1. Most instructors in the English Department will welcome your following these procedures. But check with them to make sure.

2. In the instructions below, understand "typed" to include "printed out." Your instructors will accept machine copy so long as it follows the standard format. Don't use fancy graphics or justify right margins--a ragged right margin is fine.

3. Some definitions. A ten-page paper has ten twenty-seven-line pages of text, not nine pages plus three words on the tenth, not nine pages of text plus a "Works Cited" page. A "word" is five spaces. A "page" of pica (ten-pitch) type equals about 325 words; a "page" of elite (twelve-pitch) about 390 words.


1. Type all your papers. Your instructor will probably return handwritten papers and ask you to type them.

2. Use plain white bond--cheap mimeo or xerographic paper is fine. Avoid onionskin and erasable paper (they smear) and fancy watermarked paper (needless expense).

3. Typos, spelling errors, and misquotations detract considerably from the force of your argument. Proofread by reading your paper aloud, word by word. Pay particular attention to quotations. Electronic dictionaries cannot catch all errors.

4. Most instructors will accept a few last-minute corrections in ink. Write insertions above the line and indicate their placement with a caret below the line.

5. Fasten the pages of your paper together with a staple or a paper clip, not a binder. For more security, put your paper in a manila folder.

6. Pass in the original and keep a copy for yourself to guard against misplaced or lost papers. Never trust anyone with a unique copy.


1. Documentation is a means, not an end. We document texts that we refer to so our readers can consult the editions we use, see whether or not we've quoted accurately and in context, and get a feel for the research we've done.

2. We also use documentation to acknowledge our intellectual debts. Whether you are quoting, paraphrasing, or simply drawing on someone else's work, you must give due credit. Not to do so is to plagiarize.


1. In some of your classes, you may be working with so few texts that your instructors will have no trouble determining which ones you are referring to. In such cases, they may allow you simply to document quotations or references with a parenthetical page number. No documentary footnotes, no list of works cited.


1. However, if you are referring to several different texts, or to any texts at all that your reader might not be able to identify, you must use a more formal method of documentation. Unless you hear otherwise from your instructor, assume that you will be using formal documentation.

2. You may already be familiar with a footnote-centered system of documentation, and many books and scholarly journals still employ such a system. But literary scholars are now gradually switching over to the "new MLA" system, which is the one described here, and the one you should learn and use. It differs from older systems in three main ways:
--it dispenses with awkward documentary conventions that seem to exist for their own sake: roman numerals, abbreviations like "op. cit.," "ibid," "pp.," etc.
--it uses parenthetical in-text references keyed by author, title, and page to a "Works Cited" list at the end of the paper.
--it includes substantive footnotes (short bibliographic essays, important but digressive comments, etc.) on a separate "Notes" page between the body of the text and the "Works Cited" page, keying them in the traditional fashion to raised numerals in the body of the text.

3. Typically, the in-text parentheses will include just enough information to allow your reader to locate your source quickly: page numbers for prose; act, scene, and line numbers for drama; line numbers (book, canto, and stanza numbers if necessary) for poetry.

4. Don't repeat documentation unnecessarily. A reader seeing several quotations in a paragraph ending with "(Dollimore 9)" will simply assume that they all come from page nine of Dollimore's book.

5. The heart of the new MLA system is simplicity and consistency.


1. For more information, buy a copy of Gibaldi and Achtert's MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, which aims specifically at students. The library's Ready Reference Shelf has several copies on permanent reserve, along with Achtert and Gibaldi's MLA Style Manual (Which aims more at authors and publishers) and The Chicago Manual of Style (a massive and thorough guide).


1. Avoid using ellipses for rhetorical effect. Use them only when you've quoted part of a sentence that might reasonably be taken for a whole sentence. In other words, a quoted word or phrase needs no ellipsis marks, but the following quotation from item three above does: "Typically, the...parentheses will include just enough information to allow your reader to locate your source...."

2. Note that three spaced periods indicate an omission from the interior or beginning of a sentence, four spaced periods an omission from the end of a sentence.


1. "In indicating a range of numbers, give the second number in full for numbers through 99: 2-3, 10-12, 21-48, 89-99. For larger numbers, give only the last two digits of the second number, unless more are necessary: 96-101, 103-04, 395-401, 923-1003, 1003-35, 1608-74. In giving a range of years, write both in full unless they are within the same century: 1898-1901, 1898-99" (Achtert and Gibaldi 84).


1. The following pages show the new MLA format at work. Pay careful attention to both their form and their content.

2. These pages are reduced in size and doubled-up for economy's sake, but you should be careful always to keep full 1" margins at top, bottom, and sides.

3. Of course, your "Works Cited" pages will not include the right-hand column of commentary and explanation.

(NB: Unlike the representation of pages on the internet, which automatically re-formats paragraphs as single-spaced even though I don't want it to do so, your paper should be entirely double-spaced--within paragraphs, between paragraphs, within and between any notes or works cited.)

Your Name
Professor X
English ###, Section #

Double-Space and Center Your Title

Double-space twice, indent five spaces, and begin. The first pages of all your papers should follow this format. The new MLA documentation system is simple and logical, as you can see in the following quotation: Margot Heinemann says that Brecht was drawn to "the contradictory, unpredictable, dialectical element in Shakespeare" (204). Along with the entry for Heinemann's essay in the "Works Cited" list, this parenthesis gives your readers all they need to track down the quotation. Note the placement of quotation marks, parentheses, and period.

