You may use acronyms and abbreviations in MLA format when including the works cited list of your MLA style paper. Having said that, you are expected always to spell out the words in full when writing your paper instead of using abbreviations. For example, rather than writing etc. i.e., or e.g., write it out in full as “for example”. (Also learn about using abbreviations in APA and Chicago format)
Acronyms can, however, be used in MLA format papers but you are expected to write the phrase in full at first while putting the acronyms in parentheses (Find out where to use parentheses). Having done that, you can now use the acronym for the rest of the paper. Although, commonly known acronyms like CIA, IRS or FBI might not need spelling out.
Guidelines for Using Abbreviations in MLA Format
When creating your works cited list, you can use abbreviations following these rules:
Lower case letters
If the abbreviation ends in lowercase letters, end it with a period. Except of course you are writing an internet suffix then the period should come before the abbreviation.
Eng., p., pp., assn.
.com, .co, .uk, .edu
Upper case letters
If the abbreviation is comprised of only upper case letters, do not use periods or spaces in the abbreviation. Except of course in the case of proper names.
MA, DVD, UPS, CD
T.S. Lewis, C.P. Elliot, P.B. James
However, if writing a well-known name or a name that is comprised of only initial then you do not need to include a period
JFK, MLK, FDR
Degree names are a notable exception to the lowercase abbreviation guideline. For degrees, the first and last letters should be in uppercase while any other letter between them should be in lowercase with no inclusion of a period.
MSc, PhD, PsyD, EdD
Common lower abbreviations
Another exception to the lowercase rule is how common lowercase abbreviations are written. Periods should be used in between letters of common abbreviations in MLA format if each of those letters represents a word.
Month names that are longer than four lines should be abbreviated in an article or magazine citation.
You are expected to abbreviate states, countries and provinces. Use their geographical names
Los Angeles, CA
- You are expected to write the names of the publishers in full as they appear in the sources. However, you are expected to omit business and articles abbreviation
Corp., Inc., Co., Ltd
- Only use the acronym of the publisher if its commonly known by the acronym
- If university press is included in the publisher’s name, replace it with the initials ‘UP.’
Cambridge University Press – Cambridge UP
Harvard University Press – Harvard UP
- If the name of the university press is separated, then The ‘U’ should assume the position of the University while the ‘P’ takes that of the press
University of New Mexico Press – U of New Mexico P
University of Arkansas Press – U of Arkansas P
The MLA style allows for the use of common abbreviations in not just works cited list but also in-text citation.
anon. for anonymous
dept. for department
e.g. for example
et al. for and others
i.e. for that is
jour. for journal
lib. for library
no. for number
P for Press (used to describe an academic press e.g. Oxford P)
p., pp. for page, pages
trans. for translation
U for University (for example, Purdue U)
UP for University Press
var. for variant
vol. for volume
ed. for edition
c. or ca. for circa
ch. for chapter