Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why I Love the New MLA and Why You Should Too

I’m not exaggerating when I say I love the new MLA. You may be thinking, Is it really possible to be that excited about citation guidelines? Let me be the first to tell you: It is! Thanks to the new MLA, you’ll no longer dread creating that Works Cited page. You know, the page that you spend just as much time on as your actual paper? Now, instead of spending precious writing time on a reference page that is probably full of mistakes anyway, you can take that extra hour to put the finishing touches on your paper. Creating a flawless Works Cited page will take you no time at all!  

Here are just a few ways in which the new MLA is making your life easier:

  1. It uses simple punctuation.

This change may be my favorite part about the new MLA. No more colons, no more parenthesis, and no more periods in weird places. The new MLA only requires the use of two types of punctuation, the period and the comma. Place a period after the name of the author and the title of your source, and separate the rest of the core elements with commas. Then, end your entry with a period. How easy is that?!

  1. All sources are cited using the same basic format.

The old MLA required you to identify the type of source you were citing. Is this a periodical? Or maybe it’s a peer-reviewed journal? Do I even know what a peer-reviewed journal is? I think it’s just an article. Wait, is this a blog? This thought process might sound familiar. Depending on the type of source you used, there was a specific set of guidelines for your works cited entry. If your source fit into two of those categories (like a book on an online database), it became even more complicated. Now, all you need to know are these nine core elements (also listed above). Identify as many of these nine elements as you can for each of your sources, and you’re already on your way to creating a successful Works Cited page!

  1. It’s reader-friendly.

Unless you’re an expert on MLA, you probably had no idea what most of the numbers in a Works Cited entry referred to. I mean 20.2 (2013): 120-130 doesn’t really tell us much. Luckily for us, the Modern Language Association realized this too and decided to make these numbers more reader-friendly. Now, if a journal has a volume or an issue number, you can use abbreviations to identify them. There are also abbreviations for edition and page numbers, which your readers will easily recognize. Here’s an example:

Baron, Naomi S. “Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication
Media.” PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193.

In this entry, it’s clear what the volume (vol.), issue number (no,), and page numbers (pp.) are. Even better, the abbreviations are sensible and easy to remember!

  1. Only the most relevant information is needed.

“I hate when I look at a Works Cited entry only to be devastated when the city of publication is missing,”….said no one ever. While there are special circumstances where you might record the city of publication (a version of the same work is published in two countries), this piece of information is normally excluded now; and let’s be real, we’re pretty glad it is. Also, you no longer need to identify whether the source is “print” or “web.” Identifying the page number(s) or URL (location) in your entry is enough to let your reader know if it is a print or web-based source.

  1. You can actually remember these rules!

I used the old MLA for seven years, and there were very few times I created a Works Cited page without having to look up the correct guidelines. I’ve been using the new MLA for about three months now, and I can already cite my sources on my own with confidence. Now, don’t get me wrong; I still flip through my MLA Handbook, 8th Edition every now and then or check out Purdue OWL’s amazing website when I come across a new citation question. For the most part, however, it’s pretty easy to remember MLA’s new guidelines, and that makes my life a heck of a lot easier!

Good riddance, old MLA!

1 comment:

  1. Change is hard, and changes to procedures we have mastered and concepts we have assimilated are particularly so. This is not just an "update": it's a different approach to citation. But I also have basically positive feelings about the new MLA. It has cost me some time on the front end, but it was surprisingly easy to explain to students in a general education course, and that's a big plus. I am comfortable requiring this MLA in English courses that attract students from across the curriculum since it "works" for a variety of types of texts but does not require that students think like English majors.