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How should I style my parenthetical citation the first time I quote lines from a poem if I have not mentioned the author’s name in my prose?

The MLA Handbook explains that if you are citing line numbers instead of page numbers in your parenthetical citation, you should “in your first citation, use the word line or lines” before the line numbers, “and then, having established that the numbers designate lines, give the numbers alone” (121):

According to the narrator of Felicia Hemans’s poem, the emerging prisoners “had learn’d, in cells of secret gloom, / How sunshine is forgotten!” (lines 131-32).

If you do not mention the author’s name in your prose, include it in the parenthetical citation and separate the name from the word line or lines with a comma:

According to the narrator of the poem,

Published 12 June 2019

How do I cite photographs or other images that I use in a PowerPoint presentation or Web project?

Cite an image used in a PowerPoint presentation or Web project the same way you would cite it in a printed paper. See the example in our post on citing a screenshot or frame capture in a caption. As the post explains, if the image is merely illustrative, provide full publication details in a caption. But if you refer to the source of the image elsewhere, the caption should provide only enough detail needed to key to a works-cited-list entry. The list of works cited may be included as the final slide or as the last page of the Web project. 

Published 15 May 2019

How do I cite an abstract?

Very few circumstances call for citing an abstract.
Never cite an abstract as a short-cut, a way of avoiding reading and citing the full published work. This is akin to citing the summary of a work that you would find on a book jacket or on a site like CliffsNotes. If you cite an abstract in lieu of the work it summarizes, you are shortchanging both the author and yourself: you are not accurately representing the author’s complete work, which may contain key information that is missing from the abstract, and you lose the experience of reading and engaging with the author’s extended argument and the evidence that supports it.

Published 1 May 2019

How do you punctuate a question that quotes a question?

Do not use two question marks. Use only the question mark contained in the quotation:

Which Shakespeare character asked, “Is this a dagger which I see before me,  / The handle toward my hand?” 

But if the sentence includes a parenthetical citation, place the question mark after the citation:

How would you respond to the writer’s question, “How important is punctuation” (5)?


Published 30 April 2019

If students omit from their works-cited lists works they have cited in their paper, have they plagiarized?

As our plagiarism guide notes, “Plagiarism is presenting another person’s ideas, information, expressions, or entire work as one’s own.” Citing sources accurately often requires learning and then carrying out various complex mechanical tasks, from using quotation marks to including an in-text citation to listing the source in the works-cited list. Even professional writers accidentally leave sources out of their works-cited lists (hence the need for editors).
Although we cannot speak to individual instances of source omission, we would encourage teachers to weigh the sum total of a student’s effort to credit a source, as well as the scope of any omissions,

Published 26 April 2019

How do I quote lyrics from a duet in which the performers take turns singing?

How you quote lyrics from a duet depends on how you accessed them and how many lines you are borrowing.
If you quote lyrics from a printed source—such as liner notes, a Web site, or video captions—and borrow fewer than three lines at a time from the song, you can run the quotations into your text. You can make clear in your prose which performer is singing which lines and key your in-text citation to the first element of your works-cited-list entry. In the example below, the prose makes clear that Jamie Foxx sings one line of the song “Pop Goes the Weasel”

Published 25 April 2019

How do I cite a magazine cover in my works-cited list and in my essay?

To cite the cover of a magazine, you can generally create a works-cited-list entry for the issue of the magazine and then key your in-text reference to the first element of the entry: 

The most recent issue of The Nation features on its cover an image of a donkey with the top of the Capitol building on its back.
Work Cited
The Nation. 17-24 Dec. 2018,

If you discuss a cover image in detail and wish to credit the artist, you could provide the artist’s full name at first mention in your prose or the artist’s last name in parentheses and list the entry under the artist’s name. 

Published 19 April 2019

How do I cite a work by an author with a Dutch name that includes the word van?

Particles in Dutch surnames—such as van, van den, van der, de, and ter—are lowercased in prose when the whole name is given:

Joost van der Berg plans to challenge Kaatje de Vries in the municipal council election.

When using only the last name, capitalize the particle:

Today the Volkskrant reported that De Vries would not seek a third term. The campaign office of Van der Berg could not be reached for a comment.

In an index or works-cited list, alphabetize a Dutch name by the main part of the last name and place the lowercased particle after the first name:


Published 15 April 2019

How do I cite a handbook or adventure module for a tabletop role-playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons?

If you are citing a published handbook or adventure module for a tabletop role-playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons, treat the work as you would any other book in MLA style and follow the MLA format template. Some published handbooks or adventures may be produced by many people playing various roles, so if your discussion of such a work does not focus on an individual’s contribution to the volume, begin the entry with the title of the work.

Player’s Handbook. Wizards of the Coast, 2014.
Storm King’s Thunder. Wizards of the Coast,

Published 5 April 2019

My paper is included in conference proceedings. If I refer to other papers included in the proceedings, do I need to create works-cited-list entries?

No. You do not need to document the other papers, but you should make clear in your prose that the other papers are included in the proceedings (e.g., “In an essay on Toni Morrison in these proceedings, Barbara Anderson writes . . .”). You may provide the page number or numbers of the passages you are citing if the publisher permits, but such information is not required.

Published 4 March 2019

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