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Citation Style - MLA

ZU Library guide to help with MLA citation style, 7th ed

What is a citation?

In academic research, we need to have a bibliography to show others what resources we used. A bibliography has multiple citations, with all the sources you used.

In MLA style, a bibliography is called a List of Works Cited (or "Works Cited" for short)

A citation has information about a resource that you are using. The information included in a citation typically includes:

  • Author
  • Date of publication
  • Main title
  • Secondary title (subtitle)
  • Publisher/sponsor
  • Place of publication (ONLY for print materials)
  • Date of access (ONLY for electronic resources)
  • Medium of format (like Print or Web)

Below are a couple of examples to help identify parts of a citation.


Print resource (book):

Citation parts of a book











Electronic resource (web page):

citation parts of a web site









About MLA Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) style is commonly used in Humanities courses, such as English, for citing references in student papers. 

This guide is based on the MLA Handbook (7th ed.) that was published in 2009.

Page numbers in brackets refer to specific pages in the handbook.

Check out the General Style Guidelines page to learn more about what's different in the 7th edition.

General Guidelines for MLA Style


  • All sources of information and data, whether quoted directly or paraphrased, are cited with parenthetical references in the text of your paper.
  • Double-space your entire paper, including the “Works Cited” list and any block quotes (p. 116).

Works Cited page

  • List entries with a hanging indent and ensure that the entire list is double-spaced -- see the example on page 131. (p. 130-131).

  • Arrange entries alphabetically by the surname of the first author or by title if there is no author. When beginning with the title ignore initial articles (e.g. A, An, The) for alphabetization (p. 131-133).

  • Cite the first author’s name with the surname first, but otherwise give the authors’ names as they appear in the source.

  • If the “Works Cited” list includes two or more entries by the same author(s), give the author(s) name(s) in the first entry only. In subsequent entries use three hyphens in place of the names, followed by a period and the title. Arrange the works in alphabetical order by title (p. 133-135).
  • Capitalize the first, the last, and all significant words in a title and subtitle (p. 86-87).

  • Italicize book titles, journal titles, and titles of other works published independently (p. 88). Use quotation marks around the titles of works published as part of another work, e.g. journal article, short story, or essay in an anthology (p. 89).

  • Omit any introductory article, e.g. first word The, in the title of an English-language journal (p. 138).

  • For books, list the city of publication, publisher’s name, and year of publication as they appear on the title page or its reverse. If there is more than one city, list the first one only. Abbreviate publishers' names according to MLA guidelines (e.g. omit articles, business abbreviations such as Co., Inc., etc., and descriptive words such as Books, etc.) (p. 148-152).

  • Typically when citing Web sources a URL is not included.  Include a URL only if you have been instructed to do so by your teacher or if the document would be hard to locate otherwise. (p. 182) However, when a “Works Cited” entry does include a URL that must be divided between two lines, break it only after a slash (p. 182). 

  • Citations must include an indication of the medium of the source (e.g. Print or Web) (p. xvii).

Abbreviations used in MLA

Many abbreviations are used in MLA style. Below are common abbreviations:

n.d.   no date of publication
Ed., ed.   editor
Eds., eds.   multiple editors
ed.   edition
Vol., vol.   volume
n.p.   no publisher
n. pag.
  no page numbers
qtd. in   quoted in, used in in-text citing








Abbreviate all months -- except for May, June, and July -- in lists of Works Cited:

Jan.   January
Feb.   February
Mar.   March
Apr.   April
Aug.   August
Sept.   September
Oct.   October
Nov.   November
Dec.   December

Use abbreviations and shortened forms of publisher names in lists of Works Cited.

U   University
P   Press


UP of Mississippi   University Press of Mississippi
U of Chicago P   University of Chicago Press
MLA   Modern Language Association
St. Martin's   St. Martin's Press, Inc.
GPO   Government Printing Office

What's New in the 7th Edition

In 2009, MLA published a new handbook of style. 

Some of the changes include:

  • Using italics instead of underlines.
  • All citations now include an indication of the medium of the source that was viewed (e.g. Print or Web)
  • Not including a URL when citing Web Resources unless specifically directed to do so by an instructor.

To learn more about these changes, you may also want to check out the "What is new" section on the official MLA website.

MLA Resources

Creative Commons License

Library Guides Content  - Adapted from Red Deer College Library) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.5