Chapter 7. How to Write Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA Style

Further information on copyright and plagiarism

This Chapter deals only with simple and common examples on how to write Footnote and Endnote citations. To view examples, see Chapter 8. First Footnotes and Endnotes - Examples in MLA Style as well as Footnotes - Sample Page and Endnotes - Sample Page.

Footnotes and Endnotes are used to give credit to sources of any material borrowed, summarized or paraphrased. They are intended to refer readers to the exact pages of the works listed in the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography section.

The main difference between Footnotes and Endnotes is that Footnotes are placed numerically at the foot of the very same page where direct references are made, while Endnotes are placed numerically at the end of the essay on a separate page entitled Endnotes or Notes.

If you are still using a typewriter, a superscript number is typed half a space above the line after the last word of the citation, e.g., "The Information Superhighway is giving way to a Commercial Superhighway."1 If you are using a word processor, you can access the superscript function. To type a Footnote citation, the same superscript number is put at the beginning of the Footnote at the bottom of the same page where the citation occurs.

When mentioning a work for the first time, a full and complete Footnote or Endnote entry must be made.

NOTE: Only one sentence is used in a Footnote or Endnote citation, i.e., only one period or full stop is used at the end of any Footnote or Endnote citation. In a Bibliography, each citation consists of a minimum of three statements or sentences, hence each entry requires a minimum of three periods, e.g., a period after the author statement, a period after the title statement, and a period after the publication statement (publication/publisher/publication date).

First Footnote or Endnote example:

     2 G. Wayne Miller, King of Hearts: The True Story

of the Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery

(New York: Times, 2000) 245.

Bibliography example:

Miller, G. Wayne. King of Hearts: The True Story of the

     Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery. New York:

     Times, 2000.

Use of ibid. and op. cit.:

Gibaldi (313) does NOT recommend the use of these old-fashioned abbreviations: ibid. (from the Latin ibidem meaning "in the same place") and op. cit. (from the Latin opere citato meaning "in the work cited.")

For Footnote or Endnote citations, if you should see the term ibid. being used, it just means that the citation is for the second mention of the same work with no intervening entries:

3 Ibid. 12-15.

More commonly, author and page number or numbers are now used instead of ibid., e.g.:

4 Miller 12-15.

For second or later mention of the same work with intervening entries, where previously op. cit. was used, now only the author and page number or numbers are used:

5 Miller 198.

Use of Superscript:

[Tab] or indent Footnote and Endnote entries 5 spaces from the left margin. Leave one space between the superscript number and the entry. Do not indent second and subsequent lines. Double-space between entries. Number Footnotes and Endnotes consecutively using a superscript, e.g., 7.

For Endnotes, you must use the same superscript number (as in your text) at the beginning of each Endnote in your Endnotes list. Start your list of Endnotes on a new page at the end of your essay. Remember to put the Endnotes page before the Bibliography, or Works Cited, or References page.

Examples of first Footnotes or Endnotes, subsequent Footnotes or Endnotes, and listings on Works Cited or References page:

Reference from the Bible, Catechism, or Sacred Texts:

Example in text:

An interesting reference was made to the picking of corn on the Sabbath.8

Example of Footnote citation, long form:

8 Matthew 12:1-8.

Example of Footnote citation, short form:

8 Mt 12:1-8.

Click here to see abbreviations of Books of the Bible

List under Works Cited:

The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader's Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Example in text:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for 'from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.'"9

Example of a first Footnote or Endnote citation for the above quote from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part I, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6I, Reference #360, Page 103, would be:

9 Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1994) 360.

Subsequent citation of this same quote:

10 Catechism 360.

Citation of a different quote from the same book:

11 Catechism 1499.

List under Works Cited:

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Examples of Footnote or Endnote citations for other sacred texts:

12 Pius XII, encyclical, Summi Pontificatus 3.

13 Roman Catechism I, 10, 24.

Do not confuse Footnote and Endnote citations with explanatory Notes that some authors refer to as "Endnotes." These Notes are not considered to be citations but are used to add comments, explanations, or additional information relating to specific passages in the text.

For a detailed treatment on writing Footnotes and Endnotes, please use the official MLA Handbook:

MLA Handbook 6th ed.

Information relating to MLA style as presented here has been simplified and adapted from this authoritative publication from the Modern Language Association of America.

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2003.