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MLA Style Guide

Guide for using the Modern Language Association (MLA) style manual.

Guiding Principles - from Introduction to the 8th edition

MLA 9 is an expansion of MLA 8. This is not a major change in style, but a fine tuning of the ideals. As such, the principles are present, just not stated in MLA 9.

The three guiding principles to MLA citation style:

1 - Previous editions focused on publication formats, but the new MLA instead focuses on commonalities between formats. Thus, citations focus on simple traits shared by most works.
2 - There is often more than one correct way to document a source.
3 - Make the citation useful to the reader

Three reasons to create citations:

1 - Demonstrate the thoroughness of research,
2 - Give credit to the original source, and 
3 - ensure reader can find the source.


"Works Cited" vs "Works Consulted"

Works that you consult during research, but do not borrow from are not included in a Works Cited page. If you, or your instructor, desires their inclusion, then the reference page becomes "Works Consulted".

Core Elements and "containers"

The core elements are elements in common with various formats. They are: creator, title of source, title of container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, and location. These are common to most fixed formats of publication. The MLA 9 is now calling "creator" "author". The primary person responsible for the content of a resource is now called "author", even if that is the artist that painted or a composer that wrote a piece of music.

A container should be thought of as the larger unit in which the source resides. Examples of sources and elements are: track in a CD, act in a play, chapter in a book, entry in an encyclopedia, piece of art in a museum, scene in a film, or an article in a journal.

In-Text Citations

The in-text citation should direct the reader unambiguously to the entry in your works-cited list for the source - and, if possible, to a location within that source - while creating the least possible interruption in your text. Typically this means, the in-text citation is composed of the element that comes first in the entry in the works-cited list (usually the creator's name).

Multiple Uses of Same Source - MLA 9, 6.47 Omitting Citations for Repeated Quotations

If you draw repeatedly from a source without referring to another one, you can often wait to provide the citations until you're done using the source in your text.

Abbreviating Titles - MLA 9, 6.10 Shortening titles of works

A title in a parenthetical citation often has to be abbreviated. Usually the title is shortened to its initial noun phrase.

Names of Creators/Authors - MLA 9, 2.71 Names of Persons in Your Prose

Names should be stated in full when they first appear in your prose and surnames alone thereafter. The author's name should be presented surname first in the works-cited list and be copied from an authoritative location in your source.

A note about numerals and numbers - MLA 9, 2.127 Use of Numerals or Words

When few numbers appear in your presentation, spell out those numbers that can be written in a word or two. Use numerals when more than two words are needed. Use numerals for all numbers that precede units of measurement and to express ratios.

Do not begin a sentence with a numeral.

When citing a Biblical passage, use numerals. The exception is when the numeral would start a sentence, in which case write out the number, e.g. First Peter 2:4 is an important verse....