Guidelines on MLA citation

MLA formatting style | Citation peculiarities

Welcome to the most complete and recent guidelines on The Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting style and its requirements to referencing all the used sources. Our guidelines from Mcessay experts are very simple to use, so you won’t find it difficult to cite source of any complexity.

Basic requirements you need to remember include the following aspects.


  • Inverted name: first put the surname and then other names after a comma. For example, Stephens, Adams K.;
  • Absence of the author: write the title of an organization or source’s title;
  • Two authors: the first author should be inverted and the second can go as usual;
  • Three or more authors: the first name must be inverted and then add ‘et al’;
  • It is possible to use usernames and pseudonyms;
  • If you want to include translator or editor, their names should be followed with (translator) or (editor).


  • If you cite a whole book, the title should be italicized;
  • If it is a part of a bigger source, for example an article, put the title in quotation marks;
  • If the source has no title, provide a brief description (without italics or quotation marks).


  • Include only the most relevant ones;
  • Before the contributor’s name should come his or her role.

Date of publication:

  • Requirements of this section differ according to the source type;
  • If the source has several dates, indicate the one you have used;
  • If necessary, you can use a date range.

Location rules are applied to page numbers, URL, disk numbers, cities and countries.

Keep in mind that when you want to add something, which comes not from the original text, you need to indicate such information in square brackets.

If exact date is unknown, don’t forget to use ‘circa.’ In case you are not sure about different parts or sections of the source, add a ‘?’ after them.

Basic features to remember

In the latest edition of the MLA format, you need to title the list of references ‘Works-cited list’. It is a list of the sources you have used in your work and consists of the name of the author, source’s title, publication date and any other information, which is required by the guidelines. A list of cited works must:

  • Start with a new page;
  • Be situated at the end of your paper;
  • Go in an alphabetical order by the first author’s name (in case the name is not known, you must indicate the title, ignoring ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘the’). In case you cite several works of the same author, you need to order them according to the date. If the works were published the same year, you must use an alphabetical order according to the title;
  • Double space entries;
  • Starting with the second line of your list, every source should be indented ½ inches on all sides;
  • If you list several works of the same author, your first reference should consist of a full name. In the rest of the cases you can replace author’s name with ‘_ _ _’;
  • Include comprehensive references on every source you have cited in your paper.

In-text citing

You need to include built-in references after every paraphrase or quote, which you take from an original work. Such citations are situated within your paper (not in a separate list at the end of your work) and always refer to a particular quote and paraphrase. Such citations:

  • Always correspond to a certain reference in the reference list;
  • Consist of the first word of a reference. Usually it is surname of the author and page number. It can also be a range of pages, where the reference was found;
  • Go right after the quote.

For example, Johnson claims “…” (104) or (Johnson 104)

Several authors

If the source has two or three authors, their names can be indicated together with the page number, as in the example below.

(Adams, Stephens, and King 120)

In case the source has more than three authors, you should write only surname of its first author and then add ‘et al’.:

(Adams et al. 120)

Author is unknown

In such situation you need to italicize the title, and a shorter title in quotation marks or a webpage/ article must be placed instead of the author. If we take a book ‘MLA citation guide’ as an example, your in-text reference will look like this:

For a book : MLA citation guide claims “..” (134) or (MLA citation guide 134)

For an article: “MLA citation guide” claims “…” (134) or (“MLA citation guide” 134)

When you cite several works of the same author

You need to include a brief title’s version to your citation: (Adams, MLA guide, 134)

Same surname authors

In such situation just add initials. For example, (A. Adams 56) and (C. Adams 79-90)

Page number is absent

If there are other numbered elements instead of pages, like paragraphs or chapters, you can use them instead. For example (Adams, ch.5), where ch. is for the chapter.

If such elements are also absent, you will have to reference the quote alone.

In some cases you will need to cite a quote. In such situation you just need to place ‘qtd.’ before author’s name.

When visual or audio sources are cited, you need to place a time stamp instead of page number. The format is hh:mm:ss.

(Adams, 00:14:43)

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Citing different sources

  • Citations, which you place inside the text, vary only if the author is known and if the source has an audio or visual format (as explained above);
  • List of references is greatly variable depending on every source type.

Referencing a book

Book is the basic source type for referencing and the common format looks as follows:

Author’s name. Title. Version. Publisher. Publication year.

For example, Adams, M. MLA Citation Guide. 3rd ed. New York Publishing, 2018

If the source has two authors, you need to write the first author inversed and the second should go after the ‘and’. If there are more than three authors, the first one is inversed and followed by ‘et al.’

Book’s title is italicized and all the words of the title (except articles) are capitalized.

