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Is it acceptable to use the abbreviation cf. in MLA style?

In MLA style, cf. may be used in parenthetical citations, but writers should take care not to use the abbreviation, meaning “compare” (from the Latin “confer”), when they intend see also. Whereas see also is used to direct a reader to a supplementary work, cf. is used to compare one source with another:

Diminutive staffs (between ten and twenty officials to inspect the nation’s multifarious workhouses) necessarily meant that much was left to “local discretion” (Fraser 53; cf. Wood 79–83).*

In the example above, the citation “(Fraser 53; cf. Wood 79–83)” means that Fraser is the source of the preceding borrowed material and that Wood may be compared with Fraser.

Published 24 July 2019

Should there be a space between a time and a.m. and p.m. in both prose and works-cited-list entries?

Yes. In MLA style, there should always be a space between the time and a.m. and p.m.:

Responding to the MLA Style Center post “Apostrophes,” Doug asked, on 30 March 2018, at 1:16 p.m., whether one should write “Albert Camus’ novel or Albert Camus’s novel.”
Work Cited
Doug. Comment on “Apostrophes: One Mark, Three Ways.” The MLA Style Center, 30 Mar. 2018, 1:16 p.m.,

Published 7 May 2019

In prose and titles, should an author use 3-D and 2-D or spell out the abbreviations?

It depends. MLA style minimizes the use of abbreviations in prose, but if in certain contexts the abbreviation is more common than the spelled out term, use the abbreviation. For example, you might refer to 3-D movie rather than three-dimensional movie, but you might write a two-dimensional surface rather than a 2-D surface. 
If you are citing the title of a published work that includes the abbreviations, use the abbreviations. If you are supplying the title of your own work, be consistent: use whichever form—abbreviation or spelled-out term—that you have used in your paper.

Published 14 February 2019

Should I use BC and AD or BCE and CE for era designations?

The choice of era designations is up to the writer. In our publications, we prefer to use BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era), both of which follow the year:

200 BCE
300 CE

If you use BC (before Christ) and AD (anno Domini, medieval Latin for “in the year of the Lord”), note that, by convention, BC follows the year, and AD precedes it:

200 BC
AD 300

  . . .

Published 25 January 2019

Should et al. be italicized in MLA style?

Only italicize et al., meaning “and others,” if it is referred to as a term, as the examples in this sentence and the question above show. In parenthetical citations and works-cited-list entries, the abbreviation should be set roman, as shown in the MLA Handbook (116, 22):

(Burdick et al. 42)
Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. MIT P, 2012.

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

Published 17 January 2019

How do I abbreviate the name of a corporate author in my in-text citation?

Use either the first few words of the name or, if not cumbersome, the entity’s initials. For example, Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and Its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline might be shortened to Institute or Institute of Medicine, but National Institutes of Health might be shortened to NIH.
Whichever form you choose, use it consistently throughout your work.
  . . .

Published 30 November 2018

When is a comma used before et al. in MLA style?

In MLA style, a comma is generally only used before et al. in the “Author” slot of works-cited-list entries when the author’s first and last names are reversed:

Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. MIT P, 2012. 

The comma tells your reader that the name Anne is out of normal position and that the abbreviation attaches to the full name, not just to Anne.
In contrast, in an entry starting with a name that is not reversed—for example, a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean name—no comma is needed:

Liu Chang et al. “Cong Changchungong dao Zhongcuigong.” Zijincheng, . . .

Published 11 September 2018

Is a compound subject a noun phrase for the purposes of abbreviating a title, or should I just use the first noun?

As section 3.2.1 of the MLA Handbook explains, when you need to shorten a title for a parenthetical citation, “give the first noun and any preceding adjectives, while excluding any initial article: aanthe” (117). Thus, if a title consists of a compound subject, use only the first noun and any adjectives that precede it as the abbreviated title. For example, if the title of an essay is “Memory and Experience,” abbreviate the title as “Memory.” If the title is “Faulty Memory and Bad Experience,” shorten the title to “Faulty Memory.” . . .

Published 11 April 2018

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