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How to Use MLA Footnotes and Endnotes

How to use MLA Footnotes and Endnotes
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While in MLA style, in-text citations are the primary method for citing sources, you can use footnotes and endnotes to offer additional information or commentary. For example, an MLA footnote or endnote might be used to provide background information, define terms, or offer further explanation of a particular point.

  • MLA footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page where a specific source has been mentioned.
  • MLA endnotes appear in a list at the end of the paper.

If you are new to academic writing, MLA footnotes and MLA endnotes can be quite misleading. Some experts will tell you to use parenthetical MLA citation in text and not bother with notes. Others will insist that notes are an integral part of a decent research paper. So what side should you listen to? 

The only correct answer is: “It depends.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach in citing sources in MLA. Your choice will largely depend on your specific goals. 

We created this comprehensive guide with all tricky questions about MLA footnotes and endnotes covered. It’s jam-packed with valuable suggestions that you can start following right away to create a custom research paper. Let’s dive deep, shall we?

Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA Style: Definition and Purpose

Footnotes in MLA and endnotes in MLA are explanatory notes that provide additional information on sources. MLA 9th edition recommends avoiding lengthy notes. Depending on their goal, footnotes and endnotes fall into one of these 2 buckets: 

  1. Bibliographical notes
  2. Content notes.

Bibliographical notes

Content notes

Replace complex parenthetical citations.

Identify the scope of your paper. 

Complement an in-text citation.

Describe word choice.

List multiple sources.

Elaborate on the topic.

Any sources you reference in your footnotes or endnotes, much like sources in the main text, must be included in your Works Cited list. Arabic superscript numerals are used to signify both footnotes and endnotes. The number is generally placed after any punctuation or a clause in your sentence. Then, numbered notes should be placed either at the bottom of a page or at the end of your whole text. 

Footnotes vs Endnotes: The Main Difference

Now, let’s discuss the difference between footnotes and endnotes in MLA. Footnotes in MLA style format are basically provided at the end of a page where you refer to your source. Meanwhile, endnotes appear at the end of your document but before your Works Cited page. The style used in both types of notes are identical. As you can see, their location in your text is the only difference. 

When to Use Footnote and Endnote Citations in MLA

Researchers use footnote citations MLA or any MLA endnote to provide additional details about the source or your idea. Here’re just several cases when you may need footnotes and endnotes: 

  • Reference multiple sources related to a single point.
  • Explain peculiarities of documentation.
  • Add extra details about your citation.
  • Expand upon ideas on your topic.
  • Offer examples that don’t blend into the body.
  • Specify editions or translated versions of an original source.

Explanatory or digressive remarks are discouraged by the MLA 9th edition. However, MLA style allows you to include endnotes or footnotes for bibliographic notes that allude to other publications your readers may want to check out. 

Using Bibliographic Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA

Bibliographic footnotes and endnotes in MLA are used to help students avoid stuffing their text and get sidetracked. Below, you can find examples of bibliographic notes prepared by a thesis writer and their frequent use cases. 

  • Citing multiple sources in one sentence

Please note that all sources should be separated by a semicolon. As a rule, your citation should contain an author’s last name, work’s title and page number(s). 


MLA footnotes and endnotes multiple sources citation example
  • Explain peculiar documentation techniques

This can be an unusual font style or formatting. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes documentation techniques example
  • Editions or translations

It is only required to provide an MLA note in case there are more than 1 edition or translation of the cited source. The best practice is to create a note where the work is mentioned first in your text. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes editions or translations example

Using Content Notes: MLA footnotes and Endnotes

Now let’s see how to cite with footnotes MLA if you are using content notes. Content notes are usually used to denote some commentary that your main text can’t contain. Here’re examples of several use cases. 

  • Expanding on the topic

By using this approach, you can direct readers to the source for more useful details. Besides, this method allows sharing more insights on the topic. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes expanding on the topic example
  • Explaining word choice

In this type of notes, you will generally explain why an author has used specific words or figures of speech. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes explaining word choice example
  • Specifying the scope of your study

Content notes can help you clarify the scope of your study so readers know what will be discussed later. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes specifying the scope of your study example
  • Giving more examples

Sometimes, you may have multiple examples that can clutter your main text. Using notes is your best option in this case. This way, your writing will look neat and organized. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes giving more examples
  • Signifying an area of future research

Use MLA footnotes or endnotes when you want to pinpoint that some ideas should be explored further. This may sound like a standalone idea that doesn’t blend in your text. That’s why content notes will be the right choice. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes signifying an area of future research example
  • Listing authors who appear as et al. in citation

Sometimes you want to mention all important people involved in creating some work. That's exactly when MLA footnotes or endnotes come in handy. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes listing authors who appear as et al. in citation example
  • Acknowledging someone

Content notes are also used to express attitude to someone who has helped you with your research. 


MLA footnotes and endnotes acknowledging someone example

How to Use Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA: Examples

To categorically answer how to do MLA footnotes, one must review MLA endnotes and footnotes examples. Footnotes should be placed at the bottom of the page in their own section. On the page, keep the same numerical order. Place a superscript number related to your in-text citation at the top of each note.For note references, do not use asterisks (*), angle brackets (>), or other symbols. Endnotes and footnotes should match to the note references in the text. Let’s look at this example. 

MLA footnotes and endnotes example

MLA Footnotes and Endnotes Format

MLA endnote format and MLA footnote format require superscript and all other details. In MLA style, a number in superscript must be used to indicate a footnote. Put it at the end of a sentence if possible. However, in other situations, having the superscript number in the midst of a phrase will make more sense.

MLA footnotes and endnotes format example

Superscript numbers are usually placed after any punctuation or quotation marks. The only exception is the dash, which should go after your note number. 

MLA footnotes and endnotes superscript numbers example

In your notes, page numbers should be wrapped by parentheses if page numbers interrupt your idea. Besides, you should use parentheses if page numbers are given at the end of a sentence. 

MLA footnotes and endnotes page numbers example

If you are using MLA endnotes, create a notes section at the end of your text. You can name it “Notes” or “Endnotes.” Don't forget to center-align your title and double-space your text.

MLA Footnotes and Endnotes: Bottom Line

Footnotes and endnotes MLA have many types and use cases. Luckily, we covered most burning questions about notes that you may have had. We hope that this guide has cleared up lots of tricky things for you. Make sure you have carefully read this article to create a neat work with correct notes. 

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Article posted on:Dec 1, 2022
Article updated on:May 12, 2023


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