Writing Well: Documentation Format

Documentation Format

MLA Documentation

The Modern Language Association (MLA) uses internal documentation in place of footnotes and endnotes, embedding the reference in the text of the paper. As you learned in “Paper Chase,” you usually need to include only the author's last name (or the title, if the source does not have a credited author) and the page number in an internal documentation.

Following are the standard MLA formats for a Works Cited page. Remember to use MLA style-formatting for papers in the humanities (English, literature, composition, and rhetoric).

Citing Books

The basic citation for a book looks like this:

Author's last name, first name. Book Title. Place of publication: publisher, date of publication.

Here are some models to show you how the variations are written:

  • A book with one author.

    Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin, 1989.
  • A book with two or more authors. Notice that the first author's name is inverted for alphabetical order.

    Rozakis, Laurie, and Bob Rozakis. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Office Politics. New York: Alpha Books, 1998.
  • A book with four or more authors. You can cite all the authors listed or only the first one and then write et. al. (“and others”) for the rest of the authors.

    Baym, Nina, et. al. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989.
  • A corporation. Give the name of the corporation as the author, even if it's the publisher as well.

    IBM. Know Your Computer. New York: IBM, 1999.
  • An author and an editor. Be sure to include the author's name, the title of the book, and then the editor. Use the abbreviation ed. whether there is one editor or many.

    Faulkner, William. The Portable Faulkner. Ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: The Viking Press, 1978.
  • An editor. Give the name of the editor or editors, followed by ed. (if one editor) or eds. (if more than one editor).

    Baker, Russell, ed. The Norton Book of Light Verse. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1986.
  • A book in a series. After the title, include the name of the series and series number.

    Horatio, Leon. Phillip Roth. Twayne's United States Authors Series 54. Boston: Twayne, 1999.
  • A translation. After the title, write Trans. (“translated by”) and the name of the translator.

    Cervantes. Don Quixote. Trans. Vilma Sanchez. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1999.
  • A selection reprinted in an anthology. First give the name of the author and the title of selection, then the title of the book, the editor, the edition, and the publication information.

    King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History. Ed. William Safire. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1992.

Citing Periodicals

The basic citation for an article looks like this:

Author's last name, first name. “Title of the Article.” Magazine. Month and year of publication: page numbers.

Notice that the date in a bibliographic citation is written in European style, with the date before the month, rather than after. For example: 12 September 1989.

If the page numbers in an article are not consecutive, cite the first page number followed by a plus sign (+).

Here are some variations on periodical citations:

  • Signed article in a monthly magazine.

    Mallory, Jane. “Sing Your Way to Happiness.” American Educator May 1999: 49-50.
  • Signed article in a weekly magazine.

    Losi, Jennifer. “Art and Architecture.” Time 20 August 1998: 11-12.
  • Unsigned article.

    “Beanie Babies May Be a Rotten Nest Egg.” Chicago Tribune 21 June 1989: 12.
  • Editorial. Show that the article is an editorial by writing Editorial after the title. “Nassau Country Bailout.” Editorial. Newsday 12
  • Review. To indicate that an article is a book, movie, or play review, write “Rev. of” before the work being reviewed. Use the abbreviation “dir.” for the director.

    Goldish, Meish. “The Karen Ziemba Story” Rev. of Steel Pier, dir. Chaya Rosen. The New York Times 1 August 1998: 1.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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