Such sections as Contributors is optional and can be used only if it is really relevant for the text. This section is used to give credits to translators and editors.

Citing translated and edited books, using MLA format

Format of such books is the same as of the regular ones but you need to indicate translator or editor. You can do it using one of the following ways:

  • Translator or editor is written after names of the authors. This takes place if you need to focus on translation or editing. For example, Smith, Williams, translator;
  • The names are included to the list of contributors and are preceded with ‘edited by’ or ‘translated by’. This method is applied when the focus of your work is the author, not the editor or translator. For example, translated by Michael Smith.

Here are the two formats patterns:

Last name and first name, editor. Source title. Container title. Contributors. Version. Publisher. Publication year.


Last name and first name. Source title. Container title. Translated by Contributors. Version. Publisher. Publication year.


Smith, John K., translator, and Anna Troy. MLA Citation Guide. New York Publishing, 2017 Mitchell, Mary and Johnas L. How to Use MLA Style. Edited by Liam Hook, Stanford Publishers, 2016.

Citing electronic books

Electronic book is considered a different book type, so information about the electronic source is added to the Version part or a regular template. If you need to indicate specific details, like E-book providers, you can do it in a form of ‘Kindle ed.’

Last name and first name. Book title. Container title. Contributors, volume of edition. Electronic book. Number. Name of the publisher. Publication year.

For example, Smith, Garry K.,et al. MLA Guide. 3rd ed, e-book, Stanford Publishers, 2015.

Citing a chapter in an MLA Format

Such references are a bit different from those of books, because you need to include chapter’s title using quotation marks and add a page number or a range of pages. For example,

Ford, Harry L. “On citing a chapter”. MLA Formatting Guide, New York Publishing, 2018, pp. 78-95

Citing articles

Below are collected basic requirements to citing articles from newspapers, journals and magazines.

  • Title of the article should go in quotation marks;
  • Title of Container is the newspaper, journal or magazine where the article was taken from;
  • Version is the type of a publication section;
  • Number is the volume and the issue number. For example, vol.6 no 10;
  • Date section for journals should include season and year, for newspapers and magazines – day/month/year;
  • Location is the page number;
  • If the article is from online source, you must add URL or DOI.

The common structure of such reference is the following:

Name of the author, “Title of the Article”. Container title, Contributors, Version, Publication date, location. Database title, URL or DOI.

Example of a journal article: Smith, Adam L. “Why Citation is Important”. Weekly Journal, vol. 3, no.7, Winter 2009, pp. 309-311.

Magazine and newspaper example:

Smith, Adam L. “ How Reference Lists Change Your Work”. Weekly Journal, vol. 45, no. 8, 7 August 2011, pp. 45-47.

Online articles are referenced in the same way but you need to add title of the database and the URL/DOI of the article.

Smith, Adam L. “Importance of MLA Citing”. Weekly Journal, vol. 45, no. 8, Winter 2009, pp. 209-221. Magazine database, https://www.weeklyjournal/MLA-citing

Citing non-printed materials

Citing images

When you need to cite an image, you should stick to the following pattern: Surname of the creator, other names, “Image title”, title of the website, contributors, number, date, URL.

Bansey, William. “Peaches”. Mistral, NO1401, 1999,

Citing movies

The structure of a movie reference is the following: Name of the director, director. “Film Title”. Contributors. Distributor. Release year. Medium

However, you can swap the title and director’s name if you want to focus on the work and not on its director. In such a case, your reference will have the following structure:

“Film Title”. Directed by name, contributors. Distributor. Release year. Medium

In the 8th edition of MLA formatting guide, Medium is not required but it is still useful for your reader. If the film is stored online, you should change the medium on an URL.

Cooper, Bradley, director. ‘A start is born’. Performaces by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, Warner Bros, 2018, DVD.

Citing TV series

Format of TV series is similar to the one of movies but additionally includes numbers of the episode and season.

“Title of the Episode”. Title of the program, created by Creator’s name, contributors, number of the season, number of the episode. Network, Publication Year. For example,

“Reckless”. LOFT, written by Josh Carlin and Marry Wilmshurst, directed by Stephen Amell, season 4, episode 9, LLT, 2011.

Music citing

Such reference will have the following structure:

Author’s name. “Track Title. Album Title, contributors, version, Label, Publication Year.

For example, Halsey “New Americana” Badlands, Astralwerks, 2015.

Citing webpages

Author’s last name, first name, “Page or document title”, Website title ,date, URL.

For example, Scott, William Q., and Linda Adams. How to Reference Sources. 11 Nov. 2018: https:/

Now you have all the information you may need on citing sources in an MLA formatting style. It may seem complicated at first but with proper attention and organization, you will see there is nothing difficult at all. Good luck!