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General MLA FAQs


MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page. Note: MLA has recently released the eighth edition of its handbook. See our page on the major changes in the new edition. We will replace our current MLA resources with resources on the eighth edition in summer 2016.

Contributors:Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2016-05-13 12:07:44

The follow FAQs address issues in MLA citation and/or formatting. The entries in this section are based on frequently asked questions received by our former OWL Mail Tutors. Further information on MLA style and citation can be found at the Purdue OWL’s MLA Style and Formatting resource

I have to write a paper in MLA format. Where can I learn more about writing in MLA?

The Purdue OWL maintains a rather extensive resource that deals with writing in MLA style. You can access our MLA resources by clicking here.

How do I use MLA citations and works cited in a PowerPoint presentation?

Unfortunately, the MLA does not directly address this issue. You could follow the guidelines for in-text citation in a document in your PowerPoint presentation. You could then provide a separate Works Cited slide at the end of the PowerPoint deck. However, if you feel that the audience would not gain as much from a separate Works Cited slide, you could always provide the full Works Cited entry at the bottom of the relevant slides. 

How do I cite letters, or email, (Personal Communication) in MLA?

Letters fall under the MLA’s guidelines for personal communication, which are as follows: 

Author’s LastName, Author’s FirstName. Letter to the author. Date of Letter.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research papers requires that you put “TS.” After the date of the letter if it is a typed letter. 

In text, you should differentiate between the letters, if you have numerous untitled letters from the same author. Although the MLA has no guidelines for this, we suggest including the date in the sentence referring to the letter. For example:

In the letter dated 14 December 2010, he writes, “…it is cold outside” (Smith).

How do I cite an unpublished manuscript/document in MLA?

The following is from page 203 of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition:

Author. Title of Manuscript/Document. date of composition (at least year; if unknown, write N.d.). form of material (MS for manuscript or work written by hand; TS for a typescript or work prepared by machine) along with "the name and location of the library, research institution, or personal collection housing the material."

Here’s an example they provide:

Henderson, George Wylie. Baby Lou and the Angel Bud. N.d. TS. Collection of Roslyn Kirkland Allen, New York.

I have been reading books on my Kindle (or Kindle enabled device), how do I cite Kindle books in MLA?

This is a very interesting question, and one that is receiving a great deal of attention in blogs and online forums. The most recent version of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers does not directly address the citation of Kindle books. However, it does cover citing digital files that exist separate from the web (see section 5.7.18). This section explains that to cite such sources in the Works Cited page you should first "determine the kind of work you are citing...and follow the relevant guidelines" for that format (211).  Then, in the place for the publication medium, you should insert the file format followed by the word "file."  

In the case of the Kindle, I would suggest using the following: “Kindle file” or “Kindle AZW file.” Use the latter if you know the more specific file type. For an example, see the book citation sample below:

Author Lastname, Author Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Kindle AZW file.

While the Kindle has recently deployed page numbers in their texts, the MLA has yet to formally include how to handle this in their handbook. However, a recently entry in the online handbook FAQ does offer the suggestion to avoid using the page numbers provided by e-readers. The full FAQ can be read here.

How do I cite a book that I accessed online in MLA? 

The following information comes from page 187 of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. If you are citing a work on the Web that has a previous or concurrent publication in print, your citation should include the following:

1. Begin the entry as you would any book cited: Author Last Name, First
name. Title of Book. Location of publisher: Name of publisher, year of

For more information on this from the Purdue OWL, please click here.

2.Follow the above with the title of the database or Web site (in italics)
where the book is hosted.

3. Include the medium of the publication consulted (Web)

4. Include the dates of access (DD Mth. YYYY)

The following is an example from the MLA Handbook:

Cascardi, Anthony J. Ideologies of History in the Spanish Golden Age.
University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1997. Pennsylvania State Romance Studies. Web. 12 Mar. 2007.

How do I cite a definition from an online dictionary, like Dictionary.com, in MLA?

The correct citation for a definition from an online dictionary, Dictionary.com, should include both the original source the definition comes from and the information for the web access.

For instance, a proper citation should look like this:

"Perchloric acid." The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. Dictionary.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.

How do I cite something that appeared as a footnote in one of my source texts in MLA?

To cite a footnote from a work in your text, according to the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook, you would use the following format:

(Author Page#nNote#)

For example:
(Smith 123n6)

The page number is followed—with no space in between—by an “n” to indicate “note,” which is followed—again, with no space in between—by the note number.  To cite multiple notes, use “nn” rather than “n.”

How do I cite the US Constitution in MLA? 

The 7th edition of the MLA handbook has this to say about citing the U.S. Constitution:

"In general, do not italicize or enclose in quotation marks the title of laws, acts, and similar documents in either the text or the list of works cited (Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, Taft-Hartley Act). Such titles are usually abbreviated, and the works are cited by sections. The years are added if relevant" (205).

Because these directives aren’t very specific, you can use the following example as a guide for the Works Cited entry:

U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XII, Sec. 3.

You need only provide either the article number or the amendment number as appropriate.

The complementary parenthetical citation is written as (US Const. amend. XII, sec. 3). You might also reference the U.S. Constitution in the sentence itself and only provide the amendment and section number in the parentheses at the end of the sentence.

How do I cite genealogies and birth/death certificates in MLA?

This is a very particular, and a very peculiar, case. MLA does not offer any guidelines on how to handle genealogies and birth certificates. However, after searching through web, we have found the following resources that might be useful to you:

Genealogy.com offers a method of citing birth/death certificates. Click here and scroll down to “Official Records.”

We also found the following information published by Archive.gov, which you can access by clicking here.

How do I cite information from nutrition Labels? Can I just use the label on the food item? Or, should I try to find the information elsewhere?

Part of the reason for citing things in research papers is 1) to help build our credibility—our ethos—as writers, and 2) give the reader the so-called “key features” of the sources that we are using. To that end, it would be best to try and find the nutrition information somewhere more stable than the actual item that is sitting in your cupboard. For example, don't cite the nutrition information for a cheeseburger off of the wrapper the cheeseburger came in. Rather, go to the website of the company that sold the cheeseburger and try to find the information there.

However, if this cannot be done, it may be possible to cite the nutrition label in the following way: 

Corporate Author. “Nutrition Label of name of product.” City, State of Manufacture. Year.

For example: 

Kraftfoods. “Nutrition Label of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.” Banbury, UK. 

How do I cite an informational plaque or an information card in MLA?

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition specifies a kind of standard template, which we will use as the basis from which we can extrapolate your citation. You should include as much of the following information as possible about the information card:

Name of the Museum/Building/Location (as a Corporate Author).  "Title of the Information Card." Location of the Museum/Building/Location: Name of the Museum/Building/Location (now as publisher), Year (when the exhibit, building, or artifact was put up). Medium (in this case, something like pamphlet, plaque, or information brochure).

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