MLA In-Text Citations

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Everything You Need to Know About Citations in Prose and Parenthetical Citations

This guide focuses on how to create MLA in-text citations, such as citations in prose and parenthetical citations in the current MLA style, which is in its 9th edition. This style was created by the Modern Language Association. This guide reviews guidelines they’ve published, but is not related directly to the association.

Researchers add quotes or information from books, websites, journals, and many other source types into their own projects or assignments. This is done to:

    • Provide additional evidence to defend or oppose an argument or claim
    • Provide background knowledge on a topic to aid in understanding
    • Include the essence or eloquence of another author’s work in a project

It is important to understand that using information from other sources and placing them into a project is entirely acceptable and recommended, as it can enhance the credibility of a paper. However, the only ethical way information from outside sources can be included in a project is if the researcher lets the reader know that the information was obtained elsewhere, and tells them where that information is from. This is done in the text with a citation in prose or parenthetical citation, AND a full reference on the MLA Works Cited page (the final page of a project).

If you’re looking for information on styling an APA citation, EasyBib.com has the guides you need!


What are They and What is the Difference?


Parenthetical Citation Reference Chart

Author/Sources In-text citation Structure & Explanation
No author (Corgi Care 41)

(“Nothing Lost” 178)

(Title Location)

Use the title. Use an abbreviated version if it’s long. Format the title like you do in the reference.

“Quotation marks” = Work that’s part of a bigger source (e.g., book chapter, journal article, blog post, etc.)

Italics = Book, play, entire website, etc.

One author (Epstein 161) (Author’s last name Location)
One author, 2 sources (Austen Emma and Mansfield Park) (Last name 1st Source’s title and 2nd Source’s title)
Two authors, 1 source (Eriksson and Sagen 23) From one source – list both authors separated by and, followed by the page number.
3+ authors (Leung et al. 58) Use et al. to indicate that there are 3 or more authors.
Corporate authors (The British Museum)

(United States, Dept. of Education 82)

List the corporation or organization’s name. Use abbreviations as appropriate. If several names are given, list all the names and separate them by a comma.
Editor (Castillo 74) Use the editor’s name instead of the author’s name.
Different sources, Same in-text citation (Sarreal 11; DeArce 65) Cite both authors/locations individually separated by a semicolon.


Sources With Two Authors

There are many books, journal articles, magazine articles, reports, and other source types written or created by two authors.


Sources With Three or More Authors

There are a number of sources written or created by three or more authors. Many research studies and reports, scholarly journal articles, and government publications are developed by three or more individuals.


Sources Without an Author

It may seem unlikely, but there are times when an author’s name isn’t included on a source. Many digital images, films and videos, encyclopedia articles, dictionary entries, web pages, and more do not have author names listed.


Corporate Authors

Numerous government publications, research reports, and brochures state the name of the organization as the author responsible for publishing it.


Edited Books and Anthologies


Sources without Page Numbers and Online Sources


Citing the Same Source Multiple Times


Citing Two or More Sources in the Same In-text Citation

According to section 6.30 of the Handbook, parenthetical citations containing multiple sources in a single parenthesis should be separated by semicolons.

(Granger 5; Tsun 77)

(Ruiz 212; Diego 149)


Citing Multiple Works by the Same Author in One In-text Citation

Just as you might want to cite two different sources at the same time, it can also be useful to cite different works by the same author all at once.


Abbreviating Titles

When listing the titles, be aware that long titles in parenthetical citations can distract the reader and cause confusion. It will be necessary to shorten the titles appropriately for in-text citations. According to the Handbook, “shorten the title if it is longer than a noun phrase” (237). The abbreviated title should begin with the word by which the title is alphabetized.

Best practice is to give the first word the reference is listed by so the source is easily found in the works cited. Omit articles that start a title: a, an, the. When possible, use the first noun (and any adjectives before it). For more on titles and their abbreviations, head to section 6.10 of the Handbook.

  • Full titleThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 
  • Abbreviated: Curious
  • Full title:  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks 
  • Abbreviated:  Disreputable History

Religious Works and Scriptures

There are instances when religious works are italicized in the text of a project, and times when it is not necessary to italicize the title.

If you’re referring to the general religious text, such as the Bible, Torah, or Qur’an, it is not necessary to italicize the name of the scripture in the body of the project. If you’re referring to a specific edition of a religious text, then it is necessary to italicize it, both in text and in the full reference.

Here are some commonly used editions:

  • King James Bible
  • The Orthodox Jewish Bible
  • American Standard Bible
  • The Steinsaltz Talmud
  • The Babylonian Talmud
  • New International Bible

 

When including a reference, do not use page numbers from the scripture. Instead, use the designated chapter numbers and verse numbers.

