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MLA Heading and Header Formats (With Examples)

MLA (Modern Language Association) offers a flexible guideline for formatting your MLA headers and heading. Rather than worry if you’re doing it right, just follow these simple tricks for creating an MLA format heading and headers. And just to make sure you understand all the style tricks, you’ll learn about section headers too.

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MLA Heading vs. MLA Header

You have graduated from 5-paragraph essays to MLA research papers, so it is time to learn what an MLA heading vs. a header is in MLA format.

  • MLA headings are found on the first page and provide identifying information.
  • MLA headers are identifiers found on every page of your paper.

Now that you know that each of these is different, explore how an MLA heading and MLA header are used in an MLA paper.

example MLA heading header format

What Is an MLA Heading and Title?

An MLA format heading and title are what you are going to use to start off your paper when you don’t include a title page. Every style guide is a little different. MLA, however, is all about simplicity. Therefore, in your MLA style paper, you can forgo the title page. However, you still do need to have some kind of heading on your first page to give your instructor some inclination of who this paper is from. In the heading of your MLA paper, you need to include a few key details:

  • Your name
  • Your instructor
  • Course name/number
  • Date

Formatting an MLA Heading

Since this is a style guide, MLA headings must be formatted in a specific way. The heading information starts at the 1-inch margin. It’s in the upper left-hand corner of your paper, double spaced, and in a readable font. After your heading, you include the title of your paper, centered in title case.

MLA Header Defined

While a heading is only found on the first page of your MLA paper, an MLA header is included throughout the entire work. An MLA header includes your last name and page number without punctuation or styling elements. The MLA headers work to keep all your pages organized.

Creating MLA Running Headers in Word

Adding a running header in Microsoft Word is pretty easy. Once you’re in the document, just follow these simple steps for a running header. 

  1. Click Insert.
  2. Hit Page Number, Top of Page, and right-aligned.
  3. Click on the header and add your last name before the number.
  4. Check the font and size to make sure they are the same as the rest of your article.
MLA running header in Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word Steps 1 & 2
create MLA running header in Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word Step 3
create an MLA running header in Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word Step 4

Formatting an MLA Running Header in Google Docs

Not everyone has Word. In that case, you might be creating an MLA running header in Google Docs. This process is just as simple as the Word steps.

  1. Click Insert.
  2. Scroll down to Header & page number.
  3. Click the little arrow and touch Header.
  4. In the toolbar, click right align.
  5. Click Insert, then Page numbers and right-aligned.
  6. Click on the page number and type your last name.
  7. Select your header and set your font and type size.
MLA running header directions in Google Docs
Google Docs Steps 1-3
directions for MLA running header in google docs
Google Docs Steps 4-6
directions for MLA running header in google docs
Google Docs Step 7

Composing MLA Section Headings

When it comes to composing MLA section headings, think freestyle. Why? Because MLA doesn’t have a specific format when it comes to creating section headings in their style guide. All they ask is that whatever you choose to use for your headings, you remain consistent. Therefore, you might have your main section headings bold and centered. Your second-level subheading could then be italicized and centered like:

Main Heading


Whatever system you create for your section headers, just remember to use the same format throughout the entire paper. No need to lose points for something so simple. And if you define these in your MLA outline then you’re a step ahead of the game.

Getting MLA Format Headings and Headers Perfect

MLA has a lot of flexibility. Just look at their container system. However, when it comes to formatting your MLA paper, there are a few areas you need to pay attention to. These include your MLA headings and headers.

FAQ MLA Heading and Header Formats (With Examples)

What is the correct MLA heading?

The correct MLA heading is found on the first page of your paper. It includes your name, instructor, course, and date. MLA format also has a running header with the page number and your last name. It is right-aligned and found on each page.

Does MLA heading go on every page?

No, the MLA heading is only found on the first page not every page of the paper. However, an MLA header is found on every page. The MLA header includes your last name and the page number.

Does MLA format require a title?

Yes, MLA format does require you to have a title on the first page of your research paper. The title is centered on the page and written in title case. It's found below the MLA heading.

What does MLA mean?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. It's a writing style used by high school and college students for language arts topics.

Does MLA require a running head?

Yes, MLA does require a running header. The running header includes your last name and the page number. It's right-aligned and 1/2 inch down.

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