MLA: Quotations and Citations



MLA: Block Quotations

In MLA style, format quotations of more than four lines of prose or more than three lines of verse as block quotations.

Learning Objectives

Recognize when to use block quotations in MLA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A regular quotation is part of a sentence within a paragraph in your paper; however, for longer quotations (more than four lines of prose, or more than three lines of verse), format the excerpt as a block quotation.
  • A block quotation begins on its own line, is not enclosed in quotation marks, and—if applicable— has an in-text citation after the final punctuation.
  • Block quotations are double-spaced, like the rest of your paper, and indented half an inch from the left margin.

When to Use a Block Quotation

A typical quotation is enclosed in double quotation marks and is part of a sentence within a paragraph of your paper. However, if you want to quote more than four lines of prose (or three lines of verse) from a source, you should format the excerpt as a block quotation, rather than as a regular quotation within the text of a paragraph. Most of the standard rules for quotations still apply, with the following exceptions: a block quotation will begin on its own line, it will not be enclosed in quotation marks, and its in-text citation will come after the ending punctuation, not before it.

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Block quotation: An example of a properly formatted block quotation

Spacing and Alignment

The entire block quotation should be indented half an inch from the left margin. The first line of the excerpt should not be further indented, unless you are quoting multiple paragraphs—in which case the first line of each quoted paragraph should be further indented 0.25 inches.

To better visually distinguish a block quotation from the surrounding text, be sure to leave an extra (blank) line both above and below your block quotation.

If quoting more than three lines of verse, maintain the original line breaks.

MLA: In-Text Citations and Parentheticals

In MLA, there are different formats for citing sources in text depending on the type of source.

Learning Objectives

Arrange in-text citations in MLA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In-text citations are where you tell the reader, within the text of your paper, which source you are citing.
  • The correct formatting for an in-text citation varies depending on how many authors created the work being cited.
  • Formatting also varies depending on whether you cite the same source more than once, whether you cite multiple works by the same author, and whether you cite sources with page numbers.

In your paper, when you quote directly from a source in their words, or when you paraphrase someone else’s idea, you need to tell the reader what that source is so the author gets credit for their words and ideas. When you tell the reader which source you are referring to within the text of your paper, this is called an in-text citation.

Source by a Single Author

To cite this type of reference in the text, you should use what is known as a parenthetical —the citation information enclosed in parentheses—at the end of the relevant sentence. The parenthetical should include simply the author’s last name (with no first or middle initial). If you’re citing a direct quote, you also need to include the page number. For example:

  • Social representations theory posits that reified scientific knowledge that exists at the boundaries of a given society will be interpreted in meaningful and often simplified forms by the majority (Pauling 113).
  • Social representations theory “proposes a new hypothesis …” (Pauling 113).

If you choose, you can integrate the author’s name into the sentence itself—this is known as a ” signal phrase “—and provide just the page number in parentheses:

  • Pauling (113) posits that “scientific knowledge…”

Source by Two Authors

Authors should be presented in the order in which they are listed on the published article. If you include the authors’ names in the parenthetical, use the word “and” between the two names. For example:

  • Social representations theory posits that reified scientific knowledge that exists at the boundaries of a given society will be interpreted in meaningful and often simplified forms by the majority (Pauling and Liu 113).

Using a signal phrase:

  • Pauling and Liu (113) posit that…

Source by Three or More Authors

For an article with three or more authors, to save space and to make your paper easier to read, you should use only the first author’s last name followed by “et al.”, and then the page number, if applicable (“et al.” is short for “et alia,” which means “and other people” in Latin—much like “etc.” is short for “et cetera,” which means “and other things” in Latin.):

  • (Pauling et al. 113)

Using a signal phrase:

  • Pauling et al. (113) posit…

Source by No Known Author

For an article with no known author, use the source title in place of the author’s name, formatted as it would be (i.e., italicized or enclosed in quotation marks) in your Works Cited section:

  • (“Bilingual Minds, Bilingual Bodies” 4)

Using a signal phrase:

  • The article “Bilingual Minds, Bilingual Bodies” (4) claims…

Multiple Publications by Different Authors

If you need to cite multiple publications by different authors in the same sentence, you should list the multiple sources in alphabetical order by author and use a semicolon to separate them.

