Academic Writing

MLA Citation and Style Cheat Sheet

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Learning how to properly cite using MLA format can help you handle academic work and other types of writing with ease and confidence. When you understand the basic MLA requirements and see examples, you'll feel more confident in formatting your own papers. 

There are two main components to MLA citations. 

The first component is on the Works Cited page at the end of the paper. While Chicago and APA refer to this list as a bibliography, MLA calls it "Works Cited."

The second component is the in-text citation corresponding to the entry on the Works Cited. 

Here's what you need to know about MLA citations so you can ensure your work is formatted the right way, every time.

MLA Formatting Guidelines

The key formatting guidelines in MLA are highly detailed and will provide you with everything you need to know about this citation style. For example, understanding how to use et al. in your work helps you cite sources that have many authors.

Headings

When implementing MLA format headings and subheadings in your paper, refrain from using periods. Note that the main header should be one inch from the top of the page.

It can be tempting to try something creative or to add "flair" to your paper. Resist the urge. MLA format is very clear about the heading, and following the requirements of this style is the right move.

Spacing and Indentation

MLA style requires one-inch margins and double spacing. Configure your word-processing program to leave a one-inch space between all sides of the page and the main body of text. You should also set up your word-processing program to automatically double space the text. 

Note that double spacing refers to the line spacing of the text and paragraphs, not the space after a period before the next sentence begins. MLA format calls for a single space after a period.

Font

For papers written in MLA style, use a 12-point font. The most commonly used fonts are Times New Roman and Arial. Both are easy to read and look professional. 

While you technically could use a different font for your MLA paper, think carefully before you do. It's better to stick with the recommended options. 

If you choose another font, be sure it looks professional and can be easily read in a 12-point size. Please note that fonts like Comic Sans are often not allowed in academic settings.

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MLA Format Title Page

MLA style doesn't have title page guidelines. A title page isn't required with MLA, but an instructor may ask you to include one. If you are instructed to do so, you should create a title page that's easy to read without too many guideline concerns. 

Without a specific MLA title page format, you can stick to basics, such as using title case and centering the text for a professional look. Include any information your instructor specifically requires. This information can almost always be found in a course syllabus. If not, common inclusions are your name, student number, course number/title, instructor's name, TA's name, and course section number.

Since there isn't an MLA style requirement to follow, you only need to be concerned about any specific guidelines from your instructor and keep your title page neat and polished. 

MLA Heading Format

The main heading on the first page should include your name, instructor's name, course number/title, and date. This information is placed in the upper-left corner of the paper and follows the same formatting rules as the main text. 

MLA Format Heading Example

Since you don't need an MLA format title page, the correct heading format will provide all the necessary information. 

Ensure your name, your instructor's name, the course name, and the date are all double-spaced and appear on the first page:

John Smith

Professor James Jones

English 101

February 25, 2022

MLA Page Number Format

In MLA format, your last name and the page number are typed in the upper-right corner of every page of your paper. This can be automatically set in a word-processing program.

Page numbers should be flush with the right margin and one-half inch below the top of the page. Some instructors prefer not to have a page number on the first page, so you would start with 2 on the second page instead.

MLA Citation

MLA Citation

MLA citations must be handled correctly if you want full credit for your paper. To correctly complete a citation, you need specific information about your source. The exact information required for a full citation will depend on the type of source you're using. 

In other words, you may need different information to cite a book than to cite an interview. You must also ensure that you differentiate between the information needed for an MLA Works Cited entry and the information needed for an in-text citation. This way, you will include the correct information in the right areas of your paper.

Note that every in-text citation is connected to an entry on the Works Cited. Entries on the Works Cited include detailed information about a source, while an in-text citation only includes basic information.

MLA Book Citation

Books are some of the most commonly cited sources. Be sure you have the first and last name of the book's author(s) and the title, publisher, and year of publication of the book. 

When you use MLA format to cite books, it is important that both the reference entry on the Works Cited and the citation within the text are complete and accurate. You want to make sure your instructor can clearly see what sources you used. Here are some examples to help.

MLA Works Cited

For proper MLA formatting, include the author's first and last name, the book's title (in italics), the publisher's name, and the year the book was published, as follows: 

Johns, Harold. The Inquirers. Serenity, 2019.

Be sure to pay attention to the italicization of titles and the proper placement of periods and commas in MLA style.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the text, you can cite a book in one of two ways. If the author is not mentioned in the sentence, you can place both the author's last name and the page number in parentheses. 

