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Your Ultimate MLA Format Guide & Generator

What is MLA?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, which is an organization that focuses on language and literature.

Depending on which subject area your class or research focuses on, your professor may ask you to cite your sources in MLA format. This is a specific way to cite, following the Modern Language Association’s guidelines. There are other styles, such as APA format and Chicago, but MLA format is often used for literature, language, liberal arts, and other humanities subjects.

What is MLA Citing?

MLA’s publication, the MLA Handbook, is in its 8th edition and standardizes the way scholars document their sources and format their papers. When everyone documents their sources and papers in the same way, it is simple to recognize and understand the types of sources that were used for a project. Readers of your work will not only look at your citations to understand them, but to possibly explore them as well.

When you’re borrowing information from a source and placing it in your research or assignment, it is important to give credit to the original author. This is done by creating a citation. Depending on the type of information you’re including in your work, some citations are placed in the body of your project, and all are included in a “Works Cited” list, at the end of your project.

The MLA Handbook explains how to create MLA citations. This page summarizes the information in the MLA Handbook, 8th edition.

There is also a section below on a recommended way to create an MLA header. MLA headers appear at the top of your assignment. Check with your instructor if they prefer a certain MLA format heading.

What is MLA Format?

MLA 8 is the most recent and updated version of MLA citations. Released in April of 2016, the MLA 8 citation format is much different than previous MLA versions.

The biggest difference and most exciting MLA formatting update is the use of one standard format for all source types. In previous MLA versions, scholars were required to locate the citation format for the specific source that they used. There were different formats for books, websites, periodicals, and so on. Now, using one universal MLA citation format allows scholars to spend less time trying to locate the proper format to document their sources and focus more on their research.

Other updates include the addition of “containers.” A container is essentially what a source sits in. Chapters are found in a book, songs are found in an album, and journal articles are found in journals. What the source is found in is its container

URLs are now encouraged to be added into citations (remove http:// and https:// when including URLs), social media pseudonyms and usernames can replace the real name of the author, volume and issue numbers are now abbreviated as vol. and no., and cities of publication and the source’s medium (such as print or web) are no longer included in citations.

MLA Citing Basics

When adding information into your project from another source, you are required to add an MLA citation. There are two types of MLA format citations: in-text citations and full citations.

MLA In Text Citations:

When using a direct quote or paraphrasing information from a source, add an in-text citation into the body of your work. Direct quotes are word-for-word quotes that are pulled from a source and added into your project. A paraphrase is taking a section of information from a source and placing it in your own words. Both direct quotes and paraphrases require in-text, or parenthetical citations, to follow it.

MLA In text citations are formatted as follows:

“Direct quote” or Paraphrase (Author’s last name and page number)

*See the section below on MLA in text citations for further clarification and instructions.

Full MLA Citations:

All sources used for a project are found on the Works Cited list, which is generally the last item in a project.

MLA Style Template:

The MLA citing format includes the following pieces of information, in this order:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of source. Title of container, other contributors, version, numbers, publisher, publication date, location.

Don’t forget, BibMe’s MLA citation generator is an MLA formatter that helps you create your citations quickly and easily!

MLA Citation Components

Authors:

In MLA format, the author is generally the first item in a citation (unless the source does not have an author). The author’s name is followed by a period.

If the source has one author, place the last name first, add a comma, and then the first name.

Examples:

Lee, Harper.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott.

If your source has two authors, place them in the same order they’re shown on the source. The first author is in reverse order, add a comma and the word and, then place the second author in standard form. Follow their names with a period.

Example:

Monsen, Avery, and Jory John.

For three or more authors, only include the first listed author’s name. Place the first author in reverse order, place a comma afterwards, and then add the Latin phrase, et al.

Example:

Borokhovic, Kenneth A., et al.

For social media posts, it’s acceptable to use a screen name or username in place of the author’s name. Start the citation with the user’s handle.

Example:

@sosadtoday. “I don’t really know what generation I live in but I know it’s bad.” Twitter, 2 Feb. 2017, 6:10 p.m., twitter.com/sosadtoday/status/827293084308406273.

No author listed? If there isn’t an author, start the MLA citation with the title and skip the author section completely.

MLA Citations do not need to always start with the name of the author. When your research focuses on a specific individual that is someone other than the author, it is appropriate for readers to see that individual’s name at the beginning of the citation. In an MLA citation, directors, actors, translators, editors, and illustrators are common individuals to have at the beginning. Again, only include their name in place of the author if your research focuses on that specific individual.