  • … majority (Alford 24; Pauling 113; Sirkis 96).

Multiple Publications by the Same Author

If an author has multiple publications that you want to cite in the same sentence, include the author’s name in a signal phrase and the titles of the referenced sources instead in the parentheticals:

  • Achenbach’s recent research (“Bibliography of Published Studies” 17) demonstrates a radical shift in thinking from his stance of a decade ago (“School-Age Assessments” 39)…

Source Without Page Numbers

If you need to cite a source without page numbers, include other location information if it that information is consistently available to all users. For example, if you’re citing an ebook without page numbers, include a comma followed by the chapter number instead:

  • (Pauling and Liu, ch. 6)

Using a signal phrase:

  • Pauling and Liu (ch. 6) posit that…

MLA: The Works Cited Section

In MLA style, the sources you cite in your paper are listed all together at the end, in the Works Cited section.

Learning Objectives

Arrange the Works Cited section in MLA style

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In MLA style, all the sources you cite throughout the text of your paper are listed together at the end, in the Works Cited section.
  • There are nine core elements of a Works Cited entry: Author. Title of source. Title of container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location. Each element is followed by a comma or a period (as shown), though the final element in a Works Cited entry is always followed by a period.
  • Only the elements relevant to a particular source should be included in its Works Cited entry.
  • The Works Cited section is arranged alphabetically. In addition, the first and subsequent lines of each citation should be indented a half an inch from the left margin.

In MLA style, all the sources you cite throughout the text of your paper are listed together in full in the Works Cited section, which comes after the main text of your paper.

Constructing a Citation

There are nine core elements of a Works Cited entry:

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

Each element is followed by a comma or a period (as shown), though the final element in a Works Cited entry is always followed by a period.

Only the elements relevant to a particular source should be included in its Works Cited entry.

A brief explanation of each of the nine elements follows. Consult the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition for more information. The MLA website also contains a helpful guide, including a practice template:

1. Author.

If the source is written by one author, the citation should begin with the author’s last name, a comma, the rest of the author’s name, and then a period. For example, if you’re citing a source written by Zadie Smith, the citation should begin:

Smith, Zadie.

If the source is written by two authors, the citation should begin with the first author’s last name, a comma, the rest of the first author’s name, a comma, the second author’s full name (in the normal order), and then a period. For example, if you’re citing a source written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, the citation should begin:

Twain, Mark, and Charles Dudley Warner.

If the source is written by three or more authors, the citation should begin with the first author’s last name, a comma, the rest of the first author’s name, a comma, and then et. al., which means “and others.” For example, if you’re citing a source written by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, the citation should begin:

Booth, Wayne C., et al.

2. Title of Source.

If the source is what the MLA Handbook describes as “self-contained and independent,” such as a book or a collection of essays, stories, or poems by multiple authors, include the title in italics, followed by a period. For example, if you’re citing Zadie Smith’s novel Swing Time, the citation should begin:

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time.

If the source, on the other hand, is a work that appears within a larger work, such as a poem that appears with an anthology, include the title in quotations marks instead. (Make sure that the period following the title appears inside the closing quotation mark.) For example, if you’re citing Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging” from his collection Death of Naturalist, the citation should begin:

Heaney, Seamus. “Digging.”

 3. Title of Container,

A container, in this context, is the larger work that contains the shorter work being cited. Seamus Heaney’s poetry collection Death of a Naturalist, for example, is the container for his poem “Digging.”

If the source you’re citing appears within a container, continue the citation by including the title of the container in italics, followed by a comma:

Heaney, Seamus. “Digging.” Death of a Naturalist,     

Here’s another example. In this case, the website Slate is the container for the article “Hackers Breached San Francisco’s Transit System and Demanded a Ransom”:

Grabar, Henry. “Hackers Breached San Francisco’s Transit System and Demanded a Ransom” Slate,

4.  Other contributors,

Sometimes there are other contributors to a work—in addition to the author or authors—who should be included in the Works Cited entry. Include a contributor if their contribution helps further identify the work or if their contribution is particularly relevant to your research.

