Are notes compatible with MLA style?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Yes. Two kinds of notes are suitable with the parenthetical citations used in MLA style: content notes and bibliographic notes. These may be styled either as footnotes or endnotes.
Content notes offer the reader comment, explanation, or information that the text can’t accommodate. In general, they should be used only when you need to justify or clarify what you have written or when further amplification of your point is especially helpful.
Example in Text
Jane Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park begins and ends with the topic of marriage. In this regard it seems to fit into the genre of the courtship novel, a form, popular in the eighteenth century, in which the plot is driven by the heroine’s difficulties in attracting an offer from the proper suitor. According to Katherine Sobba Green, the courtship novel “detailed a young woman’s entrance into society, the problems arising from that situation, her courtship, and finally her choice (almost always fortunate) among suitors” (2). Often the heroine and her eventual husband are kept apart initially by misunderstanding, by the hero’s misguided attraction to another, by financial obstacles, or by family objections.1
Green, Katherine Sobba. The Courtship Novel 1740-1820: A Feminized Genre. UP of Kentucky, 1991.
Hinnant, Charles H. “Jane Austen’s ‘Wild Imagination’: Romance and the Courtship Plot in the Six Canonical Novels.” Narrative, vol. 14, no. 3, 2006, pp. 294-310. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20107392.
In MLA style, bibliographic notes are best used only when you need to cite several sources or make evaluative comments on your sources.