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MLK Day the MLA WayBy Jennifer Rappaport
Martin Luther King Day? Martin Luther King, Jr., Day? MLK Day? There seems to be no consensus on how to style the name of this federal holiday, established to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. In deciding how to treat the name of the holiday, you should consider your audience and the purpose of your reference.
Consider also the consistent treatment of King’s name in your work. Both “Martin Luther King Jr.” (without a comma before the suffix) and “Martin Luther King, Jr.” (with a comma) are acceptable variations, but in MLA style, a comma always precedes Jr. (read more about suffixes and names in an earlier post).
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The National Archives calls the holiday “Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” following the federal policy to use “the name designated by the law” that established the holiday (“Federal Holidays”). If your goal is to consistently and accurately refer to the text of the legislation, for legal, historical, or archival reasons, use this version.
Martin Luther King Day
Merriam-Webster’s and The American Heritage Dictionary both omit Jr. in the name of the holiday, calling it “Martin Luther King Day,” but not in their entries for the man whom the holiday commemorates. If you want to avoid a discrepancy between King’s name and the holiday celebrating his birthday, you might use a different treatment. Treating the suffix as a parenthetical in the title of the holiday (e.g., “Martin Luther King, Jr., Day”) would not be acceptable—this formulation not only looks awkward but also illogically muddies the distinction between a personal name and a holiday name.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
The Chicago Manual of Style, used by many book publishers, lists the holiday in its “Holidays” section as “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” If you can handle inconsistency in the treatment of personal names and holidays, use this formulation to refer to the holiday—even when styling King’s name with a comma before the suffix, per MLA style.
MLK Day / MLK Jr. Day
Apparently the federally run Corporation for National and Community Service, which uses “MLK Day” on its Web site about King’s birthday, didn’t get the same memo as the National Archives about using the name designated by law for federal holidays. That’s OK: the goal of this site is community outreach, not documenting archival records. In casual contexts, you might use either of these formulations (note: see the title of this blog post).
However you style the name of the holiday, take a moment to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., or find one of the many opportunities for community service taking place to commemorate him.
“Federal Holidays.” National Archives, US National Archives and Records Administration, 3 Jan. 2017, www.archives.gov/news/federal-holidays.
“Holidays.” The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., sec 8.88, U of Chicago P, 2010, www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch08/ch08_sec088.html.
“King, Martin Luther, Jr.” Merriam-Webster.com, 2017, unabridged.merriam-webster.com/collegiate/king.
“King, Martin Luther, Jr.” The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, 3rd ed., Houghton Mifflin, 1992, p. 992.
“Martin Luther King Day.” Merriam-Webster.com, 2017, unabridged.merriam-webster.com/collegiate/martin%20luther%20king%20day.
“Martin Luther King Day.” The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, 3rd ed., Houghton Mifflin, 1992, p. 1104.
Published 13 January 2017
Jennifer Rappaport is managing editor, MLA style resources, at the Modern Language Association. She received a BA in English and French from Vassar College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University, where she taught expository writing. Before coming to the MLA, she worked as an editor at a university press and as a freelance copyeditor and translator for commercial and academic publishers.
MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2017-06-11 11:24:36
According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text.
- Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper.
- Label the page Works Cited (do not italicize the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
- Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.
- Indent the second and subsequent lines of citations by 0.5 inches to create a hanging indent.
- List page numbers of sources efficiently, when needed. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as 225-250. Note that MLA style uses a hyphen in a span of pages.
- If you're citing an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form but that you retrieved from an online database, you should type the online database name in italics. You do not need to provide subscription information in addition to the database name.
Additional basic rules new to MLA 2016
New to MLA 2016:
- For online sources, you should include a location to show readers where you found the source. Many scholarly databases use a DOI (digital object identifier). Use a DOI in your citation if you can; otherwise use a URL. Delete “http://” from URLs. The DOI or URL is usually the last element in a citation and should be followed by a period.
- All works cited entries end with a period.
Capitalization and punctuation
- Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc, but do not capitalize articles (the, an), prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title or subtitle: Gone with the Wind, The Art of War, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
- Use italics (instead of underlining) for titles of larger works (books, magazines) and quotation marks for titles of shorter works (poems, articles)
Listing author names
Entries are listed alphabetically by the author's last name (or, for entire edited collections, editor names). Author names are written last name first; middle names or middle initials follow the first name:
Levy, David M.
Wallace, David Foster
Do not list titles (Dr., Sir, Saint, etc.) or degrees (PhD, MA, DDS, etc.) with names. A book listing an author named "John Bigbrain, PhD" appears simply as "Bigbrain, John"; do, however, include suffixes like "Jr." or "II." Putting it all together, a work by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be cited as "King, Martin Luther, Jr." Here the suffix following the first or middle name and a comma.
More than one work by an author
If you have cited more than one work by a particular author, order the entries alphabetically by title, and use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every entry after the first:
Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. [...]
---. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]
When an author or collection editor appears both as the sole author of a text and as the first author of a group, list solo-author entries first:
Heller, Steven, ed. The Education of an E-Designer.
Heller, Steven, and Karen Pomeroy. Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design.
Work with no known author
Alphabetize works with no known author by their title; use a shortened version of the title in the parenthetical citations in your paper. In this case, Boring Postcards USA has no known author:
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulations. [...]
Boring Postcards USA. [...]
Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]