This guide focuses on formatting the body of your writing using MLA style, and covers issues like punctuation and formatting. Works Cited is covered briefly at the end.
1. Titles of longer works are italicized or underlined, while shorter works’ titles are put in quotation marks.
Ex. “All Falls Down” is my favorite track on The College Dropout.
Ex. That’s The Joint: A Hip-Hop Studies Reader includes traditional articles like Oliver Wang’s article “Rapping and Repping Asian: Race, Authenticity, and the Asian-American MC,” as well as interviews like Christina Veran’s “Native Tongues: A Roundtable on Hip-Hop’s Global Indigenous Movement.”
2. Punctuation goes inside quotation marks, except in the case of an exclamation or question mark.
Ex. I really like the song “All Falls Down.”
Do you like “All Falls Down”?
I love “All Falls Down”!
3. However, if the exclamation or question mark is part of the quotation, it says inside the quotation marks.
Ex. She asked me, “Do you like ‘All Falls Down’?”
4. On a related note, quoted material inside another quotation is denoted by single quotation marks instead of double. Italics stay italicized
Ex. In her paper, Susie Michigan wrote, “West’s themes on The College Dropout are inconsistent; ‘All Falls Down’ is a more meaningful track than ‘Get Em High.’”
5. To cite a source, use a parentheses with a the author’s last name and the page number, placed after the quotation or direct paraphrase. If you have not stated the author’s name, use her last name in the parenthesis. The parenthetical goes after the quotation marks but before end punctuation. Use line numbers for plays, but not for song lyrics.
Ex. Rose writes that graffiti, breakdancing, and rap all evidence “flow, layering and ruptures in line” (38). Though her concepts are rooted in the work of Arthur Jafa, Rose extends his concepts by viewing them not just as stylistic constructions but socially significant (Rose 39).
6. To cite a quotation quoted in another’s work, mark it as such in the parenthetical with “qtd.”
Ex. Rose quotes Queen Latifah’s assertive “Ladies First”: “The ladies will kick it, the rhyme it is wicked/Those who don’t know how to be pros get evicted” (Queen Latifah qtd. in Rose 164).
7. Use corrective brackets sparingly, especially to clarify missing information (such as substituting a name for a pronoun). Preserve the integrity of a quoted line by setting up quotations so as to avoid brackets. It’s okay if quotes don’t have perfect grammar. They’re rap.
Ex. DON’T: In “We Don’t Care,” Kanye raps that he “as a shorty [he] looked up to the dope man, [who was the] only adult man [he] knew who wasn’t broke man” (West, “We Don’t Care”).
Instead, set your quotation up to avoid these brackets:
Ex. In “We Don’t Care,” Kanye describes admiring the local drug dealer as a child: “As a shorty I looked up to the dope man, only adult man I knew that wasn’t broke man” (West, “We Don’t Care).
8. Quotations of more than 4 lines should be excerpted from the text and indented ½ inch from the margin. Include them without quotations and place the citation outside the end punctuation. Continue the rest of the paragraph without indentation.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., writes of a 1983 New York Times article about a group of students from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who, put off by the tests by McGraw-Hill they took each year, wrote their own test and sent it off to the publisher to be completed. Gates writes that “The examination, a multiple-choice intelligence test, is entitled ‘The In Your Face Test of No Certain Skills.'”‘ The students’ teacher allowed the students to write their own test after “one of [his] students looked up and asked what the reason for the test was, because all it did to him was make him feel academically inferior” (65-66). [sans bullet,obvi]
- The students devised a test to measure vocabulary mastery in street language. They sent ten copies to McGraw-Hill, where eight employees took the test, only to score C’s and D’s. One of the test’s questions…is an example of the most familiar mode of Signifyin(g). The question reads, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” The proper response to this question is, “Your mama.”…”Your mama” jokes about in black discourse, all the way from the field and the street to Langston Hughes’s highly accomplished volume of poems, Ask Your Mama…The presence in the students’ test of this centuries-old black joke represents an inscription of the test’s Signifyin(g) nature, because it serves as an echo of the significance of the test’s title, “The In Your Face Test of No Certain Skills.” (Gates 66)
As an example of Signifyin(g), the story of“The In Your Face Test of No Certain Skills” resonates easily with high school students.
[Note: Works Cited in MLA style should be alphabetized and single spaced, with the all but the first line indented. Please see the Purdue Online Writing Lab for more details and information about constructing your MLA style Works Cited page.]
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. The Signifying Monkey: a theory of African-American literary criticism. Oxford University Press (1989): New York.
Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown (1994): Wesleyan University Press.
Veran, Christina. “Native Tongues: A Roundtable on Hip-Hop’s Global Indigenous Movement.” That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Ed. Forman and Neal. 2nd ed. Routledge (2012): New York.
Wang, Oliver. “Rapping and Repping Asian: Race, Authenticity, and the Asian-American MC.” That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Ed. Forman and Neal. 2nd ed. Routledge (2012): New York.
West, Kanye. “All Falls Down.” The College Dropout. Roc-A-Fella Records, 2004. CD.
–. “We Don’t Care.” The College Dropout. Roc-A-Fella Records, 2004. CD.
I just finished teaching a course on rap this quarter, and I’m preparing to teach it again next quarter. I wish I had a nickel for every time I corrected one of the errors you detail here on my students’ final paper drafts. Now I’ll just send them here.
I’m enjoying your blog quite a lot! Thanks for writing!
Thanks for the comment, Mike! Your blog looks great too and I’m looking forward to keeping up with it. I’m hoping to clean up some typos in that style guide so that it’s perfect by the time your students show up. And stay posted–I’m hoping to accept student paper submissions in the future and will need a good word from teachers like you!