How do I adapt MLA running heads in my paper?

We appreciate hearing from readers with suggestions for adapting MLA style to specific cases. Here, one reader finds a way to clarify a potentially ambiguous situation.

The MLA Handbook advises writers to create running heads for their research papers that display their surname and a page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page (4). For example, a writer with the surname Brown would place the following running head on the first page: 

Brown 1

A writer with the surname Page would place the following running head on the first page:

Page 1

Through no fault of their own, writers with the surname Page thus risk turning in a paper that appears anonymous or wrongly styled. How can they ensure that readers recognize Page as a name rather than a label? 

One such writer suggests this solution: add a first initial. Place the initial before the surname (as you would do when citing an author who could not be identified sufficiently by last name alone [MLA Handbook 234-35]):

C. Page 1

This technique simply and clearly identifies the word Page as a name while keeping to the recommended structure. In short, instructors seeing such a running head will recognize both the name and the style.

We welcome reader solutions submitted to Ask the MLA and are grateful to C. Page for sharing this suggestion.

To learn more about formatting a research paper, view the free sample chapter, “Formatting Your Research Project,” provided on MLA Handbook Plus

Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.