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MLA Style: Introduction

Introduction to the Guide

This guide is based on the MLA Handbook, 9th ed. (The Modern language Association of America, 2021). MLA is most commonly used to cite sources in English composition and literature classes. 

MLA style, like any other documentation style, serves to allow the reader to quickly find information about the sources used in the text. Moreover, MLA style wants to minimize interruptions in the flow of the text itself, while maintaining completeness in the description of the sources cited. 

To meet these conditions, documentation in MLA style has two parts. The first part is a complete list of all the sources cited in the text called Works Cited; the second is a brief citation in the text, enclosed in parenthesis, that refers the reader to the corresponding entry in the works cited list. 

The MLA Handbook

For a complete list of style rules, please consult the MLA Handbook and its companion website.

Major Changes in the 8th Edition

1. vol. and no. are now spelled out.
2. Place of publication is omitted.
3. Page numbers are preceded by the abbreviations p. or pp.
4. Web sources must have the full URL, but http://  or https:// are omitted.
5. DOIs should be used when possible in place of URLs.
6. Access date for online source is omitted.
7. Medium of publication is no longer required.

MLA Style Guidelines

Basic Guidelines

The 9th edition of the MLA Handbook  does not give instructions on how to cite sources based on their format, as it was prescribed in previous editions. The limit to this approach is that a work in a format not included in the guidelines cannot be properly documented.

To solve this problem, the new edition focuses on providing a list of core elements that are used to describe all sources across all format types. The core elements are listed below, followed by the correct punctuation:

1. Author.
2. Title of source.
3. Title of container,
4. Contributor,
5. Version,
6. Number,
7. Publisher,
8. Publication date,
9. Location.

Any core element can be omitted if it's not relevant for the source.

Behind the Style - MLA Blog and FAQ

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