MLA footnotes and endnotes
- Citing a lot of sources at once
- Providing any extra explanation needed about your citation or translation practice
- Elaborating on ideas
- Providing additional examples that don’t fit into the main text
Footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes appear at the end of the paper, just before the Works Cited list. MLA allows the use of either type, but stick to one or the other.
Any sources you cite in your footnotes or endnotes must also be included in your Works Cited list, just like sources in the main text.
Formatting footnotes and endnotes in MLA
Both footnotes and endnotes are indicated by superscript numbers. The number usually appears at the end of a sentence, after the period.
If you need to use a note in the middle of a sentence to avoid ambiguity, place the number directly after a punctuation mark (with the exception of the dash, where the number comes before).
The note itself begins with the corresponding number, again in superscript, followed by a space, and then the content of the note. Notes should be in the same font as the rest of your document, but a smaller font size; the first line of each note is slightly indented.
Your word processing program should allow you to automatically insert footnotes.
Formatting the endnotes page
If you are using endnotes, list them on a separate page directly before the Works Cited list. The title (“Notes” or “Endnotes”) appears centered at the top of the page. Like the rest of an MLA format paper, the endnotes should be double-spaced.
Citing a lot of sources at once
When you have a lot of sources to cite at once, you can save space in your text by placing them in a note instead. These can be sources for a statement you made in the text, or sources providing supplementary information relevant to the discussion.
Note that you don’t need to use parentheses around the page numbers when the note just consists of a list of sources.
Explaining citation or translation practice
When there’s any important information that might not be immediately obvious from your citations, you can explain it in a note at the first point where it comes up.
For example, you might use your own translations for some texts but not others, or you might cite different editions of a text in different ways. These details can be clarified in notes where relevant.
Using notes to elaborate on ideas
When you mention something in passing but think more information may be useful to the reader, you can add the extra information, as well as related sources if relevant, in a note.
Bear in mind that long notes with superfluous information can be distracting for readers. Use notes of this kind sparingly, and keep them brief. If a piece of information is essential to your point, you should usually include it in the main text.
Providing more examples in notes
Sometimes you have more examples than you can smoothly fit into your text. In those cases, it can be worth placing further examples in a note, if you think they add something to your point. You might also provide a counterexample to acknowledge the limitations of your argument.
Frequently asked questions about MLA notes
- Should I use footnotes to cite sources in MLA style?
No, the MLA standard is to use parenthetical in-text citations to cite sources. Footnotes or endnotes can be used to add extra information that doesn’t fit into your main text, but they’re not needed for citations.
If you need to cite a lot of sources at the same point in the text, though, placing these citations in a note can be a good way to avoid cluttering your text.
- When should I use footnotes in MLA style?
This can be further examples or developments of ideas you only briefly discuss in the text. You can also use notes to provide additional sources or explain your citation practice.
You don’t have to use any notes at all; only use them to provide relevant information that complements your arguments or helps the reader to understand them.
- What is the difference between footnotes and endnotes?
Footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page. Endnotes appear in a list at the end of the text, just before the reference list or bibliography. Don’t mix footnotes and endnotes in the same document: choose one or the other and use them consistently.
In Chicago notes and bibliography style, you can use either footnotes or endnotes, and citations follow the same format in either case.
- How do I cite information from a footnote in MLA style?
Some source types, such as books and journal articles, may contain footnotes (or endnotes) with additional information. MLA style provides guidelines for referring to information from a note in an in-text citation:
- To cite information from a single numbered note, write “n” after the page number, and then write the note number, e.g. (Smith 105n2)
- To cite information from multiple numbered notes, write “nn” and include a range, e.g. (Smith 77nn1–2)
- To cite information from an unnumbered note, write “un” after the page number, with a space in between, e.g. (Jones 250 un)