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How to Format Your Essay in MLA Style Using Google Docs

by | Jan 23, 2021 | Academic Writing

Information is taken from the 8th edition MLA Handbook, latest version, 2022. 

MLA format was created by the Modern Language Association and is a widely used styling for research papers and academic essays. If you’re a college student, you’ll notice that MLA format is required in liberal arts and humanities subjects. 

Most professors will strongly recommend that you use Microsoft Word to format your essays, but some students might not have access to this paid software. If this is the case, it is possible to format your essay in MLA style correctly while using the free Google Docs app within your Gsuite. This guide will show you exactly how to format your essay properly in MLA style using Google Docs. This guide only covers the basics of formatting such as margins, spacing, etc., so please see our other resources for further MLA formatting guidelines

What will we cover?

  • Proper MLA font style and size
  • Margins and header
  • Spacing
  • First-page title information
  • Body-paragraph spacing

1. Open your blank document

To get started with your essay, you’ll need to log in to your Gmail account. Once signed in, you should be looking at your email dashboard.

  • Look to your profile image and name at the top right.
  • Click on the squared dot icons to view your apps.
  • You should see “Docs” as one of your options.
  • Click on “Docs.”

mla format in google docs

2. Set the font and size

In MLA format, you may only use Times New Roman font at size 12. It’s understandable if you’re feeling the urge to get creative with styling but don’t. Stay focused on following the MLA style guidelines and you’ll save yourself valuable grade points later. 

When you open Google Docs, the font and size are set automatically, so make sure you manually make tweaks to these settings. Unlike MS Word, Google Docs only has one main view with all options listed in dropdowns. This simplicity should help you easily set up your document without getting lost.

How do you do it?

  • In Google Docs, you’ll see your font and size dropdowns slightly off-center left of the page.
  • Select Times New Roman.
  • Select size 12.
mla format in google docs

2. Set the margins in MLA format

MLA Style requires that your margins stay set to 1 inch around the entire page.

How do you do it?

  • Click on File at the top left of the page.
  • Click on Page Setup.
mla format in google docs
  • Next, you’ll see a popup appear in the middle of the screen.
  • Check to make sure all the boxes for the top, bottom, left, and right are set to 1 inch.
  • Click OK.
mla format in google docs

3. How to add your name and page number in Google Docs 2020

Properly formatting your essay in MLA Style using Google Docs has a few extra steps compared to doing the same thing in MS Word, but as long as you follow this guide, you shouldn’t have any issues making it happen. Keep in mind that not adding your name and page numbers to your document could count against your grade. This part of formatting is very easy to do, and it’s not worth losing grade points over, so don’t forget this step!

How do you do it?

  • Select Insert.
  • Hover over Headers & Footers.
  • Select Header.
mla format in google docs
  • A header section should appear.
  • Change your font to Times New Roman and your font size to 12.
  • Make sure the box next to “Different first page” is unchecked or the header won’t show on every page.
  • Type your last name only and make a single space.
mla format in google docs
  • Before navigating out of the header, you’ll need to insert the page number.
  • Select Insert again.
  • Hover over Page Numbers.
  • Select the first option.
  • When your page number appears in your header, you can simply select the middle of your page with your cursor to make the header changes stick.
mla format in google docs

4. How to set double-spaced lines in Google Docs

MLA Style requires that all your body text be double-spaced. This helps your essay look cleaner and easier to read. 

  • Click on the Line Spacing icon.
  • In the dropdown, select Double
mla format in google docs

5. How to set name and title information

The name, assignment type, date, and essay title are the first things your professor sees in your essay because they’re at the top of the first page.

Before you begin writing the first draft of your essay, go ahead and enter the name, course, and date information. MLA Format requires a very specific setup for how this information is listed in your essay. You should list your first and last name, the professor’s name, the course number, and the date all on designated lines. This information should be neatly aligned to the left of the page. 

How do you format your name and course info in MLA Format?

  • You’ll need the first page of your MLA Style essay to contain your name, professor’s name, course number, and the date in that order. 
  • Align the essay information to the left of the page.
  • Hit Enter once before writing your essay title in the Center of the page.  
  • Hit Enter once, Align Left, and tab over a half-inch before you begin writing your essay text.

The finished title information should look like this:

mla format in google docs

Not sure how to set your indent to a half-inch in Google Docs?

Google docs should already have your half-inch indentation automatically set, but here’s how to do it just in case.

  • Select Format.
  • Hover over Align & Indent.
  • Select Indentation Options.
mla format in google docs
  • You’ll see a popup appear in the center of the screen.
  • Enter .5 in the box beside Left.
  • Hit Apply.
mla format in google docs

That’s all there is to properly set up your essay in MLA Format using Google Docs. Good luck!

Mel Beasley
By Mel Beasley

Mel Beasley has a bachelor’s in creative writing and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He brings 9+ years of digital marketing and writing experience to the table by writing for publications such as Lumina News and Encore Magazine. He spent 2 years as a college-level writing tutor, and is a certified writing tutor through the CRLA, which is a prestigious cert recognized by the Association for the Coaching & Tutoring Profession. He is a professional SEO blogger with experience writing for brands such as Boardworks Education and The Greater Wilmington Business Journal. One of his latest website and marketing projects has been building the website for the now New York Times Bestselling author, Nina de Gramont.


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