Hanging Indentation

Introduction

A number of citation styles require the use of hanging indentation for citing sources at the end of a research paper or book. Here’s the quick explanation of how to add hanging indentation in MS Word.

What It Looks Like

Hanging indentation means that for every entry in your final bibliography, you indent each line after the first one tab space. Here’s an example of an MLA Works Cited Page with hanging indentation:

Now, you can of course just press Tab for every entry, but that’s laborious and MS Word will likely mess up your spacing if you go that route. There’s a much quicker way to achieve hanging indentation …

How To Add Hanging Indentation

Adding hanging indentation in MS Word is super easy. Just highlight your text and press Ctrl + T. That’s it!

Alternatively, you can take a more circuitous route and go to Home > Paragraph (click the little symbol to the right) > Special > Hanging Indentation.

If you take the latter route, you will be able to adjust the spacing options at the same time. For more details, check out the video above.

Introduction

Introduction

Welcome to the MLA citation guide! Please note that this is not the official MLA guide. For that you will have to buy the MLA Handbook (9th ed.). However, we have done our best to cover the essentials, hopefully in a concise and interesting way.

In fact, one thing you will quickly notice is that most of our examples are made up. Don’t waste your time trying to find them!

Basic Principles

The MLA Handbook is primarily used in the Arts. Other disciplines use different style guides.

The focus of the MLA guidelines is on ease of reference. When you cite your sources in the body of your essay (what is called “in-text citation”), you most often have to provide only the author’s name and the page number. The rest of the bibliographic information is contained in your Works Cited page at the back of your paper.

When it comes to those final citations, there are typically three key sections for each entry:

1. Author
2. Title
3. Container

Each of these sections ends with a period. Within a section, you separate information with commas.

Here is a more detailed overview of the basic structure, along with a specific example:

Container Example

Once you have collected as much information as you can find, you can easily turn it into a complete entry:

Warbling, Wren. “The New Zealand Pigeon Revisited.” The Backyard Birder, vol. 3, no. 4, 1992, p. 9.

The Container System

shipping-container
(Photo by Flickr user Vanveen, with permission)

The last section of each entry is a bit like a shipping container. It holds the contents (the author and title), and is often the larger work in which the source is found. For example, an essay might be found in an academic journal, or a short story in a book.

It may even happen that one container is part of another container. For instance, a television episode might be part of a larger series, which in turn is found in an online streaming service (e.g., Netflix). Think of this second container as the container ship.

At other times, the container is not really a larger work but simply consists of some publication information. In that case it’s more like a packing label.

Whatever metaphor you prefer, the main point is that every entry consists of at most three parts. Fill in as much information as you find relevant.

How to Use this Guide

Often there are multiple correct ways to cite a source. This flexibility can be difficult to teach, so to make things easier, we have split our version of the MLA guide into three major parts:

  1. In-text citation (how you cite your sources in the body of your essay).
  2. The sections of each Works Cited entry (author, title, container).
  3. The type of publication (books, articles, electronic sources, etc.).

There is significant overlap between the last two sections. However, this structure will make it much easier to find what you’re looking for.

In addition to these three sections, we also share MLA guidelines on formatting your paper, alphabetizing entries, optional elements, and much more.

Further Resources

For more information about the MLA guidelines, please consult the following resources:

  • MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
  • The FAQ section at the MLA Style Centre.
  • The OWL at Purdue MLA section.

Integrating Quotations | Part 1 (MLA)

Introduction

If you want to see dramatic improvement in your writing, then focus on integrating quotations. It is an area where many people struggle. Whereas in ordinary speech we easily introduce the words of others (he said; she was like), it somehow seems more difficult in writing. That is why learning the rules is time well spent.

Being able to integrate quotations gives you the confidence to interact with the ideas of others, to be part of a larger discussion. Quoting is not just about referencing a few lines of text that seem vaguely relevant. It is about having a conversation.

On this page we will cover the basics of integrating quotations. All examples follow the MLA style rules.

The Basics

The Parts of a Quotation

In academic writing, nearly every quotation is made up of three parts: a signal phrase, the quote itself, and some kind of citation:

Signal Phrase + Quote + Citation

Example: As Kurt Ramble argues, “Urban farming should be incorporated in the elementary school curriculum” (78).

The signal phrase consists of your own words that signal to the reader that a quotation is coming.

The quotation can be long or short. If it is quite long, then it may have to be formatted differently as a block quotation.

As for the citation, in this guide we will be using parentheses, but you could use footnotes or endnotes if you are not following MLA conventions.

Now that we know the three basic parts of a quotation, we can zoom in a little. Most quotations share the following details:

The Parts of a Quotation Formatted Using the MLA Style Rules

Notice that this passage is not crammed full of bibliographic information. Most of the time you need mention only the author and the page or line number. Other details can be saved for the works cited page. For example, titles are normally only mentioned if they are directly relevant, or if you are citing multiple works by the same author.

When a quotation is followed by parentheses, final punctuation is removed from the end of the quotation (with the exception of question marks and exclamation marks found in the source) and your own punctuation follows the citation.

Types of Signal Phrases

Quotations are categorized by the way they are introduced, and there are three main types of signal phrases.

The Short Expression

One of the easiest ways to introduce a quotation is to announce who the speaker or author is and to add a verb that describes the way in which the idea is expressed:

Jonathan Truculent writes, “The best part of the pizza is the crust” (314).

As Iris Evans suggests, “Cell phones and tablets have increasingly overlapping capabilities” (58).

There are plenty of other verbs that work equally well:

argues, believes, notes, states, implies, observes, etc.

Note that many of these constructions are introduced by the conjunction as:

As Smith argues …

Of course, your signal phrase can include more than the author and the verb. Here are some instances where the “short expression” is not all that short:

As Imagen Randolph suggests, in a salacious memoir that caused quite a scandal, “There was always inappropriate behaviour at his parties.”

John Connelly mentions the contrary opinion of Judge Gavel, who writes, “[N]0 jury should convict on those grounds” (qtd. in Connelly 23).

It was George Fandangle, the nineteenth-century antiquarian, who famously wrote about the Greek philosopher Stroumboulopoulos, “Just like the popular culture he analyzed, he is now mostly forgotten” (117).

However, at the core of these signal phrases we still have the author and the verb. In all such cases we use a comma between the signal phrase and the quotation.

After this type of signal phrase, the first word of the quotation is usually capitalized. You can use square brackets around the capital letter if the word in the source was in lowercase.

Checklist for the short expression:

  • Does your signal phrase include at least a subject and a verb (e.g., He suggests)?
  • Does your signal phrase end with a comma?
  • Have you capitalized the first word of the quotation?
  • Is the quotation a complete sentence?
  • Have you put the appropriate closing punctuation after the parentheses (e.g., a period) rather than at the end of the quotation?

The Formal Introduction

Next, we have a more stately way to introduce quotations. The formal introduction consists of an independent clause that typically makes a claim about the quotation that follows. The quotation then acts as proof or evidence of the signal phrase:

Godfrey Boggart, on the other hand, claims that opera is a dead art form: “While classic operas like Carmen or The Magic Flute are still being performed, most new operas receive little public attention and are in any case overshadowed by musicals” (49).

The formal introduction does not require a verb of expression (writes, believes, argues, etc.). It just needs to be a complete sentence that allows us to make sense of the quotation.

As with the short expression, the quotation is usually a complete sentence too. The one exception is if the quotation is an appositive phrase:

To describe the reasoning of toddlers, child psychologist Martin Frost coined a humorous portmanteau word: “toddlerlogical” (205).

If you find this an awkward construction, then just use the next method of integrating quotations: the run-in quotation.

To determine if you need to capitalize the first word of the quotation, check your source and follow the same formatting.

Checklist to the formal introduction:

  • Are both the quotation and your introduction complete sentences? (exception: the quotation is an appositive noun phrase)
  • Have you followed the same capitalization as in your source?
  • Does your introductory phrase end with a colon?

The Run-in Quotation

Often you can combine your signal phrase with the quotation to form one complete sentence. In that case you don’t need any punctuation in between. You will have to be selective about which words you quote, as the transition needs to be seamless.

The transept “first became popular in Romanesque architecture, and it gave the basilica the appearance of a Latin cross” (Chevet 5).

Buchanan contends that “despite being the longest ice age, the Huronian era remains understudied” (3).

The signal phrase may include the author and a verb of expression, but neither is essential. The key is that the signal phrase and the quotation together form a complete sentence.

So, there you have it: if you pick one of the three signal phrases, you should have no trouble introducing your quotations.

Checklist for the run-in quotation:

  • Do your words combine with the quotation to form a complete sentence?
  • Have you left out all punctuation before the quotation?

Minor Variants

Occasionally, you may come across a quotation that has no signal phrase. It just sits there, all by itself in the middle of a paragraph. Kind of sad really, as the reader may have no idea what to make of it. Our advice is to play it safe and always provide a signal phrase.

A more acceptable variant is where the order is flipped around, and the signal phrase comes afterwards:

“The high costs of drugs are as much an effect of government intervention as a by-product of free market capitalism,” writes economist Hugo X. Santana (19).

Notice that by default the citation comes at the end of the sentence. As a result, the comma has been placed inside the quotation, even though it was not there in the source. Sometimes, for the sake of clarity, you may wish to place the citation immediately after the quotation.

You can also place the signal phrase in the middle if you like:

“The high costs of drugs,” writes economist Hugo X. Santana, “are as much an effect of government intervention as a by-product of free market capitalism” (19).

This way of integrating the quotation (placing the signal phrase later in the sentence) is more common when the words are spoken rather than written down:

“I will shoot anyone who thinks gun control is unnecessary,” shouted Ella Pringle, at a rally in Utah.

Another acceptable variant is to introduce the quotation with a short prepositional phrase:

According to Virgil Cain, “Japanese gymnasts have managed to improve their elasticity by eating copious amounts of calimari.”

Make sure your signal phrase and the quotation form a complete sentence.

While you are free to experiment, in academic prose the default is to place your signal phrase before the quotation. Otherwise, your reader won’t immediately know what to make of the quotation and has to wait for an explanation.

Continuing After the Quotation

You might be asking yourself, do I need to end every sentence right after the quotation? Can I extend the sentence?

Yes you can.

The only caution is that continuing after the quotation is best done when your signal phrase runs right into the quotation (see above) and when the quotation is relatively short. Here is an example:

Odysseus is “the man of twists and turns,” an apt description of both his character and his wanderings coming home from Troy (1.1).

This is also a great way to string together a number of shorter quotations:

Matilda Anderson, in a recent address to the Anthropophagy Society, argued for a “redefinition of cannibalism,” so that the restaurant industry “might have a new source of protein” (1, 5).

