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MLA Style

A guide to MLA formatting, in-text citation, and the Works Cited list

In-Text Citation

Key Elements No Author Poem
One Author: Direct Quotes No Page Number ​Video
One Author: Paraphrasing Specific Volume Quoting a Quote
Two-Three Authors Common Literature with Many Editions Two Citations in One Sentence
Four or More Authors Play Web Resources

Key Elements (p. 3)

When you use others' ideas and quotes, cite your source by including:

  • Author's Last Name
  • Page Number of Cited Material

In-text citations direct the reader to the full citation on the Works Cited list -- i.e., (see page 214 of the work authored by the Modern Language Association) -- and the Works Cited list will have the full publication details.

Ex. "Usually the author's last name and a page reference are enough to identify the source and the specific location from which you borrowed material" (Modern Language Association 214).

When you must cite the title, italicize book titles and put quotes around article, video, poem, play, and web page titles.

To maximize the effectiveness of your writing, you are encouraged to word your in-text citations in several ways.

  • Author's last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Ex. "When his father told him that he was to go back to school again, Charles's eyes filled with tears of gratitude" (Hibbert 83).

  • Author's name in the text and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Ex. According to Andrea Tone, President John F. Kennedy took up to eight medications a day to treat illness and stress (112).

  • With no page numbers (ex. Web pages), give as much information about the source as possible in the sentence.

Ex. Copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig noted in his well-regarded blog that, as of March 2009, over 100 million photos on Flickr were licensed through Creative Commons.

One Author: Direct Quotes (p. 3)

Include the author's last name and page number.

Ex. "When his father told him that he was to go back to school again, Charles's eyes filled with tears of gratitude" (Hibbert 83).

One Author: Paraphrasing (p. 9)

Cite the author and paraphrased page numbers.

Ex. Many insects and animals have a larger spectrum of color vision than humans, including ultraviolet and infrared (Kimura 163-65).

Two Authors (p. 116)

Include each author's last name followed by the page number.

Ex. Facebook's influence over online privacy standards reaches far beyond its 500 million users; its privacy policies, "more than those of any other company, are helping to define standards for privacy in the Internet age" (Helft and Wortham B1).

Three or More Authors (p. 116)

Give the first author's last name followed by "et al," which means "and others."

Ex. Part of the problem, one study asserts, is people "might not realize the potential consequences of publishing personal information for public view in an online social networking community" (Foulger et al. 1-2).

Works Cited

Foulger, Teresa S., et al. "Moral Spaces in MySpace: Preservice Teachers' Perspectives About Ethical Issues in Social Networking." Journal of Research on Technology in Education 42.1 (2009): 1-28. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 July 2010.​

No Author (p. 117)

When the citation has no author, use its title in place of the author. Include page numbers when available. The title in the in-text citation should match the title in the Works Cited list.

Ex. Although many online social networking services are free to users, "they are run by commercial enterprises that want, quite reasonably, to make money. Since they cannot charge entry fees, they harvest data" ("Online Privacy" 28).

If you abbreviate a long title, make sure the first word of the abbreviated title matches the first word of the title on the Works Cited list.

Ex. Abbreviate "Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast" as "Oil Spill," not "Gulf Coast."

No Page Numbers (p. 123)

In the text, include as much information as possible, including title, author, website, etc. Cite the chapter when available.

Ex. Kurosawa's Throne of Blood adapts Shakespeare's "MacBeth" to the Japanese audience (Evans).

Has Volume (p. 119)

Only cite the volume number in the in-text citation when you use two volumes of the same set. If you only cite one volume, just include that information in the Work's Cited. Include the author, volume number, and page number.

Ex. Hemingway's tight and straightforward prose style that so heavily influenced modern writing is best exemplified in The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea (Aviero 3: 23-5).

Ex. Raymond Bradbury's short story "I Sing the Body Electric!" takes its name from the title of a Walt Whitman poem (Wyland, vol. 1)

Common Literature with Many Editions (p. 120)

Include the author, page number, and chapter number.

Ex. Julia is foreshadowed in Winston's dream as a dark-haired girl: "Her body was white and smooth, but it aroused no desire in him, indeed he barely looked at it." (56; ch. 3)

Video (p. 57)

Since videos do not have page numbers, include the time stamp.

Ex. Cheetahs can reach "0 to 60 in three seconds, or three strides" (Smithsonian Channel 0:45).

