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What is MLA style?

The MLA citation style is a set of rules created by the Modern Language Association. Generally, this style is used by the liberal arts and the humanities.

The Core Elements

Citations in the 8th edition of the MLA style are all made up of 9 elements, called core elements. These are elements common to most citations. By using the core elements, any item can be cited, regardless of format.  Please play close attention to the punctuation after each element.

When an element is unavailable, it is simply skipped.

A crucial concept for the new MLA style is the concept of containers. A container is the larger work that includes the source. A chapter is contained in a book; an article is contained in a periodical; an episode of a sitcom is contained in the series, etc.  Here is an article about other changes in the 8th edition.

Now let's see how these core elements can be used to format the most common types of citations!  BooksArticlesWebsites, and Other Formats

Works Cited: Books

Item type Example Citation
One author

Author Last Name, First Name.Book Title. Publisher. Year of Publication.

Kurlansky, Mark.Salt: A World History. Penguin Books, 2003.

Two authors

Author Last Name, First Name, and Author First Name, Last Name.

Welsch, Roger L. and Linda K. Welsch. Cather's Kitchens: Foodways in Literature and Life.U of Nebraska P, 1987.

Three or more authors

When there are three or more authors, use only the first author's last name and first name, followed by "et al."

Plag,Ingo, et al. Introduction to English Linguistics. Mouton, 2007.

Edited book, one editor

Editor Last Name, First Name, editor.Book Title.Publisher, Year of Publication.

Shell, Marc, editor. American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnakito Zuni. Harvard UP, 2002.

Edited book, two editors

Editor Last Name, First Name, and Editor First Name, Last Name, editors.Book Title.Publisher, year.

Holland, Merlin, and Rupert Hart-Davis, editors.The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Henry Holt, 2000.

Edited book, threeormoreeditors

Editor Last Name, First Name, et al., editors. Book Title. Publisher, Year.

Johnson,Norinne G. et al., editors. Beyond Appearance: A New Look at Adolescent Girls. American Psychological Association, 2001.

Chapter, essay, short story, orpoeminan anthology or edited book

Author Last Name, First Name. "Title of Chapter, Essay, etc."Book Title, edited by Editor First Name, Last Name, Publisher, Year, pp.

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, edited by Robert DiYanni, McGraw Hill, 2008, pp. 409-15.

Introduction, foreword, preface, or afterword in an anthology or edited book

Author Last name, First name. "Title of Section (if available)." Name of Section.Book Title, edited by Editor's First name, Last name, Publisher, Year, pp.

DiYanni, Robert. "Literature: Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking." Introduction. Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, edited by DiYanni, McGraw Hill, 2008, pp. 1-23.

Entry in a reference book

Author Last name, First name. "Entry Title."Reference Book Title, edited by Editor First name Last name, Edition number (if available), volume number (if available), Publisher, Year.

Allen, Anita L. "Privacy in Health Care."Encyclopedia of Bioethics,edited by Stephen G. Post, 3rd. ed., vol. 4, Macmillan-Thomson, 2004.

If the entry is unsigned, begin with the entry title.

"Currency." Dictionary of Economic Terms, edited by Charles Rhodes, Random House, 2009.

E-book from a database

Author Last name, First name. Book Title. Publisher, Year of publication. Name of Database, permanent link.

Nadler, Reldan S. Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Hands-on Strategies for Building Confident and Collaborative Star Performers. McGraw Hill, 2011. eBooks on EBSCOhost, http://ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=339122&site=ehost-live.

E-book from an e-reader

Author Last name, First name. Book Title. Publisher, Year of publication. Name of E-book Provider, URL for e-book.

Slawenski, Kenneth. J.D. Salinger: A Life. New York: Random House, 2011. Amazon.com, amzn.com/0812982592.

Works Cited: Articles

Item type Example Citation
Periodical article, print

Author Last name, First name. "Article Title." Periodical Title, vol., no.,year, p. (or pp. for range).

Hernandez-Reguant, Ariana. "Copyrighting Che: Art and Authorship under Cuban Late Socialism." Public Culture, vol. 16. no. 1, 2004, pp. 1-29.