Note that with multiple quotations you are allowed to combine citations. If those citations are from different sources, separate them with a semi-colon.

If you feel uncomfortable about extending your sentence after the quotation, then use a period and start a new sentence. Don’t fudge it by adding semi-colons.

Checklist for continuing on after the quotation:

  • Do your words combine with the quotation(s) to form a complete sentence?
  • Have you left out all punctuation before the quotation?
  • Have you placed parentheses either at the end of the sentence or immediately after the quotation?
  • Have you put punctuation after the parentheses as appropriate?

Conclusion

Now that know how to introduce a quotation with a signal phrase, check out part 2 of our guide on quoting to learn about all those finicky exceptions! Don’t worry though–with a bit of practice you will master the rules soon enough.


If you would like to print a version of this page, please download our handy Guide to Integrating Quotations.

In-text Citation

Introduction

When you cite your sources in the text of your writing project (what’s often called in-text citation), you need to give just enough information so that people can trace the quotation or image back to its source.

Usually that means providing the author and page number:

Boredom is sometimes seen as a threat to productivity in the work place. However, it has also been called the “single greatest cause of creativity and invention” (Jones 35).

The reader can then turn to your Works Cited page and find the complete citation:

Jones, Mark. “Boredom and Creativity.” The Causes of Boredom: A Collection of Essays, edited by Esther Yawn, Etcetera Press, 2017, pp. 34-49.

Of course, when the author and page number are not available, or you’ve used a source such as a play or poem, you will have to find other alternatives. Further down, we will review the options.

For now the main thing to realize is that the MLA guidelines promote an unobtrusive citation style. Your in-text citations should state only the most essential information. That way the reader can enjoy your writing without distraction.

How Much to Cite

When students first begin to do research, the tendency is to provide too much bibliographic information in the body of the text. Here is some advice about when to provide additional information.

First of all, try to keep page numbers inside the parentheses. There has to be a good reason to draw attention to a particular page. Here are some examples of where it makes sense to break the rule:

Pages 80-101 contain a beautiful series of photos of the author’s extended family.

For some reason, page 72 is missing in the manuscript

Yet just two pages further Susan Ballantyne argues the exact opposite.

The same thing is true for the title of your source. Don’t mention it unless you have a good reason. And here are some good reasons to include the title:

  • You are discussing a primary source (as opposed to a secondary source)
  • You are dealing with multiple works by the same author and need to differentiate them (e.g., in a comparative essay about two Shakespeare plays)
  • You want to discuss the wording of the title (perhaps the phrasing is problematic)
  • You want to focus more extensively on a particular source, or indicate a more extensive debt
  • The work has no author and is known primarily by its title

Otherwise you can typically leave out the source’s title. The same applies to the rest of the publication information. Save it for your Works Cited.

The Basic Rules

Author and Page

As mentioned, the normal procedure is to cite just the author and page number (with a space in between):

As has been observed, “The mating rituals of the Australasian gannet are a model for us all” (Quack 92).

If the author or page has been mentioned in the text already, there’s no need to repeat it in parentheses:

As Herman Kuiper writes, “Zimbabwean origami is deeply influenced by the shape of the Victoria Falls” (109).

When the name is provided in parentheses, omit the first name. In the body of the text it is customary to give the full name for the first citation. After that you can often use just the last name.

Finally, place your citation as close to the quotation as possible:

Hannah Patton deplores “the use of the coat rack as a fashion statement” (4), especially as it is usually covered with coats.

You don’t have to wait till the end of your sentence before giving the citation.

Authors with the Same Name

If you are citing from multiple authors with the same last name, you can add some clarity by adding an initial (or the full name if the authors share initials):

As has been observed, “The mating rituals of the Australasian gannet are a model for us all” (I. Quack 92).

Use the full name when including it in the text rather than in parentheses.

Multiple Works by the Same Author(s)

If you are citing multiple works from the same author(s), you can add a short version of the title, either in the text or in parentheses:

As Bledsoe and Smith argue in “Misogyny,” Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 cannot be rescued from “a charge of anti-feminism” (18).

It has been suggested that the phrase interpersonal relationships is “rife with redundancy, for when is a relationship not interpersonal?” (Funke, Communication 3).

Notice that the title is italicized or placed in quotation marks just as it appears in the Works Cited. Also, if the parentheses contain the author and title, then add a comma before the title, but not after.

To shorten a title, look for a key noun phrase, or, if there is none, use the opening few words.

Multiple Authors

If a work is published by two authors, cite both:

The distance between one’s toes “may have an effect on self-esteem levels, especially among surfers and swimmers” (Lovegood and Sorenson 55).

For three or more authors, use the abbreviation et al. (Latin for “and others”):

Jane Austen’s villains are “either superficial Romantics or dissipated boors” (De Bourgh et al. 98).

Avoid using the abbreviation if you cite the authors in the text rather than the parentheses. Either cite all the authors or use a work around (e.g., “De Bourgh and others”):

De Bourgh and others argue that Jane Austen’s villains are “either superficial Romantics or dissipated boors” (98).

No Author

If a source lacks an author, cite it by its title instead. In the body of your text, you may use the full title (at least the first time), but in parentheses a short version is required:

The Dakar Rally: The Greatest Race on Earth provides a riveting account of the famous race, but it lacks any reference to the death toll.

The Dakar Rally has long been “one of the most dangerous races on earth” (Dakar Rally 42).

If there is no title or author, then use whatever descriptive phrase you have used in the Works Cited.

Missing Page Numbers

If a source has no page numbers, try use an alternative label. Here are some sample abbreviations you can use:

par. or pars. for paragraph or paragraphs

sec. or secs. for section or section

ch. or chs. for chapter or chapters

Here is what that looks like in practice:

Only one critic noted that “the most prominent aspect of Rostropovich’s playing was his baldness” (Baldwin, ch. 3).

As this example shows, if you provide both the author and label in parentheses, then separate them with a comma.

On the other hand, if your source has no numbers whatsoever, then leave out all numerical references:

This effect has been called the “Disneyfication of Winnie the Pooh” (Smith).

Don’t feel bad about giving only the author’s name (or a short title), and don’t start counting paragraphs or line numbers yourself.

Other Citations

For some sources you will want to provide a different numbering. Here are the most common examples:

Plays

Cite plays by act, scene, and line number:

1.2.15-16 (refers to act 1, scene 2, lines 15-16)

If the play is in prose and lacks line numbers, you may cite it by author and page number.

Audio and Video

Cite time duration in hours, minutes, and seconds:

02:03:27-29 (refers to 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 27-29 seconds)

Poetry

Cite poems by line numbers:

lines 9-14

After the first citation, you may omit the descriptive label (“line,” “scene,” etc.). Avoid abbreviations (e.g., ll. for lines)

Volume

If a source is published in multiple volumes, and you cite only one volume, you need provide only the page number. However, if you borrow from multiple volumes by the same author, provide the number of the volume as well as the page number(s):

It was the dreaded black fly that “did them in” (Irigano 4: 89-90).

This citation refers to pages 89-90 in volume 4. Make sure to add a space after the colon.

Common Prose Works

Let’s say you’re quoting from a famous novel like Brave New World. There are so many editions in print that your reader may have a difficult time finding a passage based on a page number alone. In such cases you can add more information at the end of your citation:

Huxley 87; chapter 8

If the source uses other numbering (e.g., sections), you can use that instead.

Paraphrases

If you borrow an idea and put it in your own words, you are paraphrasing. In such a situation you may need to cite multiple authors whose work you have summarized. Separate them with semi-colons:

Some researchers believe that optimism can help patients heal faster, but that telling people to be happy is more likely to leave them depressed (Bile 59; Choler 44-46).

Indirect Quotations

Sometimes you find the perfect quotation—the only problem is that it’s already a quotation in your source. In such cases you can use the description “qtd. in” (quoted in) to show where you found the passage:

As Ariana Humboldt notes, “a phobia of spiders can suggest an underlying fear or trauma” (qtd. in Kidney 221).

However, avoid using this method too frequently, or it will seem that you get all your best ideas second hand.

Repeated Use

Should it happen that you repeatedly use the same source, you can slack off in how much you cite. In the following example, both quotations are from the same source. Since they come in quick succession, the author has decided to cite just once.

As Herman Kuiper writes, “Zimbabwean origami is deeply influenced by the shape of the Victoria Falls.” Kuiper sees the frequent origami reproductions of the famous waterfall as a paradoxical attempt to “capture what cannot be contained in art–namely, a flowing, ever-changing process” (109, 112).

This method is especially handy if an entire paragraph is indebted to a single source. Even if you do decide to provide a separate page number after each citation, you do not have to give the author’s name each time.

On the other hand, if another source intervenes, be sure to provide more clarity:

As Herman Kuiper writes, “Zimbabwean origami is deeply influenced by the shape of the Victoria Falls” (109). In fact, most scholars agree that such paper reproductions represent “the archetype of African origami” (Sinderbad 24). Nevertheless, the shape or image is hardly static. Kuiper sees the frequent origami reproductions of the famous waterfall as a paradoxical attempt to “capture what cannot be contained in art–namely, a flowing, ever-changing process” (112).

In this example, the quotation from Sinderbad comes in between the two passages from Kuiper.

In summary, the basic rule is that if you think a reference is clear enough then you can give less information about its source.

Conclusion

This page does not cover every single rule for in-text citation. When you work with particular texts you may come across other ways of citing information (e.g., cantos, chapter and verse, etc.). Part of learning the rules for citation is about adapting to the customs of your discipline.

Now that you know the basic rules for in-text citation, you may want to check out our more extensive guide to integrating quotations (part 1 and part 2). It follows the MLA guidelines and will teach you everything from citing poetry to using ellipses and block quotations.


For more information about in-text citation, see chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

MLA Essay Format

Introduction

There are various ways to format your essay, and your instructor might have their own preferences. Here we share how to format your essay in accordance with the MLA Handbook (9th ed.). The instructions are for MS Word, but you can easily adapt them to whatever word processing program you use.

MLA Essay Format

Essays are printed on standard 8.5 x 11 inch paper, which happens to be the default size of a Word document.

MLA Research papers don’t require a title page. All the important information appears on the first page.  Here is what the top of your first page should look like:

Now that you have a rough sense of how to start your essay, let’s take a closer look at the finer points of proper formatting.

Publication Details

Always follow the same order when you share your publication information:

Your name

The instructor’s name

The course name

The date you completed the assignment

This information should appear only on the first page, so make sure you don’t place it in the header area (where it will get repeated on every page).

Also, don’t add labels such as “Date” or “Course,” and double check that you’ve spelled your instructor’s name correctly.

