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Citation Guide: Basic MLA Rules

A guide to create citations for bibliographies and works cited in reference papers.

Basic MLA Rules

Some basic rules for MLA  Work Cited lists are:

  • All citations should be double spaced
  • Indent after the first line of each entry (hanging indent)
  • Entries are not numbered; Alphabetize by the first word of the entry
  • If no author is listed, begin with title
  • Italics must be used for titles of books and periodicals (If italics are used, the font must be obviously different from the standard print)
  • Capitalize titles of books and articles according to convention, no matter how they appear in a database or catalog
  • Editions of books are noted after the title in the following format: 2nd ed. First editions are not listed as such. If no edition is listed, omit the edition section
  • Dates are in Day Month Year format (e.g. 12 Dec. 1992) with all months abbreviated to three letters followed by a period (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Oct., Nov., Dec.) except May, June, and July, which are left as is and Sept.
  • Page numbers in MLA are sometimes shortened. If the page numbers are three or more digits, shorten the second number to two digits when possible. Examples: 8-9; 44-49; 112-23; 492-506; 1253-66.
  • Omit http:// when using electronic sources.  
  • For database sources, use the permalink as the URL.