Because long explanatory notes can be distracting to readers, most academic style guidelines (including MLA and APA, the American Psychological Association) recommend limited use of endnotes/footnotes. However, certain publishers encourage or require note references in lieu of parenthetical references.

MLA discourages extensive use of explanatory or digressive notes. MLA style does, however, allow you to use endnotes or footnotes for bibliographic notes, which refer to other publications your readers may consult. The following are some examples:

1. See Blackmur, especially chapters 3 and 4, for an insightful analysis of this trend.
2. On the problems related to repressed memory recovery, see Wollens 120-35; for a contrasting view, see Pyle 43; Johnson, Hull, Snyder 21-35; Krieg 78-91.
3. Several other studies point to this same conclusion. See Johnson and Hull 45-79, Kather 23-31, Krieg 50-57.

Or, you can also use endnotes/footnotes for occasional explanatory notes (also known as content notes), which refer to brief additional information that might be too digressive for the main text:

4. In a 1998 interview, she reiterated this point even more strongly: “I am an artist, not a politician!” (Weller 124).


Endnotes and footnotes in MLA format are indicated in-text by superscript Arabic numbers after the punctuation of the phrase or clause to which the note refers:

Some have argued that such an investigation would be fruitless.6
Scholars have argued for years that this claim has no basis,7 so we would do well to ignore it.

Note that when a long dash appears in the text, the footnote/endnote number appears before the dash:

For years, scholars have failed to address this point8—a fact that suggests their cowardice more than their carelessness.

Do not use asterisks (*), angle brackets (>), or other symbols for note references. The list of endnotes and footnotes (either of which, for papers submitted for publication, should be listed on a separate page, as indicated below) should correspond to the note references in the text.


Endnotes Page

MLA recommends that all notes be listed on a separate page entitled Notes (centered). Title the page Note if there is only one note. The Notes page should appear before the Works Cited page. This is especially important for papers being submitted for publication.

The notes themselves should be double-spaced and listed by consecutive Arabic numbers that correspond to the notation in the text. The first line of each endnote is indented five spaces, and subsequent lines are flush with the left margin. Place a period and a space after each endnote number, and then provide the appropriate note after the space.

Footnotes (below the text body)

The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook does not specify how to format footnotes. See the MLA Style Center for additional guidance on this topic and follow your instructor’s or editor’s preferences.

MLA Formatting Quotations

When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced.


To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page number (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the in-text citation, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation.

Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage, but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.

For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:

According to some, dreams express “profound aspects of personality” (Foulkes 184), though others disagree.
According to Foulkes’s study, dreams may express “profound aspects of personality” (184).
Is it possible that dreams may express “profound aspects of personality” (Foulkes 184)?

When using short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash). If a stanza break occurs during the quotation, use a double slash ( // ).

Cullen concludes, “Of all the things that happened there / That’s all I remember” (11-12).


For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1 inch from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples:

Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration: They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw’s door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)

When citing long sections of poetry (four lines of verse or more), keep formatting as close to the original as possible.

In his poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” Theodore Roethke explores his childhood with his father:

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We Romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself. (qtd. in Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue 202)

When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. If you cite more than one paragraph, the first line of the second paragraph should be indented an extra 1/4 inch to denote a new paragraph:

In “American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement,” David Russell argues,

Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .

From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widening number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)


If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text:

Jan Harold Brunvand, in an essay on urban legends, states, “some individuals [who retell urban legends] make a point of learning every rumor or tale” (78).

If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipses, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:

In an essay on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand notes that “some individuals make a point of learning every recent rumor or tale . . . and in a short time a lively exchange of details occurs” (78).

Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless they would add clarity.

When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration . . . (22-24, 28-30)

MLA Abbreviations

There are a few common trends in abbreviating that you should follow when using MLA, though there are always exceptions to these rules. For a complete list of common abbreviations used in academic writing, see Section 1.6 in the MLA Handbook (8th ed.).


Do not use periods or spaces in abbreviations composed solely of capital letters, except in the case of proper names:

C. S. Lewis, P. D. James, E. B. White

unless the name is only composed of initials:



Use a period if the abbreviation ends in a lowercase letter, unless referring to an Internet suffix, where the period should come before the abbreviation:

assn., conf., Eng., esp.
.com, .edu, .gov (URL suffixes)

Note: Degree names are a notable exception to the lowercase abbreviation rule.

PhD, EdD, PsyD

Use periods between letters without spacing if each letter represents a word in common lowercase abbreviations:

a.m., e.g., i.e.

Other notable exceptions:

mph, rpm, ns, lb


Condense citations as much as possible using abbreviations.

Time Designations

Remember to follow common trends in abbreviating time and location within citations. Month names longer than four letters used in journal and magazine citations should be abbreviated:

Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.

Geographic Names

Use geographic names of states and countries. Abbreviate country, province, and state names.

Logan, UT; Manchester, Eng.; Sherbrooke, QC

Scholarly Abbreviations

The MLA Handbook (8th ed.) encourages users to adhere to the common scholarly abbreviations for both in-text citations and in the works-cited page. Here is the list of common scholarly abbreviations from Section 1.6.2 of the MLA Handbook (8th ed.) with a few additions:

Publisher Names

Cite publishers’ names in full as they appear on title or copyright pages. For example, cite the entire name for a publisher (e.g. W. W. Norton or Liveright Publishing).


For more information on scholarly abbreviations, see Section 1.6.3 of the MLA Handbook (8th ed.). See also the following examples:

U of California P
Utah State UP
Teachers College P
Chronicle Books
Vintage Books
Little, Brown

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