Periodical article, database

Author Last name, First name. "Article Title." Periodicasl Title, vol., no.,year, p. (or pp. for range). Database Name, permanent/stable URL (or DOI if available).

Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41403188.

Note: If a Digital Object Identifier (doi) is available, use that instead of the URL.

Chan, Evans. "Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema." Postmodern Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, May 2000. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/pmc.2000.0021.

Scholarly article reprint, in a library database

Cite the article as a regular article from a database, then add "Originally published in" and the information from the original publication.

Bartel, Roland. "Life and Death in Eudora Welty's 'A Worn Path'." Short Story Criticism, edited by Anna J. Sheets, vol. 27, 1998, pp. 344-45. Literary Criticism Online, ezproxy.mc3.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=YKOTSV156607946&v=2.1&u= viva2_jsrcc&it=r&p=LCO&sw=w&asid=3108e32e857b7fca96e5d1637fc7af84. Originally published in Studies in Short Fiction, vol.14, no. 3, Summer 1977, pp. 288-90.

Works Cited: Websites

Item type Example Citation
Web page

Author Last name, First name. "Web Page Title." Web Site Title, date of publication, URL.

Green, Joshua. "The Rove Presidency." The Atlantic, Sept. 2007, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/09/the-rove-presidency/306132/.

Note: Remove the http:// or https:// element of URLs before entering them into the citation.

Web page, no author

If no author is provided, begin with the Web page title.

"Healthy Weight." Centers for Disease Control, 15 May 2015, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/.

Entry in an online reference work (GVRL)

Author Last name, First name. "Entry Title." Reference Book Title, edited by editor First name Last name, edition number, volume number, Publisher, Year, page number(s). Name of the Database, source URL.

Newton, David E. "Science History." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, edited by K. Lee Lerner, 5th ed., vol. 7, Gale, 2014, pp. 3861-3862. Gale Virtual Reference Library, ezproxy.mc3.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do? id=GALE%7CCX3727802140&v=2.1 & u=viva2_jsrcc& it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&asid= 2c9d5549af95bc6e80d0d500fe06def5.

Tweet (Twitter Post)

Username. "Text of the Tweet." Twitter, Date, Time, URL.

@persianwiki. "We have report of large street battles in east & west of Tehran now - #Iranelection." Twitter, 23 June 2009, 11:15 a.m., twitter.com/persianwiki/status/2298106072.

Facebook status update/Facebook page

Author Last name, First name, or Username. "Title of Status Update or Facebook Page." Facebook, Date of Publication, URL.

Pinker, Steven. "Timeline." Facebook, 2 Sept. 2011, www.facebook.com/stevenpinkerpage/.

Gaiman, Neil. "Please Celebrate Leap Year in the Traditional Manner." Facebook, 29 Feb. 2012, www.facebook.com/neilgaiman/posts/10150574185041016.

Discussion board post

Author Last name, First name, or Username. "Subject Line of Discussion Post." Web Site Title, Date of Publication, URL.

DePino, Logan. "My Board Game Rules." BoardGame Geek, June 6, 2016, boardgamegeek.com/thread/1586834/my-board-games-rules.

Works Cited: Other formats

Item type Example Citation
TV Show

"Episode Title." Series Title, season #, episode #, Network, Broadcast Date.

"Under the Gun." Pretty Little Liars, season 4, episode 6, ABC Family, 16 July 2013.

TV Show on the Web

"Episode Title."  Series Title, season #, episode #, Network, Broadcast Date. Name of Streaming Service,URL.

"Under the Gun." Pretty Little Liars, season 4, episode 6, ABC Family, 16 July 2013. Hulu,www.hulu.com/watch/511318.

Online video clip

Author name or Username. "Title of Video." Web Site Title, Date, URL.

Astley, Rick. "Never Gonna Give You Up." YouTube, 25 Oct. 2009, youtu.be/dQw4w9WgXcQ.

Video/DVD recording

Film Title. Directed by Director's First name Last name, performance by main actor, name of distribution company, release date.

