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MLA 8th Edition: MLA 7 to 8: Biggest Differences

Intro To MLA 8


The biggest difference between MLA 8 and the previous versions is in the methods used to create the Works Cited page. You’ll be glad to know this has become a great deal less pedantic.


The reason they’ve changed so dramatically is to bring themselves inline with modern research techniques and technology. MLA accepted (and we’re hoping APA and Chicago follow suit) that references have become increasing complex and that citing sources in a modern, internet driven world is far too complex for a traditional prescriptivist system.


Before, you had to find the exact format to match the thing you were referencing. That worked fine when there was only a handful of things you could reference, but it couldn’t keep up with the evolution in research. If you’re referencing a GIF you found in a listicle your friend found on BuzzFeed and linked to your Facebook page, there was no way to even begin to reference that properly. So, MLA started over.


Here’s what it looks like now:


They’ve built their system around what they’re calling Core Elements.


Core Elements are basic pieces of information. You can think of them as piece of metadata. Every source you come across can be added to a Works Cited using these Core Elements.


See the Core Elements tab for more info.



Evolution of Research Citations



MLA 1 through 7 were designed for this:





MLA 8 is designed for this:





MLA 9 will be designed for this:




The Purdue Owl Says . . .



Two important things the Purdue Owl has to say about all this (emphasis mine):



“When comparing works cited entries in the new eighth edition with the former seventh edition, see that differences in citation style are minimal; punctuation is streamlined, volume and issue numbers are identified as such, and there is no excess information such as city of publication or media type.”



“If you have included these elements and assembled them in a way that makes sense to your readers, then your works cited entries will be consistent and thorough.”





From the Purdue Owl's page (all emphasis mine):


If you are already familiar with traditional MLA citation methods, continue to use them in a more simplified form. Since the eighth edition emphasizes the writer’s freedom to create references based on the expectations of the audience, consider what your readers need to know if they want to find your source.


  • Think of MLA style principles as flexible guides, rather than rules. Part of your responsibility as a writer is to evaluate your readers and decide what your particular audience needs to know about your sources.
  • Your goal is to inform, persuade, and otherwise connect with your audience; error-free writing, along with trustworthy documentation, allows readers to focus on your ideas.
  • In-text citations should look consistent throughout your paper. The principles behind in-text citations have changed very little from the seventh to the eighth editions.
  • List of works cited/works consulted needs to include basic core information, such as author’s name, title of source, publication date, and other information, depending on the type of source. Each entry should be uniform and simple, but should give enough information so that your readers can locate your sources.
  • These updated MLA guidelines are based on a simple theory: once you know the basic principles of style and citation, you can apply that knowledge widely, and generate useful documentation for any type of publication, in any field.



What Else Has Changed?


For a description of other changes, such as how to handle abbreviations

or what to do when a source has more than three authors,

look here or visit the Links tab on this page.