MLA General Style Notes

Before selecting a referencing style check with your tutor, lecturer or supervisor for the style preferred by the School or Department.

Introduction to the style

The MLA citation style uses parenthetical (in text) citations to identify an alphabetical list of references (Works Cited list) that appears at the end of the paper.

Access to the full style manual

This guide is based on the MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

The full style manual is not available as a library eBook. Print copies are available from the University of Melbourne library. Consult the official manual for more information.

Additional information is taken from the MLA website: "What's new in the Eighth edition." MLA, www.mla.org/MLA-Style/What-s-New-in-the-Eighth-Edition and MLA Style Center, style.mla.org.

These online resources provide more detailed advice on how to cite in the MLA style:

MLA's Interactive Practice Template is a tool for learning MLA style, although it is not a citation generator.

In-text citations

MLA format follows the author-page method of in text citation. The author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear in your Works Cited list.

The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses.

No punctuation is used in a basic parenthetical citation.  It consists of an author's last name and a page number. When parenthetical citations are more complex, they must be punctuated for clarity.  For example: citations of multiple sources, multiple works by the same author (126).

In the new 8th edition, the principles behind in-text citations in MLA style are unchanged. A few details have been added or clarified:

  • For time-based media like video, times are now cited in the text (57).
  • The use of my trans. to identify the writer’s translation of a non-English quotation is described (90–91).
  • How to shorten long titles when they have to be included in a parenthetical citation is clarified (117–18).
  • The common practice of documenting borrowings from Greek, Roman, and medieval works with part numbers, not page numbers alone, is described (122).
  • The punctuation used when various items are combined in one parenthetical citation is summarized (126–27).
  • Ways of formatting citations in research projects other than traditional papers are suggested (127–28).

Works Cited list

References in the list of works cited at the end of the paper are to be arranged as follows (2.7):

  • Begin each entry flush with the left margin.
  • For entries that run for more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines by half an inch from the left margin. This format is sometimes called hanging indentation.
  • References are listed alphabetically by the author's last name.
  • If there is no author, alphabetise by the title.
  • References in the text must clearly point to specific sources in the list of works cited.

In the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, 2016, the work’s publication format is not considered. The MLA now recommends a set of guidelines that can be applied to any source. Instead of asking “How do I cite a book [or DVD or Web page]?”,  the writer asks “Who is the author? What is the title?” and so forth—regardless of the nature of the source. The writer then creates an entry by consulting the MLA’s list of core elements—facts common to most works—which are assembled in a specific order.

The MLA core elements appear below in the order in which they should appear; each element is followed by the punctuation mark shown unless it is the final element, which should end with a period (20).

  • Author.
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container,
  • Other contributors,
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • Location.

An element should be omitted from the entry if it is not relevant to the work being documented.

New in the 8th Edition:

Abbreviations

Common terms in the works-cited list like editor, edited by, translator, and review of are no longer abbreviated. The 8th edition provides a list of recommended abbreviations (95–101).

Authors

When a source has three or more authors, only the first one shown in the source is normally given. It is followed by et al. (22).

Books and other printed works

Page numbers in the works-cited list (but not in in-text citations) are now preceded by p. or pp. (46).

For books, the city of publication is no longer given, except in special situations (51).

Capitalization of Department Names

See the Ask the MLA article Should department names be capitalized in MLA style? for details.

Source is part of a larger work - Container

When the source being documented forms part of a larger whole, the larger whole can be thought of as a container that holds the source. The container is crucial to the identification of the source. The title of the container is usually italicised and followed by a comma.

The container may be a book that is a collection of essays, stories, poems, or other kinds of works (30).

Miscellaneous

The medium of publication is no longer stated, except when it is needed for clarity (52).

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