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Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

The Modern Language Association (MLA) handbook gives rules for presenting research in language and literature. Most English students format their work in MLA style. This document will explain general rules for citing sources from the MLA Handbook. MLA favors a concise style of citations, to avoid interruptions in the text. Listed page numbers will correspond to the complete entries in the MLA Handbook. See our other pages if you want to learn more about formatting papers or adding quotations in MLA.
  1. Why We Cite 
  2. The Internal Citation
  3. Writing a Works Cited Page
  4. What if the Source is Missing Information?

Why We Cite

Writers should document their sources for three reasons:

  1. To provide credit to the originators of ideas
  2. To allow readers to verify an author's claims
  3. To help readers find the context behind the quotations, summaries, and paraphrases used.

There are two parts to each MLA citation:

  1. A brief internal citation placed next to the source information, which helps readers find the text in your works cited list.
  2. An entry on your works cited page that provides all the information needed to search a library or database for the source.

The internal citation helps you find the entry listed in your works cited, and the works cited entry helps you find the full text of the source.

The Internal Citation

Context plays a big role in determining how much information you need to include in a citation. MLA internal citations normally include the author’s name and the page number of the text being referenced, placed inside a pair of parentheses:

(Martin 457)

If the author has multiple works in your Works Cited list, also include a brief abbreviation of the title in your citation:

(Martin, Game 457)

This citation would lead you to George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones in the works cited. Once the reader has found the book, she can turn to page 457 to find the original text.


Place the citations as close to the quotation, paraphrase, or summary as possible. In some instances, you can work all or part of the citation into the main text. When this occurs, you can abbreviate the citation even further:

Martin has a gift for depicting the savagery of war: “quotation goes here” (Game, 457).

Martin’s book A Clash of Kings deftly portrays the savagery of war.


In the second example, since I referred to a full book instead of a particular passage, no page number is needed; hence, no citation.


If you have multiple authors with the same last name, include a first initial as well:

Born Standing Up includes a long section explaining the connections between comedians and magicians (S. Martin 17-25).

Citations should be kept low in number and as short as possible. If quoting several passages from the same author in a row, use just the page numbers, since the reader will assume that they come from the same author.


Some sources, such as web sources, will have paragraph numbers instead of page numbers. Use the abbreviation par. to indicate this in your citation. If there are no numbers whatsoever, cite just the author’s name, but try to indicate your position in the text:

At the end of a post on Christopher Hitchens, the Boiled Leather blog once again compares the Iraq War to the devastation in the fictional country of Westeros (Collins).

 There are other rules for citations in rarer situations. Consult chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook for more information.


Writing a Works Cited Page

MLA prefers the term “Works Cited” to Bibliography because it is more inclusive. Begin the Works Cited on a new page. Center the words “Works Cited” and double-space throughout the paper.

Each entry will begin at the left margin, but indent any following lines a half inch.

Organize entries in alphabetical order by author’s last name. If there is no listed author for a work, use the first significant word in the title to alphabetize the entry. Titles with numerals will be alphabetized as if the numbers were spelled out (If we didn’t have the author’s name, we would place the novel 1984 with the N’s). Cross-reference or consolidate variant spellings, changed names, and pseudonyms:

King, Stephen (see also Richard Bachman).

 Nearly every entry in the MLA Works Cited places information in the same order:

Author last name, first name. “Article Title, If There Is One.” Title of Book, Journal, Web Site, etc. Publication Information, Year. Medium of publication.

 For instance, a printed book will be:

 Author, first name. Book Title. City: Publisher, Year. Print.


Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones. New York: Bantam, 1996. Print.

 A journal entry includes volume and issue information:

 Stacks, Luke. “Is It Something in the Water? New York’s Pizza Heritage.” Journal of Pizza Studies 42.5 (2003), 413-432. Print.

 The volume number is separated from the issue number by a period. In this example, the article is in Volume 42, Issue 5.

 Government Publications normally list the agency as the author, but first you name the country of origin:

 United States. Cong. House.

 This is the beginning of an entry about a publication put out by the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress.


Since Web Publications can change their information, and URLs are hard to copy correctly, include the date of access following the date of publication:

Collins, Sean T. “Seen and Not Seen.” Boiled Leather. 29 November 2011. Web. 21 December 2011.

There are dozens of types of publications, but these are the most basic. If you are looking for the proper style for another format, such as Scholarly Editions, Lectures, or others, consult the MLA Handbook.


What if the Source is Missing Information?

If you can find any of the missing information elsewhere, include it in brackets in your entry. For instance, you can add a date as [1957]. You can use a c. for circa if it is just an estimate, or include a question mark. Use n.p. to stand for “no publisher” or “no place of publication,” n.d. for “no date,” and n.pag. for “no pagination”:

Stranger, Mysterious. The Book from Nowhere. n.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.