MLA Citation Style

Examples of the MLA Citation Style

No matter what discipline your written work relates to, it is widely accepted that borrowed work should be properly acknowledged and credited to the rightful author.  

The MLA Formatting Style: Simple and Popular

The Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting style is among the most widely-used and the simplest method of attributing information to its original source. Additionally, it is a popular choice with writers of research papers in the literature field. In fact, over 1,000 academic journals, magazines, and newsletters use the MLA style.  

General Rules of MLA: Page Formatting

To comply with the MLA style, there are a number of adjustments that need to be made to the page setup in your document(s).

Margin Settings

A margin of one inch should apply to the top, bottom, left and right-hand margins of the page.

Add a Page Header

MLA format requires page headers in the top right-hand corner as follows:

Writer’s Surname

Blank (no text) Line

Blank (no text) Line

Page Number                                                                              

Check that you understand the exact page number requirements of your assignment because first pages do not always require a number.

Line Spaces

Line spacing should be set to double.

Other Formatting Rules - General

  • Although the formatting requirements in MLA are not as rigid as in some other styles, this system requires a legible or clear font, which should be kept to a particular size.
  • Prior to beginning to write, devise a uniform style for headings for your entire document. For example, if you think “Heading One” is suitable for the first section of your assignment, make sure the next headings are similarly labelled in a sequential manner.
  • Sub-headings should follow this same format, e.g., if you choose 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and so on for the first part of your paper, you should stick to this format throughout.   

Citing Sources In-Text in the MLA Style

As is the case in other formatting styles, it is a requirement of MLA that quoted and paraphrased texts are presented as in-text citations. This is a way of acknowledging the original source of these works.   

In-text citations, better known as parenthetical citations, should be displayed in a specific way depending on how information is being used.

If you want to quote a different author directly, the parenthetical citation should be shown in one of a few ways as follows:

  • Author A (author’s name) stated that “say what author stated here” (166).
  • I would like to include “this very true quote” (Author’s name 166).
  • Author A (author’s name) looked extensively at the mechanics of this idea (166).

As can be seen from the above, every in-text citation should show both the name of the author and the page number of the original text where the sentence or information can be found.

Examples of the MLA Formatting Style

In the MLA style, the rules vary when it comes to citing different types of sources. Look, for instance, at the following fictional examples to understand how citations and references in a Works Cited page should be presented according to the circumstances. 

Author Name is Available or Known

  • This argument is more convincing because of White’s (author’s name) claim that the idea is “very innovative” (166)
  • The idea was described as “very innovative” (White 166)
  • The idea was described by White as “very innovative” (166)
  • Humans have been labelled as “intelligent beings” (White 2)

The citations in the above examples should correspond to entries in the end-of-paper Works Cited page, and they should be formatted in the following manner:

  • White, First Name, Book or Article Title, City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Year of Publication, Print.

Citing Works of an Unknown Author (Use Book or Article Titles and Page Numbers)

  • This paper is made more credible with the inclusion of the referenced notion that “the sea is rough …” (“Article on Rough Seas” 4)

The citation in the above example should correspond to the following type reference entry in a Works Cited page:

  • “Article on Rough Seas.” Name of Book or Magazine. Month, Year (of publication). Print.

Citing Authors whose Surnames are the Same (Use the Initial of the first name)

  • While some people believe this is an innovative idea (AuthorName 166), others think the opposite is true (AuthorName 167)

The citation in the above example should correspond to the following type of reference entry in a Works Cited page:

  • AuthorSurname, A. Book Name. City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Publication Year. Print.
  • AuthorSurname, B. Book Name. City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Publication Year. Print.

Citing Works Created by Several Authors

In the case of three authors or less, all three should be mentioned in your parentheticized citation.

Where the number of authors exceeds three, each one should be mentioned in the first reference, but only the surname of the first author needs to be listed in subsequent references followed by the abbreviated term et al. Here is an example:

  • AuthorOne, AuthorTwo, and AuthorThree agree that this is an interesting concept (166).
  • The three authors say that “this is an interesting concept” (AuthorOne, AuthorTwo, and AuthorThree 85).

The citations in the above example should correspond to the following type of reference entry in a Works Cited page:

  • AuthorOne’s Surname, AuthorOne’s First Name. Book Name. City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Publication Year. Print.
  • AuthorTwo’s Surname, AuthorTwo’s First Name. Book Name. City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Publication Year. Print.
  • AuthorThree’s Surname, AuthorThree’s First Name. Book Name. City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Publication Year. Print.

Citing Sources of the Electronic Variety

Where known, cite the author’s name in-text. If it is unknown, cite the article’s name/title. Here is a fictional example:

  • Adding nutrition to soil is the best way to plant (AuthorSurname “Article Name”).

The citation in the above example should correspond to the following type of reference entry in your Works Cited page:

  • Author’s Surname, Author’s First Name. “Article Name,” Website Name. URL (i.e. link). Website.

Works Cited

A Works Cited page is the last page that you will have to create for your paper. Detailed descriptions about any information cited in parenthesis in your paper will need to be shown here. Entries should be justified to the left-hand margin.

Using, for example, the quote for White in the earlier section entitled “Author Name is Available or Known,” the Works Cited page entry would appear as:

  • White, First Name. Name of Work. Country: Publisher’s Name, Date of Publication. Print.

The order of a Works Cited list should be alphabetical and in double-spacing like the rest of your paper. 

Check also:

APA Citation Style Chicago Citation Style Oxford Style of Referencing Turabian Formatting Style CBE Style of Writing Vancouver Referencing System