For group projects, the MLA Handbook suggests that you use a separate title page. Again, place the publication information in the top left, but this time lists all the group names under each other (before adding the instructor, course, and date). Then move your essay title down to the centre of the page. Start your essay on the next page.

Header

The header section includes your last name and the page number.

To insert the page number, press Insert > Page Number > Top of Page > Plain Number 3.

As soon as you do this, the cursor is automatically placed before the page number so you can type your last name. Don’t forget to leave a space.

To access the header area, double click near the top of the page. To leave it, double click anywhere below the header area.

Now you should have the same header on every page.

Margins

Since 2007, the default margin for any Word document has been 1 inch all around. Fortunately, MLA format has the same requirement. If for some reason you need to fix the margins, go to Layout > Margins > Normal.

Font

Use a common font that is easy to read. A popular choice is Times New Roman, size 12.

Title

Resist the temptation to make your title look fancy by underlining it, adding colour or bold font, or putting it in italics. All you have to do is centre your title and capitalize key words.

Alignment

Make sure the text of your essay is left-aligned. Look for these buttons in Word:

You might think that justified text looks better, but your instructor will likely disagree.

Spacing

All the text in your essay should be double-spaced. To make this change quickly, first press Ctrl + A to highlight all text and then press Home > Line and Paragraph Spacing (symbol) > 2.0. Make sure you also click on “Remove Space After Paragraph.”

Indents

It is customary to indent your first paragraph (use the tab button). Subsequent paragraph breaks should also be shown by indents, and not by extra spacing between paragraphs.

To get rid of extra spacing, highlight the sentence before and after the paragraph break and press Home > Line and Paragraph Spacing (symbol) > Remove Space After Paragraph.

Works Cited Page

Make sure that your Works Cited is on a separate page. It’s a good idea to insert a page break before the Works Cited page. To do so, place your cursor at the end of your conclusion and press Insert > Page Break.

Headings (Optional)

Longer texts may benefit from headings to divide and organize the content. If you choose to add headings in your paper, be consistent in how you style them. As an example, here are three different levels of headings:

Level 1 Heading

Level 2 Heading

Level 3 Heading

In other words, the level 2 and 3 headings are subheadings. You can use font size, bold font, italics, or other typographic changes to distinguish the heading levels.

Conclusion

For more information, see chapter 1 of the MLA Handbook or consult the MLA Style Centre.

The MLA format is not flashy or cluttered. Unless your instructor asks for additional information (such as the word count), don’t go out of your way to add it.

Finally, for your convenience, here is a Word Template you can use. Just replace the instructions with your own information.

MLA Essay Template

Footnotes and Endnotes

Introduction

The MLA Handbook (9th ed.) discourages extensive use of footnotes and endnotes. After all, the whole point is to cite your source in the body of the text.

However, sometimes a note may be helpful to provide some information without adding a digression or interrupting the flow of the argument. You can use notes for all kinds of reasons, including explaining what edition of a text you used, listing additional citations when there are a lot of sources, or simply providing more information.

Examples

To add a note, place your cursor in the text (typically at the end of a sentence or unit of thought). Then go to the References panel in MS Word and insert either a footnote or endnote. Whichever option you choose, don’t mix and match. The note(s) will show up as a superscript number in your text:

Dietitians are still divided on some key questions. Should the job title be spelled “dietitian” or “dietician”?¹ Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?² When does obesity become morbid? However, everyone does agree that forcing children to eat Brussels sprouts is immoral.

Here are the corresponding notes:

¹Like most practitioners (which is also spelled without a “c”), we prefer “dietitian.”

² While the issue appears to be settled in favour of the fruit camp, Olaf B. Ferguson notes that “some Transylvanian critics remain stalwart holdouts” (44). For a fruitful discussion of the issue, see especially Legume and Leek 79-99.

Unless you are publishing online, make sure you indent the first line of each note. Place your cursor before the number and press “Tab.”

Here is another example, for good measure:

³ The same observation is found in subsequent textbooks (e.g., Emerald 101, Luxemburgher 22). Only recently has there been some questioning of the traditional paradigm. See Islander 44 for some probing questions.

When a note primarily adds more references, it is called a bibliographic note, whereas if it consists mostly of added commentary then it is termed a content note.

Formatting Notes

Notes should use Arabic numbering (1, 2, 3, etc.). In addition, text in footnotes is usually in a smaller font (e.g., Times New Roman size 10).

It is up to you (or your instructor) whether you use footnotes or endnotes. If you choose the latter, place them after the text and before the Works Cited. Adding a title such as “Notes” would be a nice touch.


For more information, see chapter 7 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Works Cited Format

Introduction

Adding a proper works cited page at the end of your essay shows that you take research seriously. This lesson shows how to alphabetize your entries and format them following the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Basic Format

Always start your works cited page on a separate page. It may be helpful to insert a page break in your document.

Next, write “Works Cited” at the top and centre this heading. Start your first entry on the next line (left aligned):

Works Cited Page

Here are a few more things to note:

  • Include your regular header (last name and page)
  • Double space all your entries
  • Don’t add extra spaces between entries
  • Use the same font you have used throughout the essay
  • If you only have one citation, write “Work Cited” instead of Works Cited”

Hanging Indentation

MLA citation uses hanging indentation to organize the entries in your works cited list. In other words, for each entry, indent every line after the first:

Hanging Indentation

If you are not sure how to create this effect, check out our quick tutorial on hanging indentation.

If you are publishing something in a digital format (where indentation can be difficult to replicate), you may forego hanging indentation and instead add an extra space between entries.

Alphabetizing

Sort your entries alphabetically, observing the following guidelines.

Single Author

1. Spaces, symbols, and punctuation marks are ignored:

St Germain, Timothy

@strawman202

Street, Ann

Ignore the space in the first name and the @ in the second.

2. Ignore anything after the comma unless two last names are identical:

Koopman, Jordan

Koopman, S.

Koopmans, E.

In this example, Koopman comes before Koopmans, and where the two names are identical they are separated based on first name (after the comma).

3. If you are citing multiple items by the same author, use three dashes or hyphens (- – -) at the start of each entry after the first:

Hyphens

Add a period and a space immediately afterwards.

4. If the person cited is not an author, but a contributor, add a comma instead of a period and describe their role:

Bombadil, Anthony. Flora and Fauna of the Old Forest.

– – -, editor. Goldberry’s Recipes.

In alphabetizing, you ignore the role description (in this case the word editor).

Multiple Authors

5. When a work is created by multiple people, keep the same order as in the source:

Lobotomy, Max, and Sandra Brundage

Even though Lobotomy comes later in the alphabet than Brundage, it appeared first in the source.

6. If someone has coauthored works with different people, organize the entries by the last names of the second authors:

Lobotomy, Max, and Sandra Brundage

Lobotomy, Max, and Nathalie Prop

In this example, Brundage comes before Prop in the alphabet.

7. If the same coauthors are responsible for multiple entries, cite them by using three hyphens or dashes (- – -) followed by a period:

Lobotomy, Max, and Sandra Brundage

– – -.

In this example, Lobotomy and Brundage are cited for two coauthored works.

8. However, if the order of the names is different in each source, cite them in the order you found them:

Brundage, Sandra, and Max Lobotomy

Lobotomy, Max, and Sandra Brundage

The implication is that Brundage was the principal author of the first work, whereas Lobotomy received more credit for the second.

No Author

9. If an entry has no author, or multiple entries have the same author, alphabetize by title. Ignore any articles (a, an, the), even in foreign languages (e.g., le, das):

A Farewell to Farms

The Great Gadfly

A Hassle in India

10. If a title starts with a numeral, alphabetize it as if spelled out:

The Dot-com Bubble

1999: Waiting for the Millennium

In this example we ignore the article (The) and mentally spell out 1999 as nineteen ninety-nine.

Cross-listing

If you find yourself citing the same source multiple times, there is a way to shorten the entries. Let’s say you’ve used three articles from the same essay collection. What you would do is give a complete citation for the essay collection and shorten the individual entries:

Noseworthy, Edward. “Indie Music and American Identity.” Sharp, pp. 87-103.

Pinetree, Margo. “The Impact of NPR’s Tiny Desk Series.” Sharp, pp. 24-33.

Sharp, Alex, editor. Contemporary Indie Music. McCord Press, 2017.

Wallace, Declan. “Hair Styles and Indie Bands: The Correlation between Acoustic Instruments and Unkempt Hair.” Sharp, pp. 66-77.

If you want to provide some further clarification, you can add a shortened version of the collection title after the editor’s name:

Sharp, Indie Music, pp. 24-33.

This can be useful if the editor has worked on multiple projects listed in your Works Cited.


For more information about formatting the Works Cited page, see the end of chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Author

Introduction

Author Image

Most Works Cited entries begin with the name of the author or creator. Alphabetize your entries by last name and provide any first names after the comma:

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.” ROFL, vol. 5, no. 1, Dec., 2005, pp. 1-14.

Don’t forget to add a period after the author’s name. Now let’s review all the tricky cases.

Variants

Initials

Some authors go by their initials:

Dastardly, B. Mugging Muggles for Profit and for Fun. Hogwarts UP, 1788.

Names Not Inverted

In rare cases you do not need to invert the name. Examples include various famous poets and rulers:

Dante Alighieri.

Elizabeth I

This is more common for premodern authors.

Also, in some languages author names are already written in reverse order (with the last name first). In that case, copy the name as you found it:

Kim Min-Jun.

In this example, Kim is the family name.

Pseudonyms

Even if you suspect that a name is a pseudonym, cite it in the regular order:

Warm, Luke. “How to Build Your Own Hot Tub.” Youtube, uploaded by CheapSkate299, 5 Feb. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoTu9Bs.

If you like, you can provide the real name in square brackets:

Havank [Hans van der Kallen].

Alternatively, you can provide the real name first and the pseudonym in brackets. This is especially useful for online handles:

Whiner, Uriah [@uwhiner].

You can even provide only the real name by itself in square brackets:

[Hans van der Kallen].

Finally, you might like to group all the works by the same author together, even if published under different names.

Multiple Names

If an author has published under separate names (e.g., due to a name change), you can add the label published as:

Smith, Sarah. Snugglebugs and Hugglebugs. Sentimental Press, 1999.

—. [published as Sarah Jones]. Cuddles and Puddles. Sentimental Press, 1998.

If the author has requested that their previous name not be used, then you can omit the note.

Two Authors

For two authors, keep the same order as they are listed in the source. Invert only the first:

Smith, John, and Bob Jones. Living with Mediocrity: The Challenges of Being Average. Quixotica Press, 2016.

