How to Write an MLA Heading

by Petra Wakefield, Demand Media

Section headings provide your research paper in Modern Language Association style with logical divisions and tell the reader of the paper what comes next. Choose concise, descriptive headings so readers will know what to expect in the section. The seventh edition of the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" allows you to use either a numbered or an unnumbered heading format; choose whichever your professor asks for or whichever you prefer.


Step 1

Use a numeral followed by a period and the section name for main section headings. For example, use the format "1. Section Heading" for the first section.

Step 2

Use decimal numbers for subsections. For example, the first subsection of the first main section would be "1.1. First Subsection."

Step 3

Add a number and period to the previous section number for subsections of subsections. For example, the first subsection of the first subsection of the first section would be "1.1.1. Sub-Subsection," the second subsection would be "1.1.2. Sub-Subsection Two" and so on.


Step 1

Bold and left align the headings of main sections.

Step 2

Italicize and left align the headings of the first level of subsections.

Step 3

Center and bold the headings for the second level of subsections.

Step 4

Center and italicize the headings for the third level of subsections.

Step 5

Underline and left align the headings for the fourth level of subsections.


  • Use title case for all headings -- capitalize all words except prepositions and conjunctions less than four letters long.


About the Author

Petra Wakefield is a writing professional whose work appears on various websites, focusing primarily on topics about science, fitness and outdoor activities. She holds a Master of Science in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M; University.