If the author is mentioned in the sentence, the page number should be placed in parentheses immediately following the author's last name. This is called a narrative citation. The two types of in-text citations are formatted as follows: 

(Johns 45) or Johns (45)

Chapter in a Book

For an MLA citation of a chapter in a book, you must add some information to the standard book citation. 

You still need all the same information you use to cite a book, but you must also include the title of the section or chapter, the book editor's name, and the chapter's page range. This will allow anyone who wants to review the cited material to find the cited section without having to look through the entire book.

MLA Works Cited

Here is an example of how to cite a book chapter in MLA format: 

Montroose, Renee. "Ancient Ideas of the Looking Glass: Picturing the Value in Experiences." The Rights of the Royalty: Gender Roles in the Ancient World, 1800–2000, edited by Reginald Schultz, Bergamot, 2016, pp. 65–86.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the text, cite the book chapter the same way you would cite a book, simply using the author's name and a page number: 

(Montroose 68) or Montroose (68)

MLA Poem Citation

An MLA poem citation may not be as common as a book citation, but it still might appear in your paper. Depending on the class you're taking or your instructor's requirements, you may have to include poetry quotations in your paper. 

MLA Works Cited

Poetry reference entries on your MLA Works Cited should include the author, poem title, book title, publisher, year, and page number, as follows: 

Richard, Ari. "Foxes and Hounds." Foxes: Poems 1988–2020, W. W. Norton, 2021, p. 26.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the text, cite the poem using the author's name in parentheses. If it's in a collection, include the page number and line numbers if used. These citations should be written as follows: 

(Richard) or (Richard 26)

MLA Paraphrase Citation

You must cite a source when you quote it, but you also need to cite any ideas you paraphrase from the sources you use to write your paper. You can do this by ensuring that the paraphrased portion is followed by an in-text citation. 

Your MLA in-text citation should include the same kind of information as any quoted works so that your instructor can find the information you've paraphrased. This helps them to verify that what you wrote is accurate and that you're properly acknowledging where it came from.

MLA Works Cited

Any work that you paraphrase should be included on the Works Cited. The following example might be used in a paper about Wadsworth: 

Wadsworth, Joel. The Ballads of Lyrical Times. North Face Press, 1987.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the same paper about Wadsworth, include a citation indicating the author's name and the relevant page number after the paraphrased text:

(Wadsworth 248)

MLA Quote Citation

MLA citation format requires that quotation marks be placed around quoted material. When quoting directly from a source, make sure it is listed on the Works Cited at the end of your paper. 

Be sure to format the quote correctly. If it's a short quote (four or fewer typed lines), simply include it in the text with quotation marks. If the quote is longer than four typed lines, create an indented block quote to differentiate it from the main body of the text. 

MLA Works Cited

Your Works Cited should include entries for anything you quote, which should follow the format for the specific kinds of sources these quotations came from. The following example is a reference entry for a book: 

Broadway, Rebecca. Black Houses and Dingy Taverns. Illinois University Press, 2012.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the text, cite a quote in the same way that you would cite a paraphrased idea. Use the name and relevant page number (this is not required for sources obtained online).

(Broadway) or (Broadway 54)

MLA Video Citation

MLA format citations for videos aren't difficult, but you want to be sure to format them correctly. Include the name of the director of the video, video title, production company (if there is one), year of production, and URL. 

MLA Works Cited

On your Works Cited, cite videos with the following information: 

Jetson, George, director. The Art of Fearless Living. One Earth, 2009, www.oneearth/watch/the-art-of-fearless-living-2009.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the main body of your paper, cite the video with either just the name of the creator or the name of the creator and the time code of the specific portion of the video you're referencing:

(Jetson) or (Jetson 01:02:28)

MLA Song Citation

Citing a song according to MLA formatting guidelines is just like citing a video. Provide the artist's name, song title, name of the website where the song was found, and URL. 

If you're not referencing a website, list the album name, distributor, year, and format. This allows a reader to find the song and lyrics for reference.

MLA Works Cited

On your Works Cited, write a reference for a song as follows: 

Dylan, Bob. "Blowin' in the Wind." Spotify, open.spotify.com/track/18GiV1BaXzPVYpp9rmOg0E. 

For a song without a website, the format would change to artist name, song title, album, distributor, year, and format.

