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Guide to MLA-Style Writing

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If you need an mla format template, this is something Great-Writings.com can provide. However, whether you use our writing service or not our writers have provided the following guide for citing sources in the MLA style.

While a lot depends on what field you are studying or what field a research project relates to, you may be asked to use the MLA style for citing sources. So, what does mla stand for? The term itself is an abbreviated version of the name of the association that developed the guidelines for this particular citation style – the Modern Language Association. The MLA style guide sets out a particular way for citing sources. Other citation styles do existing including the APA and Chicago styles and these too are often used in specific subject areas. According to the MLA definition, this style is commonly used in the following subject areas: languages, the liberal arts, literature, and various subjects related to the humanities.

Some Facts about the Eighth Edition of the MLA Style

In 2016, MLA published the eighth (8th) edition of its style manual (or handbook) – an edition designed to some extent to cater for the modern age of digital publishing. Now, MLA offers a set of universal guidelines that allows writers to acknowledge all types of sources and it provides writers with the tools to reference sources for every field of study, from the humanities to the sciences. This guide explains some of the changes covered in the 8th edition.

How to critique an article

How to Do an Essay in MLA Format

Dealing with Works Cited Lists

The handbook for the 8th edition of the MLA citation format suggests a new way of presenting entries in an essay or paper’s Works Cited list to reflect the way these are used and published in this technological era. Before this new version, writers created entries using the previous recommendations in the MLA style guide for the particular format under which the source was published, e.g., textbook, CD/DVD, website, and so on. These days, this approach is not deemed practical since methods of publication are frequently combined. For instance, a song that one listens to online might well have originated from an album released long before the emergence of the Internet.

Under the new guidelines for MLA formatting citation, there is not much emphasis placed on the medium by which a work is published. Rather than wondering how they should cite from a book, DVD, or website, a writer now creates their Works Cited entry on the basis of core information required by the MLA style – elements that are common to the majority of works and set out in a prescribed order. The core information for an MLA citation is as follows:

  • Author’s name
  • Source’s title
  • Container title
  • Names of other contributing authors
  • Work’s version number
  • Publisher’s name
  • Date of publication
  • Place of publication.

While a student’s very first question may be, “what is MLA format,” their attention is likely to turn to specific questions about the work they are referring to once they understand the style. For example, irrespective of what type of source it is, they are likely to think about who authored a particular work, what its title is, and so on.

Owing to the significant changes in the new MLA formatting guide, the way source information is entered in a Works Cited list is different than the way that was recommended in previous versions. The following are some differences that writers moving from the old to new version might not be aware of.

Dealing with Abbreviated Terms

The latest MLA formatting definition states that certain terms in a Works Cited list (e.g., editor, reviewer, and translator) are not now abbreviated. The list of abbreviated terms is shorter in the 8th edition.


Recording Author Information

When creating an MLA format essay outline it is usual to list only the first author where a cited work has three authors or more. Then you should place the term “et al.” after this. (In previous versions, leaving out co-authors was restricted to works with four authors or more and was optional.)

Citing a Book and/or Other Types of Printed Work

When indicating page numbers in a Works Cited list, these should now have “p.” or “pp.” in front of them. However, this does not apply when citing sources within the main body of a text.

It is no long necessary to provide the place (or city) name where a work was published, unless there are special circumstances.

Citing from a Journal

When citing from academic journals in the new version of MLA, citations are now accompanied by volume and issue no., e.g., “vol. 55, no. 2” and not “55.2” as was previously the case.

Where the date of a journal is represented by month (e.g., January) or season (e.g., Spring), these are now listed in the citation. The year should also be included, e.g., “January 2016” or “Spring 2016.”

Citing Sources Taken from the Internet

It is now normal practice to provide a source’s URL when using information found on the web – but without the http:// or https:// prefix. These citations should not be enclosed in angle <> brackets.

Writers are encouraged to use digital object identifiers (DOIs) when citing online sources.

Writers may include or omit the date they consulted an online source in their citation at their own discretion.

It is no long necessary to use placeholders where a piece of information is not known, e.g., “n.d.” where there is no date for a source. Where facts for a particular work are missing but are available from some other reliable source, these should be included in square [ ] brackets in a citation. Otherwise, this information can be left out.

Citing Information about a Work’s Publisher(s)

The full name of the publisher should now be listed in citations, except in the case of business terms such as Co. (for Company), which are now left out. However, when using academic press names, abbreviations are still required in citations (e.g., U, P, UP).

Co-publisher names are now separated by a forward slash symbol (/).

Some publications do not need to have the name of the publisher listed and these situations are set out on page 42 of the MLA handbook.

Where a work has been both authored and published by an organization, you should list the name of the organization once only, normally in the place of the work’s publisher. There is no need to say who authored the work in these cases.

Handling Citations that are Miscellaneous in Nature

Full information about each publication should be provided for any works that are widely used. You should provide page number ranges for any articles in print-version reference books where these are arranged in alphabetic order. Put simply, you should treat reference works as you would any other work since exceptions no longer apply to these.

There is now no need to state the publication medium, unless this is required for the purpose of clarity.

Citing Sources within a Text

The key principles for handling MLA 8 in text citation have not changed. However, some points have been clarified or added:

  • When citing time-based source material such as video, the times should be cited in your text.
  • The new version of MLA provides guidance on using my trans.when drawing attention to a quotation has been translated from a language other than English.
  • In the new guidelines on MLA format in text citation, a description is provided on the use of punctuation where several items are used in a single parenthesized citation.
  • Guidance is provided for shortening longer titles when these need to be added within parenthesis in citations.
  • Guidance is provided on the use of common phrases from Roman, Greek, and various medieval and other literary works where these have part numbers instead of just page numbers.
  • The new handbook explains how to format citations in research papers as opposed to standard papers.

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Additional Guidelines on Research Paper Writing

Below are a few points concerning research paper writing:

When a citation contains a reference to a periodical (newspaper, magazine, or journal) where the title starts with the words “A,” “An,” or “The” (i.e. article words), these words are now considered part of the periodical’s title and the first letter of the article word should be capitalized and the word itself placed in italics. Previous guidelines, for example, recommended using “the New York Review” for in-text citation and “New York Review” in the Works Cited page. However, the new handbook recommends using “The New York Review” in every instance.

When citing works that have been written in a non-English language that uses an alphabet other than the Latin one, the writer will have to decide whether to present quotations and titles in the other languages own system or in roman-style.

Stanza breaks are denoted with a double forward slash (i.e. //) in run-in verses and/or quotations.

Where prose is presented in block quotations with internal paragraphs, the quotation’s first line should not be indented even if the source has one.

On a final note, if you would like an MLA format essay template, please feel free to order one from Great-Writings.com!


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