MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

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Frequently Asked Questions

A box for searching the site appears at the top of every page. The menu there allows you to choose which part of the site to search:

  • Entire site. Search the text of the MLA Handbook and the research project narratives except for the sample papers.
  • Handbook content. Search the text of the MLA Handbook.
  • Handbook terms. Search the terms discussed as linguistic terms in the MLA Handbook. These terms are italicized in the text. For example, suppose you wonder whether the MLA Handbook discusses the use of the word which. Searching the entire site for which would yield many irrelevant results. But searching Handbook terms will reveal only the section where which is discussed as a term in itself.
  • Research projects. Search the text of the research project narratives except for the sample papers.

If you enter more than one word in the box, only pages containing all the words will be found.

To find pages containing at least one of the words, add OR between them. The following query, for instance, will find pages containing poetry, verse, or both poetry and verse:

poetry OR verse

To exclude a word from your search (ensuring that found pages do not contain it), precede it with NOT or a hyphen (-) followed by no space. For example, the following queries will find pages that contain titles and works and not persons.

titles works NOT persons
titles works -persons

To ensure that multiple words are found together as a phrase, put quotation marks around them. The following query will find pages containing the phrase full name:

"full name"

The search engine does not recognize parentheses or wildcards.

What is MLA style?

All fields of research agree on the need to document scholarly borrowings, but documentation conventions vary because of the different needs of scholarly disciplines. MLA style for documentation is widely used in the humanities, especially in writing on language and literature. Generally simpler and more concise than other styles, MLA style features brief parenthetical citations in the text keyed to an alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of the work.

MLA style has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for over half a century. The association’s guidelines are also used by over 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and magazines and by many university and commercial presses. The MLA’s guidelines are followed throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries around the world.

The MLA publishes two authoritative explanations of MLA style: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.

Are there differences between the print and Web versions of the MLA Handbook?

Yes. The print volume has title and copyright pages, a table of contents, and a subject index. These parts are not included in the Web version, although the subject index has been used to weight the results of the search function on this site. The version of the MLA Handbook on the Web includes over two hundred extra examples not found in the print volume.

Also, you may notice that the text displayed in your Web browser looks different from the same text in the print volume. In such cases, you should consider the print volume as the authoritative source.

Have there been corrections since the initial release of the seventh edition?

Yes. The errors we have discovered in the initial release are listed below. The check marks indicate in which versions of the seventh edition the errors have been corrected so far. Corrections not yet made will be made in the next printing or online update.

Correction Regular Edition Large-Print Edition Web Component
3.6.5: Under “Series,” “Masterpiece Theatre” should be omitted since the titles of broadcast programs and series are italicized (5.7.1). In the index in the print versions, the entries “radio broadcasts, titles of, series 3.6.5” and “television broadcasts, titles of, series 3.6.5” should be omitted. checkmark
2nd printing
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2nd printing
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3.7.5: The quotation from Barbara W. Tuchman under the heading “Original” concludes with a citation containing the year of republication, 1979. The year should be followed by a semicolon, not a comma. checkmark
2nd printing
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1st printing
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3.7.7: In the two examples referring to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, “the doctor” should be replaced with “Victor Frankenstein” (the character is not a doctor in the novel). checkmark
4th printing
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3.8.4: The names “Angel Del Río” and “Sinues de Marco, María del Pilar” are each missing an acute accent. They should read “Ángel Del Río” and “Sinués de Marco, María del Pilar.” checkmark
2nd printing
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5.5.4: In the example for MacLaury, Paramei, and Dedrick, “John” should be omitted from the publisher's name. checkmark
Some copies of 1st printing; 2nd printing
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1st printing
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5.5.11: The example for Hildegard of Bingen should end with “Print.” checkmark
Some copies of 1st printing; 2nd printing
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1st printing
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5.5.11: In the French title of the work by Gérard Genette, “d’art” should read “de l’art,” and “transcendence” should read “transcendance.” checkmark
4th printing
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5.6.2c: In the caption to figure 31, “you do not need to include the place of publication” should read “you do not need to include the name of the publisher.” checkmark
Some copies of 1st printing; 2nd printing
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1st printing
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5.6.2d: There should be a period after g in the abbreviation e.g., which appears in parentheses. checkmark
Some copies of 1st printing; 2nd printing
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1st printing
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5.6.3 and 5.6.4: The two cross-references to 5.5 in each section should read 5.4. checkmark
Some copies of 1st printing; 2nd printing
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1st printing
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5.6.4: The cited book review by Evangelista appears in volume 48 of Victorian Studies, not 46. checkmark
2nd printing
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5.7.7 and 6.4.4: The place of a broadcast and its date should be connected by a comma, as in 5.7.1. checkmark
3rd printing
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Third-year research project: In the sample paper by Maria Martin, the set-off quotations of prose and poetry should be indented one inch from the left margin. Not
Applicable
Not
Applicable
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How do I cite an e-book?

