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Can You Use Numbered Lists in an Essay With an MLA Format?


Although the Modern Language Association does not recommend using numbered lists, you can include them in your MLA formatted essay using one of several methods. Ask your professor for her preference for numbered lists.

In the Sentence

One way to write a list in MLA format is to keep it within your sentence. Use a colon to introduce it. If the items in your list include commas, use semicolons instead of commas to separate them. If you wish to number the items in a list within a sentence, use parentheses and omit the final "and." For example:

Several British actors have played Americans: (1) Hugh Laurie, as Dr. House; (2) Daniel Day-Lewis, as Daniel Plainview; (3) Gary Oldman, as Lee Harvey Oswald.

In a Block

Another method is very similar to the format of a block quote and is handy if you have lots of items in the list or the items themselves are lengthy. For example:

 Many classics were published posthumously:
      1. The Trial, by Franz Kafka
      2. The Silmarillon, by J.R.R. Tolkien
      3. Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Use a colon to set off the list. Indent the items farther than normal paragraph indentations -- 10 spaces from the left margin. Place a period and space after the number. If the items in the list are complete sentences, end the items with a period.

About the Author

Jamie Trusty is based in Nashville, Tenn., and has been teaching and writing for more than five years. Her concentrations are non-fiction essays, research-based argumentative writing, literary analyses and film reviews. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. Although Trusty focuses on publishing more "serious" work, her favorite thing to write is Twin Peaks fan fiction.

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