To include someone other than the author at the beginning of the citation, place their name in reverse order, add a comma afterwards, and then the role of that individual followed by a comma.

Examples:

Fimmel, Travis, performer. Vikings. Created by Michael Hirst, History Channel, 2013-2016.

Gage, John T., editor. The Promise of Reason: Studies in the New Rhetoric. SIU Press, 2011.

Titles and Containers

In MLA citation format, titles follow the name of the author and are written in standard form.

If you’re citing a source in its entirety, such as a full book, a movie, or a music album, then place the title in italics.

Examples:

Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.

Rufus Du Sol. Bloom. Sweat It Out! 2016.

If you’re citing a source, such as a chapter in a book, a song on an album, or an article in a journal or website, then place the title of the piece in quotations and add a period afterwards. Follow it with the title of the full source, in italics, and then add a comma. This second portion is called the container. Containers hold the sources.

Here are some MLA formatting examples with containers:

Vance, Erik, and Erika Larsen. "Mind Over Matter." National Geographic Magazine, Dec. 2016, pp. 30-55.

Beyonce. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” I am...Sasha Fierce, Sony, 2008, track 2.

Wondering what to do with subtitles? In MLA format, when a title has a subtitle, place a colon in between the title and subtitle. Both parts are written in standard form.

Example:

Nasar, Sylvia. A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash. Simon and Schuster, 2001.

If the source does not have a title, give a brief description and do not use quotation marks or italics.

Example:

Israel, Aaron. Brooklyn rooftop acrylic painting. 2012, 12 W 9th Street, New York City.

When MLA citing a tweet, the full text of the tweet is placed where the title sits.

Example:

@LOCMaps. "#DYK the first public zoo to open in the US was the #Philadelphia Zoo? #50States." Twitter, 9 Feb. 2017, 3:14 p.m., twitter.com/LOCMaps/status/829785441549185024.

For email messages, the subject of the email is the title. Place this information in quotation marks.

Example:

Rabe, Leor. "Fwd: Japan Itinerary." Received by Raphael Rabe, 11 Feb 2017.

Citations with Two Containers:

In MLA format, it is possible for a source to sit in a second, or larger container. A journal article sits in its first container, which is the journal itself, but it can sit in a larger container, such as a database. A song can sit in its first container, which is the album it’s found on. Then it can sit in its next container, which could be Spotify or iTunes.

It is important to include the second container because the content on one container can be different than another container’s.

MLA citing with two containers will be formatted like this:

Author’s Last name, First name. "Title of Source". Title of Container, other contributors, version, numbers, Publisher, publication date, location. Title of Second Container, Other contributors, version, number, Publisher, publication date, location.

In most cases, for the second container, only the title of the second container and the location is needed. Why? In order for readers to locate the source themselves, they’ll most likely use the majority of the information found in the first part of the citation.

Examples of Citations with 2 Containers:

Sallis, James, et al. "Physical Education’s Role in Public Health: Steps Forward and Backward Over 20 Years and Hope for the Future." Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, vol. 83, no. 2, Jun. 2012, pp. 125-135. ProQuest, ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1023317255?accountid=35635.

Baker, Martha. "Fashion: Isaac in Wonderland." New York Magazine, vol. 24, no. 3, 21 Jan 1991, pp. 50-54. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=PukCAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=magazine&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=magazine&f=false .

Looking for an MLA formatter to help you with creating citations for containers? Remember, BibMe’s MLA cite generator creates citations for you quickly and easily!

Format for Other Contributors:

In MLA citing, When there are other individuals, besides the author, who played a significant role in your research, include them in this section of the citation. Other contributors can also be added to help individuals locate the source themselves. In MLA format, you can add as many other contributors as you like.

Start this part of the MLA citation with the individual’s role, followed by the word by. Notice that if other contributors are added after a period, capitalize the first letter in the individual’s role. If it follows a comma, the role should start with a lowercase letter.

Examples:

Gaitskill, Mary. "Twilight of the Superheroes." The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: 50 North American Stories Since 1970, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone, Simon and Schuster, 2012, pp. 228-238.

The Incredibles. Directed by Brad Bird, produced by John Walker, Pixar, 2004.

Gospodinov, Georgi. The Physics of Sorrow. Translated by Angela Rodel, Open Letter, 2015.

Format for Versions:

Sources can come in different versions. There are numerous bible versions, books can come in versions (such as numbered editions), even movies and songs can have special versions.

