MLA Handbook, 9th Edition
You may have heard of MLA format, but what is the MLA? MLA is the Modern Language Association, and they are primarily interested in studying, researching, and discussing language and literature. This is why the disciplines that usually use MLA style are humanities like English, Foreign Language Studies, Comparative Literature, and many more. The exact guidelines of MLA style are updated every few years to reflect the current state of research in these disciplines as well as accommodating any new technology that might impact the way research, citation, or writing is done. The 9th Edition is the most current edition, as it came out in April 2021.
Part of keeping your paper within MLA style is to make sure you follow the page formatting guidelines. Here is a list of the requirements and how to achieve them:
- 1-inch margins on all sides – This might be under a section called “Layout”, “Page Setup”, or “Document Margins”
- Easily readable font, like Times New Roman, size 11-13, unless your instructor specifies otherwise. This change can easily be done under any “Font” heading
- Double (2.0) spaced throughout – This can be accessed under any “Line Spacing” or “Spacing” sections
- Running page number with your last name written before the number (Ex: Nguyen 1). Make sure this is in the font and font size you are using throughout the document. To add page numbers to a document, there should be an option to under any “Insert” heading
- Your title should be center-aligned and follow any title guidelines given to you by your professor
- Before your title, you should have a left-aligned header that has this information on four separate lines:
- Your Name
- Your Professor’s Name
- Class Name (Either the class code, ex: LING 435, or the class name, ex: Introduction to Creative Writing, works in this section)
- Date (Either the current date or the due date)
See a sample MLA Paper (Purdue OWL).
It is very important to credit the sources you are working with and to signal to your reader(s) when you have gotten information from an outside source. MLA requires that writers indicate their sources both within paragraphs as they include specific information, called in-text citations, and on a bibliographic page at the end of the essay, called a Works Cited page. For more information about how to actually put quoted, summarized, or paraphrased text into your piece, see our guide on Paraphrase and Summary.
In order to show in MLA style that you are using outside information in your piece, you should use an In-text Citation. This very quick process tells your reader(s) that this part of your work is not your own idea and where in your Works Cited this idea is coming from. In-text citations are needed for all types of information, whether it is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized.
All that is required in a standard MLA in-text citation is the last name of the author of your source and the page number you found that information. The author’s name can be in the sentence itself or in parenthesis at the end of the sentence that has the information. Page numbers always go in the parentheses. For example:
“Citations are the bane of my existence” (Smith 72).
Smith states, “Citations are the bane of my existence” (72).
Notice how the period ending the sentence comes after the parenthesis of the citation.
However, not all citations have one author and one page number! Some common in-text citation situations are listed below:
For works with two authors, list both of the authors’ last names with “and” in between them.
Ex: (Pratchett and Gaimen 3)
For works with three or more authors, list the first author’s last name and then “et al.” afterwards.
Ex: (Stein et al. 15)
Multiple Page Numbers
For selections that span multiple pages of the original source, use a dash in between the pages it covers.
Ex: (King 8-10)
For selections that cover non-consecutive pages (pages that are not right next to each other), use a comma between the pages it covers.
Ex: (Larson 60, 73)
No Page Number
If the source does not have page numbers, paragraph numbers, or timestamps, do not include that information.
Ex: (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
For works with an unknown author or no author listed, check what is listed first in the Works Cited reference because it will match. You usually use the title or a shortened version of the title in place of an author’s last name. Make sure to keep the formatting of the title from your full reference.
Ex: (Encyclopedia of Rare Birds 201)
This is not the only way to cite your sources in your written text. If you mention the author’s name in your introduction to the quote/paraphrase/summary, the author’s last name is not needed in the in-text citation, just the page number of where the information came from.
See more examples of In-text Citations MLA In-Text Citations (Purdue OWL)
Sample Works Cited References
Basic MLA citation format
Author. Title. Title of container, Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if relevant).
Book by a single author
King, Stephen. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. Grant, 1982.
Book by two or more authors
Pratchett, Terry and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Gollancz/Workman, 1990.
Book by three or more authors
Stein, Garth et al. Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices. Open Road Media, 2011.
Book by a corporate author
American Allergy Association. Allergies in Children. Random House, 1998.
Edited book or anthology
Larson, Gary. “Runaways.” Wiener Dog Art: A Far Side Collection, edited by Jake Morrisey, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1990, p. 60.
Article or chapter in edited book or anthology
Vásquez, Manuel. A. "Grappling with the Legacy of Modernity: Implications for the Sociology Of Religion." Religion on the Edge: De-centering and Re-centering the Sociology of Religion, edited by Courtney Bender et al., Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 23-42.
Chapter in a volume in a series
Fairclough, Norman, and Ruth Wodak. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction, edited by Teun van Dijk, vol. 2, Sage, 1997, pp. 258-284.
Article in a reference book
Tolchinsky, Liliana. "Childhood Conceptions of Literacy." Handbook of Children's Literacy, edited by Terezinha Nunes et al., 2004, pp. 11-29.
Verini, James. "The Tunnels of Gaza." National Geographic, Dec. 2012, pp. 673-674.
Hennigan, W. J. "FAA Grounds Entire Fleet of Boeing 787s." Los Angeles Times, 17 Jan. 2013, p. A1.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Directed by George Lucas. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
“Horse Playing with Rubber Chicken.” YouTube, uploaded by Weedor, 8 January 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXlY9pZUknY
Comment on a Website, Article, Blog, or Internet Video
Julianne R. Comment on “Breath of the Wild: Karaoke Grumps – PART 17 – Game Grumps.” YouTube, 28 Mar 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntv7gs8izpI&lc=z23asxao
Article from an Online Database
Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. “Rice and Rice Agriculture Today.” Rice as Self: Japanese Identities through Time, Princeton University Press, 1993, pp. 12–29. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t91m.6.
Episode of a Series on Netflix
“Baby.” Supernatural, season 11, episode 4, 2015, Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/watch/80120454?
Song on Spotify
Fox Academy. “Star Earring.” Rabbit, Many Hats Distribution, 2020, Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/track/4MmZwMUYzSGvF62MvRRsIb?si=6903a9a7ddc04852
National Geographic. National Geographic Partners, 2015, https://www.nationalgeographic.com
Article From a Website
McWhorter, John. “Why the Words for 'Mom' and 'Dad' Sound So Similar in So Many Languages.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2015, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/words-mom-dad-similar-languages/409810/.
Kelly, Tamara. “Hookin on Hump Day #137: Link Party for the Yarny Arts.” Moogly, 17 Mar 2017, http://www.mooglyblog.com/hohd-137/. Accessed 30 Mar. 2017.
Potter, Morgan. "Re: Community Meeting Next Tuesday." Received by William Tell, 15 Nov. 2017.
Ramirez, Zelda. Personal interview. 1 February 2013.
Gaitskill, Mary. Interview with Charles Bock. Mississippi Review, vol. 27, no. 3, 1999, pp. 129-50
“Lunar Interlude V: Reunion Tour – Part 2.” The Adventure Zone, episode 59, from Maximum Fun, 23 Mar 2017, http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone.
You can find more information and examples at:
(Updated July 2022)