How to Write Footnotes in MLA Format

If you are a student in an English course or write as a part of your profession, you've most likely encountered MLA format. This format requires you to keep track of your sources in various ways, including footnotes. When writing footnotes in the MLA format, it's important to keep a handful of style guidelines in mind.

It's helpful to understand why the MLA format requires you use footnotes. Whenever you refer to an idea that is not your own -- i.e., not original -- you need to list the source from which you pulled this information. Sometimes, you just need to add more information to help the reader understand your point. However, lengthy explanations, in parentheses or not, can be disruptive when you are reading a paper. Therefore, MLA standards call on you to place these notes on a separate page.

Footnotes in MLA format are indicated by consecutively-numbered superscript Arabic numbers in the main text. It is important where they are placed, however. The numerals should occur after the punctuation of the phrase or clause the note refers to, unless that punctuation is a dash, and the numeral is then placed before.

Compose your pages of footnotes, which will be simply titled "Notes" and precedes the "Works Cited" page. List the superscript numerals in order, followed by the appropriate notes. Don't put them in quotations or italics; simply type them out. Use double space unless told otherwise, and use paragraph format as well.

  • If the footnotes must be placed on the same page as the text, place them at least four lines below the main text near the bottom of the page. In this case, the notes can be single-spaced, but add an extra space between each separate note.