Selections from Books
In-Text Citation in MLA Style
In-text citation has two components:
- A signal phrase that lets the reader know the source
of the information. Often, the signal phrase is an excellent
way of making a transition from one part of your writing to the
next. It is a phrase of the general form "<author>
wrote..." It is also a good idea to describe the author's
credentials in the signal phrase.
- Parenthetical citation that directs the reader to the
exact entry of the Works Cited list from which your information
Every time you "borrow" information in your writing,
you need to use some sort of in-text citation. Usually, that
will consist of both a signal phrase and parenthetical citation,
but, depending on the amount of information presented in each, one
or the other many not be necessary. The parenthetical citations
that work with specific signal phrase patterns are presented in
the table below.
Please note that in-text citations give credit to more than just
quotes. If you refer to any information that is not your own
personal knowledge or thought, you should cite it. On a similar
note, when you include a quote in writing, give a good transition
from the text before it to keep your essay flowing well.
You may be familiar with a standard style of parenthetical citation
including the author's last name and a page number. However,
a parenthetical citation could require only a page number if the
author's name is mentioned in the previous sentence (in the signal
phrase). The table that follows given all the potential components
of a parenthetical citation.
The entire citation is placed within parentheses and is written
at the sentence being cited. Also, contrary to what you may
have been taught before, no comma goes between the author's name
and the date, just a single space.
Note that the final column of this table is preceding punctuation,
not ending punctuation as in other tables on this site. Also,
"author" could be substituted with any other individual
whose name is reversed and leads off the the Works Cited entry,
such as an editor or translator.
The potential components of a parenthetical citation, based on
the signal phrase and what else is on the Works Cited page, listed
in the proper order:
Details and Usage
- If you are quoting someone whose words appear in someone
else's work, precede the author of the secondary source
with "qtd. in" and name the speaker in the signal
( ( )
If the author is not named in the
signal phrase, include the author's last name.
If the author is corporate or institutional
and is not named in the signal phrase, include the
name of the corporation or institution.
If the source has more than one author
and not all are named in the signal phrase,
For two authors, include both
last names here, separated by "and."
For three authors, include
all three last names here. Follow the first
and second with commas and precede the last with "and."
For four or more authors,
you may include only the first author's last name,
followed by "et al."
If your Works Cited list has two or
more authors with the same last name...
...and the author you are citing
shares a common first initial with another author
of the same last name, include the full first
name and last name of the author, in normal order.
...and the author you are citing
does not share a common first initial with another
author of the same last name, include the first
initial, followed by a period, followed by the last
name, of the author.
If the source is anonymous and the
title of the work is not in the signal phrase, you
must include a title in the citation.
( ( ) unless "qtd. in" is included
- If the source is anonymous and the title of the work
is not in the signal phrase, you must include the full
title, formatted as it appears in the Works Cited list (italicized,
underlined, or in quotation marks.
- If your Works Cited list includes two or more works
by the same author...
- ...and the signal phrase does not include the title,
include the complete title of the work here, formatted
as it appears in the Works Cited list (italicized, underlined,
or in quotation marks.
- ...and the signal phrase does include the title,
do not include it here.
- It is important that the title appears somewhere in
the text so that the reader can tell from which source
you obtained the information.
- Include the page number(s) being cited, using digits.
- If you are citing information from more than one page,
separate consecutive page numbers with a hyphen. Do
not precede or follow the hyphen with any spaces.
- If you are citing the entire source, omit the page
- If you are citing a web source that does not have fixed
page numbers, do not include a page number. (Do
not include a page number based on a printout, because pagination
could vary for different printouts.)
- If a web source has fixed page, paragraph, or section
numbers, cite the relevant numbers. Precede
section numbers with the abbreviation "sec."
and paragraph numbers with "par." or "pars."
See the MLA
Style FAQ for more rationale.
- Do NOT precede with "p." or "pp."
or a comma.
||None (a single space)
- If you are citing poetry, cite the line numbers
instead of the page numbers.
||None (a single space)
- If you are citing a literary work that is divided into
chapters (such as a novel), write "ch." followed
by the chapter number (using digits) here. This part
will allow readers using a different edition of the work
to locate the information you are citing.
If you wish to include multiple different citations
within one set of parentheses, separate them with a semicolon
(;). However, doing so is not recommended, because it could
confuse your reader.