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MLA Style Manual

A task group is currently working on revising the MLA Style Guide. Task group members include: Ellen M. Aaronson, AHIP, Skye Bickett, AHIP, Charlene Dundek, Jenessa M. McElfresh, AHIP, and Beverly Murphy, AHIP, FMLA.

The Medical Library Association (MLA) Style Manual presents guidelines for all MLA publications, print and electronic, including but not limited to the Journal of Medical Library Association, MLAConnect, MLANET, annual meeting publications, and brochures.

MLA publication style is based on The Chicago Manual of Style, seventeenth edition (CMS17) (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 2017), and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition (MW11) (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster; 2003). However, MLA reference style is based on the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals and the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers.

This manual is designed to guide MLA’s writers and editors on questions of style that are not addressed by CMS17 or MW11 or on which MLA differs from these two authorities. When a question arises, individuals working on MLA publications should consult this manual first, then defer to MW11 for spelling and hyphenation and CMS17 for style and usage if the issue is not discussed here. Examples that are given to help clarify the issue are indented. A list of references used and recommended by MLA is provided in Appendix A. Writers may also consult back issues of MLA publications for samples. Writers for the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) should also consult the “Author Guidelines.” The style manual appendixes include MLA preferred spelling and usage, common trade names, acronyms, and journal title abbreviations.

Writers should be aware that editors may have a more comprehensive grasp of MLA style considerations, rules, and exceptions because of the frequency with which they deal with these issues and therefore reserve the right to choose among competing stylistic imperatives. Editors should be aware that writers are often experts in their subject area and may be more sensitive to subtle shifts in meaning that can result from a seemingly straightforward stylistic correction. Both parties should remember that the reader is the priority and, in that spirit, remain flexible without being lax and conscientious without being pedantic.


The Bulletin of the Medical Library Association style manual, upon which this manual is based, was originally compiled by Susan Y. Crawford, AHIP, FMLA, Bulletin editor from 1983–1988 and 1992–1993; and Kate Williams, copy editor, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Segments of the introduction were condensed from “CE 06: Writing for Publication: The Professional Journal Article” by Dottie Eakin, FMLA, and Pat L. Walter, AHIP, FMLA.

Additional revisions have been made by the following editors, publications liaisons, and assistants: Katherine G. Akers, Helen Bagdoyen, Naomi C. Broering, AHIP, FMLA, I. Diane Cooper, AHIP, Jean Demas, Melissa De Santis, AHIP, Scott Garrison, Nunzia B. Giuse, AHIP, FMLA, Beryl Glitz, FMLA, J. Michael Homan, AHIP, FMLA, Rebecca N. Jerome, Linda M. G. Katz, AHIP, Taneya Koonce, Trudy K. Landwirth, Beverly Murphy, AHIP, Irwin H. Pizer, T. Scott Plutchak, AHIP, FMLA, Cheryl Rowan, Nila A. Sathe, Susan S. Starr, Laurie L. Thompson, AHIP, FMLA, Rachel R. Walden, Christine Willis, AHIP, Lynanne Feilen, Sioux Johannsen, Martha Lara, Elizabeth Lund, Kimberly S. Pierceall, Aimee Baldridge, Jane Hardick, Susan C. T. Talmage, Kirstin Wilcox, Elizabeth Gunter, and Bleu Caldwell. The JMLA Editorial Board and the MLANET Editorial Board have also contributed style guidelines.

Revised September 2019.