Whether to link a URL, DOI, or permalink in a works-cited-list entry for a work published or submitted in digital format is optional. The MLA Handbook notes that one benefit of URLs is that they “may be clickable” in digital formats (48). The URLs in the e-book version of the handbook, for example, are linked.
MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.
Subheads are not necessary in works-cited lists for most student work or essay-length publications but can be useful in some lengthy or complex publications geared toward a specialist audience. The important rule of thumb is this: only divide a works-cited list if it helps readers navigate the list. All too often, readers do not know enough about a work to determine where to locate it in a subdivided list.
Grouping entries can sometimes be helpful in books about a single author or a single work. For example, the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, second edition (2014), discusses the various editions of Chaucer’s poem. Thus in the works-cited list, editions of The Canterbury Tales are listed under the subhead “Editions.” Complete works, translations, and so on are listed under the appropriate rubrics, along with a list of primary and critical works. The subheads are organized as follows:
Works by Chaucer
Editions of The Canterbury Tales
Translations of The Canterbury Tales
Facsimile Editions of The Canterbury Tales
Primary and Critical Works
Another reason for subdividing entries is to group unusual types of works that would be difficult to integrate into an alphabetical list—numbered boxes from an archive, for example—or that are especially important to highlight for readers. In the MLA’s Academic Collective Bargaining, bargaining agreements are grouped together in one essay’s works-cited list.
Many collective nouns can be either singular or plural, depending on how they are used. As Claire Kehrwald Cook writes, “[I]f the collective noun denotes a unit, make it singular; if it refers to the individuals the group comprises, make it plural” (84). So you could say, “The Marching Knights is the best school band in Orlando, hands down,” or “The Marching Knights run for cover whenever there is a downpour.”
Cook, Claire Kehrwald. Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
When Merriam-Webster indicates that a term is “capitalized” or “usually capitalized,” the MLA capitalizes the term in its publications. When Merriam-Webster indicates that a term is “often capitalized,” our practice varies. We usually lowercase sun, moon, and earth, but, following The Chicago Manual of Style, when the does not precede the name of the planet, when earth is not part of an idiomatic expression, or when other planets are mentioned, we capitalize earth:
The earth revolves around the sun.
The astronauts landed on the moon.
The space shuttle will return to Earth next year.
The four planets closest to the sun—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—compose the inner solar system.
Students should style a source in an annotated bibliography just as they would in a list of works cited and then append an annotation to the end of the entry. Annotations describe or evaluate sources. As James Harner writes, “[G]ood annotations accurately and incisively—but not cryptically—distill the essence of works” and “focus the reader’s attention on major points” (28). Annotations should not rehash minor details, cite evidence, quote the author, or recount steps in an argument. Writing an effective annotation requires reading the work, understanding its aims, and clearly summarizing them. For this reason, annotations may aid students in conducting research.
Annotations are generally written as succinct phrases:
Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007. A synthesis of classic film theory and an examination of the state of film studies as of 2007 that draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.
But if you prefer to have your students use complete sentences, the students should add a line space after the entry and then begin the annotation with a paragraph indent:
Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Polity, 2007.
This synthesis of classic film theory examines the state of film studies as of 2007. It draws on contemporary scholarship in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.
The list should be titled Annotated Bibliography or Annotated List of Works Cited. Students may organize the bibliography alphabetically by author or title (as for a normal list of works cited), by the date of publication, or by subject.
Harner, James. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. Modern Language Association of America, 2000.
To cite a term in the dictionary that includes different parts of speech in the headword, follow the MLA format template and begin with the headword (as it appears) as the title of the source. Note that this may include parts of speech.
“Heavy, Adj. 1 and N.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford UP, 2015, www.oed.com/view/Entry/85246?rskey=aIe8OM&result=1.
“Heavy.” Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. 7, Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 84.
When you alphabetize your works-cited list, treat numbers in titles as though they were spelled out.
Let’s say, for example, you need to alphabetize entries for George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, along with two entries for lyrics to songs by Radiohead thought to be inspired by Orwell’s novels, “2 + 2 = 5” and “Optimistic.” Treat 1984 as Nineteen Eighty-Four and “2 + 2 = 5” as “Two plus Two Equals Five,” and alphabetize the entries by their titles accordingly:
Orwell, George. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. 1946. Plume, 2003.
—. 1984. 1949. Introduction by Julian Symons, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Radiohead. “Optimistic.” MetroLyrics, CBS Interactive, 2016, www.metrolyrics.com/optimistic-lyrics-radiohead.html.
MLA style avoids ibid. and op. cit., using short titles instead, on the principles that (1) a short title makes your reference clearer to readers, not requiring them to look back in text, notes, or documentation, with a groan, to find what exactly the abbreviation is pointing to, and that (2) the days of expecting an educated person to know Latin and Greek are over—i.e. and e.g. notwithstanding. QED.
The MLA format template calls for a period after the title of a source, but if the title of a source ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do not include a period. Question marks or exclamation points, as stronger marks, always supersede a period:
Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Signet, 1983.
If, however, the title of the container ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do add a comma after the question mark. MLA style allows a comma after a question mark or exclamation point if the comma facilitates reading or if rewording is impossible. Since a works-cited-list entry cannot be reworded and since the MLA template calls for a comma after the title of a container, retain the comma:
Tomlinson, Hugh, and Graham Burchell. Translators’ introduction. What Is Philosophy?, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Columbia UP, 1994.
Astley, Rick. Concert. 6 Oct. 2016, Town Hall, New York City.
If you are discussing a collaborative performance, generally begin with the title of the source. In the below example, the author of the play, the director, and the lead performers appear in the “Other contributors” position. Provide the name of the company presenting the work in the publisher slot, then the date of the performance, and the location:
Heartbreak House. By George Bernard Shaw, directed by Robin Lefevre, performances by Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, Roundabout Theatre Company, 1 Oct. 2006, American Airlines Theatre, New York.
If your discussion of the work focuses on the contribution of a particular person, begin the entry with that person’s name, followed by a descriptive label:
Lefevre, Robin, director. Heartbreak House. By George Bernard Shaw, performances by Philip Bosco and Swoosie Kurtz, Roundabout Theatre Company, 1 Oct. 2006, American Airlines Theatre, New York.
Get MLA Style News from The Source
Be the first to read new posts and updates about MLA style.