Guide to MLA Elements & Containers

MLA 9th edition - elements in 2 containersThis guide will give an overview of how and when to list each of the elements seen in the diagram to the right. Not all elements will apply to every citation. Use only the elements and containers that apply to your source. Follow the punctuation given with the exception that the last item used in a container ends with a period. For example, if the location is not needed, end the entry with the publication date and a period.

Sometimes a second container is needed. For example, an episode contained within a series which was viewed on a streaming platform, or an article contained within a journal which is contained within a database would be supplemental elements.

This page explains how to style each element. The following pages contain examples of the various different types of sources you may encounter and how to apply these styles to those types of sources.

The author element contains the name of the person, people, or organization who created the work. This could be the author of a book, a performer of a musical album, or an artist,

Author: Last name, First name.
Two authors: Last name, First name, and First name Last name.
Three or more authors: Last name, First name, et al.

Repeated author:

When an author appears in more than one citation, use three hyphens or three em dashes for every use after the first followed by a period. If the person had a role other than author, and their key contributor role is presented in the author element, add that role (e.g. editor, translator, director) after the name and before the period.

Last Name, First Name. Rest of citation.
———. Rest of citation.
———, editor. Rest of citation.

Author With Online Handle

If a person uses an online handle that is dissimilar to their name and their name is known, use their name with their handle contained within brackets.

Last name, First name [Handle].

Other Notes

Remove articles (a, an, the) from names of organizations or groups.

If there is no author, do not use this element.

End the author element with a period.

Title (or description)
This element will always have content.

Use title-style capitalization for the title and subtitle (if there is one). See Formatting Titles for more information.

There should be a colon between the title and subtitle. If there isn’t one, add one.

If the work is a standalone work (e.g. a book, a movie) or a container for another work (e.g. a website, a journal, a newspaper, etc.), italicize the title.

If the work is a shorter work or contained within another container (e.g. an article in a journal, a page on a website, an episode within a series, a song on an album, a poem within a book, etc.) put the title within quotation marks.

If there is no title, add a description in place of the title. The description should be in sentence case. It should not be italicized or contained within quotes.

End the title element with a period.

Title of Container
If the work is a stand-alone work, this item will not be needed and should not be added.

Examples of containers are journals, websites, TV series, and anthologies.

Generally, this item is in title case and italicized.

If the work does not contain a title, a description (in sentence case, not italicized) can be added in its place.

End the title of container element with a comma.


Tamisiea, Jack. “‘Big John,’ a High-Profile Triceratops, Locked Horns With Its Own Kind, Study Suggests.” The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2022, pp. 1+.

In the preceding example, the title of the container is The New York Times.

Other Contributors
Examples of contributors are editors, directors, and translators.

Any item added needs to also have a role. If the role follows a period, it should be in uppercase. If it follows a comma, it should be in lowercase.

edited by First Name Last Name,
directed by First Name Last Name,

Mulan. Directed by Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft, Disney, 1998. Netflix,

If a video is uploaded to a sharing site, like YouTube or Vimeo, “other contributor” is where you would add who uploaded the video.


"Digoxin Nursing Pharmacology NCLEX (Cardiac Glycosides)." YouTube, uploaded by RegisteredNurseRN, 9 Mar. 2019,
Examples of a version element include edition (e.g. MLA Handbook 9th edition, e-book edition*), revised, and version (New International Version, unabridged version). Edition is abbreviated to ed., revise is abbreviated to rev., and version is spelled out. Superscript should not be used. Arabic numbers should be used. If the element follows a period, it should be in uppercase. If it follows a comma, it should be in lowercase.

*According to the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook, “an e-book is defined here as a digital book that lacks a URL and that you use software to read on a personal electronic device” (155).


Modern Language Association of America. (2021). MLA Handbook (9th ed.).

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

NOTE: The first citation is created using APA Style, which is the style the Excelsior OWL uses. The second citation shows what it would look like in MLA format.

Examples of numbers include volume and issue numbers as well as season and episode numbers. If the word or abbreviation follows a period, it should be in uppercase, if not then it should be in lowercase. Arabic numerals should be used. Season and episode are not abbreviated. Vol. is the abbreviation for volume, and no. is used for the issue number.

The number element is usually followed by a comma.

vol. 16, no. 6,
no. 4,
season 10, episode 3,
For books, the publisher is often found on one of the first pages. For visual media, the production company or the network are used for this element.

Self-published works and journals do not need the publisher element, nor do websites where the website name and publisher are very similar or the same. Websites that are repositories for other people’s content are not added in the publisher element. Examples of video repositories include YouTube and Vimeo.

The publisher’s name is a proper noun and should have the same casing that would be used in prose. However, retain the same punctuation, or lack thereof, as shown in the source. This could mean in your Works Cited page that some citations may use the serial (Oxford) comma, and some may not. This variation is acceptable as long asthe citations are consistent with the source’s punctuation.

Ampersands should be changed to “and.”

Articles such as a, an, and the should be omitted.

Any part of the publisher’s name that refers to their legal status (written out or abbreviated) can be omitted. Examples include Corporation (Corp.), Incorporated (Inc.), and Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

If there are co-publishers, add a forward slash (/) between them.

If there is a publication date or location added, the publisher element will end with a comma. If there is no date or location added, it will end with a period.

NOTE: If a book was published prior to 1900 the publication location (as written in the book) may be used instead of a publisher.
Publication Date
The publication date element not only includes the publication date for books, journals, and media (like an album or episode) but also the date of attendance of a live performance.

Government documents and e-books should use the year only. All other sources should use the most specific date available in the day-month-year format.

Arabic numerals should be used.

Seasons should be in lowercase (unless following a period).

If a location will be used, end this element with a comma. If a location will not be used, end this element with a period.

NOTE: In MLA 8th edition, seasons are capitalized within the Works Cited reference. In MLA 9th edition, seasons are in lowercase.

29 Apr. 2019,
fall 2020,
A stand-alone work, like a book, will not use this element. If a book is contained in a larger container, then page numbers for the book (not the entire container) should be used.

Paginated sources that are contained within another work should list page numbers or a page range of the work—not just the page numbers of the pages referenced. For example, cite the pages for the entire journal article, not just the pages within the article referenced.

For a live performance, the location is where the performance took place.

Use p. for page and pp. for pages. Hyphens or en dashes can be used for page ranges, but a choice should be made and consistently applied. Professional publications will use an en dash. For more information about en dashes and how to make them, view the En Dash tab on the Dashes page within the Excelsior OWL.

Use the same numbering style and casing as the source.

If pages are not consecutive in a periodical, use a plus sign directly after the first page number.

End the location element with a period.

p. xxiii.
pp. 20-45.
pp. 614-22.
pp. 3+

Online Works

For online works, use a DOI if there is one. If not, use a permalink. If neither of those are present, use a URL.

Always use before the DOI.

If URLs are used and will be hyperlinked, use the https:// or http:// protocol.

If URLs will not be hyperlinked, the http(s) protocol can be omitted.

If URLs are longer than three lines, they can be shortened to just the host (the main website).

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