MLA Style

MLA style is one of the common writing and research styles used in the humanities. While different disciplines require students to follow such styles as Chicago and APA, composition and literature classes utilize MLA style.

 

While composition student can refer to this handbook, Andrea Lunsford's EasyWriter, or the OWL at Purdue for MLA guidelines, English majors and minors should purchase the MLA Handbook.

 

This handout provides a snapshot of Modern Language Association formatting and citation style requirements for formal papers as defined in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. Style rules are keyed to the Handbook's sections and pages, and the handout is divided into the following sections:

 

1 Formatting

2 Quoting

3 Citing

4 Examples

5 Common Mistakes

6 MLA Checklist

 

I require formal papers and take-home exams to follow MLA guidelines so that students learn to write in a discipline and submit equivalent amounts of words per paper as their peers. Papers that do not follow the MLA guidelines outlined here will be penalized according to syllabus policy. The penalty can be easily avoided by checking your style before submitting and using the provided MLA templates.

1 Formatting

Your formal paper should use one inch margins (4.1 Margins [116]) and double-space the lines in Times New Roman 12 point font (4.2 Text Formatting [116]). Do not commence your paper with a title page; instead, provide a double-spaced heading (4.3 Heading and Title [116]) that includes your name (Jane Doe), your professor's name (Professor Blazer), the course number (English XXXX), and the date (Day Month Year) on the top left-hand corner. Then, while maintaining double-spacing, provide a centered paper title. Do not bold, italicize, underline or change the font size of the title. Do not add extra lines around the title or between paragraphs. Note that each page must have a running header (4.4 Page Numbers [117]), which includes your last name and page number, set one-half inch from the top of page and justified to the right margin. Do not manually type the header on each page; instead, use your word processing program to automatically insert a running header in the correct position on each page, or download an MLA styled paper template. Refer to the sample page included later in the handout.

 

A note about titles: italicize titles of books, plays, newspapers, magazines, films, television programs (3.6.2 Italicized Titles [88]) and put titles of short stories, poems, essays, book chapters, episodes of television programs, and lectures in quotes (3.6.3 Titles in Quotation Marks [89]).

 

The general formatting rules are as follows:

2 Quoting

Next, let's learn proper quotation format (6 Documentation: Citing Sources in the Text) [213] and 3.7 Quotations [92]). Do use in-text parenthetical citations, but do not use footnotes. Only use endnotes if they are absolutely warranted and you discuss their use with me first. Note that quotes cannot stand alone grammatically as sentences. Quotes must be introduced; they must work grammatically within your own sentence. Do not let the quote do all the analytical work. Quotes constitute illustrative evidence; your task is to analyze them. Introduce the passage, quote the passage, and then explain and interpret the passage thoroughly. The author, source, and page number of the quote must be made clear to the reader, through context and/or parenthetical citation. If the source and author have already been provided or are provided in context of the introductory sentence or surrounding paragraph(s), simply cite the page number in parentheses after the closing quotation mark. This is called the parenthetical citation. Do not use the word page or pages or the abbreviation p. or pp. The following provides examples of how to quote prose, drama (including film and television), and poetry. Because the goal of this webpage is to demonstrate correct quotation style, I will not be explaining the quotes and each type of quote will be set off in a new paragraph. In your own papers, you should never let the quote simply speak for itself, and you should never allow a quote to constitute an entire paragraph.

2.1 Prose

A typical citation includes

  1. an introduction to the quote punctuated by a comma or semicolon,
  2. the quote itself distinguished by double quotation marks,
  3. a parenthetical citation that includes the author's last name, if not already known, and page number of the text, and
  4. a period at the end, after the parenthetical citation.

Generally speaking, you should make sure through surrounding context and/or parenthetical citation that your reader knows who the author and title of the work being quoted are. If you have already introduced the author and title of the work, either in the introduction to the quote or in surrounding context, then you can safely provide only the page number in the parenthetical citation.

 

2.1.1 Prose: four lines or less of text (3.7.2 Prose [110])

 

To illustrate the author's name in the parenthetical citation, Roquentin, the protagonist of Nausea, realizes that he exists in a void: "Now I knew: things are entirely what they appear to be─and behind them . . . there is nothing" (Sartre 96). To illustrate the author's name in the text, Roquentin, the protagonist of Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, realizes that he exists in a void: "Now I knew: things are entirely what they appear to be─and behind them . . . there is nothing" (96).

