Downloadable version (Microsoft Word document)
This handout covers basic principles of MLA (Modern Language Association) format and documentation, based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition. For more help, refer to the Handbook (corresponding reference sections are provided in parentheses throughout this handout).
Note: The figures contained in the handout are not available in the HTML version. Please refer to the downloadable version for the figures.
Use at least 1-inch margins at the left, right, top, and bottom of each page (4.1). Justify the left margin but not the right (4.1). Use a font type and size that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, 12 pt. (4.2). Double space everything, including block quotations, references, titles, and headings (4.3). Place your last name and the page number within the top margin of each page, right-justified (4.4). Indent ½ inch to begin paragraphs (4.1). (Refer to Figure 1.)
Note: To insert a page header in Microsoft Word, select View, then Header and Footer. This brings up the header box and the Header and Footer toolbar. On the top line of the header box (on any page), right-justify and type your last name followed by 1 space. Then, in the toolbar, click the left-most box with a number sign (#). Then click Close on the toolbar.
Your name, your instructor's name, the course number, and the date should be placed at the top-left of the first page, double-spaced, as shown in Figure 1. Center the title on the next double-spaced line, in plain type (not bolded, italicized, underlined, or in a larger font), capitalizing the first letter of all major words. The title may occupy one or two lines, depending on its length. The main text follows on the next double-spaced line, indented ½ inch (4.3).
Note: Major words refers to the first word of the title, the first word after a colon, and all other words except articles, coordinating conjunctions, prepositions, and the infinitive "to" (3.6.1).
Each use of information from another source (whether quoted, paraphrased, or summarized) must be properly documented (5.1, 6.1).
Note: Refer to the handout Plagiarism for more information.
Whenever possible, cite the source's author and page number (6.1). If the author's name is mentioned in the main text, put the page number in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, after any end quotation marks but before the period (3.7.7).
Example: According to Heidegger, it is not "firmly established what we ourselves think with the words 'being' and 'to be'" (252).
If the author's name is not used, then include the author's surname in the parenthetical citation.
Example: The chatter "'tranquilizes' us into thinking that matters are entirely settled and disinclines us to look further" (Inwood 55).
Parenthetical citations vary according to the source, as shown in the examples below. (For each, items need to be cited in parenthetical references only if they are not mentioned in the text.)
2–3 authors: List names in the order they are listed in the source (6.2).
(Westen and Smith 204–24) or (Jones, Callin, and Rundel 14)
4 or more authors: Either list all names or list only the first author's name followed by et. al. Whatever you choose, it should match the works cited entry (5.6.4, 6.2).
(Walken et. al 1131–42).
No author listed: List the first 1–2 words of the title. If the source is an article or chapter, use double quotations; if it is a book, underline (6.4.4). ("Cancer Therapy" A6) or (Depression 24–68)
Multiple sources by same author: When using more than one source by the same author, you must use the titles (see "No author listed," above) so the reader knows which source you are citing (6.4.6):
(Heidegger, "Anaximander's" 19)
Indirect sources: When using a quotation or paraphrase that is a quotation in another source, insert qtd. in (6.4.7).
(qtd. in James 34)
2 or more sources in a single reference: Separate 2 or more sources supporting a single claim with semicolons (6.4.9).
(Inwood 55; Heidegger 252; Piper 12)
Page numbers are required for citations of quoted material, as well as summarized or paraphrased ideas from a specific place in a source (6.1). If referring to an entire work, or a work without page numbers, then page numbers are not needed—in this case it is preferable to have the author information directly in the text, meaning no parenthetical reference is needed (6.4.1). In some cases, it may be more appropriate to cite a chapter or section number, like ch. 2 (6.4.2).
Note: For classical poetry, plays, or religious works, "omit page numbers altogether and cite by division (act, scene, canto, book, part) and line," separating each with a period (6.4.8).
book 12, line 2 = 12.2
act 3, scene 1, line 44 = 3.1.44
Revelation, chapter 22, verse 3 = Rev. 22.3
Note: The first citation should include the word line or lines, like lines 5–7. For subsequent citation, only the number is necessary.
For many electronic sources, page numbers are not available, but paragraph numbers are provided (6.4.2). If this is the case, then list by paragraph number: par. 5 or pars. 2–3. If paragraph numbers are not available, then list the section heading, if applicable, like (Conclusion). When using a reference number or heading other than a page number, separate the reference from the author's surname with a comma, as in (Jones, ch. 4) or (Parsons, Conclusion).
