A complete guide to MLA in-text citations

An MLA in-text citation provides the author’s last name and a page number in parentheses.

If a source has two authors, name both. If a source has more than two authors, name only the first author, followed by “et al.

If the part you’re citing spans multiple pages, include the full page range. If you want to cite multiple non-consecutive pages at the same time, separate the page numbers with commas.

MLA in-text citations
Number of authors Example
1 author (Moore 37)
2 authors (Moore and Patel 48–50)
3+ authors (Moore et al. 59, 34)

Each in-text citation must correspond to a full reference in the list of Works Cited. You can create and save your citations with the free Scribbr Citation Generator.


Where to include an MLA in-text citation

Place the parenthetical citation directly after the relevant quote or paraphrase, and before the period or other punctuation mark (except with block quotes, where the citation comes after the period).

If you have already named the author in the sentence, add only the page number in parentheses. When mentioning a source with three or more authors outside of parentheses, use “and others” or “and colleagues” in place of “et al.”

MLA in-text citation examples
  • MLA is the second most popular citation style (Smith and Morrison 17–19).
  • According to Smith and Morrison, MLA is the second most popular citation style (17–19).
  • APA is by far “the most used citation style in the US” (Moore et al. 74), but it is less dominant in the UK (Smith 16).
  • Moore and colleagues state that APA is more popular in the US than elsewhere (74).

Combining citations

If a sentence is supported by more than one source, you can combine the citations in a single set of parentheses. Separate the two sources with a semicolon.

Livestock farming is one of the biggest global contributors to climate change (Garcia 64; Davies 14).

Consecutive citations of the same source

If you cite the same source repeatedly within a paragraph, you can include the full citation the first time you cite it, then just the page number for subsequent citations.

MLA is the second most popular citation style (Smith and Morrison 17–19). It is more popular than Chicago style, but less popular than APA (21).

You can do this as long as it remains clear what source you’re citing. If you cite something else in between or start a new paragraph, reintroduce the full citation again to avoid ambiguity.

Citing sources with no author

For sources with no named author, the in-text citation must match the first element of the Works Cited entry. This may be the name of an organization, or the title of the source.

If the source title or organization name is longer than four words, shorten it to the first word or phrase in the in-text citation, excluding any articles (a, an, and the). The shortened title or organization name should begin with the word the source is alphabetized by in the Works Cited.

Follow the general MLA rules for formatting titles: If the source is a self-contained work (e.g. a whole website or an entire book), put the title in italics; if the source is contained within a larger whole (e.g. a page on a website or a chapter of a book), put the title in quotation marks.

Shortening titles in MLA in-text citations
Full source title or organization name In-text citation
Amnesty International Report 2017/2018: The State of the World’s Human Rights (Amnesty International Report 187)
“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions” (“Sources”)
“A Quick Guide to Proofreading” (“Quick Guide”)
National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy (National Academy 24)

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Citing sources with no page numbers

If a source does not have page numbers but is divided into numbered parts (e.g. chapters, sections, scenes, Bible books and verses, Articles of the Constitution, or timestamps), use these numbers to locate the relevant passage.

If the source does not use any numbering system, include only the author’s name in the in-text citation. Don’t include paragraph numbers unless they are explicitly numbered in the source.

Citing sources with no page numbers in MLA
Source type What to do Example
Source divided into numbered parts Add a comma after the author and give a paragraph, section, or chapter number with a relevant abbreviation. (Luxemburg, ch. 26)
Play with numbered lines Include the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods, instead of a page number. (Shakespeare 1.2.95)
Audiovisual source Include the time range as displayed in the media player. (Wynn 10:23–45)
Source with no numbered divisions Include only the author’s name (or, if there is no author, the shortened title). (Rajaram)

Note that if there are no numbered divisions and you have already named the author in your sentence, then no parenthetical citation is necessary.

Citing different sources with the same author name

If your Works Cited page includes more than one entry under the same last name, you need to distinguish between these sources in your in-text citations.

Multiple sources by the same author

If you cite more than one work by the same author, add a shortened title to signal which source you are referring to.

Citing multiple sources by the same author
(Butler, Gender Trouble 27)
(Butler, “Performative Acts” 522)

In this example, the first source is a whole book, so the title appears in italics; the second is an article published in a journal, so the title appears in quotation marks.

Different authors with the same last name

To distinguish between different authors with the same last name, use the authors’ initials (or, if the initials are the same, full first names) in your in-text citations:

Citing different authors with the same last name
(A. Butler 19)
(J. Butler 27)

Citing sources indirectly

Sometimes you might want to cite something that you found quoted in a secondary source. If possible, always seek out the original source and cite it directly.