 

2.1.2 Prose: five or more lines of text

 

If a quote occupies more than four lines of text of your paper (not the original source), you should turn it into a block quote. Start a new line, do not use quotation marks, indent the quote one inch from the left-margin only (not the right margin), and place your period before the parenthetical citation. For example, the unnamed narrator of Angela Carter's "Flesh and the Mirror" meditates upon the psychological effect of mirrors:

 

Mirrors are ambiguous things. The bureaucracy of the mirror issues me with a passport to the world; it shows me my appearance. But what use is a passport to an armchair traveler? Women and mirrors are in complicity with one another to evade the action I/she performs that shell cannot watch, the action with which I break out of the mirror, with which I assume my appearance. But this mirror refused to conspire with me; it was like the first mirror I'd ever seen. It reflected the embrace beneath it without the least guile. All it showed was inevitable. But I myself could never have dreamed it. (70)

2.2 Poetry (3.7.3 Poetry [95])

MLA format requires poetry be cited by line rather than page number. However, in papers for me, if a poem is more than two pages long and the edition does not provide line numbers, feel free to cite the page number rather than the lines.

 

2.2.1 Poetry: one, two, or three lines

 

When quoting one, two, or three lines of poetry, separate each line by a slash (/) and put the line numbers rather than the page number in the parenthetical citation. In "In the Waiting Room," Elizabeth Bishop attempts to convince herself of her individuality: "But I felt: you are an I, / you are an Elizabeth" (60-61).

 

2.2.2 Poetry: four or more lines

 

When quoting four or more lines of poetry, indent the quotation one inch from the left margin, do not use quotation marks, and place the period before the parenthetical citation. If a line runs over, indent it an additional one-fourth inch or three spaces. Wary of writing, the speaker in "The Instruction Manual" daydreams of touring Mexico:

 

Not one of them has to worry about getting out this manual on

     schedule.

And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk

     and leaning out of the window a little,

Of dim Guadalajara! City of rose-colored flowers!

City I wanted most to see, and most did not see, in Mexico!

But I fancy I see, under the press of having to write the instruction

     manual,

Your public square, city, with its elaborate little bandstand! (Ashbery 8)

2.3 Drama, Film, and Television (3.7.4 Drama [96])

When quoting plays, screenplays, or teleplays that you have read in print, provide the page number. When quoting plays, films, or television programs that you have only watched (and thus do not have a page number), simply provide the title in the parenthetical citation, unless you have already provided the title in context. For example, Jack Lipnik asserts, "The writer is king here at Capitol Pictures" (Barton Fink). Provide the page number if you are quoting from a published script.

 

2.3.1 Monologue

 

When quoting just one character, treat the quote as you would regular prose. Consequently, four or less lines of monologue are quoted as in-text citation while more than four lines of text are block quoted. For example, Estragon sets the tone and thema of Waiting for Godot with his opening line: "Nothing to be done" (Beckett 7). When quoting verse plays that provide line numbers in the margin, such as those by Shakespeare, your citation should include act, scene, and line numbers rather than page numbers. For example, Hamlet realizes, "the play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King" (2.2.584-585).

 

2.3.2 Dialogue

 

To quote more than four lines of dialogue in a play, film, or television program, capitalize and indent each character's name one inch and follow it with a period. If a line runs over, indent the next line an additional one-fourth inch or three spaces:

CARDIN. What's the matter, Martha?

MARTHA. Nothing.

CARDIN. (His face is grave, his voice gentle.) Yes, there is. For a long

     time you and I have had something to talk about. (Hellman 23)

3 Citing

Compose a Works Cited page for the quoted sources on the final page of the paper (5.3 The List of Works Cited [129]). The remaining pages of this handout detail the proper MLA citation format for annotated bibliographies and works cited pages; however, it only gives general rules, which I have categorized here as 1) book sources, 2) periodicals, and 3) film and television, 4) class lectures. When you come across a source that does not quite fit within these guidelines, check with the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the OWL, or your instructor.

 

At the end of your paper, start a new page and title it Works Cited in the center of the page. Alphabetize your works cited page by authors' last names. Maintain double-spacing and normal fonts throughout (this web handout does not maintain double-spacing). Indent subsequent lines of an entry 1/2 inch.