When a source indicates that it is different than other versions, include this information in the MLA citation. This will help readers locate the exact source that you used for your project.

Examples:

The Bible. Lexham English Version, Logos, 2011, lexhamenglishbible.com.

Crank, J. The Mathematics of Diffusion. 2nd ed., Clarendon, 1979.

Afrojack. "Take Over Control." Beatport, performance by Eva Simons, extended version, 2011, www.beatport.com/track/take-over-control-feat-eva-simons-extended/1621534.

MLA Formatting for Numbers:

In MLA formatting, any numbers related to a source that isn’t the publication date, page range, or version number should be placed in the numbers position of the citation. This includes volume and issue numbers for journal articles, volume or series numbers for books, comic book numbers, and television episode numbers, to name a few.

When including volume and issue numbers, use the abbreviation vol. for volume and no. for number.

Examples:

Zhai, Xiaojuan, and Jingjing Wang. "Improving Relations Between Users and and Libraries: A Survey of Chinese Academic Libraries.” The Electronic Library, vol. 34, no. 4, 2016, pp. 597-616. ProQuest Research Library, ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/docview/1841764839?accountid=35635.

"Chestnut." Westworld, directed by Richard J. Lewis, season 1, episode 2, Warner Bros., 2016.

MLA Format for Publishers:

The production of the source is done by the publisher. The publisher is placed in the MLA citation before the date of publication. Include the publisher for any source type except for websites when the name of the publisher is the same as the name of the website. It is not necessary to include the name of publishers for newspapers, magazines, or journal articles, since the name of the publisher is insignificant.

When sources have more than one publisher that share responsibility for the production of the source, place a slash between the names of the publishers.

In MLA citation format, use the abbreviation UP when the name of the publisher includes the words University Press.

Example: Cambridge UP

Publication Dates:

When including the date that the source was published, display the amount of information that is found on the source, whether it’s the full date, the month and year, or just the year.

In terms of display for MLA citing, it does not matter if the date is written in a specific order. Make sure to use the same format for all citations.

Example:

2 Nov. 2016 or Nov. 2, 2016

When multiple dates are shown on the source, include the date that is most relevant to your work and research.

MLA Format for Locations:

The location refers to the place where the source can be found. This can be in the form of a URL, page number, disc number, or place.

When MLA citing websites, include URLs. Also, for MLA citing websites, remove the beginning of the web address as it is not necessary to include http:// or https://. If a DOI number is present, use it in place of a URL.

For page numbers, use the abbreviation p. when only referring to one page, and pp. for a range of pages.

Common MLA Examples:

Citations for Books:

MLA Citing Format:

Author’s Last name, First name. Book Title. Publisher, Year published.

Example:

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818.

If your source has more than one author, refer to the directions above under the heading "Format for Authors." Also, BibMe’s MLA cite generator helps you create your citations with more than one author quickly and easily!

Citations for E-Books:

Format:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of E-Book. Publisher, Year published. Title of Website, URL.

Example:

Rodgers, Tara. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. Duke UP, 2010. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=syqTarqO5XEC&lpg=PP1&dq=electronic%20music&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=electronic%20music&f=false.

Citations for Edited Books:

Format:

Author’s Last name, First name, editor. Title of Book. Numbered ed., Publisher, Year published.

Example:

Ferraro, Gary, and Susan Andreatta, editors. Cultural Anthropology: An Applied Perspective. 10th ed., Cengage Learning, 2014.

Citations for Websites:

Format:

Author’s Last name, First name. "Title of Individual Web Page." Title of Website, Publisher, Date, URL.

Example:

Fosslien, Liz, and Mollie West. "3 Ways to Hack Your Environment to Help You Create." Huffpost Endeavor, Huffington Post, Dec. 7, 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/3-ways-to-hack-your-environment-to-help-you-create_us_580f758be4b02444efa569bc.

Looking for an MLA formatter to create your website citations quickly and easily? Check out BibMe’s MLA citation generator!

Citations for Online Journal Articles:

Format:

Author’s Last name, First name. "Title of Journal Article." Title of Journal, vol. number, issue no., date, page range. Database or Website name, URL or DOI.

Example:

Snyder, Vivian. "The Effect Course-Based Reading Strategy Training on the Reading Comprehension Skills of Developmental College Students." Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, vol. 18, no. 2, Spring 2002, pp. 37-41. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42802532.

