Nathan D.
Nathan D.

MLA Date Format: What You Need to Know

5 min read

Published on: May 3, 2024

Last updated on: May 3, 2024

MLA Date Format

MLA style is one of the most widely used citation formats in academic writing. It is especially common in the humanities, such as literature, languages, and history. 

One of the aspects of MLA style that you need to pay attention to is how to format dates. 

Dates appear in different places in your paper, such as the header, the main text, and the works cited list. Depending on where they appear, the formatting rules may vary.

In this blog post, we will explain how to format dates in the MLA Handbook, 9th Edition, with examples and tips to help you avoid common mistakes.

Dates in the Works Cited List

The Works Cited list is where you provide full bibliographic information for all the sources you cited in your paper. 

Each source type has its citation format, but they all follow some general rules for dates.

  • Dates are always written in day-month-year order, with no commas, e.g. 5 Mar. 2018.
  • The month is abbreviated if it has five or more letters, e.g. Jan., Feb., Mar., etc. 
  • If the source provides a more specific date than just the year, you should usually include it, e.g. 5 Mar. 2018, spring 2018, Mar.-Apr. 2018.
  • If the source does not provide any date, you can use n.d. (no date) instead, e.g. n.d.
  • If the source is online and you accessed it on a different date than when it was published, you should include an access date after the URL. 

Here are some examples of how to format dates for different source types in the Works Cited list:

MLA Book Citation:

Example of MLA Book Citation

MLA Journal Citation:

Example of MLA Journal Article Citation

MLA Website Citation:

Example of MLA Website Citation

Different Cases and MLA Date Formatting

Formatting dates in MLA style may seem simple, but there are some tricky cases that you need to be aware of.

Here is how to handle these different cases:

Different Date for Original Publication

If you are citing a source that was originally published on a different date than the one you are using, you should include the original publication date in parentheses after the title. 

Here is an example:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice (1813). Penguin Classics, 2003.

Spanning Across Different Dates

If you are citing a source that spans more than one date, such as a TV series, a magazine, or a date range, you should use a hyphen to separate the dates. 

Take a look at this example to help you understand better:

Friends. Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, NBC, 1994-2004.

Uncertain Date

If you are citing a source that has an approximate or uncertain date, you can use circa or c. before the date.

Take a look at this example:

Leonardo da Vinci. Mona Lisa. c. 1503-19, Louvre Museum, Paris.

Timestamp Source

If you are citing a source that has a timestamp, such as a video, a podcast, or an online comment, you should include the hour, minute, and second of the relevant part. 

Obama, Barack. “A Conversation with President Barack Obama.” YouTube, uploaded by David Letterman, 15 Jan. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVlZgZGkxHo. 12:34-15:20.

Dates in the Main Text

In the main text of your paper, you may need to mention dates for various reasons, such as providing historical context, referring to a specific event, or quoting a source.

  • Dates in the main text are written in either day-month-year or month-day-year order, depending on your preference, e.g. 5 March 2018 or March 5, 2018.
  • The month is not abbreviated in the main text, e.g. March, not Mar.
  • You should use numerals for dates, not words, e.g. 5, not fifth.
  • You can use commas to separate the day, month, and year, depending on the order you choose, e.g. 5 March 2018, March 5, 2018, or March 2018.

Here are some examples of using dates in the main text according to MLA 9th Edition:

  • On 5 March 2018, the United Nations declared a global emergency due to the outbreak of a new virus.
  • The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia.
  • According to Smith (2019), “Shakespeare’s plays reflect the political and social issues of his time” (p. 26).

Try Our MLA Citation Machine for Free

Do you need to cite your sources in MLA style or any other style for your academic papers? Save time and hassle with our free online citation machine that can generate and format your citations automatically. 

Just enter your source information and our citation machine MLA will handle the rest. Try Out Today!

Nathan D.

WRITTEN BY

Nathan D. (Literary analysis)

Introducing Nathan D., PhD, an esteemed author on PerfectEssayWriter.ai. With a profound background in Literary Analysis and expertise in Educational Theories, Nathan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to his writings. His passion for dissecting literature and exploring educational concepts shines through in his meticulously crafted essays and analyses. As a seasoned academic, Nathan's contributions enrich our platform, offering valuable perspectives and engaging content for our readers.

Introducing Nathan D., PhD, an esteemed author on PerfectEssayWriter.ai. With a profound background in Literary Analysis and expertise in Educational Theories, Nathan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to his writings. His passion for dissecting literature and exploring educational concepts shines through in his meticulously crafted essays and analyses. As a seasoned academic, Nathan's contributions enrich our platform, offering valuable perspectives and engaging content for our readers.

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