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Hints for Writing an MLA Format Narrative Essay

Personal narratives in high school and college are often assigned in MLA format. Here are useful tips on how to write this kind of papers.

Formatting

  • Do not include a title page unless it is required. Just write your name, the name of your teacher, date, and type of assignment at the beginning of your first page, above the title.
  • Use Times New Roman font, 12 pt, and double-spacing.
  • Set your margins on all sides to 1 inch.
  • Use the tab key to indent your paragraphs.
  • Include a page number in the upper right corner. Before the number, write your last name.

Citing

  • Consider whether you need to cite anything at all. A narrative essay is supposed to tell about your personal experience, so it can be fine without any words but your own. However, you may use a famous quote to illustrate your feelings. For example, “When I saw them jumping up and down, I couldn’t help recalling this phrase from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream: ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be.’”
  • Do not include the author’s name and year of publication in parentheses. In a personal essay, it looks out of place. Weave the author’s credentials into the fabric of your narrative in a casual way, as it was done in the example above. You may not mention the year at all.
  • If you use any quotations, list your sources on the “Works Cited” page according to general MLA rules. If you do not have any quotes, you do not need this page either.

Style and Flow

  • Write in the first person: “I”. Avoid too much “hiding” in a group (“we”) or shifting to the second person (“you”). Tell your reader what you were actually feeling, not what you think others would feel.
  • Do not try to sound “academic”. Use the language you would normally use in speech.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Be clear and specific. Ideally, you should not tell your readers what happened but show it, painting a picture with words.
  • Choose emotional, dynamic words. Consider adding few idioms or a bit of slang to make your story more vivid.
  • Start a new paragraph every time you introduce a new location, event, or a direct speech by another person.
  • You may use present tense to describe events in the past so your readers will feel as though they witness them happen. Just be consistent with it. An occasional slip into the past tense can ruin the whole impression.