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MLA Style: In-Text Citations

General Rules

In-text citations in MLA style are typically composed of the first element in the works cited list entry (usually the author's last name, or the title for anonymous sources) followed by a page number, if it is available.

The in-text citations are enclosed in parenthesis at the end of the sentence that is quoted or paraphrased from the source used. The first element (usually the author's last name) may appear in the text, whereas the page number is always placed in parentheses.



According to Northrop Frye, "the centre of time is 'now,' just as the centre of space is 'here,' but 'now,' like 'here,' is never a point" (41).

"To accommodate tragedy and the whole truth simultaneously, you must leave as much out as possible, while yet indicating the absences" (Bloom 63-64).


Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life. Yale UP, 2011. ProQuest ebrary,

Frye, Northrop. The Double Vision: Language and Meaning in Religion. U of Toronto P, 1991.


The following information applies to all types of sources.

One Author

When you cite a work by one single author, include in the parentheses the author's last name only before the page number.

(Last Name #)

(Chomsky 10)


Two Authors

When you cite a work by two authors, list the last names of both authors, separated only by the conjunction and.

(Last Name and Last Name #)

(Greenblatt and Abrams 5)


Three or More Authors

When you cite a work by three or more authors, list the first last name, followed by et al. (Latin abbreviation that means "and others"). 

(Last Name et al. #)

(Haude et al. 22-23)

Multiple Works by the Same Author

If you use more than one work by the same author, the parenthetical reference must include the name of the author followed by a comma and a shortened title of the source, in order to disambiguate which source you are referring to:

(Frye, Double Vision 85)

(Frye, Anatomy 237)


Works Cited

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. U of Toronto P, 2006. 

---. The Double Vision: Language and Meaning in Religion. U of Toronto P, 1991.

Works by Multiple Authors with the Same Last Name

If you use sources by authors with the same last name, you have to make sure the parenthetical citation refers to the right source. To avoid ambiguities, add the initial of the first name.

(P. Harris 75)

(J. Harris 104)


Works Cited

Harris, John. The Value of Life.Routledge & Kegaul, 1985.

Harris, Peter. Designing and Reporting Experiments in Psychology. 3rd ed. Open University Press, 2008.

Indirect Sources

When possible, you should always try to use original sources, but if it is not possible you can cite indirect sources.

In this case, place the abbreviation qtd. in ("quoted in") in the parenthetical citation before citing the indirect source that you have in your works cited list.


(Johnson qtd. in Boswell 2: 450)


Work Cited

Boswell, James. The Life of Johnson. Edited by George Birkbeck Hill and L. F. Powell, Clarendon, 1934-50. 6 vols.

Long Quotes


If a prose quotation extends to more than four typed lines, you can set it off as a block indented half an inch from the left margin of your paper. Quotation marks are not used in this case and the parenthetical reference is placed after the final punctuation of the quote.

At the end of Frankenstein, the creature decides to follow Victor and die, after saying farewell to the world and the pain he caused and he feels:

I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell. (345)


Work Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus. Floating Press, 2008.



Verse quotations of more than three lines should be treated as long prose quotation and set off from the left margin. If the layout of the lines is unusual, it should be reproduced as closely as possible.

Three figures appear at the three corners of Cummings's poem Buffalo Bill's:

Buffalo Bill ’s


who used to

ride a watersmooth-silver


and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat


he was a handsome man

and what i want to know is

how do you like your blueeyed boy

Mister Death (60)


Work Cited

Cummings, E.E. Complete Poems: 1913-1962. Harcourt, 1972.

Ancient Texts

Citations of ancient texts, also known as classical sources, may include only the author's name in full or abbreviated, and the standard numbers indicating books, chapters, paragraphs. Such standard numbers refer to standard critical editions, and help readers locate the exact section of the text referred to, no matter where the text has been consulted (on a print book, an online database, etc.)

(Livy 1.43)

(Libanius Or. 42.24-5)

Such sources will not be included in the Works CIted at the end of a research paper or other project. For more information, see Primary Sources in Classical Studies.

Note: It is always a best practice to double check with professors what their preferred citation formats are.