MLA Format Citation Guide

What is MLA?

MLA is the abbreviation for Modern Language Association, the organization credited with developing the MLA citation format. This format was developed to enable scholars, students, and researchers to uniformly format their assignments and papers in the language and literature fields. Producing a project or writing in a consistent or uniform method makes it easy to read. Today, apart from language and literature subject areas, the MLA citation format is used in many other areas. In April 2021, the MLA released its latest edition of their MLA Handbook. This Handbook contains thorough citation instructions and guidelines for submitting papers that stick to the Modern Language Association’s standards and rules. Buy-Essay is a custom essay writing service thus the reason we have found it suitable to bring you this informative and thoughtful guide on the MLA citation., 

What is MLA Citing?

The MLA Handbook is in its 8th edition. It standardizes how scholars format their papers and document their sources. When there is an acceptable uniform way of writing papers and sources, it is easy to recognize and understand the sources used for a particular project. Not only will your readers appreciate your citations, but they will also probably explore the sources.

When you borrow information from a particular source and place it in your assignment or research, you must acknowledge the original author. Acknowledging an author is done by developing an MLA citation. When writing your MLA format essay, you place citations in the body of the paper and include them all on a “works cited” page at the end of the article. The MLA Handbook explains all this in detail, and we are here to summarize the contents of the 8th edition handbook.

What is MLA Format?

The MLA format 8th edition is an updated version of MLA citations, and it significantly differs from previous editions. The most significant difference, which is the most exciting, is using one uniform format for all types of sources. In previous versions, scholars needed to find the citation format for the particular source they used. In this case, periodicals, websites, books, and so on each had their citation formats. Currently, using a general MLA citation format takes less time when documenting their sources, giving them more time to do their research.

Other updates in the new version include adding “containers”, which is basically what a source sits in. For example, journal articles belong in journals, songs in albums, and chapters in books. Where you obtain the source is its container.

Another addition is URLs in citations but without https:// and http://. Usernames and pseudonyms can replace an author’s real name, issue and volume numbers can now be abbreviated as no. and vol., and source mediums (web or print) and cities of publication no longer appear in citations.

General Citation Basics

When citing your source in MLA format, elements should appear in the following order:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

1. Authors  

The first entry in a citation is the author’s name (unless there is no name), followed by a period. If there is only one author, the last name should come first, followed by a comma and the first name.

MLA format Example:

Brown, John

Carson, H. Richard

  • If you have two authors in your source, follow the order in which they appear on the source. The first author should be in reverse order, then a comma and “and”, then the second author appears in standard form. The names should be followed with a period.  

MLA format example:

Gates, William, and Barry White.

  • If you have three or more authors, include only the first listed author’s name. the first author’s name should be in reverse order (as in Last name, First name) followed by a comma, and then add “et al.”

MLA format example:

Abramovich, Stephen H., et al.

  • When citing social media posts, you can use a username or pseudonym for the author’s name; the citation should start with the user’s handle.

MLA format example:

@TheHunter. “Lions will be extinct by 2100 if we don’t act now.” Twitter, 7 May 2016, 10:20 a.m., Hunter/status/ 644899290900345654.

Sometimes there is no author listed in your source. In this case, the citation should start with the title without the author section. Citations do not always have to start with the author’s name. If your research focuses on an individual other than the author, your readers should see the individual’s name at the start of the citation. Illustrators, editors, translators, actors, and directors commonly appear at the beginning. Remember that these individuals only replace the author if they are the centre of your research.

When including another person other than the author at the start of your citation, their name should appear in reverse order followed by a comma, and then their role followed by a period.

MLA format examples:

John, Bradley, performer, Vikings, Created by Rebecca Shaw, Science Channel, 2011-2014.

Thomas, Mark B., editor. The Rich Also Cry: Studies in the New Rhetoric. UIS Press, 2008.

2. Title of Source and Containers

The source title should always follow the author’s name, and it should either be in quotation marks or italics, depending on the type of source.

MLA format examples:

  • When using a book as the source, its name should be in italics.

Austen, John. The Hummingbird House. MacMurray, 2000. 

  • An individual webpage should be cited in quotation marks followed by the parent website name( treated as a container in MLA) in italics.

Sidney, Rachael. “How to Decorate a Bathroom on a Budget.” 12765 decorate-a-bathroom.

  • A periodical (newspaper, magazine, and journal) article should appear in quotation marks.

Bagashi, Alakinanda. “Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahashweta Devi’s Bashaii Tudu.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 12, no. 2, 1998, pp. 32-43.

  • A piece of music or a song in an album appears in quotation marks in MLA citation format. The name of the album (container) follows in italics.

Beyonce. “Brown Eyes.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2017,

The 8th edition of the MLA citation guide recommends including URLs in online sources citations but without the http:// or https://.

Citations with more than one Container

Sometimes, your source may sit in a second or bigger container. A journal article sits in a journal, which is the first container, but it can also be sitting in a larger container, like a database. A song can be in an album as the first container and then sit in another broader container such as iTunes or Spotify. It is essential to include the second container as its contents may differ from those of the other container.

MLA format example for citing with two containers:

Last name, First name. “Title of Source.” Title of Container, other contributors, version, numbers, Publisher, publication date, location. Title of Second Container, Other contributors, version, number, Publisher, publication date, location.

Mainly, for the second container, you only indicate its title and location. 

3. Other Contributors

In MLA format citing, when another individual (other than the author) plays a significant role in the research, place them in this citation part. Begin the citation with the person’s role, followed by “by”. If you add other contributors after a period, the first letter of the person’s role should be capitalized. If the role follows a comma, start it with a lowercase letter.

