Section I. Introduction to MLA Style


What is MLA style?
MLA is an editorial style recommended by the Modern Language Association (MLA) for preparing scholarly manuscripts and student research papers. It is the standard format for papers, articles, and books in the arts and humanities.

In addition to providing standardized rules for formatting a paper (margins, line spacing, etc.), MLA provides a consistent method for citing ideas, quotations, facts, and paraphrases borrowed from other sources. This standardized format for identifying sources used in a paper makes the paper more credible and ensures that other authors are given credit for their original thoughts and ideas.

Are there other styles?
Just as MLA is used by teachers in the arts and humanities, teachers in business and the social sciences may ask you to format your paper in APA style; a history professor may ask you to use Chicago or Turabian; a biology professor might want you to submit a paper in yet another format. There are slight differences between the formats and each has a unique set of rules. Note the differences between the MLA and APA citations given below:


A book citation in MLA

Kasson, John F. Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America 1776-1900. New York: Penguin, 1976.Print.

  • Author's last name written out completely
  • Date of publication appears at end of citation
  • All major words in title capitalized
The same book citation in APA

Kasson, J. (1976). Civilizing the machine: technology and republican values in America 1776-1900. New York: Penguin.

  • Author's last name and first initial only
  • Date of publication appears at beginning of citation
  • Only first word of title is capitalized (and proper nouns)

Based on what you know so far, which one of these citations is probably in MLA format?

Kauffmann, S. (1993, October 18). On films: class consciousness. The New Republic, p. 30.

Whitaker, Mark. "Getting Tough at Last." Newsweek 10 May 1993: 22.Print.