More than Two Authors

For three or more authors, provide the name of the first and add the Latin abbreviation et al. (and others):

Collins, William, et al. “Wanton Willoughby and Wily Wickham: Austen’s Worst Womanizers.” A Moral Tract in Honor of Lady Catherine De Bourgh, edited by Lady De Bourgh, Dowager Press, 1820, pp. 19-153 .

Corporate Author

If a work has been created by an organization, you can list it as the author.

National Artillery Foundation. “Turning your Howitzer into a Lawn Ornament.” The Veteran Gardener, Spring, 2001, pp. 7-8.

If the organization is also the publisher, then don’t list it as the author:

The Best Bumper Stickers Based on the Bard’s Lines. National Shakespearean Automobile Association, 2013.

Contributors

Single Contributor

The main creator of a work does not have to be an author. It can also be an editor, translator, or performer, to mention the most likely possibilities. In such cases, provide the name and add the descriptive label afterwards.

Yawn, Esther, editor. The Causes of Boredom: A Collection of Essays. Etcetera Press, 2017.

Normally, contributors are listed after the title, but when there is no main author then they may be moved to the front of the entry.

Two Contributors

The same rules apply as with two authors. Just add the descriptive label at the end:

Bag, Phil, and Rosemary Trundlewood, editors. Epic Tales of Lost Luggage. Random Publishing House, 2005.

Lee, Amy, and Yao Chow, translators. The Sayings of Confucius: The Fortune Cookie Edition. By Confucius, Analectual Press, 2001.

Note that in the second example the translators have been listed first and the author has been placed after the title. This can be useful when you are drawing special attention to the role of the contributors.

More than Two Contributors

For three or more contributors, provide the name of the first and add the Latin abbreviation et al. (and others):

Gadfly, Norman, et al., editors. The Phenomenology of the Unibrow: A Festschrift for Hans Glinka. Pluckwidge Press, 2007.

Other Creators

As mentioned, the creator of a work does not strictly have to be an author. Here are a few other possibilities:

adapter
performer
creator
director

Add the label of your choice after the creator’s name:

Amblin, Bruce, director. Saws. Nightmare Studios, 1975.

If your focus is on the work itself, then add the name of the creator or contributor afterwards:

Saws. Directed by Bruce Amblin, Nightmare Studios, 1975.

No Author

If a work has no author (and you do not want to emphasize the role of another contributor), just skip the author container:

Voulez Vous “Couchsurf” Avec Moi? Translated by Jean Valjean, Backpacker Promotions, 2012.


For more information about citing authors, see chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Titles

Introduction

Title Example Faded

The second section of a works cited entry is the title. The hardest part of working with titles is knowing how to format them.

Basic Formatting

Let’s say you want to cite the following book:

Title Example

The first task is to know where the title begins and ends. In this case, the blurb under the picture is merely a bit of advertising. Our entry would therefore start as follows:

Higginsbottom, Bernard. Write out of the Box.

We removed most of the capital letters and capitalized only key words. Because this is a book title, we also added italics. In other words, with any title we want to remove the original formatting and apply our own.

In the following sections we will take a closer look at specific formatting conventions.

Subtitles

If a title has a subtitle, be sure to include it in your entry. Say you have read Hillary Chuckle’s fascinating article in the journal ROFL:

Title Example 2

You would start your citation as follows:

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.”

If there is no colon yet between the title and subtitle, you can add one.

Capitalization

You do not need to capitalize the following parts of speech unless they are the first word in your title or come right after the colon:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Prepositions (e.g., with, in, of, beside)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet)
  • The to in infinitives (e.g., to love, to be)

If we take our previous example, we can now see why “An” is capitalized (it comes right after the colon), whereas “the” is not:

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.”

For more examples, check out the other sections on this page.

Italics and Quotation Marks

You may have noticed that some titles are in italics and others are in quotation marks. Italics are used for longer works and quotation marks for shorter ones. Here is a handy chart to show the difference:

Italics Quotation Marks
book article or essay
novella (published by itself) novella (published in a collection)
play short story
longer musical composition poem or song
television show or series webpage or post
film
website
CD or DVD title

If you use quotation marks, place your final period before the last quotation mark:

Jolly, Brian. “Winnie the Pooh and Eating Disorders.”

Titles within Titles

Sometimes one title becomes part of another. Here is a rundown of how you should format such entries.

1. A title in italics inside a title in quotation marks:

“What Optometrists Can Learn from The Great Gatsby.” (an article about a novel)

2. A title in quotation marks inside another title in quotation marks:

“The Symbolism of Monocles in ‘Le Monocle de Mon Oncle’ and ‘Colonel Fazackerly Butterworth-Toast.’” (an article about two poems)

Notice the use of single quotation marks around the poem titles.

3. A title in quotation marks inside a title in italics:

From the Bizarre to the Bazaar: Modernism, Orientalism, and James Joyce’s “Araby.(a book about a short story)

Notice that the entire title is italicized.

4. A title in italics inside another title in italics:

An Introduction to Butlering, with Examples from Downton Abbey and The Remains of the Day (a book title that references a television series and a novel)

The titles inside the overall titles are in regular font.

Missing Titles

If a source has no title, you can make one up! Well, to be exact, you can provide a general description:

Clay, Paul. Red painting with a blue stripe. Museum of Modern Art, Manchester.

In such cases, capitalize the first word and any proper nouns. Use regular font.

Adding a description is also appropriate for things like prefaces, afterwords, and the like:

Smart, Oscar. Preface. Prenuptials for Dummies, by Miriam Willows, Harmony Press, 2019, pp. v-xii.

Your description may make reference to another title. This is useful for untitled reviews:

Moss, Stephanie. Review of The Brotherhood of the Stay-at-Home Dads, by Harold Humber. Filch’s Review of Books, 8 Aug. 2017, www.filchesrob.com/book-reviews/brotherhood-dads.

For tweets, provide the entire message as the title:

Prudhomme, Jacques [@synderesis93]. “Just bought a BMW!! #ChristmasinJuly, #Notfeelingguilty.” Twitter, 25 July 2020, twitter.com/synderesis93/status/8780982734.

Notice that you can keep the original formatting of the text.

For private communication, use a description as the title, naming yourself as the recipient–either by name or as “author”:

Lacy, Sandra. E-mail to the author. 8 Nov. 2015.

Lacy, Sandra. E-mail to Manina Sprocket. 8 Nov. 2015.


For more information on titles, see chapters 2 and 5 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Containers

Container Example Faded

Container Title

Container Title

A container is a larger work in which the author’s work may be included.

There are many types of containers:

book
magazine
newspaper
periodical
television series
journal database
website

Here is an example of a story in a local newspaper (with a location in brackets):

Dougherty, Jack. “Heffalumps Win State Championship.” Chuggington Post [Feuilleton City, CA], 9 Apr. 2016, F1.

In each case, italicize the container title and follow up with a comma. If the container lacks a title, provide a description in regular font.

Sometimes one container is found inside another container. In the following example, a print journal article has been accessed through a journal database:

Sanchez, Alfie. “A Freudian Analysis of Don Quixote’s Tilting at Windmills.” Journal of Windmill Architecture, vol. 33, no. 1, 1973, pp. 1-18. Journal Pod, www.journalpod.org/stable/5263.

Fortunately, every container follows the same format, so find whatever information you can and plug it in!

Of course, many works are not found inside another container. In that case, skip the container title but still provide other relevant information (as with this stand-alone book):

Foresight, Cassandra. Jobs and Jabs: The Economic Ramifications of Mass Vaccination Efforts. Side Effect Press, 2021.

Contributors

Contributors

In addition to the author of a work, other people may be recognized for their contribution. Use a description such as the following:

adapted by
directed by
edited by
illustrated by
introduction by
narrated by
performed by
screenplay by
translated by
uploaded by

Here are some examples of what this looks like in practice (a Youtube video and an introduction to a conference presentation):

Schadenfreude, Edgar.  “My Favorite Epic Fails.” Youtube, uploaded by Immature98, 19 Aug. 2008. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ran123dom4.

Flytrap, Venus. “The Science behind Trigger Warnings.” Mental Health and the Return to Nature. Peruvian Pavlovians Convention, introduced by Florence Wheelock, 3 July, 2009, Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza de Amazonas, Chachapoyas.

Since an entry may have multiple containers, contributors can be listed for each one:

Lascaux, Yves. Caveman. Illustrated by Bertha Bush, lettering by Jean Old, no. 1, Old Time Comics, 2002. Neolithic Comics, edited by Frank Fly, vol. 1, Renaissance Reprints, 2011-15.

This way you can link the contributors to the specific project they worked on. Note too that if you start a container with the contributors, you must capitalize the first letter.

Introducing some contributions with by sounds awkward. Common examples are general editor and guest editor. Place these after the name:

Rudimentri, Dimitri. “Eastern Europeans and the Fear of Washing the Baby Away With the Bath Water.” Fear and Courage, special issue of Studies in the History of Emotions, Shirley McCormack, general editor, vol. 9, no. 3, 1988, pp. 55-69.

On the other hand, you can also be selective about which contributions you want to recognize. In particular, films have numerous contributors, and it wouldn’t do to list them all:

Saws. Directed by Bruce Amblin, screenplay by Sara Tomlinson, Nightmare Studios, 1975.

Version

Version

You can note what version or edition of the work you have used.

If this is the first information for the container, start with a capital:

Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. Edited by Ivan Hadinov, abridged version, Pocket Book Press, 2009.

Shackleton, Kitty. Fifty Great Hikes in and near Antarctica. 22nd ed., Edgeworth Press, 1999.

Note that the word edition is always abbreviated (ed.).

Here are some other descriptions:

special ed.
extended ed.
collector’s ed.
expanded ed.
updated ed.
e-book ed.
unabridged version
director’s cut
rev. ed.

Normally you would not write 1st edition or signed edition. However, there are exceptions, particularly if you are an antiquarian or book dealer…

Indicating which version you are using is important when citing the Bible:

The Bible. New Emphatic Diaglot Version, Wilson Press, 2015.

Common Bible translations include the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the English Standard Version.

Number

Number

Often a source is part of a longer series such as a set of volumes, the pages of a periodical, or the seasons of a television show.

Here are some descriptive words we can use for this information:

volume
issue
season and episode

Volume

A work may be published in multiple volumes. Typically you would cite just the single volume you have consulted.

If this is the first information you have for the container, start with a capital:

Devereux, Bob, editor. The Secret Correspondence of Elizabeth I. Vol. 5, Essex Press, 1991.

Fielding, Annabel, editor. Famous Defamation Suits from Britain and France. Revised ed., vol. 7, Subpoena Press, 2001.

If you want to indicate the complete number of volumes in the series, you can add this at the end of the entry:

Devereux, Bob, editor. The Secret Correspondence of Elizabeth I. Essex Press, 1991. 6 vols.

