What are the most important things that need to be taken care of while writing in the MLA format?Or what seem to be the most common mistakes?

Expert Answers
clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a teacher who has been responsible for training high school students in their first use of the MLA format for a research paper, I have found that over the years there are a few struggles that students seem to share universally.  In my experience, parenthetical citations are one of the most commonly incorrect parts of the MLA format within the paper.

The details of parenthetical citation are outlined specifically in the MLA Handbook, but even after various examples shown in class and multiple opportunities for practice, the most common mistakes I see in student papers are as follows:

  1. Incorrect placement of the period (should come at the end of the citation and after the parenthesis) when citing direct quotes.
  2. Knowing exactly what to put in the parenthetical citation, especially when the source has no author.  It should be one or two key words from the title of the source when no author is named.  Students frequently substitute this for the website URL where the information was found.
  3. Not giving credit to paraphrased information or including a source citation after every single sentence in the paper.

In addition to the above, a general lack of attention to detail in creating works cited list is the next most common error.


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

MLA format requires cover page, running header, heading and works cited page.  Including all of those is important, and instructors usually mark down papers that are missing any of it.

The purpose of MLA is to ensure that all quotations and references are properly cited, so that you give credit to the author for anything you use.  The rules for citations are complex, so it is best to use a citation generator or style guide.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

MLA style differs from some other styles in reference to what is ofter called the "serial comma." When writing lists, MLA requires that the coordinating conjunction before last item in the list (e.g., and juice) be preceded by a comma: "I shall buy bagels, cream cheese, loks, ice cream, yogurt, and juice." Other styles, such as Chicago style, omit the serial comma.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since other coursework outside the arena of English requires APA Documentation, the method of citing page numbers within the paper differs slightly between these two styles.  Thus, mistakes are common.