3.1 Books

Here is the information that is required in a book reference on the Works Cited page:

3.1.1 A Book by a Single Author (5.5.2 A Book by a Single Author [148])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium.

 

Abzurg, Bella. Gender Gap: Bella Abzurg's Guide to Political Power for American Women. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984. Print.

 

3.1.2 A Book by Two or More Authors (5.5.4 [154])

 

First Author's Last Name, First Author's First Name and Second Author's Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium.

 

Richards, J. M. and Nikolaus Pevsner. The Anti-Rationalists. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1973. Print.

 

3.1.3 Two or More Books by the Same Author (5.3.4 [133])

 

In the second of two citations by the same author, use three hyphens in place of the author's name.

 

Rapping, Elayne. The Looking Glass World of Nonfiction TV. Boston: South End, 1987. Print.

 

---. Media-tions: Forays into the Culture and Gender Wars. Boston: South End, 1994. Print.

 

3.1.4 A Publisher's Imprint (5.5.17 [173])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Imprint-Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium.

 

Ball, Jesse. The Way Through Doors. New York: Vintage-Random, 2009. Print.

 

3.1.5 A Book with Multiple Publishers (5.5.18 [173])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. Book Title. First City of Publication: First Publisher; Second City of Publication: Second Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium.

 

Wallis, Roy. The Elementary Forms of New Religious Life. London: Routledge; Boston: Kegan, 1984. Print.

 

3.1.6 A Work in an Anthology or Edited Collection (5.5.6 [157])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Essay Title." Book Title. Volume number (if applicable). Edition (if applicable). Ed. Editor's Name(s). City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. First Page of Essay-Last Page of Essay. Medium.

 

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Babylon Revisited." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Between the Wars 1914-1945. 6th ed. Vol. D. Ed. Nina Baym, et al. New York: Norton, 2003. 1658-72. Print.

 

3.1.7 A Book or Book Chapter in a Library Database or on a Website (5.6.2 [187])

 

Print Information. Database/Website Title. Medium. Date of Access.

 

Coupe, Laurence, ed. The Green Studies Reader: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2000. netLibrary. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

 

Fouche, Fidéla. "Phenomenological Theory of Human Science." Conceptions of Social Inquiry. Ed. John Snyman. Pretoria, So. Afr.: Human Sciences Research Council, 1993. 111-44. Google Books. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

3.2 Periodicals

Here is the required information for a periodical reference on the Works Cited page:

3.2.1 An Article in a Scholarly Journal (5.4.2 [137])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Journal Title Volume.Issue (Year): First Page of Article-Last Page of Article. Medium.

 

Hallin, Daniel C. "Sound Bite News: Television Coverage of Elections, 1968-1998." Journal of Communication 42.2 (1992): 5-24. Print.

 

3.2.2 An Article in a Scholarly Journal Article That Uses Only Issue Numbers (5.4.3 [140])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Journal Title Issue (Year): First Page of Article-Last Page of Article. Medium.

Lajolo, Marisa. "The Female Reader on Trial." Brasil 14 (1995): 61-81. Print.

 

3.2.3 A Scholarly Journal Article on the Web Only (5.6.3 [190])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Journal Title Volume.Issue (Year of Publication): n. pag. Medium. Date of Access. <URL if necessary>.

 

Flannagan, Roy. "Reflections on Milton and Ariosto." Early Modern Literary Studie 2.3 (1996): n. pag. Web. 22 Feb. 1997.

 

3.2.4 A Periodical Publication in a Library Database (5.6.4 [192])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. Print Information (if available, see 3.2.1 Scholarly Journal Article, 3.2.5 Magazine Article, 3.2.7 Newspaper Article). Database. Medium. Date of Access.

 

Osteen, Mark. "Echo Chamber: Undertaking The Body Artist." Studies in the Novel 37.1 (2005): 64-81. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2008.

 

3.2.5 An Article in a Magazine (5.4.6 [142])

 

Note: Magazines and newspapers are not usually considered scholarly resources, therefore you should NOT use them unless your instructor and assignment prompt specifically allow them.

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Magazine Title Day Month Year: First Page of Article-Last Page of Article. Medium.

 

Mehta, Pratap Bhanu. "Exploding Myths." New Republic 6 June 1998: 17-9. Print.