MLA In-Text Citation

In the text, cite the song by the last name of the performer and the time code in the song track you're referring to: 

(Dylan 1:28)

MLA Website Citation

Understanding how to cite a website's text in MLA is extremely important. Many references are found online, so you want to be sure you know how to cite websites in your paper. 

To cite a website, you need the site name, publisher, publication date, URL, and the day, month, and year you accessed it. This information allows a reader to easily find the site and verify where your information came from.

MLA Works Cited

On the Works Cited, cite a website like this: 

National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/. Accessed 26 February 2022.

MLA In-Text Citation

Because websites don't have page numbers, the in-text citation includes only the author's name. In this case, you may shorten the name of the site to take up less space:

(National)

MLA Article Citation

An article citation in MLA is another common option for your Works Cited. Be sure to include the article title, first and last names of the author, and title of the publication in which you found the article. 

Also include the volume number, issue number, publication date, and page range.

Using research databases for free articles can help you find the sources you need to support your argument. They also provide information that can help you cite articles properly.

MLA Works Cited

Citing an article in MLA looks like this: 

Tyson, Gerald L., and Robert R. Johnson. "The Psychology of Crowds and Social Anxiety." Journal of the American Psychological Association, vol. 26, 1995, pp. 362–65.

MLA In-Text Citation

In-text citations include the last name of the author and the relevant page number. In the case of the example above, this would look like the following: 

(Tyson and Johnson 362)

Merudio MLA Format Cheat Sheet
Download our free, one-page guide to MLA format so you always know how to format any type of reference.

MLA Works Cited

The rules for an MLA Works Cited page must be followed. We've presented examples of how to format the different types of sources above. But what about the format of the actual page? 

Here's what you need to know to format your Works Cited:

  1. Start on a separate page.
  2. Label the page Works Cited. Center the title, and don't use italics or quotation marks.
  3. Double space all entries, but don't add extra lines between them.
  4. Use a hanging indent.
  5. Include the URL for online sources.
  6. End every reference entry with a period.

Differences between a Bibliography and an MLA Works Cited Page

In MLA citations, there is a Works Cited page, and there can also be a bibliography. It's important to understand the differences between them to ensure you're providing the right information in the correct format.

Bibliography

The purpose of a bibliography can be unclear for students who are new to MLA format. They may have written a bibliography before or have been asked to create one for past projects with different formatting guidelines. However, the term "bibliography" is not generally used in MLA style. 

If you choose to title your reference page as a "bibliography," an instructor may deduct points for not using the current, correct terminology of "Works Cited."

MLA Format Works Cited 

Current MLA formatting guidelines require the inclusion of a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. This page should include all the sources used to write your paper. Whether you quoted or paraphrased information from a work, it is vital to include these sources. 

An instructor relies on the Works Cited to understand where you found the information you included. Leaving out sources can be perceived as plagiarism and should be avoided. 

MLA Works Cited Format

Margins

Your Works Cited needs to match the rest of your paper's formatting. Use one-inch margins for all sides of the page. Left-align your text so it's easy to read and follow.

Spacing

Double spacing is required for your Works Cited, just as it is for the rest of your MLA-formatted paper. Make sure you leave only one space after a period and don't add any extra spaces or line breaks between entries.

Page Numbers

Because it is the last page of your paper, the Works Cited must be numbered like the rest of the pages of your paper. It should include your last name and the page number in the upper-right corner.

More MLA Citation Guidelines

Remember, this overview of MLA style is only a cheat sheet. It doesn't provide answers about all the different kinds of citations you could possibly use. Check out the following article for more in-depth examples and further information on MLA format.

This is especially important if you have unique needs or an uncommon source. Proper citation of all sources is important, as it allows a reader to find where your information came from.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Cite a Journal Article in MLA Format?

An MLA article citation should include the name(s) of the author(s), the article title, the name of the journal, the volume and issue numbers of the journal, the month and year of publication, and a page range. If it's an online journal article, a URL or DOI should also be included.

How Do I Cite a Website in MLA Format?

An MLA website citation should include the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the page in quotation marks (some sites may not have this), the name of the website (italicized), the date of publication, and the URL (without "http" at the beginning). If the author of the site isn't listed, you can start the entry with the page title.

What Should an MLA Format Cover Page Look Like?

Because there's no specific title page MLA format to follow, your title page can look however you want it to. Keep in mind that you should always aim to create a professional-looking, easy-to-read document. 

If your instructor asks for a title page, it's good to include your name, the course name and number, the instructor's name, the title of your paper, and the date.

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