July 1, 2022
by Ralph Toyama

Updates to MLA Citation Style

As mentioned in the recent post about MLA Handbook Plus, the Modern Language Association’s citation style is largely the same in the recently published 9th edition of the MLA Handbook as it was in the 8th edition. These are some of the differences.

  • The Contributors element, formerly called Other Contributors, has been expanded to include key contributors like film directors, music conductors, and if citing a live performance, groups like dance companies and choirs. (5.38-5.47)

  • URLs that run three full lines or longer should be truncated. (5.96)

  • A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) should be presented as a URL starting with “”. This is also how the APA citation style now presents DOIs in the current 7th edition of their publication manual. (5.93)

    • MLA 8th:   doi:10.1632/ORIW5168
    • MLA 9th:
  • With MLA 8th, the words University and Press in the names of academic presses should be abbreviated as U and P, e.g., U of Hawaiʻi P. With MLA 9th, if the publisher’s name does not include the word University, Press should be spelled out. (5.65)

    • MLA 8th:   Belknap P
    • MLA 9th:   Belknap Press
  • When presenting variant forms of an author’s name, (e.g., an author’s real name for a work published under a pseudonym), use square brackets instead of parentheses. The expanded guidance in the 9th ed. gives you some latitude in presenting the information in a way that you feel is most helpful to the reader. (5.14)

    • MLA 8th:Bachman, Richard (Stephen King)
    • MLA 9th:Bachman, Richard [Stephen King]
      Stephen King [published as Richard Bachman]
  • When citing a social media post, MLA 8th had you use the author’s online handle as the author name, with the author’s real name in parentheses. MLA 9th calls for using the real name, followed by the online handle in square brackets. The online handle can be omitted if it’s similar to the real name and a URL to the post is given. (5.16)

    • MLA 8th:   @GrammarGirl (Mignon Fogarty)
    • MLA 9th:   Fogarty, Mignon [@GrammarGirl]
  • When a publication date includes a season, the season is not capitalized. The rationale is to bring this guidance in line with the practice of not capitalizing seasons in prose. (5.79)

    • MLA 8th:   Spring 2022
    • MLA 9th:   spring 2022
  • “Optional Elements” are now called “Supplemental Elements”, because there are cases in which these elements are required to supply necessary clarifying information. This could be information like a date of access for a source that has been altered or removed. Or an indication of the medium of publication might be needed if multiple forms of a work are available from the same place, such as a web page with both an audio clip and a transcript of that audio. (5.105-5.119)

Sources: MLA Handbook, 8th and 9th eds., Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed.

May 7, 2020
by Ralph Toyama

Updates to APA Citation Style

Cover of Publication Manual of the American Psychological AssociationThe APA recently released the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The major change made to the APA citation style is that the instructions for creating reference list entries have been restructured around a framework of four elements: author, date, title, and source. Many rules have been simplified or made more consistent. In cases where there’s ambiguity about which category a particular resource fits, you’ll often get the same result regardless of which one you choose.

We’ve updated our Citating Sources Guide and our APA Reference List handout with the changes.

Changes in practice in the 7th edition include:

  • Up to 20 authors are now included in the reference list entry. In the 6th edition, only seven names were given.
  • When the author and the publisher are the same, you omit the publisher to avoid repetition. Previously, you gave “Author” as the publisher.
  • With multi-layered government agencies, you now give the most specific agency as the author, and give the parent agency or agencies in the source element. Previously, you listed them all together as the author.
  • For e-books or audiobooks, the platform or format is no longer given in most cases. You do now give the publisher.
  • For journal articles, you now always give the issue number. Previously, you omitted the issue number for journals with continuous page numbering between issues in a volume.
  • You no longer label page numbers for newspaper articles with “p.” or “pp.” Format it as you would for any other periodical article.
  • The publisher’s location is no longer given in the reference.
  • While the 6th ed. encouraged abbreviation of the publisher’s name, the 7th ed. instructs that you don’t. Do omit terms indicating business structure, like Ltd , LLC or Inc.
  • New instructions are given for including the names of databases or repositories that provide certain types of works.
  • Digital Object Identifiers are now given in the form of a URL by preceding the DOI with “”.
  • URLs are no longer preceded by “Retrieved from” unless a retrieval date is needed for an online source that may change over time.
  • For websites like Wikipedia, that archive previous versions of web pages that are updated over time, cite the archived version of a page, instead of citing the current page and including a retrieval date.
  • Web pages that don’t fit in another category should be cited as if they were standalone works, with the page title italicized and the website name given in the source element.
  • In-text citations for works with three or more authors are shortened with “et al.” from the first mention. Previously, when citing works with three to five authors, all were identified on first mention.
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