If you include a contributor in your work Cited entry, add a description of the contribution ( “adapted by,” “directed by,” “edited by,” “illustrated by,” etc.), followed by the full name of the contributor and a comma.

For example, if you’re citing a work that has been translated from another language, continue the citation by including the phrase “translated by” followed by the full name of the translator and a comma:

Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Translated by William Weaver,

Or, for example, if your research relates to the illustrations contained within a work, continue the citation by including the phrase “Illustrated by” followed by the full name of the illustrator and a comma:

Bloom, Amy Beth. Little Sweet Potato. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones,

5. Version,

Some works are published in different versions or editions. If you’re citing a particular version of a work, continue the citation by including the version followed by a comma. Here are two examples:

Nelson, Philip. Biological Physics: Energy, Information, Life. Updated Version,

King, Laura A. The Science of Psychology: An Appreciative Review. 3rd ed.,

6. Number,

Similarly, some works are published in multiple numbers, volumes, issues, episodes, or seasons. If you’re citing a particular number of a work, continue the citation by including the number followed by a comma. Here are a few examples:

“Indigenous Rights in Canada: Contested Wilderness.” The Economist, Vol. 421, Number 9017,

Kirkman, Rodman. The Walking Dead. Illustrated by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire,

“Airport 2010.” Modern Family. Written by Dan O’Shannon and Bill Wrubel, season 1, episode 22,

7. Publisher,

If the source is distributed by a publisher, blog network, or other organization, continue the citation by including the publisher, followed by a comma. Here are two examples:

Miranda, Lin-Manuel, and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: The Revolution. Grand Central Publishing,

McMillan, Robert. “Her Code Got Humans on the Moon—and Invented Software Itself.” Wired, Condé Nast,

8. Publication Date,

Continue the citation by including the available publication date information most relevant to your source, followed by a comma. If you’re citing a book, for example, a copyright year will suffice:

Fish, Stanley. How Milton Works. Belknap Press, 2001,

If you’re citing a tweet, on the other hand, provide the day, month, year, and time, as some people and organizations tweet more than once a day:

@POTUS. “This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for our blessings, and work to fulfill the timeless responsibility we have as Americans to serve others.” Twitter, 24 Nov. 2016, 2:05 p.m.,

9. Location.

Location, in this context, refers to the location (e.g. page number(s), DOI, URL, etc.) of a source within a container or the physical location of a live performance, lecture, or presentation. If applicable, continue the citation by including the location information, followed by a period. Here are a few examples:

Heaney, Seamus. “Casualty.” Field Work: Poems, Farrar, Straux, and Giroux, 2009, pp. 13-16.

Grabar, Henry. “Hackers Breached San Francisco’s Transit System and Demanded a Ransom,” Slate, TheSlateGroup, 28 Nov. 2016, slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2016/11/28/san_francisco_muni_hacked_for_a_ransom_payment.html.

Ernst, Steve, and Liza Neustaetter. “Empowering Faculty and Students with High Quality Modular Courseware.” OLC Accelerate, 18 Nov. 2016, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Orlando.

Formatting the Works Cited Section

Your Works Cited entries should be listed in alphabetical order.

Each reference should be formatted with what is called a hanging indent. This means the first line of each citation should be flush with the left margin (i.e., not indented), but the rest of that citation should be indented a half an inch from the left margin. Any word-processing program will let you format this automatically so you don’t have to do it by hand. (In Microsoft Word, for example, you simply highlight your citations, click on the small arrow right next to the word “Paragraph” on the home tab, and in the popup box choose “hanging indent” under the “Special” section. Click OK, and you’re done.)

Multiple Publications by the Same Author

If you are referencing multiple publications by the same author (or group of authors), there is a special rule for denoting this. You should first order those articles alphabetically by source title in the Works Cited section. Then, replace the author’s name (or list of names) with three hyphens, followed by a period, for all but the first entry by that author:

Achenbach, Thomas M. “Bibliography of….

—. “School-Age…

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Works Cited : A properly formatted Works Cited page.