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Popular Questions

In an interview, the person being interviewed is generally considered the author; thus the works-cited-list entry for the interview will be listed under that person’s name. If you use the name of the person being interviewed in your prose, you have provided your reader with the necessary information to find the entry:

Orhan Pamuk has said that the war in Iraq “made life for democrats in this part of the world harder” (179).

 Work Cited

Pamuk, Orhan. “Implementing Disform: An Interview with Orhan Pamuk.” Interview conducted by Z. Esra Mirze. PMLA, vol. 123, no. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 176–80.

If, however, you include the interviewer’s name in prose as well, it may be helpful to parenthetically repeat the name under which the works-cited-list entry appears:

In an interview with Z. Esra Mirze, Orhan Pamuk said that the war in Iraq “made life for democrats in this part of the world harder” (Pamuk 179).

To quote dialogue between the interviewer and the interviewee, use the following format:

MIRZE. How important is the idea of home to you?

PAMUK. It is very important. Why? Because I have been living in the same city, the same neighborhood, even in the same house, for all of my life. . . . Home, of course, is important to an immigrant, perhaps more important because that is what he left behind. But home is also important for the guy who is at home all the time. (Pamuk 179)

 

If you need to shorten a title enclosed in quotation marks that begins with a quotation, use the title within the title as the short form and retain the single quotation marks within double quotation marks:

As Barry Menikoff shows, Stevenson’s novels were influenced by his relation to the South Seas (“‘These Problematic Shores’”).

Works Cited

Menikoff, Barry. Narrating Scotland: The Imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson. U of South Carolina P, 2005.

—. “‘These Problematic Shores’: Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas.” The Ends of the Earth, 1876-1918, edited by Simon Gatrell, Ashfield Press, 1992, pp. 141-46.

When the introductory quotation is extremely long, truncate it:

Although Pamela is accepted into Mr. B.’s family, Charlotte Sussman argues that this outcome is tempered by the “precarious nature of Pamela’s ‘happiness,’” which is “hemmed in by the threat of physical punishment” as depicted in the narrative references to Sally Godfrey (“‘I Wonder’” 97). 

Works Cited

Sussman, Charlotte. “Epic, Exile, and the Global: Felicia Hemans’s The Forest Sanctuary.” Nineteenth-Century Literature, vol. 65, no. 4, 2011, pp. 481-512.

—.“‘I Wonder Whether Poor Miss Sally Godfrey Be Living or Dead’: The Married Woman and the Rise of the Novel.” Diacritics, vol. 20, no. 1, 1990, pp. 88-102.

A similar issue occurs when shortening a title within quotation marks that begins with a title in quotation marks. See our post for examples.

When you cite a chapter by an individual author in a work with coauthors, you must create a separate works-cited-list entry for each chapter:

Althusser, Louis. “Marx’s Critique.” Reading Capital, by Althusser and Étienne Balibar, translated by Ben Brewster, Verso, 2009, pp. 182-200.

Balibar, Étienne. “On Reproduction.” Reading Capital, by Louis Althusser and Balibar, translated by Ben Brewster, Verso, 2009, pp. 285-305.

Last names in English composed of more than one element are usually shortened to the final element, so a name like Harriet Beecher Stowe would be shortened to Stowe. Practices vary, however, so it’s best to consult a dictionary.

For names not listed in the dictionary, consult a reputable source, like the Library of Congress catalog, or cross-check against news articles or other works that refer to the person. For example, the last name of the writer Jonathan Safran Foer is shortened in the Library of Congress catalog and in news articles to Foer, but the last name of the English composer Andrew Lloyd Weber is shortened in the Library of Congress catalog and in news articles to Lloyd Weber. If you are unable to find the information in a reliable source, shorten the last name to the final element.

If you are working directly with the person, ask for the preferred form of reference. 

In a works-cited-list, when you list several letters by the same author to different recipients, alphabetize the letters according to the names of the recipients. For an example, see the letters from Thomas Hart Benton to Charles Fremont and Jessie Ann Benton Fremont in our post on citing unpublished letters.

 

Yes, unless you have already mentioned the author’s name in your prose. Just because a work is famous doesn’t mean you can omit the name of its author.

As the MLA Handbook notes, “When a source has no page numbers or any other kind of part number, no number should be given in a parenthetical citation” (56). The following example illustrates this principle: 

“As we read we . . . construct the terrain of a book” (Hollmichel), something that is more difficult when the text reflows on a screen.

