As an MLA book editor, I’m aware that the Modern Language Association (MLA) style is probably the guide most familiar to us. It’s what we grew up learning as kids — remember those English and language arts classes of your youth? Yep. Our teachers taught us MLA formatting all through elementary, middle school, and high school. We used it to write research papers and more.
The MLA Handbook (8th edition) offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes, footnotes, and the Works Cited page. But note that the MLA format doesn’t really touch upon writing conventions themselves.
The writing conventions we were taught are generally “governed” by local, state, and federal education entities, specifically the U. S. Department of Education, and presented to students under those guidelines.
Generally, it isn’t until we take college courses that we learn of other style guides such as American Psychological Association (APA) style and (perhaps) the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). These are preferred styles in the academic and literary world, although MLA still has a place (described below).
Is MLA Used in Books?
Note that MLA is generally used for scholarly works and academic papers — not books. That is, unless the author is self-publishing and set on MLA style within a nonfiction context. Perhaps the author is simply more comfortable using MLA for citations. Perhaps the author is writing for an audience that is familiar with MLA.
Self-publishing authors have the freedom to choose their style, sometimes even a “house style” or blend of styles, although I recommend sticking to tried-and-true industry standards. During rare projects when I serve as an MLA book editor, I note that consistency of use, more than anything, is important.
MLA Book Editor Tips — the MLA Style Center
If you are interested in an MLA resource, check out the MLA Style Center to explore answers to complex questions about, for instance, citing interviews, citing a frontispiece, citing academic catalogues, and much more.
More MLA Book Editor Tips — on YouTube
Here’s a YouTube video (with more than 160,000 views) that explains MLA formatting in a Word document. Yes, an MLA book editor can do this for you… but if you are a DIY author, this video can help.
Need Help with Your MLA Manuscript?
I hope this glimpse into MLA usage is helpful. If you need additional assistance, contact me and we’ll get started!