MLA 8 and MLA 9 Changes – What to Know?

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Regarding formatting papers for college, the MLA style is one of the most widely used citation styles. It’s most often used in humanities classes, especially English and composition classes. However, two different versions of the MLA guidelines are commonly used right now: MLA 8 and MLA 9.

TLDR; Skip to our section on “Works Cited Entry Changes” for the most important information regarding changes between MLA 8 and MLA 9 if you are in a hurry.

Understanding the critical differences between these two formats can ensure your paper is correctly formatted and your citations are accurate.

MLA 8 vs. MLA 9 – What is Different?

To understand what changes exist between MLA 8 and MLA 9, we can refer to the MLA Handbook. If you do not own a copy of the MLA 9 Handbook, consider purchasing one from Amazon or borrowing it from your college library.

The most recent version of the MLA style guide was published in April 2021. The MLA Handbook goes through revisions every few years as standards change regarding the MLA format. The differences between MLA 9 and the previous MLA format are not overwhelming, but there are still things to be aware of.

General Changes

Many changes in the MLA 9 Handbook revolve around clarifying details. For example, while research paper formatting has not changed considerably from back in MLA 7, the updated MLA 9 includes further helpful information and clarifications. This includes table, illustration, and list formatting.

Grammar mechanics have also been updated. While nothing here is too notable, MLA 9 does allow for various spellings with the condition of consistency. Further clarifications and additions include details in italics for emphasis, punctuation usage, and formatting names of persons, organizations, and more.

The most significant of the generalized changes in MLA 9 include a focus on inclusive language. The guidelines revolve around relevance, respectfulness, and inclusion. There is also a specific emphasis on eliminating exclusionary pronouns, judgments, and offensive terminology.

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Works Cited Entry Changes

Generally, the most significant changes to the MLA handbook between the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions have revolved around the works cited page. More specifically, the format of the entries on the page. The 8th edition of MLA significantly overhauled the format by introducing the Core Template Elements for works cited pages; MLA 9 is more or less just revision and clarification. The Purdue OWL, an excellent resource that you should have bookmarked, has a significant overview of changes we will be referencing here.

  • Author: Changes include how to cite pseudonyms, name changes, and stage names; how to cite works by the same author published under different names; and how to style the names of authors of government publications.
  • Title of source: Changes here include how to provide a description instead of a title; effectively and appropriately shortening a title; listing titled and untitled cover information, such as introductions, forewords, and afterwords; and how to use mechanics to correctly style titles of various sources including websites, apps, and databases. 
  • Contributor (formerly “Other Contributors”): Changes to this template include highlighting essential and other contributors; and documenting a source with multiple, same-role contributors, such as editors. 
  • Versions: identifying the “version” in various works, including textbooks and e-books.
  • Number: how to find “number” in works such as books, print journals, database articles, PDF journal articles, television shows, and podcasts; how to style numbers through a form (such as spelled out, numerals, and numbers) and mechanics.
  • Publisher: how to identify what counts as a publisher; how to list governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations (very important!); and how to abbreviate publishers’ names.
  • Publication Date: how to identify non-traditional dating types, such as personal letters, revisions of online works, and live events, and to use “forthcoming” for works not yet published; using lowercase seasons with publication dates, such as fall, 2021. 
  • Location: finding the “location” in print, online, works viewed or heard firsthand, and physical media other than print works; it also makes URLs optional.

Notice that this list is also ordered so that works cited entry elements should appear in a citation. Remember, if you lack information for that spot in the template, you can omit it from the citation in many cases.

Supplemental Changes

Some changes to MLA 9 are separate from the citation format, which you should also keep in mind.

In-text citations have not changed greatly, as in what comes after evidence in an essay. Any changes made by the Modern Language Association have been made to reduce confusion about in-text citations. Namely, the handbook specifies common issues, such as how to cite multiple authors in-text.

The handbook has also added a significant section on formatting annotated bibliographies.

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MLA 8 vs. MLA 9 – What Should I use?

While MLA 8 and MLA 9 share many similarities, there are several key differences when formatting your paper. It’s essential to check the most recent MLA handbook and consult with the instructor to ensure that you are using the correct citation format. When it comes to success in your English classes, your instructor’s preference should take priority. While most instructors will require MLA 9, there are always exceptions.

MLA 8 and 9 are both widely used citation styles, but there are some notable differences between the two formats. Understanding these differences can help you ensure that your paper is properly formatted and your citations are accurate.

We will provide individual articles on many of these original changes and MLA rules, but if you want to ensure you always have up-to-date information on hand, be sure to purchase an MLA handbook.

Cite This Page

Here are citations for this webpage based on the most common undergrad essay formats.

MLA: X, Writer. “MLA 8 and MLA 9 Changes – What to Know? – Essay Writing 101.” Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101, 29 Jan. 2023,

APA: X, Writer. (2023, January 29). MLA 8 and MLA 9 Changes – What to Know? – Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101.

Chicago: Writer X, “MLA 8 and MLA 9 Changes – What to Know? – Essay Writing 101,” Essay Writing 101, January 29, 2023,

Want to learn more? Visit Essay Writing 101 to uncover essential tips and resources to improve your college essays!

Writer X is an educator in Southern California who wants to share writing strategies for college writers.