MLA citation example:

The Incredibles. Directed by Brad Birde, produced by Jeff Walker, Pixar, 2004

Georgi, Gospodinova. The Physics of Pain. Translated by Angel Rodley, Open Letter, 2013.

4. Version

If your source is listed as a version or an edition of a work, include it in the citation.

MLA format example:

The Bible. New King James Version. Oxford UP, 1999.

Catlin, Stacy, and Phoebe Black. Ancient Rhetorics for Conventional Students. 3rd ed., Pearson, 2003.

5. Number

A number linked to a source that is not a version number, page range, or publication date should be indicated in the location of the number of the citation. This includes television episode numbers, comic book numbers, series or volume numbers for books, and journal articles. When citing issue numbers and volume numbers, use the abbreviation “no.” for number and “vol.” for volume.

MLA format example:

“Chestnut.” Westworld, directed by Richard J. Louis, season 2, episode 5, Warner Bros., 2010.

6. Publishers

The publisher produces the source. The publisher of your source in the MLA citation format is placed before the publication date. Include the publisher of any type of source apart from websites where the publisher’s name is the same as that of the website. It is unnecessary to include publisher names for journal articles, magazines, or newspapers as they are usually insignificant.

When your source has more than one publisher sharing responsibility for its production, cite them by placing a slash (/) between their names. 

When the publisher’s name ends with the words “University Press”, use the abbreviation “UP”.

MLA format example:

Oxford UP

7. Publication Dates

When you want to include the date your source was published, indicate the actual information contained in the source, whether it’s the year, the month, or the entire date. The order of writing the date does not matter as long as you use a uniform format for all your citations. 

MLA format example:

4 May. 2011 or May. 4, 2011

Where several dates are indicated on the source, use the most significant to your research and work. Please note months with more than four letters should be abbreviated; for example, August should be Aug.

8. Locations

 The source location is the place you can find the source. It can be in the form of a physical site, disc number, page number, or URL. When using MLA to cite websites, include URLs, but remove the beginning of the website address: http :// or https://. If there is a DOI number, use it instead of the URL. When placing page numbers, abbreviate as “p” when it’s one page and “pp” for multiple pages.

Parenthetical and In-text Citation Basics

An in-text citation aims to provide the reader with information about where you obtained the information you used for your paper. When you place an idea (referred to as a paraphrase), word for word (direct quote) or a line of text, you must acknowledge the original author and the page you found the information.

MLA format in-text citation examples:

“Sam always took too long to bring back water from the river” (Casper 9).


Casper further said, “Sam always took too long to bring back water from the river (9)

Please note that the information you place in the parenthetical or in-text citation, be it the title or the author’s name, should be similar to the first word in the complete citation. The full citation appears in the Works Cited Page in MLA citation format.

Formatting the Header in MLA

A header or running head is a short heading placed at the top right corner of each page in your paper. The MLA Style Center recommends that the running head consists of the paper author’s last name and the page number.

MLA format example:

Smith, 10 or Carter 1

Adding a header in a Microsoft Word Document

1. Locate “insert” in the menu section

2. Select “page numbers” and choose the option placing the page number at the upper-right corner

3. Either

1. Double click the space with the page number at the top of the page

2. OR Go to “insert”, select “Header”, and choose “Edit Header.”

4. Next to the page number, type your last name and make sure it is right-aligned.

Adding a header in Google Docs

1. Go to “insert” in the menu section

2. Select “Page Numbers” and choose the option placing the page number at the upper-right corner

3. A page number appears, and your cursor will blink near it

4. Move the cursor to the left side of the page number

5. Type your last name and add a space between the page number and your name

Formatting the First Page of Your Paper

  • Do not include a title page unless asked to do so
  • Go to the upper left corner of the first page and type your name, instructor’s name, course, and date in a list format. Remember to double-space your text.

MLA format example:

Richard Maxwell

Prof. Whittaker

English 101

22 Aug 2010

  • Centre the title after double-spacing again. The title should not be in quotation marks, italics, or underlined. Write your title in Title Case, not capital letters.
  • Double-space between the first line of your text and the title
  • Create a header following the steps outlined above to include your last name and the page number at the upper right-hand corner of your pages. All pages should contain Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3,…), at a half-inch from the top of the page aligned right. 

Bibliography vs Works Cited – What’s the Difference?

A bibliography is a catalogue of sources that a writer recommends for additional reading. Works cited page contains a list of references that the writer used in their research and writing.

If you want to suggest some websites or books to your readers, create an MLA format bibliography that contains complete citations and name the page “Bibliography.”

But if you placed paraphrases or used quotes in your writing, create MLA format in-text citations and include them in your work’s body. Then, create a complete list of all citations, place them on the project’s last page, and mark the page as “Works Cited.”

Regular works cited references and MLA bibliography format are structure in the same way.

Final Thoughts

With the information we have provided in this MLA format citation guide, you can now research and write your paper in MLA format. You can start practising with a one-page essay in MLA format to know the basics before moving onto significant research papers and essays. 

Buy-Essay is a website that provides help to students stuck in writing their academic papers. Our professional writers can write your papers in any citation format, such as MLA, APA, Harvard, and Chicago. Apart from conversing with various citation styles, they are all experts in all specific subjects with many years of writing experience. When you order an academic paper from us, we will assign you a specializing person in your particular field to do the job. We have a 24/7 customer support team who are always ready to respond to your queries. Our writers produce 100% unique papers with no possibility of anyone else having a similar paper to yours. This is guaranteed by the thorough plagiarism checkers we use on your article to ensure that there is no such paper on any website. So, contact us today and let us help you write your essay in MLA citation format or any other citation style.  

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