If you can’t access the original source, make sure to name both the original author and the author of the source that you accessed. Use the abbreviation “qtd. in” (short for “quoted in”) to indicate where you found the quotation.

Example of an indirect citation in MLA
Marx defines “the two primary creators of wealth” as “labour-power and the land” (qtd. in Luxemburg, ch. 26).

In these cases, only the source you accessed directly is included in the Works Cited list.

Frequently asked questions about MLA in-text citations

When do I need to include an MLA in-text citation?

You must include an in-text citation every time you quote or paraphrase from a source (e.g. a book, movie, website, or article).

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)
How do I cite a source with multiple authors in MLA?

In MLA Style, if a source has two authors, name both authors in your in-text citation and Works Cited entry. If there are three or more authors, name only the first author, followed by et al.

Number of authors In-text citation Works Cited entry
1 author (Moore 37) Moore, Jason W.
2 authors (Moore and Patel 37) Moore, Jason W., and Raj Patel.
3+ authors (Moore et al. 37) Moore, Jason W., et al.
How do I cite a source with no author or page numbers in MLA?

If a source has no author, start the MLA Works Cited entry with the source title. Use a shortened version of the title in your in-text citation.

If a source has no page numbers, you can use an alternative locator (e.g. a chapter number, or a timestamp for a video or audio source) to identify the relevant passage in your in-text citation. If the source has no numbered divisions, cite only the author’s name (or the title).

If you already named the author or title in your sentence, and there is no locator available, you don’t need a parenthetical citation:

  • Rajaram argues that representations of migration are shaped by “cultural, political, and ideological interests.”
  • The homepage of The Correspondent describes it as “a movement for radically different news.”
Are titles capitalized in MLA?

Yes. MLA style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions) are capitalized.

This applies to titles of sources as well as the title of, and subheadings in, your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization.

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

38 comments

Amanda Cancino
October 2, 2021 at 7:21 PM

Hi! I was wondering how to complete a parenthetical citation of a play if the play is in a textbook? Do I use the author’s last name still, but for my works cited page use the title of the textbook? Thanks!

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
October 4, 2021 at 1:29 PM

Hi Amanda,

Yes, you'd use the last name of the play's author in your parenthetical citation. On the Works Cited page, you'd cite the play itself but also give details of the textbook it's published in. See the example under "Collection or anthology" here to get an idea of how to format this.

Reply

Owen
September 8, 2021 at 2:43 AM

If I wanted to combine two works by the same author in an in-text citation, how would I format it? Would I follow the regular format of "(Author, Work; Author, Work) or do "(Author, Work; Work)?"

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
September 13, 2021 at 3:23 PM

Hi Owen,

MLA actually suggests using the word "and" between two works by the same author cited in the same set of parentheses, and using commas if there are three or more works. So for example, (Woolf, Room and To the Lighthouse) or (Woolf, Room, To the Lighthouse, and "Modern Fiction").

Reply

Amna
April 25, 2021 at 10:18 AM

Hi! I'm citing a video, and I see that there's an option to specifiy citing different time ranges in the video.

However, do I need to write out the whole citation each time? or after the first time, i can just write the duration? I am only using one source in this piece of writing, and it is this short film.

This is my citation within the text
(“‘Float’ Full SparkShort | Pixar” 0:31–0:39)

for future occurances, can i put

(0:40 - 0.50),

or do i need to put
(“‘Float’ Full SparkShort | Pixar” 0:40–0:50) each time?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 27, 2021 at 3:06 PM

Hi Amna,

Whether you need to keep including the title depends on whether it's clear from the context what you're citing. If you cite the same source repeatedly in a paragraph without citing anything else in between, you can just put the timestamps in citations after the first one. If you go a paragraph or two without citing the source and then cite it again, or if you've cited something else in between, include the title again to avoid ambiguity.

Note that you can probably also make this citation more concise by shortening the title included to just "'Float'"; MLA recommends shortening titles where possible in in-text citations (though not in the Works Cited list, where the full title should be displayed).

Hope that helps!

Reply

veejay
April 22, 2021 at 7:16 PM

Did I miss something? How do I handle quotes from a website with no pages?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 27, 2021 at 2:44 PM

Hi Veejay,

For that you can follow the "Source with no numbered divisions" format in the table above—basically, just use the author's name.