In general, a work formatted for reading on an electronic device like Kindle, Nook, and iPad is covered by 5.7.18. Begin the entry in the works-cited list like the entry for a comparable printed work and end it with a designation of the medium of publication. The medium is the type of electronic file, such as Kindle file, Nook file, EPUB file, or PDF file. If you cannot identify the file type, use Digital file. For example:

Rowley, Hazel. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage. New York: Farrar, 2010. Kindle file.

If the work presents electronic and print publication information, the electronic information should usually be cited.

Most electronic readers include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Do not cite this numbering, because it may not appear consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the nature of the number (6.4.2):

According to Hazel Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (ch. 2).

or

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (Rowley, ch. 2).

(The abbreviation ch. is shown in 7.4. There is a comma in a parenthetical citation after the author’s name if the following reference begins with a word.)

If the work is a PDF file with fixed pages, cite the page numbers. If the work lacks any kind of stable section numbering, the work has to be cited as a whole (6.4.1).

How do I cite a tweet?

Begin the entry in the works-cited list with the author’s real name and, in parentheses, user name, if both are known and they differ. If only the user name is known, give it alone.

Next provide the entire text of the tweet in quotation marks, without changing the capitalization. Conclude the entry with the date and time of the message and the medium of publication (Tweet). For example:

Athar, Sohaib (ReallyVirtual). “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” 1 May 2011, 3:58 p.m. Tweet.

The date and time of a message on Twitter reflect the reader’s time zone. Readers in different time zones see different times and, possibly, dates on the same tweet. The date and time that were in effect for the writer of the tweet when it was transmitted are normally not known. Thus, the date and time displayed on Twitter are only approximate guides to the timing of a tweet. However, they allow a researcher to precisely compare the timing of tweets as long as the tweets are all read in a single time zone.

In the main text of the paper, a tweet is cited in its entirety (6.4.1):

Sohaib Athar noted that the presence of a helicopter at that hour was “a rare event.”

or

The presence of a helicopter at that hour was “a rare event” (Athar).

Should I use underlining or italics in my research paper?

Writers commonly use italics for text that would be italicized in a publication. The examples in the MLA Handbook follow this practice. Most word-processing programs and computer printers permit the reproduction of italic type. Choose a type font in which the italic style contrasts clearly with the regular style.

How many spaces should I leave after a period or other concluding mark of punctuation?

Publications in the United States today usually have the same spacing after a punctuation mark as between words on the same line. Since word processors make available the same fonts used by typesetters for printed works, many writers, influenced by the look of typeset publications, now leave only one space after a concluding punctuation mark. In addition, most publishers’ guidelines for preparing electronic manuscripts ask authors to type only the spaces that are to appear in print.

Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbook and the MLA Style Manual. As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise.

How do I create the indention that the MLA shows for a works-cited list?

We recommend the use of hanging indention for the entries in the works-cited list: the first line of each entry is flush left, and subsequent lines in the entry are indented. Hanging indention makes alphabetical lists easier to use.

In a word processor, the best way to create this indention is to highlight the paragraphs that are (or will be) entries and then choose hanging indention in the options for formatting paragraphs.

Does the MLA offer templates or software for formatting papers?

We try to keep the guidelines in the MLA Handbook simple enough that a paper can be formatted without special tools, and so we have not produced such templates or software. The essential formatting guidelines are shown in fig. 7 (4.3), fig. 8 (4.4), and fig. 12 (5.3.2).

Does the MLA offer software for managing citations?

No. While it is tempting to think that every source has only one complete and correct format for its entry in the list of works cited, in truth MLA style often provides several options for recording key features of a work. This is because different kinds of research projects call for different emphases in documentation, and MLA style meets these needs precisely. Automated templates lack the power to provide this level of precision in documentation, and thus software programs that generate entries are not likely to be useful.

Does the MLA offer site licenses for the content of the MLA Handbook?

No site licenses are available at this time. See “A Note to Librarians” for an explanation of our current business model. For information on the permitted uses of this site, see “Terms of Use, Including Privacy Statement.”