Play (p. 80)

Cite the act, scene, and line number not page number.

  • Go from the broadest division (usually act) to the smallest (usually scene or line).
  • Separate each division with a period.
  • If the author's name is elsewhere in your paper, do not include it. Instead, include the first significant word of the title.

One Character

Incorporate the quote into the body of the text.

Ex. Nora's epiphany occurs when she realizes her husband will never reciprocate the sacrifices she's made to protect his pride. She finally stands up to Helmer, telling him, "You neither think nor talk like the man I could join myself to" (Doll act 3). (Note: Ibsen's A Doll House is divided by act only, so this is the only division you can cite.)

Ex. Although Oedipus blames the gods for his tragic fate, he admits that his latest misfortune is his own doing when he cries, "But the blinding hand was my own! How could I bear to see when all my sight was horror everywhere?" (Oedipus Exodus.2.114-16). (Note: Oedipus Rex is broken into numerous divisions; all available divisions are included in the citation.)

Two or More Characters

  • Begin the quotation on a new line, indent 1 inch from the margin, and double-space
  • If a character's speech continues onto the next line of your paper, indent these lines another 1/4 inch
  • Write the characters' names in capital letters followed by a period
  • Do not use quotation marks

OEDIPUS. Ah, what net has God been weaving for me?

IOCASTÊ. Oedipus! What does this trouble you?

OEDIPUS. Do not ask me yet. First, tell me how Laïos looked, and tell me how old he was.

IOCASTÊ. He was tall, his hair just touched with white; his form was not unlike your own.

OEDIPUS. I think that I myself may be accursed by my own ignorant edict. (Oedipus 2.2.211-16)

Shakespearean Play (p. 121)

Abbreviate the title of a work if you cite it frequently in your paper. Use the full title when first mentioned in your text with the abbreviation in parentheses, then use the abbreviation in later references to the title. Cite the line numbers.

ex. In All's Well That Ends Well (AWW), Helena believes she is the master of her own fate, saying "Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, / Which we ascribe to heaven" (AWW, 1.1.199-200).

See the document below for commonly-used Shakespearean play abbreviations.

Poem (p. 121)

Cite line numbers.No line numbers? If only one page, don't cite any number. If more than one page, cite page numbers.

3 Lines or Fewer

Incorporate the quotation into the body of your text.

  • Use quotation marks
  • Use slashes (/) to show line breaks and keep all punctuation as it appears in the poem
  • If the author's name is elsewhere in your paper, do not include it. Instead, include the first significant word of the poem's title.
  • If the title of the poem is in the sentences immediately before the quotation, cite the line number only.

Ex. In "Hands," Jeffers humanizes prehistoric cave drawings by giving the drawers a voice: "Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws" (line 10)

Ex. Eliot immediately engages the reader with his use of the second person in the opening lines: "Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky" ("Prufrock" 1-2).

Four or More Lines

Start the quotation on a new line.

  • Do not use quotation marks unless they are used in the poem
  • Indent each line 1 inch from the left margin and double-space
  • Use slashes (/) to show line breaks and keep all punctuation as it appears in the poem

Ex. Yeats, an Irish nationalist himself, knew several of the Easter Monday rebels personally, and he mentions them by name in his poem. He even notes his former nemesis, Major John MacBride, who was briefly married to Yeats's love, Maude Gonne. Though he acknowledges MacBride's heroism, he does so begrudgingly:

A drunken, vainglorious lout

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart

Yet I number him in the song; ("Easter" 31-34)

Quoting a Quote (p. 124)

Start with "qtd. in," which means quoted in, and cite the author of the text that the quote is in and the page number.

Ex. Despite several dalliances, Anders claims "Gala was secure in her role as Dali's primary lifelong partner and muse" (qtd. in Chahine 13).

Two Citations in One Sentence (p. 58)

Include both authors and page numbers.

Ex. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet has been linked to many health benefits; however, eating a diet of primarily fresh foods is too expensive for most poor people (Nejem 12; McRay 153).

Web Resource

Use the same rules as print resources. URLs are not used for in-text citation in MLA.

Ex. As creative entrepreneurship and networking become increasingly important to artistic success, the new paradigm is becoming “the displacement of depth by breadth" (Deresiewicz).

Ex. The Hövding is a new type of bicycle helmet which is worn like a collar and “protects even more of the head than traditional helmets” (“This Invisible”).​