Fundamentals

MLA Basics (Download the Printer Friendly PDF)

Fundamentals

Generally, MLA citations follow the following format:

Structure: Contributor. Title. Secondary Contributors. Publication Information. Medium.

Contributor Information and Titles

The main contributors to the source, normally the author, are placed before the title. If there is more than one author, then arrange the authors in the same order found in the source. Reverse only the name of the first author, and follow the rest in normal form.

One author: Smith, John K. Title.
Two authors: Smith, John K., and Tim Sampson. Title.
Three authors: Smith, John K., Tim Sampson, and Alex J. Hubbard. Title.
Four or more authors: Smith, John K., et al. Title.

Sometimes the main contributor is not an author, but another contributor type, such as an editor for a book or conductor for a musical piece. In this instance, follow the contributor by an abbreviation of the contributor type (i.e. ed. or cond.). If plural, then change the abbreviation accordingly.

One editor: Smith, John K., ed. Title.
Two editors: Smith, John K., and Tim Sampson, eds. Title.
One conductor: Smith, John K., cond. Title.

Many sources have secondary contributors – individuals who added to the work outside the main contributors. This can include editors and translators for books and producers and screenplay writers for movies. Place secondary contributors after the title. Precede the name of the contributors with the abbreviation for the contributor type. For instance, “Ed.” means “Edited by.”

One editor: Smith, John. Title. Ed. Bill McCoy.
Two editors: Smith, John. Title. Ed. Bill McCoy and Tim Thomas.
One conductor and three producers: Smith, John. Title. Cond. Bill McCoy. Prod. Tim Thomas, Jane Horton, and Rex Bryant.

You may decide to emphasize the work, for example, when citing a live performance. In this instance, place all the contributors after the title. Authors and writers are preceded by the word “By.”

One author and editor: Title. By John Smith. Ed. Bill McCoy.

Some sources may have corporate or group authors. Write these organization where you would write the authors. If they are also publishers of the source, include it in the publication information as well.

Corporate author: Modern Language Association. Title.
Government author: Illinois Dept. of Industrial Relations. Title.

Some sources are found within other sources, such as a chapter in a book, or an article in a periodical. These rules apply both to the contributors of the chapter and book, or to the article.

Chapter author and editor and two book compilers: Smith, John. “Chapter.” Ed. Bill McCoy. Title. Comp. Russell Engels and Steve Simpson.
Author and translator of an article: Smith, John. “Chapter.” Trans. Bill McCoy. Periodical Title.

Title Rules

Generally, capitalize all principal words as well as the first word and last word in the title. If citing a title for an entire source, such as a book or periodical title, place in italics. If citing an article, essay, poem or short story within a larger work, place in quotes. If a novel or published independently, then place in italics.

Publication Information

After the title and contributor information comes the publication information. In MLA7, you must also list the publication medium (Print, Web) after the publication information. MLA 7 abbreviates all months except for May, June and July. Below are different publication information templates.

Book: Last, First M. Title. City: Publisher, Year Published. Medium.
Journal: Last, First M. “Article.” Title Series Volume.Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Medium.
Magazine: Last, First M. “Article.” Title Date Month Year Published: Page(s). Medium.
Newspaper: Last, First M. “Article.” Title [City] Date Month Year Published, Edition, Section: Page(s). Medium.

If you cannot find all publication information, use place holders “N.p., n.p., n.d.” which represents no place, no publisher, and no date. If there are no page numbers use “N. pag.” Capitalize the abbreviations appropriately based on where they are placed.

*Note: We format according to MLA7, we believe adding such place holders is unnecessary, as it provides no information, and the lack of information can be assumed by its absence in the citation.

Additional information

For less conventional source types, you can add descriptions about the source after the title. For example, you can add “Cartoon.” or “Map.” after the title of a cartoon or map to clarify to the reader what type of source you are citing.

When citing non-periodical sources, advanced information such as the edition and section come before the publication information. Series information comes after the medium description. See the fictional example below:

Smith, John. Power. Ed. Tom Riley. 5th ed. Vol 12. New York: Random, 2002. Print. Ser. 50.

Web Sources

See our web resources guides to learn how to properly cite sources found online.

 

 

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