Reply

Natalie
April 22, 2021 at 3:22 AM

Hi, I am wondering how to cite a book when I'm not referencing specific page numbers.. for example, I am summarizing a couple portions of the book to give context for an idea in my essay. Do I cite general chapters? Help!

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 22, 2021 at 5:45 PM

Hi Natalie,

If you're summarizing the content of a whole chapter or even multiple chapters from a book, you can include a page range to specify which part of the book the reader should look at to learn more about what you're referring to. For example, in "(Smith 5–15, 25–40)", the two page ranges direct the reader to two chapters in the book that are relevant to your discussion.

Reply

Camila
March 25, 2021 at 2:01 AM

Hello!

I was wondering how would I include in-text citations if the quote is in the middle of the sentence. Would I place it right after the quotation or put it at the end of the sentence? It is a short story and I am not sure how to include the parenthesis with the author's last name.

Reply

camila verdugo
March 25, 2021 at 2:51 AM

Also, would I have to put two citations if I had two quotes in one sentence or would I just put one after the second quote?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 29, 2021 at 7:08 PM

Hi again Camila,

If the quotes are both from the same page, you would only need one citation. If they were different pages, it would be better to have two citations, though the second one could just consist of the page number (no author name) as long as you didn't quote anyone else in between.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 29, 2021 at 7:06 PM

Hi Camila,

It's OK in MLA style if your in-text citation doesn't appear at the end of the sentence. They specify only that it should appear somewhere where it doesn't disrupt the flow of your argument—so it's best if it appears before some kind of punctuation, e.g. a comma or semicolon. So as long as your quotation is followed by some kind of punctuation, the citation can appear directly after it, before the punctuation mark. For example:

Reading is "just half of literacy. The other half is writing" (Baron 194), which might lead one to conclude that . . .

Baron argues that reading is "just half of literacy. The other half is writing" (194); this might lead one to the conclusion that . . .

Reply

Amanda
March 23, 2021 at 1:45 AM

Once I added a second citation for an additional Youtube video from the same account/creator, the suggested in-text citation for either video includes their full titles, (The titles are 9-13 words long). Is it appropriate if I shorten either video's title in the in-text citation or will I no longer be providing a correct in-text citation?

Or
In other words, will I still be providing an accurate in-text citation if I include shortened titles of the videos?
(The full video titles are still being provided in the works cited list)

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 29, 2021 at 6:24 PM

Hi Amanda,

Yep, your idea is correct here; when a long title appears in an in-text citation, it should be shortened to the initial noun phrase, omitting any articles (e.g. "a," "the"). So for example, "The Basics of APA In-Text Citations" would become just "Basics."

Hope that helps!

Reply

Elizabeth
March 5, 2021 at 12:43 AM

How do I punctuate an in-text citation from a website without page numbers. For example, would it be "...speaking out against discriminatory pricing (Hoffman)." or "...speaking out against discriminatory pricing. (Hoffman)" My question is essentially where to place the period, as well as the quotation marks.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 8, 2021 at 5:05 PM

Hi Elizabeth,

A parenthetical citation in the text comes outside any quotation marks but before a following period or other punctuation mark. In these cases the period appears outside the quotation marks, whereas if there were no citation it would appear inside them. So for example, if "speaking out against discriminatory pricing" is the quote, the sentence might look like this:

People are "speaking out against discriminatory pricing" (Hoffman).

Reply

Tricia
March 1, 2021 at 5:13 AM

I don’t quite understand when I am quoting from a short story, The Lottery, how I would quote what the character says and correctly use in-text citations for a theme essay I am writing. Please help?
Thanks so much

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 1, 2021 at 2:34 PM

Hi Tricia,

You can check our guidance on citing short stories here. Basically, whenever you quote the story you'd include the author's last name and the page number of the quote in parentheses, e.g. (Jackson 54). Then in your Works Cited list you would include full information about the source, in the format shown in the linked article.

Reply

Daniela Nunez
February 20, 2021 at 8:36 AM

hello

should we use a full citation (Name, title, year published) if we are introducing the source for the first time?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 23, 2021 at 2:27 PM

Hi Daniela,

No, in-text citations in MLA style generally just consist of the author's name and page number. Other details of the source, like the title, can of course be included in your sentence if you want to highlight them, but they're not part of the in-text citation itself.

