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MLA Style: Writing in MLA Style

An introduction to MLA style for academic papers, based on the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition.

MLA Style

MLA Style is the format used by the Modern Language Association. Most papers written for classes in the arts and humanities use MLA style; instructors in other disciplines may also prefer MLA format.

MLA Style Resources

For additional information on MLA Style, consult

Writing in MLA Style


In the text of a paper:

  • Abbreviations consisting primarily of capital letters (such as acronyms) should usually be written without spaces or periods between the letters: ESP, JFK, PhD
  • Initials used in a name should be followed by periods and spaces: C. S. Lewis
  • Abbreviations consisting primarily of lower case letters should usually be written with periods but not spaces between the letters: p.m.
  • Dates should not be abbreviated in the text of a paper

In the Works Cited list and in-text citations:

  • Months should be abbreviated to three or four letters: Jan., Sept., Dec.
  • Titles of works appearing in in-text citations should be abbreviated, usually to the first noun phrase: The Importance for The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Some other frequently used abbreviations: ch. for chapter; ed. for edition; et al. for et aliap. or pp. for page or pages; par. for paragraph; qtd. for quoted; UP for University Press

Capitalizing Titles

Capitalize the first and last word of the title; all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions; and the first word after a colon. Do not capitalize articles, coordinating conjunctions or prepositions unless they are the first or last word of the title.

"Explaining the Relation between Birth Order and Intelligence"

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors


Use italics for:

  • Titles of self-contained works such as books, magazines, journals, newspapers, plays, movies, television series, websites, etc.

                        Coming of Age in SamoaPsychology TodayWebMD

  • Non-English words that have not been anglicized through use, except for proper nouns, non-English titles in quotation marks, and quotations entirely in another language.

Some consider the movie John Wayne's tour de force.

  • Quotations of passages that use italics

Do not use italics for emphasis unless it is necessary for clarity.


Within the text of your paper, write out numbers that:

  • can be expressed in one or two words: thirteen, forty-two, two hundred
  • are at the beginning of a sentence

Use numerals for numbers that:

  • cannot be expressed in one or two words: 215
  • precede units of measurement: 14 inches
  • appear with abbreviations or symbols: 2 p.m.; 12%; $14.50
  • are used in dates: May 4

You may also use numerals when your work uses frequent related numbers, such as statistical data.

When writing a range of numbers, for example on your Works Cited list, use the full number  for both the beginning and end of the range for numbers under one hundred; use only the last two digits of the ending number for larger numbers, unless this would create confusion: 27-86; 131-35; 297-316

Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Paraphrase or summarize source material whenever possible; that is, put the material in your own words. Remember to identify the source for paraphrases and summaries, just as for quotations.

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks for:

  • Prose quotes under five lines long
  • Verse quotes under four lines long
  • Titles of short works contained within a longer work, such as periodical articles, book chapters, reference book entries, tv episodes, songs/poems, etc.,

Use apostrophes or "single quotation marks" for quotes inside quotes:

Max Stark points out, "The difference between 'annoyance' and 'harassment' is clear."