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Shifting into 8th (On MLA’s new edition)

MLA just relehandbook8ed-S6-B-Print-1_bookstore_largeased the 8th Edition of its Handbook.  And, there are some key changes between MLA 7 and MLA 8 in this fresh look at documenting sources that you will need to note!

I chatted with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communications at MLA. She shared:

Our hope for the new edition is that it helps students and instructors think about “how” and the “why” of citation practice–to focus on the principles, rather than getting obsessed with the details.

The first thing you’ll notice when you get your copy is its size.  Weighing in at a slight 160 pages, compared with the 292 pages of its older sister, you sense right away that this edition represents serious simplification.

You’d be right about that. Previous editions focused separate sections on the treatment of every possible source format. Recognizing that works are now published in a dizzying array of formats, MLA 8 recommends one universal set of guidelines that apply across source types.

Author. Title of source. Title of container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

This more thoughtful and slightly format-agnostic approach, asks researchers to focus on relevant questions as “who is the author?” and “what is the title?”  In other words, cite the simple traits shared by most works.

This lovely chart of guidelines, also illustrates punctuation.  It is included in the book as a reproducible practice template.

And more good news, Kathleen Fitzpatrick promises additional digital resources and templates will be made available when the MLA Style Center launches at the end of this month. (You can sign up now for notice of the launch.)

So, as we revise our own teaching and resources for MLA 8, we’ll need to think about these core elements: Author. Title of the source. Title of the container, Other contributors, Version, Numbers, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

What else is new?  Here are some highlights of other changes:
Thinking about the container
That element of container is important.  Containers are the places sources live and they are now  core element 3.
Losing some abbreviations
In a works cited list, common terms like editor, edited by and translator are no longer abbreviated.  A short list of recommended abbreviations is included on pages 96–97.

Multiple authors, no more rule of four

When a source has three or more authors, only the first one shown in the citation follow by et al.  In previous versions, et al. was used for sources having four or more authors.  (Speaking on the other side of this fence, this new rule means I lose visible credit for the current big project on which I am a primary investigator.  This will likely anger many hard-working researchers, doc students, if fact, most of my collaborative academic colleagues!)

Listing pages

In works-cited lists (but not in-text documentation) page numbers are now preceded by p. or pp.

Good-bye city!

The city of publication is no longer given for book sources, except in special cases. The rationale is that the location of a publisher serves little purpose today.

Issues are less of an issue

Citing issues of scholarly journals is now a bit clearer.  They are identified now a “vol. 23, no. 3” rather than coded as “23.3”  And, if the issue is dated with a month or season, the month or season is now cited along with the year.  (vol. 23, no. 3, Mar. 2016.)

URLs and web sources

URLs are now list for web sources without the preceding http:// or https://  Angle brackets [ ] are no longer necessary.

The citing of DOIs (digital object identifiers found in most databases) is now encouraged

And, it is no longer necessary to cite the date of access for an online source.

No more n.d.

When a date for a source is not offered, you no longer need to use placeholders like n.d. for “no date”


Publishers’ names are now given in full, with businessy words like Company (Co.) dropped.  But abbreviations for academic presses (U, P, and UP ) carry on.

In-Text Citations

The basic principles behind in-text citations in MLA style have not changed, but in MLA 8:

  • Times are now cited for video sources
  • The use of my trans. can be user to identify your own translation of non-English text
  • Advice is offered for shortening long titles for inclusion in parentheticals
  • Parenthetical punctuation is summarized
  • Suggestions are offered for citing in formats other than traditional papers–like slides, videos and web projects,

Those pesky articles

For titles of periodicals that begin with A, An, The, the article is now treated as part of the title.  The article is italicized and its first letter is capitalized. For instance, “The Georgia Review

Pseudonyms for author names

It is now common and acceptable to use simplified names of famous authors, pseudonyms, online handles or screen names.

For more information, visit:

MLA Style

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Hi Joyce,
    Overall, I think these changes make a lot of sense. But I have two questions — and I won’t have my copy till Sept. (but I have to update student agenda now!)
    On the MLA style guide, the example for an article from a database shows “EBSCOhost” as the name of the database — but this is not the name of a database, it is the name of a provider/publisher of databases. It might be from Academic Search Premier, or MAS Ultra. Do we no longer put the name of the actual dbase and just use EBSCO, or Facts on File, or whatever?
    Also, with the articles being included in the title — this makes sense that it should be capitalized, etc. But does the alphabetization of a works cited list use the article? Most items will be under the As or the Ts (A, An, The). This one bothers me. But I will abide by whatever the style says to do.


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