MLA example of an in-text citation for a religious scripture:

While, unacceptable in today’s society, the Bible is riddled with individuals who have two, three, and sometimes four or more spouses. One example in the King James Bible, states that an individual “had two wives, the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (1 Sam. 1.2)

The only religious scripture that is allowed to be in the text of a project, but not in the Works Cited list, is the Qur’an. There is only one version of the Qur’an. It is acceptable to include the name of the Qur’an in the text, along with the specific chapter and verse numbers.

If you’re attempting to create a reference for a religious work, but it’s not considered a “classic” religious book, such as a biography about Mother Teresa, or a book about Muhammed Ali’s conversion, then a reference in the text and also on the final page of the project is necessary.

If you’re creating an APA bibliography, you do not need to create a full reference for classic religious works on an APA reference page.

For another MLA in-text citation website and for more on the Bible and other source types, click here.


Long or Block Quotes

Quotes longer than four lines are called, “block quotes.” Block quotes are sometimes necessary when you’re adding a lengthy piece of information into your project. If you’d like to add a large portion of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a lengthy amount of text from a Mark Twain book, or multiple lines from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a block quote is needed.

Block quotes are formatted differently than shorter quotes in the body of a project. Why? The unique formatting signals to the reader that they’re about to read a lengthy quote.

Block quotes are called block quotes because they form their own block of text. They are set apart from the body of a project, with different spacing and margins.

Begin the block quote on a new line. The body of the full project should run along the one inch margin, but the block quote should be set in an inch and a half. The entire quote should be along the inch and a half margin.

If there aren’t any quotation marks in the text itself, do not include any in the block quote. This is very different than standard reference rules. In most cases, quotation marks are added around quoted material. For block quotes, since the reader can see that the quoted material sits in its own block, it is not necessary to place quotation marks around it.

Here is an MLA citation in prose example of a block quote:

Despite Bruchac’s consistent difficult situations at home, basketball kept his mind busy and focused:

When I got off the late bus that afternoon, my grandparents weren’t home. The store was locked and there was a note from Grama on the house door. Doc Magovern had come to the house because Grampa was “having trouble with his blood.” Now they were off to the hospital and I “wasn’t to worry.” This had happened before. Grampa had pernicious anemia and sometimes was very sick. So, naturally, it worried the pants off me. I actually thought about taking my bike down the dreaded 9N the three miles to the Saratoga Hospital. Instead, I did as I knew they wanted. I opened the store and waited for customers. None came, though, and my eye was caught by the basketball stowed away as usual behind the door. I had to do something to take my mind off what was happening to Grampa. I took out the ball and went around the side. (13)

Notice the use of the colon prior to the start of the block quote. Do not use a colon if the block quote is part of the sentence above it.

Here is an example of the same block quote, without the use of the colon:

Despite Bruchac’s consistent difficult situations at home, it was clear that basketball kept his mind busy and focused when he states

When I get off the late bus that afternoon, my grandparents weren’t home…

If two or more paragraphs are included in your block quote, start each paragraph on a new line.

Looking for additional helpful websites? Need another MLA in-text citation website? Check out the style in the news. We also have other handy articles, guides, and posts to help you with your research needs. Here’s one on how to write an MLA annotated bibliography.

Visit our EasyBib Twitter feed to discover more citing tips, fun grammar facts, and the latest product updates.

Overview of MLA in-text citation structures


Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.


Published October 31, 2011. Updated July 5, 2021.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.


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How do I cite multiple sources by the same author in MLA?

In MLA style, if multiple sources have the same author, the titles should be joined by and if there are only two. Otherwise, use commas and and.

  • In-text citation: (Austen Emma and Mansfield Park)
  • Structure: (Last name 1st Source’s title and 2nd Source’s title)
How do I cite a source with 3+ authors in text?
If a source has three or more authors, only include the last name of the first author followed by the Latin phrase, “et al.” All other authors are accredited when “et al.” is used.
  • In-text citation: (Leung et al. 58)
How do I cite corporate authors in text?

If the author is a corporate entity or organization, included the name of the corporate entity or organization in the in-text citation.

  • In-text citation: (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 2)
Can I download my sources?

Yes, there’s an option to download source citations as a Word Doc or a Google Doc. You may also copy citations from the EasyBib Citation Generator and paste them into your paper.

Can I create a manual citation?

Yes! Whether you’d like to learn how to construct citations on your own, our Autocite tool isn’t able to gather the metadata you need, or anything in between, manual citations are always an option. Click here for directions on using creating manual citations.