This information is optional, but may be especially useful if you have cited multiple volumes. If the individual title has its own title, you can provide the series title as supplemental information:

Wigeon, Brenda. The Antagonistic Evolution of Mallards. Northern Shoveler Press, 2006. Vol. 2 of The Evolution of Ducks.

Volume and Issue

Journals (or periodicals) are usually organized in volumes and issues.

In any given year, a journal might publish a number of issues. For instance, many academic journals publish on a quarterly basis—so four issues per year. All the issues in a year are called a volume.

Cite as much of this information as you can find:

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.” ROFL, vol. 5, no. 1, Dec., 2005, pp. 1-14.

If the journal does not use volume numbering, provide only the number:

Groom, Edward. “Changing Attitudes to Wacky Hair Day.” Coiffure, no. 59, 2017, pp. 7-8.

Comic Books are often also numbered:

Splash, Paige. A Trail of Slime. Slugman, no. 8, Gutter Press, 2016.

Season and Episode

This is how you would cite a television show that is part of a longer series:

“The Shish Kebab Murder.” Inspector Grilling, directed by Emma Killjoy, performance by Quentin Gifford, season 2, episode 3, Feel Good Films, 2008.

Finally, if you come across some other descriptive term for the numbering, use that instead.

Publisher

Publisher

The publisher is the organization that prints, produces, funds, or distributes the work.

If multiple organizations have cooperated on a project, separate them with a slash (/):

Zen, Iris. “Black Jellybean.” The Happiness Project, Museum of Possibility / The Jellybean Centre, 28 Feb. 2012. Photo.

Most often, however, you should cite only the main publisher.

Books

For books, the publisher’s name is typically found on the title page or copyright page. Often books are published by a division of a parent company, in which case you need cite only the division.

You can leave out business lingo such as Inc. (incorporated) or Ltd. (limited):

Naylor, John. The Complete History of Baseboards. Thumbnail Press, 2015.

Flagstone, Ed. The Joys of Exam Writing. Honour Roll Press, 1992.

Note that you always capitalize the publisher.

In the case of books published prior to 1900, you may substitute the city of publication for the publisher:

Murdoch, William. Four Constabulary Cases Selected for the Edification of the General Public.  Toronto, 1897.

University Press

If a publisher’s name includes the words University Press, you may shorten it as follows:

Oxford UP

U of Toronto P

If the name of the academic press includes another word that is similar to university, then shorten just the word Press:

Saint Sebastian College P

Brain Trust Institute P

For all other publishers, spell out all the words (including Press).

Films and Television Series

For works produced by media companies and their subsidiaries, cite the organization that is primarily responsible for production and distribution:

Mortimer, Ravi, director. Dessert in the Desert. Performance by Sarah Sand, Dromedary Films, 2011.

If in doubt, cite multiple organizations involved.

No Publisher

If the author or editor of a work is also the publisher (e.g., in the case of a personal web site), don’t cite the name again. The same rule applies if a website title is similar to the publisher’s name.

In fact, for many of your sources you do not need to provide a publisher. This includes articles or essays published in a journal, magazine, or newspaper. It also includes organizations that distribute work (e.g., Youtube) but do not produce it.

Nevertheless, such organizations often do contribute their own content. A good example is Netflix, which creates many of its own shows.

Publication Date

Publication date

Most publication dates contains at least the year of publication.

For some sources, that is all you need. Books are a good example:

Tobago, Winnifred. The Towering Kauri. 2nd ed., Tane Mahuta Press, 2017.

If a book’s copyright page contains multiple dates, try pick the one that belongs to your edition. Usually that would be the most recent date.

For other sources, follow whatever dates they provide. This can be the date of composition or last revision, or you may use a label such as forthcoming.

The basic pattern for citing the publication date is either day-month-year or season-year. Here are some examples:

18 July 1993
winter 2003
Sept. 1963
1906-14

Notice that the last example is of a multi-year project: in such cases, cite both the first and last date. For abbreviations of months of the year, please see the MLA Abbreviations Page.

In some case you may have a choice of dates. For instance, for a television show, you may pick between the date when it first aired and the date of release on DVD.

The same thing goes for publications that appear both online and in print. Try to cite the date of the version you have used.

Please note that the date of publication is not the same as the date of access. The latter refers to when you looked at the material and is a supplemental element.

Missing Date

If the date is an estimate, you can add circa (around) or a description:

Scarface, Richard. Ye Olde Style Guide. Boston, circa 1709.

Inari, Irene. Voyage to Lapland. Helsinki, late eighteenth century.

If you are unsure, add a question mark:

2003?

These examples assume that your source or its description contains some information to go on. If, however, you are supplying your own information, use square brackets:

[2009]
[2009?]

And if you are really uncertain, just omit the date altogether.

Location

Location

A location can be one of a number of things, including the following:

A page range
A city
A disc number
A URL or DOI
A conference venue
An archive number or code

Since the location is the last element in the container, be sure to end it with a period.

Page Numbers

The page range shows the first and last page where the text may be found:

Maestro, Julia. “Beyond Beyonce’s Booty-full Body: How I Got My Teenager Listening to Classical Music.” Sharp and Natural, Dec. 2014, pp. 1-3.

If the text is found on only one page, use a single p. (for page). If the page number is not continuous, use a plus sign after the starting page (e.g., p. 1+).

In addition, when a source uses a different type of numbering, follow that. For example, newspaper sections are usually identified by letter (e.g., E5).

For self-contained works (like most books), you do not need to provide a page range.

URLs and DOIs

For online sources, you may want to provide a link.

If your works cited page is in print form, make sure that the link is not a clickable hyperlink. If the link is underlined, right click it and select “Remove Hyperlink.”

When you copy the URL, you may omit the http:// or https:// (unless you want to create a hyperlink):

Schadenfreude, Edgar. “My Favorite Epic Fails.” Youtube, uploaded by Immature98, 19 Aug. 2008. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ran123dom4.

When the URL is a really long string, shorten it (look for a slash close to the beginning and delete after that). Super long URLs look ugly in your Works Cited.

Since URLs are likely to change, databases often provide a stable or persistent URL. If you find such a permalink, use it instead.

However, even better than a permalink is a DOI, or digital object identifier. Here you do want to provide the proper https:// beginning:

Zinzendorf, Obadiah. “George Herbert’s Visual Poetry: Hidden Easter Eggs in ‘The Easter Bunny.’” The Shapely Poem, vol. 88, no. 5, 2000, pp. 90-105. Journal Pod, https://doi.org/10.1234/tsp.2000.4321.

If you have a choice, use a DOI instead of a URL. In fact, the MLA Handbook notes that long URLs tend to clutter up the page and that they are not always necessary. So check with your instructor!

City or Place

Another common location is the city or place where the work is found or was performed. For example, the following presentation was given at a university in Chachapoyas (Peru):

Flytrap, Venus. “The Science behind Trigger Warnings.” Mental Health and the Return to Nature. Peruvian Pavlovians Convention, introduced by Florence Wheelock, 3 July, 2009, Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza de Amazonas, Chachapoyas.

Locations can be museums, art galleries, archives, conference venues, and so forth. If the city name is already part of the place name (e.g., The Hong Kong Stock Exchange) then you can omit it.

Other locations include disc numbers (e.g., disc 2) and archive numbers (e.g., Library of Alexandria, papyrus roll 19022).


For more information on Containers, see chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Supplemental Elements

Introduction

The MLA Handbook (9th ed.) differentiates between core and supplemental elements. Core elements are generally included in a citation, as long as you can find the relevant information. Supplemental elements are sometimes important and sometimes optional. They are placed either after the title of the source or at the end of the entry.

Information After The Title

Contributor

Place an important contributor to the main work after the title, and before the container:

Berlusconi, Lucia. “An Italian Girl in Provence.” Translated by Robert Mayle. The Best Travel Fiction of 2021, edited by Edmund Grumperlinck, Gourmand Publishing, 2021, pp. 99-105.

In this case, the contributer (Robert Mayle) translated this particular story, but did not necessarily contribute to the rest of the book.

Original Publication Date

In some cases you may want to provide the original publication date. This information also comes right after the title and before the first container:

Lively, William. The Spanish Comedy. 1598. Edited by Karen Sondheim, Oxbridge UP, 2014.

Information After The Entry

Publication History

If you want to show where something has previously been published, use a tag (e.g., “Originally published in”):

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.” Recent Essays in Ethnography, edited by Boris London, Naked Truth Press, 2008, pp. 58-72. Originally published in ROFL, 2005.

You can shorten the publication information for the original source.

Date of Access

For electronic sources, you may provide a date of access. This date indicates when you consulted the electronic source for your research:

Beard, Stuart. “The Final Run.” Sofa Surfers, 8 Feb. 2017, www.sofasurfers.com/stories/the-final-run/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

The date of access is useful because websites change constantly. However, it is not mandatory.

Volumes

For multivolume works, you normally cite only the volume you used. On the other hand, if you want to indicate the complete number of volumes in the series, you can add this at the end of the entry:

Devereux, Bob, editor. The Secret Correspondence of Elizabeth I. Essex Press, 1991. 6 vols.

Series Name

When a book is part of a series, you may include the series title and/or the number of the book:

Etui, Alice. The History of the Pencil Case. Oxbridge UP, 2016. Culture, Style, and Education 3.

Unusual Source

To provide clarity, you may sometimes want to give a brief description at the end:

Flytrap, Venus. “The Science behind Trigger Warnings.” Mental Health and the Return to Nature. Peruvian Pavlovians Convention, introduced by Florence Wheelock, 3 July, 2009, Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza de Amazonas, Chachapoyas, 2017. Presentation.

Normally, the medium of publication is not needed.

US Congress Info

If you cite a government document, you can provide additional information:

United States, Congress, House, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Curtailing Presidential Tweets. Government Printing Office, 2017. 115th Congress, 2nd session, House Report 592.


For more information on supplemental elements, see chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Books

Introduction

Here is the basic format for citing books in your Works Cited:

Basic Book Format

In other words, there are only four elements that are essential. Beyond these four, you can add other information where relevant. For example, you can add a translator or editor, an edition, an original publication date, and so forth.

Here is how the same information is organized in our container chart:

Container for Books Image

Note that the final comma becomes a period in our actual citation.

Now that we know the basic format, let’s move on to some variations.

Variants

Multiple Authors

For two authors, keep the same order as they are listed in the source. Invert the first only:

Smith, John, and Bob Jones. Living with Mediocrity: The Challenges of Being Average. Quixotica Press, 2016.

For three or more authors, use the Latin abbreviation et al. (meaning and others):

Fudge, Phoebe, et al. The Theology of Chocolate. Epicurean Publications, 2013.