Quote passages exactly as they appear in the original text, using double quotation marks (" ") (3.7.1); however, here are some exceptions.
If additions must be made for clarification, place them in square brackets (3.7.2, 3.7.6).
Example: "According to [Jim]"
If words or phrases must be omitted for clarity, use ellipses (3.7.5)
Example: "Within the next five years . . . new renovations must be made"
When underlining or italicizing certain words for emphasis include the words "emphasis added" (3.3.3., 3.7.6).
Example: "it is a value system" (Hall 32, emphasis added)
If a quote is longer than 4 lines, format it as a block quotation (3.7.2). A block quotation starts on a new line, the entire quotation being indented 1 inch from the left margin, double-spaced, and without quotation marks. The parenthetical citation is placed one space after end punctuation.
When quoting multiple lines of poetry, separate lines with a slash (3.7.3).
Example: “A morning run ⁄ In solitude”
Every cited source must be documented in the works cited list (5.3). Begin the list on a new page. Label Works Cited on the top line, centered. List references in alphabetical order, double spaced, in hanging indention format (all but the first line of each entry are indented ½ inch from left margin), as shown in Figure 3 (5.3.2–5.3.3).
Note: When 2 or more entries have the exact same author, substitute three hyphens followed by a period (---.) for the author's name on all but the first entry, alphabetizing by title (5.3.4). When 2 or more entries have the same first author, alphabetize according to the last name of the second author (5.3.3). In addition, when alphabetizing, ignore articles A, An, or The at the beginning of titles with an unknown author (5.3.3).
For works cited list entries, list the author's name first, followed by the title. In addition, the medium of publication is needed (print or web) towards the end of the entry. Other needed information varies, depending on the source. Examples for common types of sources are shown below, along with basic guidelines. For more help, refer to the Handbook (ch. 5).
Note: For one author, list the surname first, as in Shelley, Mary (5.5.2). For a work with 2 or more authors, list in the order they are credited in the original source. Place the surname first only for the first author: Houp, Kenneth, Thomas Pearsall, and Elizabeth Tebeaux (5.5.4). Indicate editors as shown: Smith, Fred, ed. or Wayne, Henry, and Frank Swenson, eds. (5.5.6). If no author is listed, or if the work is anonymous, simply omit author information and put the title first (5.5.9).
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Bantam Books, 1818. Print.
Note: Instead of underlining, titles of books, plays, poems, etc are to be italicized (3.6.2).
Bodner, George R. "The Apple Ate My Paper." College English 46 (1984): 610–11. Print.
Place article titles in quotes. Italicize journal names (see "Book" example), followed by a space, but no punctuation. The volume number (46) comes next*, followed by the publication year in parentheses, as shown. After a colon, list page numbers for the entire article, as shown.
*If the journal is paginated by issue (rather than volume), insert the issue number after the volume number, separated by a period. For example, 38.9 means volume 38, issue 9, paginated by issue.
Moritz, Michael. "A Hard-Core Technoid." Time 16 Apr. 1984: 62–63. Print.
Do not include volume or issue numbers. For daily⁄weekly magazines, list the month and date, as shown. For monthlies, list the month. Abbreviate all months except May, June, and July.
"Cancer Therapy Brings New Hope." Salt Lake Tribune 17 Aug. 1996: A6. Print.
Like a magazine article entry (see above), except with the following provisions: First, if a city's name is not included in the name of a local or regional newspaper, then place the city in brackets, as in Post Register [Idaho Falls]. Second, if an article is printed on 2 or more discontinuous pages, list only the first page followed by a plus sign (+), as in A1+.
*This example illustrates how to cite a source when no author is listed. If an author is listed, follow the standard format.
Knox, Brenda. "The Don Quixote Exhibit." Johns Hopkins University. May 1996. Web. 1 June 2004.
After the title of the article comes the title of the overall website (if applicable), then the name of the institution or organization sponsoring the site, if applicable. The first date listed (May 1996) is the month and year of the last time the website was changed. The next date indicates the day, month, and year of when you accessed the site.
*Documentation for Internet articles can be far more complicated than these examples, depending on the type of source. Refer to the Handbook (5.6, mostly pp. 181–93) for details.
Dennis Wendt, Jr., Aug. 2005
Emily Young, Revised Aug. 2009