Reply

Avani Burton
February 13, 2021 at 3:55 PM

Hi, I was wondering how to do an in text citation, on a website. I already have the authors and year it was published, just not page numbers.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 17, 2021 at 3:42 PM

Hi Avani,

To create an in-text citation for a website, you would usually just write the name of the author(s). If some sort of alternative locator is available on the page, like numbered paragraphs or section headings, you can use that in your in-text citation, e.g. (Smith, para. 5). But if not, just use the author name(s), e.g. (Smith and Jones).

You can read more about website citations here.

Reply

Ashraf
February 1, 2021 at 10:00 AM

Hello!
When we can combine more than one source in a single set of parentheses, how can we arrange them? For example, in your example stated above,(Garcia 64; Davies 14), why did you start with Garcia? Is it the most recent, for instance?

Thanks

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 1, 2021 at 2:52 PM

Hi Ashraf,

MLA doesn't provide any specific guidance on what order to place citations in in these circumstances, so you're free to make your own decisions. One way to order them might be by year of publication; another could be alphabetically. Choose whatever makes sense to you.

Reply

Nyla White
November 25, 2020 at 2:05 AM

Hey, great help! Just wondering how I would in-text cite an article online, one with no known author, and one with.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
December 8, 2020 at 7:56 PM

Hi Nyla,

An online article is simply cited with the author's name. If there is no author, you cite a shortened version of the title instead (making sure it matches the first words of the Works Cited entry). You can see examples in our guide to citing websites in MLA.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Timothy Follis
October 26, 2020 at 11:46 PM

As part of my research, I did an interview with an expert through email. I summarized much of what they told me, but did quote a couple of items verbatim. How would I cite the interview?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
October 27, 2020 at 6:18 PM

Hi Timothy,

Cite quotes from your interviewee the same as you would any other source: mention their last name either in the sentence where the quote is introduced, or in parentheses after the quote. You should also list the interview in the Words Cited – see our guide to citing interviews in MLA for more information. I hope that helps!

Reply

Pooja Tejas Patel
October 20, 2020 at 8:33 AM

Hello!

I was wondering how to cite a song lyric in-text and in works cited.

Thank you,
Pooja.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
October 30, 2020 at 9:34 PM

Hi Pooja,

In-text, you simply cite the name of the artist. In the Works Cited, the format depends on how you accessed the song (e.g. on a streaming service or on CD). See our guide to citing songs in MLA for more information.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Matthew Geary
October 17, 2020 at 11:28 PM

How do you include an original date for a poem in a single parenthetical citation that refers to ?

The sentence construction will not allow me to put the date elsewhere.

So for example:

For example, in the early censored poem ‘Ode’ (1920) there are the ‘Children singing in the orchard / (Io Hymen, Hymenaee) / Succuba eviscerate’ (Poems, 280) who reappear in ‘New Hampshire’ (144). Further, there are the ‘children in the foliage’ in Burnt Norton (184) who resurface in ‘the apple-tree’ in Little Gidding (209).

I would like to put the date 1934 in the parentheses for 'New Hampshire'.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
November 5, 2020 at 12:48 PM

Hi Matthew,

The simplest and clearest option is simply to integrate the date into the sentence: "...who reappear in the 1934 poem "New Hampshire" (144).

Alternatively, you could integrate this information into the same parenthesis using a semicolon: (1934; 144).

Hope that helps!

Reply

Suzie
October 9, 2020 at 8:52 PM

How do I format a signal phrase,quote and in text citations for a source coming from a website with no author or title for its article?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
November 5, 2020 at 12:31 PM

Hi Suzie,

It's usually possible to identify some kind of title for a web page. Try hovering over the tab in your browser – this should show you a "meta title" that describes the content of the page. If so, you can use this as the source title in both your Works Cited entry and in your signal phrase or parenthetical citation – see our article on citing a website in MLA for examples.

If you really can't find a suitable title, use a description of the source in the Works Cited, for example: Article about citing sources. When quoting the article in the text, make sure it is completely clear where the information comes from, using the same description of the source. For example:

According to an article about citing sources on the Scribbr website, "citing sources is an essential part of academic writing."

Hope that helps!

Reply

May
January 8, 2020 at 11:37 AM

Please I ned to know with examples if possible how to punctuate in-text citation in quotations whose sentence has not finished with a period but using specifiacally (,) and (;)?? Do I put these punctuation marks inside the quotation continuing the sentence or out sid the quotation?

Thank you very much

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
January 16, 2020 at 9:58 AM

Hi May,

In this case, you would place the comma or semicolon after the in-text citation:

The author writes that "quotation" (Smith 4), and goes on to say...

You can see more examples of different placements of in-text citations in this post on the MLA blog.

Hope that helps!

Reply

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