How to Cite Paragraph Numbers in MLA

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Modern Language Association (MLA) Style is used primarily to attribute sources in research papers and scholarly articles. The standard citation format is spare, parenthetically referencing page numbers when the author is listed in the text, or displaying the author's name followed by a space and the page number for unlisted references. When a work does not include numbered pages, such as a website-based article, paragraph numbers may be used in place of the page number--but only if the referenced document contains numbered paragraphs.

Confirm that the document does not contain page numbers and that its paragraphs are numbered. Counting paragraphs is an unacceptable source. If the paragraphs are unnumbered, only one paragraph cannot be used as a reference and the source must be cited as a whole, although you may mention the approximate location of the reference as part of your writing.

Format the numbered paragraph reference. Use parentheses, abbreviate "paragraph" or "paragraphs" as "par." or "pars.," followed by the paragraph number, as in (par. 12) or (Daniels, pars. 3-5). For the author inclusion, note the comma insertion that differs from the format for page references.

Insert a short, identifiable version of the work's title in the citation if multiple works by one author are used as references. Place the short, identifiable version of the title between the author's name and the paragraph. An example is: (Trickle, "Bulwarks and Ballasts," par. 9).

Things Needed

  • Reference materials


  • "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition;" Modern Language Association of America; 2009

About the Author

Annie Sway began focusing on a journalism career in 2010, after nearly a decade spent composing in-house training materials. She also published a special-interest newsletter, initially developed as a catalyst for a career change by honing her graphic design skills. Sway holds a Bachelor of Arts in biological aspects of conservation from the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

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