How to cite a short story in MLA

When you quote from a short story in MLA Style, make sure to properly introduce the quote and to follow it with an in-text citation giving the author’s last name and the page number of the quote.

Short story quote and citation

The narrator tells us that Bartleby “seemed to gorge himself on my documents” (Melville 11).

The citation corresponds to an entry in your Works Cited list, giving the story’s author and its title in quotation marks, followed by the publication details of the container (e.g. a book, magazine, or website). The story in this example comes from a collection with an editor.

Format Author last name, First name. “Story Title.” Book Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, pp. Page range.
Works Cited entry Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Billy Budd, Sailor and Selected Tales, edited by Robert Milder, Oxford UP, 1998, pp. 3–41.

Quoting and citing a short story

When you quote from a short story, it’s important to properly introduce the quotation in your own words.

For example, you could use an introductory sentence followed by a colon. The in-text citation is placed directly after the quotation.

Author cited in parentheses

The narrator refers to the mystery of his father’s behavior: “Why did Father smile to himself, why did his eyes turn up, misty, in a parody of mock admiration?” (Schulz 99).

Or you can integrate the quote into your own sentence, as shown below. If you name the author when introducing the quote, you only need to include the page number in parentheses.

Author named in the text

Schulz describes the interior of the shop as a “cosmogony of cloth” (89).

If you quote more than four lines, format it as a block quote.

Consecutive citations of the same story

If you’re referring to the same story repeatedly, you don’t need to include the author name in every citation. As long as it’s clear you’re citing the same source again, omit the author name and just cite the page number.

Consecutive citations of the same story

Schulz describes the interior of the shop as a “cosmogony of cloth . . . a fantastic Canaan” (89). The biblical imagery continues: the objects of the father’s anger are referred to as “idolaters” and “worshippers of Baal” (90).

If you refer to a different source in between or start a new paragraph, include the author’s name in the citation again.

Citing a short story from a book

To cite a short story from an edited collection, after giving the author and title of the story, list the title of the book, the editor(s), the publisher, the year, and the page range on which the story appears.

Format Author last name, First name. “Story Title.” Book Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, pp. Page range.
Works Cited entry Smith, Ali. “The Universal Story.” The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, edited by Philip Hensher, Penguin Books, 2018, pp. 99–107.
In-text citation (Smith 103)

If the story is published in a single-author collection, without a named editor, simply omit the editor from the reference.

Format Author last name, First name. “Story Title.” Book Title, Publisher, Year, pp. Page range.
Works Cited entry Schulz, Bruno. “The Comet.” The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories, Penguin Books, 2008, pp. 95–111.
In-text citation (Schulz 99)

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Citing a short story from a newspaper or magazine

To cite a story published in a newspaper or magazine, list the name of the periodical, the date of publication, and the page range where the story can be found.

Format Author last name, First name. “Story Title.” Newspaper/Magazine Name, Day Month Year, pp. Page range.
Works Cited entry Coetzee, J. M. “The Dog.” The New Yorker, 4 Dec. 2017, pp. 15–19.
In-text citation (Coetzee 15)

Citing a short story found online

For a short story published online, whether in an online magazine or elsewhere, list the website name, the date it was published, and the URL.

Note that if there are no page numbers and the author is already named in your sentence (narrative citation), no parenthetical citation is needed.

Format Author last name, First name. “Story Title.” Website Name, Day Month Year, URL.
Works Cited entry Hughes, Caoilinn. “A Woman of No Information.” Granta, 10 Jun. 2020, granta.com/a-woman-of-no-information/.
In-text citation (Hughes)

Frequently asked questions about MLA citations

When should I cite a book chapter in MLA?

In MLA Style, you should cite a specific chapter or work within a book in two situations:

  • When each of the book’s chapters is written by a different author.
  • When the book is a collection of self-contained works (such as poems, plays, or short stories), even if they are all written by the same author.

If you cite multiple chapters or works from the same book, include a separate Works Cited entry for each chapter.

How do you write a book title in MLA?

In MLA style, book titles appear in italics, with all major words capitalized. If there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space (even if no colon appears in the source). For example:

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

The format is the same in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. However, when you mention the book title in the text, you don’t have to include the subtitle.

The title of a part of a book—such as a chapter, or a short story or poem in a collection—is not italicized, but instead placed in quotation marks.

Is this article helpful?
Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

4 comments

Paris
April 17, 2021 at 11:36 PM

When it says to put the date, does that mean the date the short story was published or the day I went on the website?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 22, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Hi Paris,

That's the date the story was published on the site.

It's usually only necessary to include the date you accessed the site if there's no publication date listed.

Reply

Abigail Morton
April 16, 2021 at 5:09 PM

Do the website instructions apply to a pdf found online as well?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 22, 2021 at 4:36 PM

Hi Abigail,

A PDF is usually a scan of the story from some sort of print source. If you can figure out from the PDF what kind of source it's from, then follow the relevant format, adding "PDF file." at the end to clarify if you like. If you're not sure or not enough information is provided, then yes, I would recommend going for the website format (again optionally adding "PDF file." at the end). You can see more tips about citing PDFs here.

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