NOTE: Some works are classics and have accepted abbreviations that can be used. For plays, it is always acceptable to use the name or abbreviated name of the play. If you are interested in using these abbreviations, there is a list in Appendix 1 within the MLA Handbook. This list has abbreviations for works by Chaucer and Shakespeare as well as books within the Bible.
Most poems and verse plays provide line numbers. When quoting lines of verse, avoid using page numbers and cite by whatever categories you can provide (title of play, act, scene, and line). Make sure to separate the numbers with periods. In the citation, use the title of the play, the act and scene separated by a period, and the line numbers without the word “line.” The citation examples below refer to title, act, scene, and line numbers.
When Prospero says to Ferdinand, “All thy vexations / Were but my trials of thy love, and thou / Hast strangely stood the test,” he reveals his own surprise in his friend’s dedication to him (Tempest 4.1.5–7).
When Polonius says, “This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man,” he is giving timeless and wise advice to his son, Laertes (Hamlet 1.3.78–80).
For verse works, such as poems, include line numbers in your in-text citations if the lines are included in your source.
When you are citing only line numbers, write out the full word “line” or “lines.”
In “April Rain Song,” Hughes uses sibilance to mimic the sound of raindrops on his roof, “The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night” (line 6).
If you do not use the author’s name or the title of the work (or both) in your prose prior to the citation, include that information, separated by a comma, in the parenthetical citation.
The poet uses sibilance to mimic the sound of raindrops on his roof, “The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night” (Hughes, “April Rain Song,” line 6).
If it is clear that you are referencing only line numbers from within the same work, you only have to use the word “line” or “lines” in the first citation. After that, you can use just the number.
Poe wrote, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary” (line 1).
Later in the poem, Poe wrote, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” (25–26).
When citing scripture the first time, add part or all (depending on length and omit articles) of the first element from the citation from the Works Cited page. Follow that with an abbreviated name of the book as well as chapter and verse numbers. Chapter and verse(s) will be separated with a period. A specific edition should be in italics, but the Bible, Koran, and Talmud without specific editions should not be italicized.
He wrote, “A mild answer turns away wrath, sharp words stir up anger” (New Jerusalem Bible, Prov. 15.1).
The Holy Bible says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding” (Prov. 4.7).
In the Bible it says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding” (Holy Bible, Prov. 4.7).
The New Jerusalem Bible. Joseph Henry Wansbrough, general editor, Catholic Online, https://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=24&bible_chapter=15.
The Holy Bible. Authorized King James Version, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979.
REMEMBER: If there is a range of numbers, consistency is important. Either use a hyphen in all cases or an en dash. Do not go back and forth. Hyphens are acceptable; professional printers most often use en dashes.
For modern verse works, such as poems, include line numbers in your in-text citations.
And Poe wrote, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” (line 1).
When citing scripture, give the abbreviated name of the book and chapter and verse numbers.
And he wrote, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (New Jerusalem Bible, Ezek. 18.4-20).