Citations for Newspapers:

Format:

Author’s Last name, First name. "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper, version (if applicable), number (if applicable), publication date, page range. Title of Database (if applicable), URL.

Example:

Hageman, William. "Program Brings Together Veterans, Neglected Dogs." Chicago Tribune, 4 Jan. 2015, p. 10.

Don’t forget, BibMe’s MLA cite generator creates MLA citations for you quickly and easily! Our MLA formatter creates many citation styles, including MLA 8.

In Text Citations and Parenthetical Citations

What is an MLA In Text Citation or Parenthetical Citation?

In MLA formatting, the purpose of the in text citation is to give the reader a brief idea as to where you found your information. If the reader plans to investigate the original source further, they can find the full citation in the Works Cited list.

MLA In text citations are formatted as follows:

"Direct quote" or Paraphrase (Author’s last name and page number)

In text citation MLA formatting Example:

He goes on to say, "Jim never got back with a bucket of water under an hour - and even then somebody generally had to go after him" (Twain 8).

For sources without an author, use the main word of the title in place of the author’s name.

If your MLA in text citation comes from a website or another source that does not have page numbers, use the following abbreviations:

If the source has designated:

  • paragraph numbers, use par. or pars.
  • sections, use sec. or secs.
  • chapters, use ch. or chs.

Example:

Gregor’s sister is quite persuasive, especially when she states to her parents, "It'll be the death of both of you, I can see it coming. We can't all work as hard as we have to and then come home to be tortured like this, we can't endure it" (Kafka, chap. III).

If there aren’t page, paragraph, section, or chapter numbers, only include the author’s name in parentheses for your in text citation MLA.

If the original source is an audio or video recording, after the author’s name or title, place a time stamp.

To learn more about parenthetical citations, click here.

Need help creating your in text or parenthetical citations? Check out BibMe’s MLA cite generator!

Your MLA Works Cited Page

An MLA Works Cited list contains all of the citations for a project and is usually found at the very end.

In MLA formatting, citations are listed in alphabetical order by the first letter found in the citation.

If there are multiple sources by the same author, only include the author’s name in the first citation. For each citation afterwards, MLA formatting requires you to include three dashes and a period.

Example of an MLA Works Cited List with Multiple Works by Same Author:

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk, 2011.

---. Tales of the Peculiar. Dutton, 2016.

When alphabetizing by titles, ignore A, An, and The, and use the next part of the title. In addition, if the title starts with a number, place the title where it would belong if the number was spelled out.

Example:

1492

The Year Our World Began would be alphabetized under F (for fourteen)

Formatting Your MLA Header:

The MLA Handbook does not include a required way to format the heading of your paper. Check with your instructor to see if there is a recommended way to format your MLA header. BibMe recommends creating your MLA header in the following format:

In the top left corner of your paper, place the following pieces of information in this order:

Your full name

Your instructor’s name

The course or class number

Date

Double space this information.

In the top right corners, place a running head for your MLA header. This MLA format heading should include your last name and the page number. Use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4…). Your word processing program should allow you to automatically set up the running head so that it appears at the top of every page of your project.

Using BibMe to Create Citations for your MLA Works Cited List or MLA Bibliography

Looking for an MLA Formatter? BibMe’s automatic citation generator formats your citations in MLA format. Enter a title, web address, ISBN number, or other identifying information into the MLA format template to automatically cite your sources. If you need help with BibMe’s MLA citation generator or MLA format citing, see more across the site here.

More Information:

For more information on the current MLA Handbook, check out this page.

There is further good information here, including MLA format examples and examples of MLA in text citations.

MLA in the News:

Check out this article, which shares information on helpful sites, including an MLA citation machine, which is an MLA citation generator. An MLA citation machine, sometimes called an MLA formatter, helps you create your citations quickly and easily.

Background Information and History of MLA:

The Modern Language Association was developed in 1883 and was created to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. With over 25,000 current members worldwide, the Modern Language Association continuously strives to keep its members up-to-date on the best practices, methods, and trends related to language and literature. MLA boasts an annual conference, journal, an online communication platform, numerous area-focused committees, and one of its most popular publications, the MLA Handbook, now in its 8th edition.

Helpful Tips for Your Citation

 

Our citation guides provide detailed information about all types of sources in MLA, APA, Chicago and Turabian styles.

 

If required by your instructor, you can add annotations to your citations. Just select Add Annotation while finalizing your citation. You can always edit a citation as well.

 

Remember to evaluate your sources for accuracy and credibility. Questionable sources could result in a poor grade!