Final Check: Self-editing tips for your final draft



MLA Formatting

**MLA has recently made some changes to how things are formatted and cited. Make sure you know if you are to follow the old or new edition. The following are suggestions from the old edition, as most instructors will not change over mid-term.

Include 1” margins on all sides.

Double-space all lines (no extra spaces between header and title and title and text).

Center title. Do not bold, italicize, or enlarge font.

Single space after periods or other end punctuation.

Tab all indents; spacing 5 times is not the same!

Insert a paginated right header. This means to insert your last name only, followed by a space, then the page number. Your instructor may ask that you remove this from the first page, as you’ll have your left header here.

Works Cited should be numbered consecutively after the last page of essay.

Insert 4-line left header on first page only.

Block quotes should be indented one inch with no quotation marks.

All other direct quotes should have quotation marks and in-text citation, followed by period (note: period comes after the citation).


All outside research or sources should be followed with an in-text citation, whether they are a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary.

Direct quotes should have attributive or author tags.

If a source doesn’t have an author, give the title or website.

The in-text citation should match the FIRST WORD the source is listed under on the Works Cited page.

Avoid giving dictionary definitions of a word as an “outside source.” That’s not research.

Always use italics when referring to a book or website; use quotation marks for small works (article or short story) in a larger work (book or newspaper).

Works Cited


The title, Works Cited, should be centered at the top of the final page. Do not bold, italicize or enlarge font.

Works Cited should also be double spaced. NO EXTRA SPACES BETWEEN ENTRIES.

Works Cited should be alphabetized by author’s last name. If no author, alphabetize by the title or website. See Purdue Owl for other listings.

Each entry should have a hanging indent (the opposite of a regular line indent).

Include URL only if instructor requires it, or if the source cannot be found without it.

When using electronic sources, always include the date you accessed the source.

Other Tips

In Microsoft WORD, the default for paragraphs is set to insert an extra line space when you hit ENTER to move to a new paragraph. You must reset this to avoid triple-spacing the header, paragraphs, and Works Cited entries. To do this, go to the PARAGRAPH tab on the toolbar, clicking on the icon that has up and down arrows with five lines, just to the right of the 4 justification icons. Click the arrow on the right to open the tab, and scroll down to the bottom line that says “Add Space After Paragraph”; click this so that it says “Remove Space After Paragraph.” If you have already completed your essay and have triple spaces, highlight the entire text, follow these steps, and it should remove the extra lines.

The default font in Word is usually Calibri 11. MLA is Times New Roman 12, unless otherwise instructed. Make sure you have changed the font to follow MLA. 

This list is a very abbreviated editing checklist, and your instructor might have different directives, which we refer to as “instructor preference.” Always follow your instructor guidelines and ask for specifics if you are unsure of anything. 

This is only an abbreviated list of editing steps to take to make your essay a perfect as it can be. Hopefully, you’ve read your essay over carefully and had a peer read it as well. Don’t trust Spellcheck! Once you’ve done all you can do, turn it in and let it go. If you’ve followed your instructor’s guidelines and instruction and edited carefully, you should feel confident you’ve done your best work.







MLA: It’s a Changing World


In the 1977 edition of the MLA Handbook, the guidelines, according to Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, suggested that “fresh black ribbon and clean type are essential.” The instructions also advised against using “thin paper except for a carbon copy” (qtd. in MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th ed. xv). The titles of the previously mentioned books would not have been in italics, but underlined. That was a more recent change.

The first “MLA Style Sheet” was published in 1951 by the Modern Language Association, and through the years this style sheet has grown into an almost three-hundred-page handbook, now in its seventh edition, arguably the most-used resource for students in the liberal arts and humanities. Most students coming into college today, unless they are fans of Mad Men, would most likely have no idea what black ribbon or carbon copy refers to. I learned to type on a typewriter (yes, I’m old) and the only web I knew came from a spider. With the explosion of the internet in the last thirty years, changes to citation styles have been as rapid as the rise in hemlines. The returning non-traditional student who has been away from school for a few years may find many of the rules of MLA style they thought they knew have changed.

Ellipsis ( . . . )

OLD:   The old MLA Handbook recommended placing an ellipsis (three periods ( . . . ) with a space before each and a space after the last) in square brackets to a distinguish between an ellipsis  which the writer has added and an ellipsis that is actually in the original text:

Ex: “Smith […] found the outmoded research […] a hindrance to his formula” (Jones 55).

NEW: The current guidelines state to only use the ellipsis when omitting material; brackets are no longer suggested.  

Ex:  In an essay on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand notes that “some individuals make a point of learning every recent rumor or tale . . . and in a short time a lively exchange of details occurs” (78).

MLA notes to only use brackets if adding brackets would clarify your use of ellipses.

Underlining is Gone

OLD: Titles of larger works, such as books or magazines, have always been underlined.

Ex:      The Catcher in the Rye.

Ex:      Omaha World Herald.

NEW: Larger works are now italicized. No more underlining.

Ex: The Catcher in the Rye.

Ex: Omaha World Herald.

Database Research

Access Information

Lots of changes here. Thirty years ago, this type of entry didn’t even exist. Now, often the majority of student research is done on the web utilizing their college’s database system.

OLD:  Previously, an article originally published in print form that was retrieved from a library database, such as EBSCO or Lexis-Nexis, would always need to have the access information of the library name and location the writer retrieved it from.

 Ex: “Prophetic Criticism: Oscar Wilde and His Postmodern Heirs.”  Contemporary Literature.  25.2 (1984) : 250-259.  JSTOR.  Criss Lib., Omaha, 12 July 2006  http://www.jstor. org.

NEW: No more access information is necessary, other than your retrieval date. Only include the name of the database, and italicize. You’ll still need the date of access at the end of the entry:

Ex: Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal 50.1 (2007): 173-96. ProQuest. Web. 27 May 2009.

Print or Web?

OLD: URLs were required when using web sources at the end of the entry:


NEW: URLS are no longer required. All web-based sources will simply state “Web” immediately before the date of access.

Ex: Junge, Wolfgang, and Nathan Nelson. “Nature’s Rotary Electromotors.” Science 29 Apr.  2005: 642-44. Science Online. Web. 5 Mar. 2009.

(*Note:  Some instructors argue that URLs are needed to more easily locate the web source; however, most web searchers now use search engines as opposed to typing in long, complicated URLs, which was the rationale for discontinuing their use. Always follow instructor preferences.  If your instructor requires the use of URLs, place in angle brackets after the date of access and break URLs only after slashes.)

Page Numbers and Publishing Information

OLD: When the only sources were print, page and publishing information were easily available. With the advent of the Web, publishing and page numbers aren’t as common.

NEW: Special abbreviations should be used to indicate page, date, or other information is not available. Use n.p. to indicate no publisher or publishing dates. Use n.d. when a Web page does not provide a publication date. When an entry requires that you provide a page but no pages are provided in the source (such as online-only resources), use the abbreviation n. pag.

Ex:      “Newborn Feeding.” Welcome to Gerber. Gerber Corporation. n.d. Web.  18 Oct. 2008.

Ex:      Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal 6.2 (2008): n. pag. Web. 20 May 2009.


With the rapid introduction of new technologies and the continued desire to simplify research, you can bet more changes are to come. But hold on to those old MLA Handbooks: I’ve heard the typewriter is making a comeback.


 (Some citation examples and other information taken from Purdue Online Writing Lab.)