MLA Citation and Style Cheat Sheet

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Learning how to properly cite in 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 about the formatting of your own papers. 

There are two components to MLA citations. 

The first component is the reference entry 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 a Works Cited page.

The second component is the in-text citation that corresponds to the entry on the Works Cited page. 

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, such as journal articles. 

Header

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

It can be tempting to try something creative or add "flair" to your paper. Resist the urge. MLA format is very clear about the header, and following the requirements of this citation 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. Your word processing program should also be set up to automatically double space. 

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 easily be 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 use one. If you are instructed to include one, 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 as follows: 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 follow any specific instructions 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-hand 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 right 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-hand 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 the information needed for an MLA Works Cited page from the information needed for an in-text citation. This way, you will have 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 page. Entries on the Works Cited page include detailed information about a source, while an in-text citation is basic.

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), the title, publisher, and year of publication. 

When you use MLA format to cite books, it is important to ensure that the reference entry on the Works Cited page is complete and that the citation within the text is 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 where periods and commas are properly placed in MLA style.

MLA In-Text Citation

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

If the author is mentioned in the sentence, the page number in parentheses should immediately follow 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

With 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 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 with 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 citing a book, but it's still something that might appear in your paper. Depending on the class you're taking or your instructor’s requirements, you may be required to include poetry quotes in your paper. 

MLA Works Cited

Poetry reference entries on your MLA Works Cited page 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. These citations should be written as follows: 

(Richard) or (Richard 26)

MLA Paraphrase Citation

When you quote a source, you must cite it, but you also need to cite the ideas you paraphrase from the sources you use to write your paper. You can do that 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 you use for any quoted works so that your instructor can find the information you've paraphrased. That helps them to verify that what you wrote is accurate and that you're acknowledging where it came from.

MLA Works Cited

Any work that you paraphrase should be included on the Works Cited page. 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 page number after the paraphrased text:

(Wadsworth 248)

MLA Quote Citation

MLA citation format requires quotation marks around quoted material. When quoting directly from a source, make sure the source is listed on the Works Cited page 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 page should include anything you quote and should follow the format for the specific kind of source it 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 page number (if any).

(Broadway) or (Broadway 54)

MLA Video Citation

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

MLA Works Cited

On your Works Cited page, 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 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 page, 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 page, 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 only includes 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 page. Be sure to include the article title, along with the first and last names of the author and the publication in which you found the article. 

Include the volume number, issue number, and publication date. Using research databases for free articles can help you find the sources you need to support your argument and 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 page number. In the case of the example above, that would look like: 

(Tyson and Johnson 362)

MLA Works Cited Page

The rules for an MLA Works Cited page must be followed. You can see 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 page.

  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 skip 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 are Works Cited pages and bibliographies. It's important to understand the differences to ensure you're providing the right information in the correct format.

Bibliography

This can be confusing for students who are new to the MLA format. They may have used 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. However, a bibliography includes the same elements as a Works Cited page. The only difference is the title.

MLA Format Works Cited 

Current MLA formatting guidelines require the use 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 page to understand where you found the information you included. Leaving out sources can be perceived as plagiarism and should be avoided. 

MLA Works Cited Page Format

Margins

Your Works Cited page 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 page, 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 page should have your last name and page number in the top right-hand corner. It must be numbered like the rest of the pages of your paper.

More MLA Citation Guidelines

Remember, this is only a cheat sheet. It doesn't provide answers for 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 allows a reader to find where your source 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 of the journal, the month and year, 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 Text 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 actual name of the website (italicized), the date of publication, and the URL (without the 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 be creating something that looks professional and is easy to follow. 

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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