No Author

If there is no author for a work, simply start with the title.

Editor

If the book has an editor instead of an author, cite it as follows:

Yawn, Esther, editor. The Causes of Boredom: A Collection of Essays. Etcetera Press, 2017.

Author and Editor

If a book has an author and editor, cite it as follows:

McDermott, Louisa. The Reproductive Cycle of Meerkats. Edited by Henry Hammer, Reproduction Press, 2015.

Other Contributors

For more information on how to cite other contributors (e.g., translators), please see the page on citing authors.

Collection or Anthology

First cite the individual essay, chapter, poem, or other contribution. Then add the collection title as the container:

Noseworthy, Edward. “Indie Music and American Identity.” Contemporary Indie Music, edited by Alex Sharp, McCord Press, 2017, pp. 87-103.

Puidgemont, Juan. “Revolutionary Catalonian Soccer Commentators.” Collected Essays from the 20th Conference of Catalonian Soccer Historians, edited by Hendrik Cruyff, Ole Press, 2015, pp. 33-44.

Witty, Lisa. “A Poem for Lazy Perfectionists.” Anthology of Wisconsin Comic Poetry, Frank Uptight, general editor, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Risible Press, 2019, pp. 9-10.

If the selection is of significant length or weight (e.g., a play in a drama anthology), you can italicize the title.

Introduction or Afterword

Here is how you cite an introduction, preface, foreword, afterword, or any other similarly titled section:

Jackson, Deirdre. Introduction. The Priapic Value of Prefaces, by Jacques Derriere. Phallocentric Press, 1973, pp. vi-xxvi.

Pick whatever descriptive term is appropriate. If there is a unique title, then cite that instead:

Cement, Louis. “Biscuits and Graves: Watson’s Southern Aesthetic.” The Collected Poems of Earl T. Watson. Northwesterly UP, 2010, pp. vii-li.

If the text includes both a title and a label, cite both, but treat the label as supplemental information:

Piemaker, Cindy. “Egging On.” Preface. A Memoir of Baking Pies for Politicians, by Liberty Jones, Protest Press, 2021, pp. vi-viii.

If the author of the introduction or afterword is the same as the author of the work, then omit the first name later in the entry:

Whopper, Ernest. Epilogue. The True History of Lying, by Whopper, Truthiness Press, 2015.

Graphic Novels

Comic books—or graphic novels, as hipsters call them—are often part of a series. This makes them a bit like articles in a journal. Cite the title of the comic first and then add the series title and the issue number:

Splash, Paige. A Trail of Slime. Slugman, no. 8, Gutter Press, 2016.

If the issue and the series share the same title, then you need only cite it once:

Lascaux, Yves. Caveman. No. 1, Old Time Comics, 2002.

Should the comic book become part of a collection, you would add another container:

Splash, Paige. A Trail of Slime. 2016. The Complete Slugman, edited by Michael Omnibus, vol. 4, Gutter Press, 2017.

There are of course many other elements you could include. In particular, you might add other contributors (artists, letterers) as well as the original publication details (if the publisher of the collection has changed). Here is one example:

Lascaux, Yves. Caveman. Illustrated by Bertha Bush, lettering by Jean Old, no. 1, Old Time Comics, 2002. Neolithic Comics, edited by Frank Fly, vol. 1, Renaissance Reprints, 2011-15.

Reference Work

You can cite a reference work as a whole, or you can cite an individual entry. In the latter case, use quotation marks for the title of the selection you have used:

Ham, Sam. “Wildlife.” The Encyclopedia of Veganism. 2nd ed., Vinaigrette Publications, 2011, pp. 21-22.

An Edition

Information about what edition you have used can be included in the container:

Shackleton, Kitty. Fifty Great Hikes in or near Antarctica. 22nd ed., Edgeworth Press, 1999.

Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. Edited by Ivan Hadinov, abridged version, Pocket Book Press, 2009.

For more information, about editions, see the section on versions on the containers page.

Multivolume Work

A work may be published in multiple volumes. Typically you would cite just the single volume you have consulted.

If this is the first information you have for the container, start with a capital:

Devereux, Bob, editor. The Secret Correspondence of Elizabeth I. Vol. 5, Essex Press, 1991.

Fielding, Annabel, editor. Famous Defamation Suits from Britain and France. Revised ed., vol. 7, Subpoena Press, 2001.

For more information about citing volumes, see the section on number on the containers page.

Original Publication Date

In some cases you may want to provide the original publication date. This supplemental information comes right after the title and before the first container:

Lively, William. The Spanish Comedy. 1598. Edited by Karen Sondheim, Oxbridge UP, 2014.

City of Publication

For books published prior to 1900, you are allowed to provide the city of publication rather than the publisher:

Murdoch, William. Four Constabulary Cases Selected for the Edification of the General Public. Toronto, 1897.

This is especially useful when you cannot find the publisher’s name.

Bible

There is no need to cite an author for the Bible. Be sure to cite the version you have used:

The Bible. New Emphatic Diaglot Version, Wilson Press, 2015.

If you accessed the Bible online, you can indicate that:

The Bible. New Emphatic Diaglot Version, Wilson Press, 2015. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

Common Bible translations include the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the English Standard Version.

Dissertation

A dissertation is cited just like a regular book, except that it typically lacks a publisher. You can add the university and a brief description as supplemental information at the end:

Alford, M. L. Citation Guidelines and Rates of Depression at Welsh Universities. 2013. Post Hoc Institute, PhD dissertation.

If the institution includes the word university, shorten it to U.


For more information about citing books, see the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), especially the examples at the back.

Articles

Introduction

The basic format for citing articles is as follows:

Article Overview Purple-01

Notice that the periodical title is italicized. Be careful also to follow the rules for punctuation (commas and periods).

Variants

Scholarly article

Our example in the introduction is of a scholarly article, so there’s little new here:

Chuckle, Hillary. “Ventriloquizing the Belly Laugh: An Ethnographic Perspective.” ROFL, vol. 5, no. 1, Dec. 2005, pp. 1-14.

Notice though that in addition to the year of publication, you can provide the month (or season).

Scholarly article from a Database

If you accessed the article through a database, you can provide some extra information. Where possible, add the DOI number and the database title.

Zinzendorf, Obadiah. “George Herbert’s Visual Poetry: Hidden Easter Eggs in ‘The Easter Bunny.’” The Shapely Poem, vol. 88, no. 5, 2000, pp. 90-105. Journal Pod, https://doi:10.1234/tsp.2000.4321.

A DOI is a digital object identifier, a code that identifies the article even if the URL changes.

If there is no DOI, you might provide a URL that will remain stable over time. Databases typically provide a persistent URL in the citation information that accompanies the article.

Here is an example with a URL:

Sanchez, Alfie. “A Freudian Analysis of Don Quixote’s Tilting at Windmills.” Journal of Windmill Architecture, vol. 33, no. 1, 1973, pp. 1-18. Journal Pod, www.journalpod.org/stable/5263.

If you cannot find a persistent URL, you could copy the link from your browser. You may omit the http:// or https://.

Finally, since URLs can clutter up the Works Cited, you can shorten them or leave them out. Check with your instructor for their preference.

Special issue

Occasionally, an article appears in a special issue of a periodical:

Rudimentri, Dimitri. “Eastern Europeans and The Fear of Washing the Baby Away With the Bath Water.” Fear and Courage, special issue of Studies in the History of Emotions, edited by Vladimir Moldau, vol. 9, no. 3, 1988, pp. 55-69.

You can instead cite the special issue as a whole:

Moldau, Vladimir, editor. Fear and Courage. Special issue of Studies in the History of Emotions, vol. 9, no. 3, 1988, pp. 1-179.

This is especially useful if you’re citing multiple articles from the same issue.

Article in a Book

Cite the article first and add the book title as the container:

Noseworthy, Edward. “Indie Music and American Identity.” Contemporary Indie Music, edited by Alex Sharp, McCord Press, 2017, pp. 87-103.

Magazine article

Cite just like a regular article, but pay attention to the date. Add the day/month or season as appropriate:

Maestro, Julia. “Beyond Beyonce’s Booty-full Body: How I Got My Teenager Listening to Classical Music.” Sharp and Natural, 17 Dec. 2014, pp. 1-3.

Newspaper article

If the newspaper is not well-known, add the city in square brackets:

Dougherty, Jack. “Heffalumps Win State Championship.” Chuggington Post [Feuilleton, CA], 9 Apr. 2016, F1.

Notice that the page numbers are often numbered differently.

Review

A review often appears in a periodical, magazine, or newspaper, and is cited accordingly:

Moss, Stephanie. “Papa Still Has a Life.” Review of The Brotherhood of the Stay-at-Home Dads, by Harold Humber. Filch’s Review of Books, 8 Aug. 2017, www.filchesrob.com/book-reviews/brotherhood-dads.

Oglethorpe, Arnold. Review of The Merchant of Mars, directed by Honoria Glossop. Contemporary Shakespeares, vol. 1, no. 2, 2014, pp. 9-10.

Here is what to watch out for:

  • Start with the author of the review.
  • If the review has a title, you do not have to include the phrase “Review of [the title],” though we would recommend you still do.
  • Use italics for titles of longer works (films, plays, books), and quotation marks for shorter works (poems, articles).
  • Note that the creator of the item under review doesn’t have to be an author, but may be an editor, translator, director, and so forth. Just add the relevant phrase after the title (e.g., edited by).

Editorial or Letter to the Editor

If a work lacks a title, you may insert a short descriptive phrase. This applies to editorials and letters to the editor, which may occasionally be missing a title:

Johnson, Breanna. Letter. Chuggington Post [Feuilleton, CA], 11 Apr. 2017, E9.

Gimmick, Flip. Editorial. Chuggington Post [Feuilleton, CA], 11 Apr. 2017, E9.

On the other hand, if the letter or editorial has a title, use that instead:

Johnson, Breanna. “No More Dog Poop on My Lawn!” Chuggington Post [Feuilleton, CA], 11 Apr. 2017, E9.

Finally, for unusual sources you are allowed to add a descriptive phrase at the end of your citation:

Gimmick, Flip. “The Current Housing Crisis.” Chuggington Post [Feuilleton, CA], 11 Apr. 2017, E9. Editorial.

This is of course not necessary if you have already replaced the title with such a description.

Note on Page Numbers

If the article continues elsewhere in a periodical, then cite only the page it starts on and add a plus sign (+):

Lovejoy, Percy. “Save the Planet or Have Another Child? The Ethics of Procreation.” The Avuncular Philosopher, vol. 99, no. 4, 2016, pp. 9+.


For more information, see the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), especially the sample citations at the back.

