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MLA Endnotes and Footnotes

Summary:

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Because long explanatory notes can be distracting to readers, most academic style guidelines (including MLA and APA, the American Psychological Association) recommend limited use of endnotes/footnotes. However, certain publishers encourage or require note references in lieu of parenthetical references.

 

Bibliographic Notes

MLA discourages extensive use of explanatory or digressive notes. MLA style does, however, allow you to use endnotes or footnotes for bibliographic notes, which refer to other publications your readers may consult. The following are some examples:

1. See Blackmur, especially chapters 3 and 4, for an insightful analysis of this trend.
2. On the problems related to repressed memory recovery, see Wollens 120-35; for a contrasting view, see Pyle 43; Johnson, Hull, Snyder 21-35; Krieg 78-91.
3. Several other studies point to this same conclusion. See Johnson and Hull 45-79, Kather 23-31, Krieg 50-57.
Bibliographic notes can help readers keep their focus by decluttering text. Some common uses of bibliographic notes are: 

To cite a lengthy string of sources.

¹See Said, Culture and Imperialism and Orientalism; Serres, The Natural Contract; Foucault, The Foucault Reader, esp. Part II.

²For more material related to Postcolonial Studies and Technology, see McClintock, Imperial Leather; De Landa, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines.

To explain an unusual documentation practice.

³Italicised words denote translations for which there are no clear equivalents in the original Chinese.

To flag editions and translations used. Editions and translations usually require a note only when more than one edition or translation is cited. This can be done by placing a note in the text where the work is first referenced. Alternatively, an initial and unnumbered note may be created.

⁴Citations of The Odyssey refer to Emily Wilson’s translated version unless otherwise noted.

⁵Translations are provided by Emily Wilson unless otherwise noted.

Content Notes

You can also use endnotes/footnotes for occasional explanatory notes (also known as content notes), which refer to brief additional information that might be too digressive for the main text:

4. In a 1998 interview, she reiterated this point even more strongly: "I am an artist, not a politician!" (Weller 124).
Content Notes can be used:

To amplify. Writers may feel that amplifying certain sections of their content will allow readers to better understand the context which affected/affects the following circumstances. 

¹Kujou and Yanagi are often confused by their misinterpretation of each other’s words, actions, and interactions with others.

²Beach considers Readicide to be a necessary read for all incoming Student Teachers, including it in recommended words for all his students.

³Culler makes it clear that “Literature” is “an institutional label that gives us reason to expect that the results of our reading efforts will be ‘worth it’” (28).

To explain word choice.

⁴She refers here to a branch of physiological research.

⁵He chose to translate the verb (first translated by Yang as “to feel”) as “to understand” to point to the character development.

To justify the scope of your study. Justifying the scope of your study can help readers better understand what to expect from reading your work by specifically pointing to what will or will not be explored, and why.

⁶Whether or not Beowulf as a character is justified in his actions is not relevant to my point.

⁷The efforts of decolonization are beyond the extent of my essay, but I point readers to Garvey’s work.

To provide more examples.

⁸Readers can think about Atwood’s inclusion of insects in her literary work

⁹This same idea applies to queer youth, as Chelsea Monheim’s “Percieved social norms and acceptance of transgender students in gendered restrooms” addresses.

To provide counterexamples.

¹⁰Bankfeld (99-102) calls for an alternative call to action.

To identity of comment on allusions.

¹¹The reference to ‘Westword’ in Iron Man 3 recalls the 1973 movie Westworld, starring Yul Brynner as a killing cyborg.

To point to an area of future research.

¹²More extensive research remains to be done on this subject. 

To identify authors whose names appear as et al. in documentation.

¹³The contributing authors of Teaching Literature to Adolescents are Deborah Appleman, Bob Fecho, and Rob Simon.

To acknowledge.

¹⁴Anna Turner, from a local veterinary clinic, brought distinctions between small and large animal care to my attention.

 

Numbering endnotes and footnotes in the document body

MLA notes may be styled either as footnotes or endnotes. Endnotes and footnotes in MLA format are indicated in-text by superscript Arabic numbers after the punctuation of the phrase or clause to which the note refers:

Some have argued that such an investigation would be fruitless.6
Scholars have argued for years that this claim has no basis,7 so we would do well to ignore it.

Note that when a long dash appears in the text, the footnote/endnote number appears before the dash:

For years, scholars have failed to address this point8—a fact that suggests their cowardice more than their carelessness.

Do not use asterisks (*), angle brackets (>), or other symbols for note references. The list of endnotes and footnotes (either of which, for papers submitted for publication, should be listed on a separate page, as indicated below) should correspond to the note references in the text.  Do not use the abbreviation ibid. in a note to refer readers to the information provided in the note right above it.

 

Placement of Notes in the Text

Use parentheses around page numbers when page numbers interrupt a sentence or are given at the end of a sentence. Similar to parenthetical citations within text, citations in notes are usually placed at the end of a sentence. Alternatively, parenthetical citations may be placed mid-sentence.

¹As Danes (45) and Gilmore (151) argue, caffeinated beverages play a vital role in American business environments.

²Gilmore considers the relationship between caffeine, productivity, and success (151).

Do not place parentheses around page numbers if the note is utilized to direct readers to the location of information. For example:

³See Gilmore 151.

Notes in MLA format are typically indicated in-text by superscript Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …) after the punctuation mark of the phrase or clause to which the note refers. Whenever possible, place the superscript numbers at the end of sentences. Keep in mind that word processing programs will likely style note numbers in the text and notes section as superscript by default.

Audience members generally responded positively to the racial representation in the musical.¹

Marquis de Lafayette uses a stereotypical White American accent to say the word “anarchy.”²

Aaron Burr advises a young Alexander Hamilton to “talk less, smile more” (16).³ 

Note that when a dash appears in the text, the note number appears before the dash.

After finding out about her daughter’s passion for music, Cho⁴—surprised, impressed, and a little confused—purchased a piano and allowed her daughter to take lessons.

 

If a note number must be placed somewhere other than at the end of a sentence or a sentence requires more than one note, the note number should be placed in the least distracting unambiguous spot. For instance: 

Placement of a note mid-sentence, for clarity of citations.

Despite the awareness from her past mistakes,⁵  Britney “did it again” and thus continued to face the consequences of her actions (203).

Placement of more than one note in a sentence.

Crystal’s love of farmers markets—especially those located in their hometown (which they support by “getting up at 7am every Saturday to go to” [Webb 21]⁶)—has become apparent even on social media platforms.⁷ 

 

Formatting endnotes and footnotes

Endnotes Page

MLA recommends that all notes be listed on a separate page entitled Notes (centered). Title the page Note if there is only one note. The Notes page should appear before the Works Cited page. This is especially important for papers being submitted for publication.

The notes themselves should be double-spaced and listed by consecutive Arabic numbers that correspond to the notation in the text. The first line of each endnote is indented five spaces, and subsequent lines are flush with the left margin. Place a period and a space after each endnote number, and then provide the appropriate note after the space.

Footnotes (below the text body)

The ninth edition of the MLA Handbook states that notes may be styled either as footnotes or endnotes. See the MLA Style Center for additional guidance on this topic and follow your instructor's or editor's preferences.