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2.2.3: MLA Style

  • Page ID
    242020
    • Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith
    • Pasadena City College, Cabrillo College, and West Hills Community College
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    Overview

    The Modern Language Association (MLA) is a professional association for scholars of literature and language. Among other things, the MLA publishes a style manual (sometimes called a “style guide”) for writing and citing sources, used primarily in the humanities, including most English classes. MLA is one of several types of citation styles. As an undergraduate student, some professors or courses may require you to use APA (details below), Chicago, or Turabian style.

    While MLA is currently in its 9th edition, it’s not necessary (or advisable) to memorize formatting rules for any citation style. Getting used to checking formatting examples and published guidance (for example, in books or on websites) will help you proofread citations and move more easily between citation styles. There are helpful reference books you can keep on hand (such as the MLA Handbook(opens in new window), which is the style manual mentioned above), and many great online tools through your college library or tutoring websites, or found with a quick online search. Every so often, MLA style (or any citation style), will undergo some changes, and a new edition of the style manual will be released. All citation styles have different formats for citing various information types (e.g., websites, books, podcasts, emails), and as technology advances and information becomes available in new formats, citation styles need to be added and updated.

    Works Cited

    In MLA style, the list of detailed bibliographic information at the end of the paper or assignment is called “Works Cited.” The core elements of an MLA citation are as follows (be sure to pay attention to the formatting and punctuation that follows each element). These are the types of information you will want to retain for citing sources in MLA:

    MLA Core Elements

    1. Author.
    2. Title of source.
    3. Title of container,
    4. Other contributors,
    5. Version,
    6. Number,
    7. Publisher,
    8. Publication date,
    9. Location.
    N
    Note

    Notice in the examples below that the exact information needed, and its formatting, often varies depending on the type of source (book, journal article, etc.), that you are citing.

    Author

    • A single author should be written: Last name, First name Middle name
    • For two authors, only invert the first author’s name. List the names in the order in which they appear on the source.
    • For three or more authors, use et al. (which means, ‘and others’).
    • When citing an edited book, add a descriptive label (“editor”) after the name.
      Example: Smith, John M.
      Example: Smith, John M., and Terence Duvall.
    • When citing from social media, you may include the username after the author's name in brackets. If they are similar, you may omit the username. Example: Mizuhara, Kiko [@i_am_kiko]

    Title of Source

    • Include both the title and subtitle separated by a colon [:].
    • Capitalize the first word of the title and subtitle, plus all other important words.
    • Enclose in “quotation marks:”
      • If the title is part of a larger work, such as a story in an anthology, an article in a journal, or a Web page from a Web site
    • Place in italics:
      • If the title is a for an entire book, journal, or Web site

    Title of Container

    • When a source is part of a larger work, the larger work is called the “container.”
    • The container is italicized and followed by a comma.
    • Containers can be:
      • Periodicals (magazines, journals, newspapers)
      • Anthologies (books which contain short stories, essays, poetry, etc.)
      • Entire Web sites (which contain individual web pages)
      • Library or other online databases (which contain articles, books, etc.)

    Other Contributors

    • Contributors other than the author are named in the entry if they are important to your research or the identification of the source (i.e. editors and translators).
    • When citing a source with both an author and editor, list the author first and the editor after the title of the source.

    Version

    If a source carries a notation that it is a work in more than one form (i.e. book edition), identify the version.

    • 7th ed.
    • Expanded ed.

    Number

    • Journals are typically numbered with volume (vol.) and issue numbers (no.).
    • If you are using a multi-volume set, include the volume (vol.) number.

    Publisher

    • Only include the first publisher listed, unless the source was published by multiple independent organizations. Separate independent publishers with a forward slash [/].
    • Abbreviate publisher names in the following cases:
      • Omit business words like Company, Corporation, Incorporated, and Limited
      • Replace University Press with UP (i.e. Oxford UP, U of California P, MIT P).
      • Replace University with U (i.e. U of Hawaii P for University of Hawaii Press).
    • A publisher’s name may be completely omitted for the following types of sources:
      • Web page whose publisher is the same as the name of the overall website
      • Periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper)
      • Work published by the author

    Publication Date

    • Dates should be given as fully as they appear in your sources.
    • If multiple dates are listed, cite the date most meaningful to your use of the source.
    • Format as: Day Month Year. Abbreviate the names of months longer than 4 letters

    Location

    • In print sources, a page number (preceded by p.) or a range of page numbers (preceded by pp.) specifies the location.
    • In online sources, location is indicated by the URL, DOI, or Permalink.
      • URL: Copy in full from your Web browser, but omit http:// or https://
      • DOI: Journal articles are often assigned “Digital Object Identifiers”. When possible, cite a DOI (formatted as https://doi.org/ followed by the DOI number) instead of the permalink or article URL. Example: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03423-4
      • Permalink: Web sources (especially Library databases) often provide stable URLs, called “permalinks”. When possible, use these instead of the browser address URL.

    Compiling & Formatting

    Once you have constructed your citations according to MLA rules, there are a few more steps to complete the Works Cited list.

    • Center the words “Works Cited” at the top of the page.
    • Alphabetize the citations by author’s last name, or by the first main word of the title if there is no author. (When alphabetizing, ignore A, An, and The at the beginning of citations.)
    • Make sure all lines are double-spaced.
    • Apply “hanging” indents to all citations: The first line of the citation is not indented. All subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inch.
    Examples

    Print Book:

    Mancini, Candice. Racism in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Greenhaven Press, 2008.

    Electronic Book:

    Schreiber, Brad. Music Is Power : Popular Songs, Social Justice, and the Will to Change. Rutgers UP, 2019. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=2293722&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

    Web page:

    Hollmichel, Stephanie. “The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print.” So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013, somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital-and-print/.

    Academic Journal Article:

    Grauer, Jens, et al. “Strategic Spatiotemporal Vaccine Distribution Increases the Survival Rate in an Infectious Disease like Covid-19.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, Dec. 2020, pp. 1–10. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1038/s41598-020-78447-3.

    For more MLA style citation examples, visit Excelsior OWL.(opens in new window)


    Sources

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

    Works Cited section adapted from “Library 10” by Cabrillo College Library(opens in new window), licensed under CC BY 4.0(opens in new window)


    This page titled 2.2.3: MLA Style is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.