Electronic Sources

Introduction

Don’t think of electronic sources as radically different from other sources. The same Works Cited sections still apply. For instance, instead of the location being a set of page numbers, it is now usually a URL or DOI.

The main thing is to know what information you might collect from a webpage or website. Don’t be afraid to poke around to find what you are looking for:

Website Example

In this example, it is easy to find the URL, the title, and the date, but we have to do more digging to discover the author’s name and the website title.

Date of Access

Before we get to specific kinds of entries, it is good to note that one element is optional. That’s the date of access. This date is when you last consulted the electronic source for your research:

Beard, Stuart. “The Final Run.” Sofa Surfers, 8 Feb. 2017, www.sofasurfers.com/stories/the-final-run/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

The date of access is useful because websites change constantly. However, this element is not mandatory.

Specific Sources

Entire Website

Cite as much information as you can gather about a website. Start with the creator’s name and the website title, and then add information for the container(s):

Kumar, Hardeep. Kabaddi Highlights. Singh Sports Company, 2014-16, www.kabaddihighlights.com. Accessed 18 Jan. 2017.

The publisher of a website may be a company that runs the site or it may be a single person. If the publisher and the creator are the same, don’t list the publisher again.

If you add the hyperlink, take off the https:// and don’t underline it. If MS Word changes it to a hyperlink, right click on it and select “remove hyperlink.”

If the website was developed over a period of time, then cite the first and last date:

Slackers Anonymous. 1999-2000, www.slackersanonymous.com.

Page of a Website

Citing a page of a website is similar to citing a shorter work such as a poem or essay. Start with the author and title of the page and then provide information for the larger website:

Tannenbaum, O. “The Christmas Sweater from Helsinki.” World’s Ugliest Christmas Sweaters, 14 June 2009, www.ugliestchristmassweaters.uk/christmas-sweater-from-helsinki/.

E-book

When you cite an e-book, indicate this in the container as a “version”:

Chewbacca, Phil. The Language of Spitting. E-book ed., Spittoon Press, 2012.

If the book is published on a website, you can add a URL or DOI:

Schadenfreude, Kirsten. Teachers’ Jokes from around the World. Humorist Press, 2012, www.humoristsinternational.com/jokes/teachers/

Video on a Website

When you cite online videos, there are a few things to watch out for. Often a video has both an original creator/artist and an uploader. If you think it is important to cite the latter, then do so as part of the contributors section of the container:

RAP$HEET. “‘Race Matters’ by Rapper Rap$sheet.” Youtube, uploaded by Itsmymoney, 22 Feb. 2017. www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoUh8Rap?.

If you do not know the original creator, skip the author section:

 “My Least Favorite Epic Fails.” Youtube, uploaded by Immature99, 19 Aug. 2008. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ran123dom4. Accessed 9 Sept. 2015.

Comment on a Web Page

Here is one way to cite a comment on a post:

Merkel, Angelica. Comment on “Why the Greek Monopoly Board No Longer Has Free Parking.” Board Game Greek, 18 Dec. 2010, 2:21 a.m., www.boardgamegreek.com/2010/12/18/why-the-greek-monopoly-board-no-longer-has-free-parking/.

Remember that your own description of the title (Comment on) should not have quotation marks around it. Adding the exact time of day may help others find it more easily.

Email

When you cite an email or text-message, use a simple description:

Lacy, Sandra. Text message to Manina Sprocket. 8 Nov. 2015.

Lacy, Sandra. E-mail to the author. 8 Nov. 2015.

Lacy, Sandra. E-mail to Academic Integrity Committee.


For more information about citing electronic sources, see the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), especially the examples at the back.

Other Sources

Introduction

The MLA Handbook does not provide examples for every last kind of citation. The idea is that you should be able to tailor the basic structure of a citation (author-title-container) to any new format you might come across. That is why the examples on this page should be treated as suggestions. There is no need to follow them slavishly.

Films

When citing a film, you can start with the title or with one of the contributors:

Amblin, Bruce, director. Saws. Nightmare Studios, 1975.

Saws. Directed by Bruce Amblin, Nightmare Studios, 1975.

You can also provide a lot more information about other contributions, should you so choose:

Saws. Directed by Bruce Amblin, screenplay by Sara Tomlinson, performances by Michael King and Major Bill Fright, Nightmare Studios, 1975.

TV Show

Here are just a few ways to cite a TV show or series.

Specific Episode on TV

“The Shish Kebab Murder.” Inspector Grilling, directed by Emma Killjoy, performance by Quentin Gifford, season 2, episode 3, Feel Good Television, 2 May 2008.

Series

Filling, Jeremy, and Nicholas Splat, creators. Inspector Grilling. Feel Good Television, 2007-10.

Episode on DVD

“The Shish Kebab Murder.” Inspector Grilling: Season 2, directed by Emma Killjoy, screenplay by Esther Lovegood, episode 3, Feel Good Television, 2008, disc 1. DVD.

Streamed Episode

“The Shish Kebab Murder.” Inspector Grilling, directed by Emma Killjoy, performance by Quentin Gifford, season 2, episode 3, Feel Good Television, 2008. Netflix, www.netflix.com/.

“The Shish Kebab Murder.” Inspector Grilling, directed by Emma Killjoy, performance by Quentin Gifford, season 2, episode 3, Feel Good Television, 2008. Netflix app.

The first example is for a show streamed on a website and the second through an app.

Audio Recording

If you are citing a CD, LP, or even a cassette, you have a number of options.

Most often you would start with the name of the performing artist, but you can also cite by composer (e.g., Beethoven). It depends who is more central to your project.

You can also add a lot of extra information in the container portion of the citation (other contributors, a streaming service, etc.). The examples below provide a few possible ways of citing an audio recording.

Specific Song

Country, Courtney. “Kissing My Cussin’ Cousin.” Southern Comfort, Broken Bottle Records, 2009. Spotify app. 

Eis, Dietrich. “Melting Glacier.” Waltzing on Ice, performed by the Swedish Ice Hockey Waltzing Band, directed by Ike Kea, Capital Records, 2017, www.capitalrecords.com/waltzing-on-ice/o2349AGh98h32bob.

Entire Album

River, Don. Obsidian Heart. Dark Wood Studios, 2012.

Musical Score

When citing a musical score, it is up to you if you would like to add a descriptive label (e.g., score). For older scores, you may want to add the original date of publication:

Bach, I. B. The Complete Piano Sonatas. 1723. Fortissimo Publishing, 2001. Score.

Podcast

Here is a sample podcast from a station called Not Politically Correct:

“When Libertarians Play Team Sports.” Planet Funny, NPC, 7 Nov. 2006, www.npc.org/podcasts/519889/planet-funny.

If you want to cite the entire podcast series, then start with the series title (Planet Funny).

You can add author or contributor roles as you like:

Cramp, Jenny. “When Libertarians Play Team Sports.” Planet Funny, produced by John Stone, NPC, 7 Nov. 2006, www.npc.org/podcasts/519889/planet-funny.

In some cases you may want to cite a portion of a podcast episode, say a literary reading:

Donne, John. “The Flea.” Narrated by Bobby Turncoat. The Metaphysical Poetry Show, hosted by Gene Splicer, 8 June 2020, iTunes app.

Performance

Here is how you might cite the performance of a play:

Paternak, John. The Embarrassed Teenager. Directed by James T. Butterfield, performed by Antonia Piazza and Jake Storm, 18 Jan. 2017, Holy Rood Theatre, Los Angeles.

In this example, Paternak is the writer of the play.

Use the same format for other performances (e.g., concerts).

Presentation

Here’s how you might cite a lecture or a reading:

Flytrap, Venus. “The Science behind Trigger Warnings.” Mental Health and the Return to Nature: Peruvian Pavlovians Convention, introduced by Florence Wheelock, 3 July, 2009, Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza de Amazonas, Chachapoyas, 2017. Presentation.

The location for this entry includes both the venue (here a university) and the city. A lot of the material in this entry is optional, especially the final description.

Interview

Cite interviews by first providing the name of the person interviewed (the interviewee). Interviews may be published or unpublished. When an interview lacks a title, you can give it a description of your own. Here are some examples:

Unpublished Interview

Conway, Gerald. Interview. Conducted by Abby Thorn, 7 Apr. 2016.

Published Interview

Dangerfield, Godfrey. “Living in the Shadow of Greatness.” Interview by Diana Gray. Magazine of Obscure Folk Heroes, Aug. 2001, pp. 9-11.

This entry is published in a magazine, but the container can be a website, a book, etc.

Dictionary Entry

“Sesquipedalian, Adj. (2).” Merriam-Webster, 2021, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sequipedalian.

In this example we have consulted an online definition and have used the 2nd definition.


For more information, see the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), especially the examples at the back.

Abbreviations

Introduction

While abbreviations are rare in academic prose, they are perfectly common in citations.

Punctuating Abbreviations

Abbreviations that consist mostly of capital letters don’t need periods or spaces:

AD
NATO
US
CD
PhD
MA

However, for people’s initials you can add periods and spaces unless the entire name is abbreviated:

JFK
BFG
C. S. Lewis
R. A. Shoaf

You’ll find though that the spaces between initials are often omitted, as anyone researching G.I. Joe would soon discover.

Lowercase abbreviations usually end in periods:

p.
ff.
no.
vol.

Lowercase abbreviations of multiple words may contain extra periods:

e.g.
p.m.

This rule does not apply universally. An exception would be mph (miles per hour), which does not need extra periods.

Months

Any months longer than four letters can be abbreviated:

Months

Common Abbreviations

Here’s a list of other abbreviations used in MLA citations:

ch. = chapter
dept. = department
ed. = edition
e.g. = for example (from the Latin exempli gratia)
et al. = and others (from the Latin et alii)
etc. = and so forth (from the Latin et cetera)
i.e. = that is (from the Latin id est)
no. = number
P = Press
p. = page
pp. = pages
par. = paragraph
qtd. in = quoted in
rev. = revised
sec. = section
trans. = translation
U = University
UP = University Press
vol. = volume


For more information on abbreviations, see Appendix 1 of the MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

Integrating Quotations | Part 2 (MLA)

Introduction

Once you are familiar with how to introduce a quotation using a signal phrase, you are ready to learn the more advanced rules on this page. You don’t have to memorize every rule, but try get a general sense of things and then consult specific sections when you have questions.

Additional Rules

Block Quotations

If your quotation is rather long, you have to set it off differently.

In MLA format, the rule is that when a quotation is longer than three lines of text (i.e., four or more lines) you should turn it into a block quotation.

To check the length of a quotation, just start typing it out in your own text and if it exceeds three lines then you know it should be a block quotation. In the case of poetry, you count the number of poetic lines in the original text, even if there are only a few words per line.