Work Cited

Hollmichel, Stefanie. “The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print.” So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013, somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/ the-readingbrain-differences-between-digital-and-print/.

If you provide the author’s name in a signal phrase when quoting or paraphrasing a work with no page or part numbers, you should not provide a parenthetical citation at all:

Stefanie Hollmichel remarks that “[a]s we read we . . . construct the terrain of a book,” something that is more difficult when the text reflows on a screen. 

In the example above, your reader has all the information needed to key the source to the works-cited list: the author’s name. Repeating the author’s name in parentheses would be redundant, and since there is no page, part, or chapter number to give, the citation is complete. 

If no author’s name is given, use the title—or after the first mention of the title in full, a short title—as the signal phrase.

Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

To cite a patent, follow the MLA format template. List the owner of the patent in the “Author” slot, the title of the patent or a description in the “Title of source” slot, the number of the patent, the name of the agency issuing the patent in the “Publisher” slot, and the date of issue in the “Publication date” slot:

Neustel, Michael S. Patent analyzing system. US 20140200880 A1, United States Patent and Trademark Office, 17 July 2014.

If you found the patent online, include the title of the Web site as the title of the second container and provide the URL as the location:

Neustel, Michael S. Patent analyzing system. US 20140200880 A1, United States Patent and Trademark Office, 17 July 2014. USPTO Patent Full-Text and Image Database, patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l =50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=neustel.INNM.&OS =IN/neustel&RS=IN/neustel.

Here we refer to meme in its sense as “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media” (“Meme”).

Citing Particular Examples of Memes

You would cite a meme in MLA style just as you would any other work: follow the MLA format template. When citing a meme, you should cite the particular instance or instances of the meme you consult—not the entire genre, the examples of which are usually created by many different hands and published in various places and at various times. (Although you can, of course, describe the genre in your prose.)

For example, you might cite a meme from a Twitter post featuring the Elf on the Shelf meme:

@nsarmoredfrog. “You’ve heard of elf on the shelf, now get ready for     . . .” Twitter, 17 Sept. 2017, twitter.com/nsarmoredfrog/status/    909460799365693440.

If you refer to an online article that collects various examples of a meme, the article is your source:

One example of the Elf on the Shelf meme features a cat on a mat (Kircher).

Work Cited

Kircher, Madison Malone. “You’ve Heard of Elf on the Shelf, Now Get Ready for This Meme with a Rhyme Scheme.” Select/All, 15 Sept. 2017, nymag.com/selectall/2017/09/rhyming-elf-on-the-shelf-memes-explained.html.

Titles of Memes

Many meme genres develop de facto titles—for example, Elf on the Shelf, Evil Kermit, and What People Think I Do. Style the title like a series title: capitalize it title style and do not use italics or quotation marks.

One challenge in citing memes is that individual meme examples often lack a title or employ the same formulaic textual framework. In the case of Evil Kermit, for example, the meme consists of a photo of “good” and “evil” Kermit with a statement from “Me” succeeded by a statement by “Evil Kermit.” If you were citing various examples of this meme, you would substitute a description in the “Title of container” slot.

Your entries might then be distinguishable by the author:

Whereas some Evil Kermit memes focus on avoiding yoga (Parker), others focus on calling in sick to work (Sanchez).

Works Cited

Parker, Susan. Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 3 Dec. 2017.

Sanchez, Roland. Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 3 Dec. 2017.

Or, in cases where the same person used the meme repeatedly, perhaps the date would disambiguate references:

Susan Parker’s Evil Kermit memes focus variously on avoiding yoga (3. Dec.) and mixing cocktails while avoiding yoga (5 Dec.).

Works Cited

Parker, Susan. Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 3 Dec. 2017.

. Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 5 Dec. 2017.

If the same author published multiple instances of a meme on the same platform on the same date, you could add more detail to your description of the meme:

Some versions of the Evil Kermit meme, such as those by Facebook user Eleanor Freely, explore the joys of having a cocktail with friends instead of baking (“Me: Bake”) and the temptations of binge watching The Crown instead of doing household chores (“Me: Iron).

Work Cited

Freely, Eleanor. “Me: Bake cookies for the grandkids” Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 3 Dec. 2017.