Things get a little more complicated when your list contains more than one work by a single author, for you must indicate the title as well. The three sentences below all give the sam information in a progressively more elegant form. One author calls writing "a material social art" (Williams, Marxism 211). Raymond Williams calls writing "a material social art" (211) in Marxism and Literature. In Marxism and Literature Raymond Williams calls writing "a material social art" (211). Try to make your parentheses as unobtrusive as possible and place them at the ends of sentences. If you must include a title in the parenthesis, indicate it briefly, preferably with the word by which it is alphabetized in your "Works Cited" list.

When quoting fewer than four lines of poetry or five lines of prose, run them into the text, as in the following passage from Wordsworth's 1805 Prelude: "Oh there is a blessing in this gentle breeze / That blows from the green fields and from the clouds / And from the sky..." (l.1-3). Note the arabic (not roman) numerals that show book and line numbers. The same system applies to act, scene, and line numbers for plays. Note also the spaced slashes indicating line breaks in verse. Don't barbarously reduce verse to prose by ignoring line endings.

To set off quoted passages longer than three lines of poetry or four lines of prose, double-space, indent ten spaces, and double-space the quotation, as in the following extract from Thomas Keneally's The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith:

When they saw Jimmy's surprise, Tabidgi began to chant high up in his nose, a runic circular chant. Mort danced, laughing, miming some long-necked beast spying into a haven to see if brother or enemy were there.
"Come fer booze?" Jimmy asked them. "I ain't got no booze."

He hoped they had come for mean reasons. He felt guilty before the unbudging wrinkles of Tabidgi's face. (65)
For set-off quotations, the period precedes the documentary parenthesis. Indent for new paragraphs and use quotation marks only when the passage you quote does so. Use no right indent for prose quotations.
Parenthetical documentation can also help you distinguish your own voice from those of the critics you quote. Look at the following paragraph.
Louis Adrian Montrose argues that a cult of aristocratic pastoral flourished in Renaissance English literature. The main exceptions to this cult are More's Utopia and Milton's Paradise Lost, which both critique aristocratic pastoral (426). Milton's "Lycidas" also participates in this critique, even though it is perhaps the best-known pastoral elegy in English.
If the parenthesis were one sentence later, you would lose credit for your insight in the final sentence. If it were one sentence earlier, you would be inadvertently plagiarizing the second sentence (which is Montrose's thought). If there were no parenthesis at all, you'd have a horrible muddle of the two, with no clear division between your voice and Montrose's.
The sample pages below give you a model for your "Works Cited" pages.

(NB: Internet formatting is difficult and what you see below is not exactly the format you should follow. Each entry should be "outdented," i.e., the last name of the author--or first author of a multi-authored work--is flush to the left margin, and then each subsequent line in each entry is indented. The entire Works Cited page, like the document as a whole should be double spaced.)

Works Cited

Achtert, Walter S., and Joseph Gibaldi. The MLA Style Manual. New York: Modern LanguageAssociation of America, 1985. [Work with two authors]

Adorno, T.W. Aesthetic Theory. Trans. C. Lenhardt. Ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann. The International Library of Phenomenology and Moral Sciences. London: Routledge, ed.1984. [Work with editor and translator, which also appears in a series]
The Chicago Manual of Style. 13th Chicago: U Chicago P, 1982. [A work with no author listed (aphabetize by title, not "anon.")]
Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1984. [Note the sequence of this entry and the next]
Dollimore, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfields, eds. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. [This is the master note for the work by Heinemann and one of the works by Williams]
Dworkin, Ronald. "The Press on Trial." Rev. of Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland V. CBS et al,; Sharon v. Time, by Renata Adler. New York Review of Books 27 Feb. 1987: 27-37. [A review appearing in a bi-weekly journal]
Gibaldi, Joseph, and Walter S. Achtert. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 2nd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1984. [Cf. Achtert and Gibaldi (the names appear in different orders oon the two title pages]
Heinemann, Margot. "How Brecht Read Shakespeare." Dollimore and Sinfield 202-30. [A cross-reference: use whenever you refer to two or more works b different authors drawn from the same collection]
Hill, Christopher. "Irreligion in the Puritan Revolution." Radical Religion in the English Revolution. Ed. J.F. McGregor and B. Reay. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984. 191-211. [One essay in a collection of essays]
Keneally, Thomas. The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.
Marvell, Andrew. The Poems and Letter of Andrew Marvell. Ed. H.M. Margoliouth, Pierre Legouis, and E.E. Duncan-Jones. 3rd. ed. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon, 1081. 2 vols. [A multivol. work when you are using only one vol.; no need to indicate vol. # in parenthetical documentation]
Milton, John. Complete Prose Works of John Milton. Gen. ed. Don M. Wolfe. 8 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1953-83. [A multivol. work when you are using more than one vol.; indicate vol. # in parenthetical doc.]
Monk, Patricia. "Frankenstein's Daughters: The Problems of the Feminine Image in Science Fiction." Mosaic 13.3-4 (1980): 15-27. [An article in a journal which paginates each issue separately]
Montrose, Louis Adrian. "Of Gentleman and Shepherds: The Politics of Elizabethan Pastoral Form." ELH 50 (1983): 415-59. [An article in a journal which paginates each issue consecutively]
Williams, Raymond. Afterword. Dollimore and Sinfield 231-39. [An afterword (use same format for introduction, prefaces, etc.) keyed to a cross-reference]
---. Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.
Wordsworth, William. The Prelude: Or, The Growth of a Poet's Mind. 2nd ed. Ed. Ernest de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959. [Two works by the same author, alphabetized by title]