 

3.2.6 An Article in an Online Magazine (5.6.4. [192])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Magazine Title Date of Publication: n. pag. Medium. Access Date.

 

Suddath, Claire. "The Plot to Cheat Germany's Holocaust Survivors' Fund." Time 13 Nov. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

 

3.2.7 An Article in a Newspaper (5.4.5 [141])

 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Article Title." Newspaper Title Day Month Year: First Page of Article-Last Page of Article. Medium.

 

Hirsch, Marianne. "The Day Time Stopped." Chronicle of Higher Education 25 Jan. 2002: B11-14. Print.

 

3.2.8 An Article in an Online Newspaper (5.6.4 [192])

 

Steinberg, Jacques. "More Professors Give Out Hand-Held Devices to Monitor Students and Engage Them." New York Times 15 Nov. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

3.3 Film and Television

Here is the required information for a film or television reference on the Works Cited page:

3.3.1 Film (5.7.3 [197])

 

Film Title. Dir. Director's Name. Distributor, Year of Release. Medium.

 

Donnie Darko. Dir. Richard Kelly. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2001. Film.

 

3.3.2 Television Episode (5.7.1 [193])

 

"Episode Title." Program Title. Network. Broadcast Date. Medium.

 

"Strangers in the House." My So-Called Life. ABC. 20 Oct. 1994. Television.

3.4 Lecture, Speech, Address, or Reading (5.7.11 [203])

Professor's Last Name, First Name. "Lecture Title." Course Number and Title. Institution, City, State. URL (if applicable). Date. Medium.

 

Blazer, Alex E. "Psychoanalysis." English 3900 Critical Approaches to Literature. Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA. <http://faculty.gcsu.edu/webdav/alex_blazer/3900/13-SP-Lectures.pdf>. 28 Feb. 2013. Class Lecture.

Examples

Here is what the top of the first page of an MLA styled paper should look like. Notice the placement of the running header, heading, and one-inch margins.

 

Here is what the Works Cited page should look like. Notice how the second line of a citation is indented one-half inch.

Common Mistakes

Line Spacing between Paragraphs

Some versions of Word add extra spacing between paragraphs, making it look like triple spacing. To correct the line spacing between paragraphs, change Page Layout > Spacing > After: 10 pt from 10 pt to 0 pt (Office.com).

Running Header Font and Size

Some versions of Word make the running header font and size Calibri 10 pt font. Make sure the running header is Times New Roman 12 pt font.

Margins

The default left and right margins in Microsoft Word 2003 are 1.25". To correct the margins, change Page Layout > Margins > 1.25" from 1.25" to 1.00".

In-Text Quotations

Works Cited

Start the Works Cited on a new page, center the title Works Cited with no font, style, or size changes. Maintain double-spacing in the Works Cited entries.

MLA Style Checklist

  1. Running Header: Does your running header include your last name and the current page number on each page, and is it located on the top righthand corner of each page, one-half inch from the top edge?
  2. Font: Does your paper use a 12 point, Times New Roman font throughout, including the running header and the Works Cited page?
  3. Margins: Does your paper have one inch margins?
  4. Heading: Does your paper have a heading which includes your name, your instructor's name, the course number, and the date?
  5. Title: Does your paper have a centered title that retains the unstyled font, in other words, neither boldfaced, italicized, nor put in quotes?
  6. Spacing: Does your paper double-space everything (except single-spaced block quotations of poetry if applicable)?
  7. Titles of Works: Does your paper properly place titles of novels, plays, and films in italics and short stories, poems, and essays in quotation marks?
  8. Quote Introduction: Does your paper introduce all quotations with an independent clause and not allow any quote to stand alone grammatically as a sentence?
  9. Quotation Style: Does your paper properly quote four lines or less of prose and one or two lines of poetry? Does your paper properly block quote five lines or more of prose, four or more lines of poetry, and dialogue from drama, film, and television?
  10. Parenthetical Citation: Are all of your paper's quotations, either in-text or block quotes, followed by a parenthetical citation that includes a page number for prose and a line or page number for poetry?
  11. Quotation Explanation: Does your paper effectively explain or interpret its quoted material?
  12. Works Cited: Does your paper include a Works Cited page that properly cites all applicable books, periodicals, film and television, and electronic sources?