—. “Me: Iron the tablecloth” Evil Kermit meme. Facebook, 3 Dec. 2017.

 

Work Cited

“Meme, N.” Merriam-Webster Unabridged, 2017, unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/meme.

Yes.

The MLA style discourages the use of italics in academic prose to emphasize or point, because they are unnecessary—most often, the unadorned words do the job without typographic assistance. And if they don’t, then rewording is often the best solution. This policy is a matter of stylistic convention, not grammar.  

Reserve italics for emphasis for those few occasions when misreading is likely to result without them or when you simply feel that emphasis is the most effective means of getting your idea across.

Advice: You should always give extra consideration to how a sentence reads without the italics you were thinking of adding, much like a computer prompt that asks, before you hit Enter, “Are you sure?” If you’re sure—and only if you’re sure there’s no better solution—go ahead and italicize the word.

To cite a primary-source document from a kit, follow the MLA format template. Begin by providing the title of the document or a description of it. Then list the title of the kit as the title of container and provide any pertinent publication details: 

Illumination from a fifteenth-century book of hours. Black Death: The Plague, by E. R. Chamberlin, adapted by Muriel L. Dubois, Jack Daws Publications, 2005.

 

 

Yes.

Use the first name.

Some categories of personal names lack a last name–for example, some rulers and members of the nobility and many premodern people, whose name includes a place-name and not a surname (e.g., John of Gaunt).

When you list such names in your works-cited-list entry, follow the guidelines in section 2.1.2 of the MLA Handbook: omit any titles and alphabetize the name according to how it appears in the dictionary.

Thus Queen Elizabeth I would be listed under Elizabeth and Catherine of Aragon would be listed under Catherine. As always, key your in-text reference to the first element of the works-cited-list entry.

In your prose, you may refer first to the full name (e.g., Catherine of Aragon) and then, in subsequent references, to the first name alone (e.g., Catherine).

If a source is written by an author who is known only by initials, you have several options.

Treat the Initials as a Unit

One option is to treat the initials as a unit. You would use the initials in your prose or in your in-text citation and list the entry under the first initial in your works-cited list entry:

“It is now received a general opinion that the good will of parents is required . . .” (T. E. 53).

Work Cited

T. E. The Law’s Resolutions of Women’s Rights; or The Law’s Provision for Women. London, 1632.

You should choose this option if you have no way of knowing whether the initials represent a first and last name.

Treat the Initials as Representing a First and Last Name

Another option is to treat the initials as representing a first and last name. In this case, use the initials in your prose or in your in-text citation and invert the initials in the works-cited-list entry. List the entry under the last initial.

Among other anti-Pamelists is J– W–, author of Pamela; or, The Fair Imposter.

Work Cited

W–, J–, esquire. Pamela; or, The Fair Imposter: A Poem in Five Cantas. Dublin, 1743.

Use this option if you are sure that the initials stand for a first and last name or if it’s conventional to treat them thus. Here the dashes after the initials, which are present in the source, and the use of “esquire” suggest that the initials refer to a first and last name. An eighteenth-century scholar would be aware that names are conventionally represented in this manner in works from the 1700s.

Replace the Initials with the Full Name

If you know or can find the full name of the person represented by the initials, you should replace the initials with the full name. For example, the author of the preface to the MLA’s publication Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Samuel Richardson is listed as “L. Z.” Since the book is edited in part by Lisa Zunshine, if you cite the preface in your works-cited list, you would provide Lisa Zunshine’s full name:

Zunshine, Lisa. Preface. Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Samuel Richardson, edited by Zunshine and Jocelyn Harris, Modern Language Association of America, 2006, pp. xi-xiii.

Although a student would not be expected to look outside the source to discover what the initials stand for, a scholar might look for the full name in archival materials or might simply know that a particular person from the period is known by the initials.

Note

Examples adapted from Mary Beth Rose, “A Voyage on a Dangerous Sea: Marriage as Heroism in Early Modern English Prose,” Teaching Early Modern English Prose, edited by Susannah Brietz Monta and Margaret W. Ferguson, Modern Language Association of America, 2010, pp. 143–53; Felicity A. Nussbaum, “Naughty Pamela’s ‘Sweet Confusion,’” Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Samuel Richardson, edited by Lisa Zunshine and Jocelyn Harris, Modern Language Association of America, 2006, pp. 63–69.