Ripley's Game. Directed by Liliana Cavani, performance by John Malkovitch, New Line Home Video, 2004.

Interview

Example of published interview:

Saro-Wiwa, Ken. "English Is the Hero." Interview with Diri I. Teilanyo. No Condition is Permanent: Nigerian Writing and the Struggle for Democracy, edited by Holger Ehling and Claus-Peter Holste-von Mutius, Rodopi, 2001, pp. 13-19.

Example of interview conducted by the researcher:

Walcott, Derek. Interview. By Susan Lang, 22 Oct. 2002.

Class handout or other unpublished document

Author Last name, First name. "Document Title."  Year. Description of document.

Jackson, Jonas. "Midterm Review." 2016. Class handout.

Allen, Carrie. "Comma Usage." 2016. Class notes for ENG 101.

If there is no title, cite without it.

Thompson, Susan. Class handout. 2016.

Digital file (PDF, Word file, MP3, etc.) not online

Author Last name, First name. "Document Title" (or description). Date. File format.

Hamilton, Grace. Lecture on Edgar Allan Poe. 2016. MP3.

Bible, Qu'ran, and other holy works

Begin the citation with the title of the work. Optional: the name of the version can be recorded after the title.

The Holy Bible. Standard Version. Crossway-Good News, 2003.

The Qu'ran: A New Translation. Translated by Abdel Haleem, Oxford UP, 2008.

Government report, print

Government Agency. Title of Report. Publisher, Date of Publication.

United States. Dept.of Labor. Child Care: A Workforce Issue. GPO, 1988.

Note: Many government reports are published by the Government Printing Office, abbreviated "GPO."

Government report, Web

Follow the example above, but add the website name and the source's URL.

United States. Dept. of State. Diplomatic List. GPO, Spring 2016. U.S. Dept. of State,www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/dpl/c70977.htm.

In-Text Citations: Direct Quotations & Paraphrasing

Item type Example Citation
One author in text

Johnson has argued that both interpretations of the story are valued (178).

Note: Location information, such as page numbers, must be given if available, both when quoting directly and with paraphrases.

One author in reference Between 1968 and 1988, television coverage of presidential elections changed dramatically (Hallin 5).
Two authors in text Others, like Jakobson and Waugh (210-11), hold the opposite point of view.
Multiple authors in reference The dystopian concept resonates deeply with readers (Rabkin, Greenberg, and Olander vii).
Multivolume work

When referring to a specific page reference in a multivolume work, follow this format: (Author Last name Volume number: page numbers)

Some believe this stance to be antiquated (Greene 2: 1-10).

When referring to an entire volume of a multivolume work, follow this format: (Author Last name, vol. number)

Between 1945 and 1972, the political party system underwent profound changes (Schelsinger, vol. 4, 3-7).

Work with no author in reference

Give the full title or an abbreviated version of the title:

International espionage was as prevalent as ever in the 1990s ("Decade" 27).

Note: In this example, "Decade" is an abbreviated form of the full title, "Decade of the Spy."

Corporate author

Preferred form (include the corporate author in text):

According to a study sponsored by the National Research Council, the population of China around 1990 was increasing by more than fifteen million annually (15).

Alternate form (corporate author in reference, may abbreviate):

Around 1990, the population of China was increasing by more than fifteen million annually (Natl. Research Council 15).

Two or more works by the same author, in reference

(Author's Last name, Title of Work page numbers)

Shakespeare's King Lear has been called "a comedy of the grotesque" (Frye, Anatomy 237).

Two or more works by the same author, in text Northrop Frye considers Shakespeare's King Lear a "comedy of the grotesque" (Anatomy 237).
Indirect source in reference

Use this format when citing material obtained secondhand and not directly from a source:

Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an "extraordinary man" (qtd. in Boswell 2:450).

Multiple works in a single reference

Use a semicolon to separate multiple works cited in a single parenthetical reference,

(First work Author Last name page number; Second work Author Last name page number)

Longitudinal studies show these findings are valid (Fukuyama 42; McRae 101-03).

Digital media enhances creativity (Craner 308-11; Moulthrop, pars. 39-53).

