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MLA Style 9th edition: Home

This guide covers the basics of MLA Style writing, formatting, and citing.

Modern Language Association

This guide is a quick introduction to the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style for references and citations. Be sure to consult the MLA Style website for detailed standards and procedures.

Quick Review: What is Citation & Why do We Use It?

What Exactly is MLA Style?

MLA Style refers to a set of standards for writing and documentation that writers use to find and evaluate information, credit their sources, and shape the expression of their ideas in conversation with others. It is most commonly used to cite sources within the language arts, cultural studies, and other humanities disciplines. MLA Style is not just about citing style; it is about writing style. 

MLA = Modern Language Association

NOTE *Different instructors’ assignments will vary. Although this libguide follows MLA Style 9th ed., your instructor may require something different. Be sure to check with your instructor for assignment instructions.


Thesis Statement

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement

Plagiarism is when someone tries to pass someone else's work or ideas off as their own without properly crediting the original source. Plagiarism is not against the law; however, it is an ethical violation. While typically discussed most in academic institutions and resulting in consequences from receiving a failing grade to the revocation of a degree, it also carries consequences in the professional world.

Copyright infringement is illegal. When someone uses someone else's work without authorization from the copyright owner or an applicable exception in the copyright law, there can be significant legal consequences, including injunctions, monetary damages, and in extreme instances criminal penalties.


MLA Style 9th edition

Bartle, L. (2020, May 4). Writing academically: The mechanics and style of academic writing [Video file]. You Tube.

Should you italicize it or use quotation marks?

Standardize the capitalization of titles. Capitalize each word except for articles like the, an, or, of (unless they are the first word of the title or subtitle).

Put quotation marks around the title if they are part of a larger source like, e.g. a journal article, chapter title, or a short story in a collection.

Italicize titles of larger or self-contained works, e.g. book titles, movie titles.

Italicize the title of any work that would normally be self-contained but appears in a collection and follow it by the italicized title of a collection, e.g. a novel that appears in a collection of an author's complete works.

Italicize titles of databases and journals.

Series names are not italicized or put in quotation marks.

Inclusive Language

Inclusive language has the purpose of ensuring that communication, written or spoken, does not discriminate against groups of people in the community. Discrimination can range from exclusion to derogatory comments and can be based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other perceived differences.

"Often disparaged as ‘political correctness’, inclusive language in fact seeks to redress imbalances in spoken and written communication; instead of assuming the readers of a text or the audience of a speech are a homogenous group, inclusive language embraces diversity."

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Subjective Tone

Writers typically use MLA style for humanities, which uses a SUBJECTIVE TONE with a thesis statement. 

The Subjective tone includes:

  • Feelings
  • Experiences
  • Feelings
  • Personal Opinions
  • Bias
  • Thoughts

Modern Language Association

Visit the ERC for the latest research

More on Inclusive Language


This is a checklist/set of questions and then examples.

In using inclusive language, it is useful to keep the following generic questions in mind:

  1. Do you need to refer to personal characteristics such as sex, religion, racial group, disability, or age at all?

  2. Are the references to group characteristics couched in inclusive terms?

  3. Do the references to people reflect the diversity of that audience?

  4. Is your use of jargon and acronyms (J&A’s) excluding people who may not have specialized knowledge of a particular subject?

  5. Inclusive language does not mean cumbersome, dull, or vague language; it simply means language that has been carefully constructed in ways that treat all people with respect and impartiality.