How to write footnotes in MLA style

Using footnotes and endnotes
How to write footnotes in MLA style

The Modern Language Association (MLA) offers a method for crediting sources in an academic or research paper. One of the most common methods of citation uses footnotes on the text page where the information appears. Marking the material requiring citation with a number refers the reader to the bottom of that page for more information. In lieu of including the note on the same page, you can cite the reference in an endnote, at the conclusion of the text, usually at the end of a chapter.

MLA guidelines are widely accepted by schools, academic organizations and instructors, more than 1100 scholarly, literary journals, newsletters and magazines throughout the world. The two sources of MLA guidelines are: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.


Step 1

Determine whether you need to cite a source.

Citation: acknowledges a source; prevents plagiarism; establishes your credibility as a researcher and writer; places your work within the context of a particular field of research; allows others to find sources to learn more information about the subject or to replicate your work.

Step 2

Footnote a source within the text.

Locate the superscript function of your word processing program. Type a number at the last word of the citation, and the corresponding number at the beginning of the footnote at the bottom of the page. For example, the text citation would look like this: «The writer might use a joke, a pun or a funny character as a humorous hook.»1

Step 3

Create the corresponding footnote.

Begin with the author’s last name, then first name. The title of the book is italicized or underlined. Next list the place of publication: publisher, and date. For example,

1 Tomasello, Heather. Get ‘Em Reading, Get ‘Em Writing. Charlotte, NC: Write That Press, 2009.

Step 4

How to cite the same author again.

The MLA no longer uses the Latin abbreviations «Ibid.» and «op. cit.» Instead, for second or later mentions of the same work list only the author’s name and page number or numbers of the source.

Step 5

Using endnotes

At the end of either the chapter, create a numbered list corresponding to the footnotes. The information is presented in the same manner with superscript, author’s name, title of the work, and publication specifics. The advantage to using endnotes is saving space in the text.

Step 6

Format the endnote

The endnote is indented 5 spaces from the left margin. Begin with the superscript (number), create a space, then type the entry. Second and third lines do not need to be indented. Double space the entries.

Things Needed
• MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
• MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing.

Tips & Warnings
• Consider using parenthetical notation which allows you to cite the source within the text.
• Always check with your instructor for style guidelines and preferences.
• List all footnotes as endnotes at the end of the work.
• Keep accurate notes of your research so that your footnotes will be correct.
• Do not confuse footnote and endnote citations with explanatory Notes that some authors refer to as «endnotes.» These notes are not considered to be citations but are used to add comments, explanations, or additional information relating to specific passages in the text.
• Endnotes always precede the bibliography.


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