Direct quotation in text, under 4 lines

If a direct quotation is under 4 lines, incorporate it into the text, placing the quotation between quotation marks. Include the page number in parentheses at the end of the quotation, before the period.

Riedling writes that “students who are information literate operate comfortably in situations where there are multiple answers” (5).

Direct quotation in text, 4 lines or more.

Quotations of 4 lines or more must be set off from the text and should begin on a new line. Indent the quotation one inch from the left margin, and type it double-spaced. Do not use quotation marks. Include the page number in parentheses at the end of the quotation, after the period.

In reference to the Kerala tradition, Blackburn writes that:

The Kerala tradition, however, seldom honors our expectations: it lives in performance but holds no interactive audience; it presents one of the most popular stories in Indian literature but is not primarily a narrative tradition; and the interminable, chaotic War Book, rather than one of the tightly plotted, earlier books, occupies center stage. (134)

Citing a work without page numbers

If a source does not include page numbers, but does provide explicit paragraph or section numbers, cite these. In these situations, include a comma after the author’s name.

“Eagleton has belittled the gains of postmodernism” (Chan, par. 41).

When a source has no page numbers or any other kind of reference numbers, no number is given in the parenthetical citation.

The utilitarianism of the Victorians “attempted to reduce decision-making about human actions to a ‘felicific calculus’” (Everett).

Bible, Qu'ran, or other common source

Add edition information to the first parenthetical citation for a common source such as The Bible.

In one of the most vivid prophetic visions in the Bible, Ezekiel saw “what seemed to be four living creatures,” each with the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (New Jerusalem Bible, Ezek. 1.5-10).

Common literature source

Add information (such as chapter and section numbers) that would help a reader locate the quotation in any edition of the work.

In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft recollects many “women who, not led by degrees to proper studies, and not permitted to choose for themselves, have indeed been overgrown children” (185; ch. 13, sec. 2).

Formatting: General Details

Margins

  • One-inch margins should be used on all sides

Spacing

  • Double space your entire paper - header, text, and works cited
  • Single space after punctuation marks
  • Indent each paragraph five spaces from the left margin (can be done by hitting the tab key one time)

Font

  • Use a standard, readable 12-point font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc)

Formating: First Page

Note: Always follow instructions given by your professor, even if they contradict with MLA guidelines

Last Name & Page Number

  • Place your cursor in the header area of your document. Select right alignment.
  • Enter your last name, a space, then the page number.Screen shot of Microsoft Word's page Number option within the Header and Footer menu
    • Use a standard 12-point font (such as Times New-Roman)
    • Use standard numerals (1. 2, 3, etc)
    • Utilize the Page Number feature (right) within your Word Processor so the pages number themselves consecutively.

Your Name & Course Info

  • Place your cursor in the upper left area of your document (below the header area). Select left alignment.
  • Set your document to double spacing.
  • Enter your full name. Hit enter.
  • Enter your professor's name. Hit enter.
  • Enter your course name. Hit enter
  • Enter your date in the following format: Day Month Year. Hit enter.

Title

  • Place your cursor in the line following the date. Select center alignment.
  • Type in your title. Only italicize or use quotation marks if referring to the title or another work within your title. Do not underline. You may write with Standard capitalization or Title Capitalization; do not write in ALL CAPS. 

Text

  • Hit enter after your title. Select left alignment. Hit tab once to indent.
  • Begin typing your text. Be sure to maintain double spacing and indent with each new paragraph.

Sample header for MLA paper

Formatting: Hanging Indent

Save time by using Microsoft Word to format the hanging indent:

[1] Select the text you would like to format (you can select your entire list of citations, for example, to format all at once)

[2] From the Home tab in Word, select the arrow next to Paragraph

[3] Next, under Special, select Hanging

[4] Click OK.  Your selected text will now be formatted with a hanging indent.

Additional Help and Handouts

Looking for help generating MLA 8 citations? Try these websites...

  • RefMe is a good tool, but requires creating a free account.
  • EasyBib is an ad-supported website that includes MLA 8, APA 6 and others.