Helpful Tips On Writing An English Literature Essay In The MLA Format


Before you set about writing an analytical essay on the work of literature you have just read for your English class, make sure that you understand what kind of writing you are required to produce. As a rule, your paper should focus on a particular aspect of a literary work. It should also be formatted in compliance with the MLA formatting rules. Read the following tips to understand how to analyze, organize, and format any work of English literature you’ll deal with.

Selecting the Subject Matter

Your topic will depend both on your personal preferences and a piece of literature itself.

  • If it is a poem, focus on its imagery, rhythm, obvious and implied meaning, mood, tone, stylistic devices, etc.
  • If you should analyze a novel or a short story from English literature, you may examine its characters, themes, events, setting, time, symbolism, organization, stylistic tools, etc.
  • If it is a play, investigate the use of dialogues, characters, setting, themes, etc.
  • Whatever aspect of the literary work you are going to analyze, make sure to pick something that impresses you the most, embarrasses, or captivates you.

Essay Writing

To create a solid English literature paper, remember to follow a standard structure.

  • Write a strong introduction.
    • Hook the reader in the first sentence by posing an intriguing question, using a thought-provoking statement, or sharing a funny story. However, the best way to start an essay on English literature is to use an apt quote from the work you do research on.
    • Provide a brief background on the literary work you analyze.
    • Clearly state your thesis.
  • Develop well-reasoned body paragraphs.
    • Start each paragraph with a topic sentence stating one of your main points.
    • Support your arguments with detailed and relevant evidence: direct quotes
    • from the text, examples, summaries, and paraphrases.
  • Wrap up your argument in an effective conclusion.
    • Use different words to restate your thesis.
    • Sum up your main points.
    • Shed new light on the piece of English literature you analyze.

Essay Formatting

Refer to the MLA style guide to format your English literature paper. By doing so, you can be sure that you cite the sources correctly and that the text of your work is properly formatted and well-organized.

  • Pay attention to the margins, font, indentation, spacing, the order of pages, and endnotes in your paper and format them in MLA writing format.
  • Arrange your title page properly.
  • Follow the MLA writing guidelines to organize your in-text citations and present your references.
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