Fiction.” Okay, and I'll remove the subtitle. I don't really need that. And so just go ahead and read the instructions.
Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all principal words.
One way I like to do this quickly is, I'll select a line, I'll do Shift+F3 until I get the initial caps for every word, and then I'll go through here and uncap the non-principal words here, like conjunctions and prepositions.
Okay, there we go. So use this template. It's a real boon. It's a real treasure. If you keep on going through here, it'll give you more particulars, like for quotes of more than four lines, use the Quote Style up here.
Okay, for long quotes of more than one paragraph — let's say there's a really long quote and it has two paragraphs or three paragraphs — use the Long Quote Style. It's really good stuff.
You have got a pre-made table here that has all the formatting that the MLA recommends, and you have even got things like this chart and a caption here, with a figure number, which is helpful.