Here is an example of a block quotation:

I have always found Ellen Grammar to be extremely repetitive, as she shows in this passage from Why I Love Quotations:

Let me repeat myself for clarity. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. This is a quotation. Got it yet? (315)

In a block quotation, almost all the regular rules for quoting are inverted or changed. There are no quotation marks, the entire quotation is indented one tab space, and the final punctuation comes before the citation, and not after.

Most block quotations are introduced by a formal introduction. The reason is that if you are quoting a significant amount of text you need to give it a fairly detailed introduction. Otherwise, the reader may have a hard time making sense of the quotation.

In particular, you should typically avoid continuing your sentence after the quotation, even though you will often see this in older academic texts.

Finally, after the block quotation there is no need to indent your next sentence. Usually you will want to continue with your paragraph and explain the significance of the quotation.

Quoting Poetry

Here are the essential rules for quoting poetry.

If you are quoting 2 or 3 lines of poetry, use slashes to indicate line breaks:

In “Aristo-cat,” Emily Thompson confesses her mixed emotions about her pet: “I love my cat / Though he’s a brat” (1-2).

Make sure you put a space on either side of the slash. If your quotation skips a stanza break, use a double slash (//).

As with a regular quotation, delete the final punctuation (unless it is an exclamation mark or question mark).

If you are quoting 4 or more lines of poetry, use a block quotation. Do not use slashes, but copy each line (including its punctuation) on a separate line just as it appears in your source:

One wonders whether Ella Pencil’s poem “Spaced Out” parodies itself:

This is yet another poem that
relies on unu-
sual
spacing to make
an impression. (1-5)

As with any block quotation, we have a signal phrase (usually a formal introduction), the lines are indented a tab space, and the final punctuation is deleted unless it is an exclamation mark or question mark.

Note that all the original spacing is retained in a block quotation. This also applies if the quotation starts in the middle of a line.

Finally, it may happen that a line of verse is so long that it cannot fit on one line of text. In that case, indent the second line a bit more (hanging indentation).

Quoting Drama

With the exception of brief snippets, quotations of dialogue from plays or screenplays are treated as block quotations. Names of the speakers are in capitals:

In David Baird’s play Broken Glass, the leaders of the main political parties are divided about how to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from the Vatican:

PRIME MINISTER GATTUSO: We cannot allow any more of these robed people into our country.
ANDREA PEERLESS: I can’t accept such a heartless …
PRIME MINISTER GATTUSO: heartless? It’s simply a matter of restoring order. We cannot have these people parading through the streets in their strange costumes. (3.4.15-19)

In print format, apply hanging indentation to each speaker’s lines.

Citations of plays are usually by act, scene, and line number. In the case of plays in prose, you may cite by page number instead.

Quotes within Quotes

A quote within a quote is placed between single quotation marks:

My friend Natasha told me about a conversation she had with Nibaa after their American lit class: “The other day, Nibaa said, ‘I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship.'”

In the unusual event that you are dealing with a quote within a quote within a quote, you would revert back to double quotation marks.

If you are not quoting anything more than the entire quote within a quote, then just use double quotation marks:

Natasha told me what her friend Nibaa had to say about Moby-Dick: “I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship.”

Translations

If you are quoting a language other than English, you may want to provide a translation.

There are a number of ways to format the translation. We would recommend placing it in parentheses:

In one draft, Tolkien had Gandalf tell the Balrog, “Achtung, Baby” (“Pay attention, baby!”; 223; Johnson 34).

However, you can also place it prior to the parentheses, in single quotation marks:

In one draft, Tolkien had Gandalf tell the Balrog, “Achtung, Baby” ‘Pay attention, baby!’ (223; Johnson 34).

Cite the source and the translation in the same order as you quoted them.

If the translation is your own, use the abbreviation “my trans.” instead:

In the original Pig Latin manuscript, Sarah’s question about hopscotch alludes to the “ants” that are frequently in the “way”: “howay antsway otay laypay opscotchay?” (“who wants to play hopscotch?” (2.3.1; my trans.).

If you are consistently using translations, you can save time by noting your source in a footnote or endnote.

You can also provide a translation as part of a block quotation:

We thought it would be great to translate a stanza from the Haka into Klingon. Here is how one online translator renders the following passage:

This is the hairy man,
Who fetched the sun and caused it to shine again.
One step upward, another step upward!
A step upward, another… the Sun shines!

hairy loD ghotvam’e’.
pemHov fetched je ‘oH jatlhqa’ boch luH.
latlh mIw upward mIw upward, wa’!
latlh mIw upward, a … jul boch! (“Ka Mate”; Tradukka)

I am no Klingon, but this does not seem quite accurate to me.

Notice that when you cite internet sources you may not be able to give page numbers and may need to give a short title of the title instead.

In our examples, we have given the original text first, but you can change the order. If you think the reader would have a hard time understanding the original language, you might place the translation first. Make sure you also change the order in the citation! For example, (49; my trans.) would become (my trans.; 49).

On the other hand, if you can expect the reader to have some expertise in the language (as is the case in many academic disciplines), or if you want to point out something about the original, then first provide the original.

Adding Emphasis

It may happen that you want to emphasize something in a quotation. To indicate that you have made the change, use a tag such as “emphasis added”:

Churchill apparently joked, “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put” (emphasis added).

If you are citing a source as well, place the tag after a semi-colon:

Everyone was surprised when Mary told Tony, “Bob’s your aunt!” (Leicester 28; my emphasis).

Most of the time, though, you don’t need to add any emphasis. Assume that your reader is smart enough to figure out why the quotation is significant.

Ellipses

Sometimes you may want to skip part of the quotation.

To indicate the omission of words, phrases, or entire lines, you must use an ellipsis (plural ellipses), which is just a fancy word for three spaced periods. Here is an example:

As Edward Diptych points out, “Art forgers sometimes include blemishes and imperfections . . . in an effort to outwit the connoisseur” (88).

And here is an example for poetry:

William Blake argues in “Holy Thursday” (1794) that “where-e’er the sun does shine . . . Babe can never hunger there” (13, 15).

Notice that in this case the ellipsis takes the place of a line break (/); in other words, you don’t necessarily need to use both.

If you indent a longer quotation of poetry and you skip one or more lines, use a line of dots roughly the same length as the average line:

In the “The Lady of Shalott,” Tennyson appears to allude to the shadows in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave:

And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott. (46-48, 71-72)

Be careful that when you use an ellipsis the grammar and meaning of the quoted passage still make sense.

Also, you do not have to add ellipsis marks at the beginning or end of a quotation. We know that the quoted text has been cut out of a larger passage. The exception is if you have left out some words at the end of a sentence or line quoted. In such cases you can add an ellipsis at the end.

If you end one sentence before the ellipsis, and start a new one afterwards, then you will end up with four spaced periods (one regular period and three for the ellipsis). Here is an example:

Viktor Bardstrom speculates that Viking explorers got as far as Minnesota: “Anyone who has watched football knows about the Minnesota Vikings. . . . In fact, historical records show that the braid in the Vikings logo goes back all the way to the thirteenth century” (20).

Finally, if the passage you are quoting already had an ellipsis, you have two options. You can either put square brackets around the ellipses you have added, or you can add a note in your citation—something like this:

(54; 1st ellipsis in original)

Square Brackets

You can edit quotations by inserting your own words in square brackets. Here are some areas in which this is useful:

1. When you want to clarify something in the quotation:

William Blake argues in the poem “Holy Thursday” (1794) that “where-e’er [wherever] the sun does shine . . . Babe can never hunger there [in England]” (13, 15).

2. When you want to capitalize a word or vice versa:

William Blake writes in “Holy Thursday” (1794), “[W]here-e’er the sun does shine . . . Babe can never hunger there” (13, 15).

3. When you need to add some words to make the grammar work. You can substitute these words for existing words in the quotation.

William Blake writes about children in “Holy Thursday” (1794) that “where-e’er the sun does shine . . . [they] can never hunger there” (13, 15).

This is useful for changing the pronouns to match your signal phrase. However, avoid excessive reliance on brackets.

4. Lastly, if there is a mistake in the quotation (let’s say a spelling error), you can insert “sic” behind it to indicate that the mistake is not yours.

Lee Slovenly writes that “Harry Plotter [sic] has a predictable narrative structure” (899).

You can often avoid coming across as pedantic by rewriting slightly:

Lee Slovenly writes that Harry Potter “has a predictable narrative structure” (899).

In other words, try to minimize the use of square brackets.

Page and Line Numbers

For your first citation in an essay, it is generally a good idea to indicate whether it is a page number of line number (e.g., page 315). After that, you can just supply the number and leave out the word “page” or “line(s).”

However, if you are switching back and forth between different formats (pages, paragraphs, lines, etc.), you may want to provide further clarification in the course of your writing.

Paraphrasing

A paraphrase is when you sum up a passage in your own words and provide an appropriate citation. Quotations take up a lot of space, so paraphrases can be a useful way of incorporating the ideas of others.

Here is an example:

Original text: In Edmonton’s early days there were coal mines all along the river, even in the downtown core. Eventually mining operations moved out of the centre of town (especially east to Beverly), until the switch to natural gas in the late 1920s brought an end to coal mining in the area. These days, developers are advised to consult old mining maps, though many tunnels were not properly reported and may since have collapsed. (Highland 77).

Paraphrase 1: Edmonton’s early history was fueled by coal, and even today developers may come across collapsed mining shafts (Highland 77).

Paraphrase 2: After Edmonton started to use natural gas for fuel, the local coal industry collapsed, and so did many of the tunnels over time (Highland 77).

Be careful that you don’t use entire phrases from the original text. This is how not to do it:

Incorrect paraphrase: Edmonton’s urban landscape hides the fact that there were coal mines all along the river (Highland 77).

The second half of this paraphrase is lifted word for word from the original text. Despite the citation, this is a form of plagiarism.

Final Advice

It is important to remember why you are using quotations in the first place. An essay is not just a patchwork of quotations. Think of yourself more as a curator at a museum. You get to put on a show. You organize the spaces and write the captions. In the same way, you need to help the reader make sense of the ideas of others.

So don’t let the quotations swamp your own analysis. Introduce every quotation carefully and be sure to explain, interpret, and apply quotations before you move on with your argument.


For more information about quoting, see also our section on in-text citation (part of the MLA guidelines for writers).

Integrating Quotations Exercises

Introduction

The best way to get better at integrating quotations is by practicing! And rather than wait until you get an assignment back from an instructor, why not be proactive and master the rules beforehand?

Note: the following exercises use the MLA guidelines, but in the future we will also add separate pages for the APA and CMS styles.

Exercises