MLA Style 8th Edition: A Brief History

In 1951, the Modern Language Association published the first MLA Style Sheet.

It was thirty-one pages long and included sample footnotes.

Its purpose was to teach scholars how to prepare their manuscripts for publication and it deliberately left much unsaid with the insight that, indeed, many problems of style cannot be reduced to rules even if everyone could agree on the uniformity of rules.

The revised and expanded 48 page edition was published in 1970.

By 1977, the 163 page long first edition of MLA Handbook was published based on the previous Style Sheets.

Where the Style Sheet helped scholars to prepare manuscripts for publication, the MLA Handbook was designed to meet the needs of students in writing research papers, theses, and dissertations.

In 1984, the second edition was published. Now, 221 pages long with an additional MLA Style Manual.

This edition marked a big change for MLA Style citation because it replaced footnotes with a handy works cited page and in-text citations.

Editions continued to be published and with each new edition, the page count grew to hold the growing complexity that was being built into MLA formatting.

In 2009, the seventh edition was a whopping 292 pages long and it contained a daunting level of detail.

The eighth edition published in 2016 marks a deliberately loose approach to scholarly documentation.

With less pages than the first edition, it no longer contains a prescriptive list of formats to be fretted over. Now more flexible and modular and adaptable to today's reality of highly mobile texts where the same content can come in many different containers.

The focus is no longer on the format that resources are packaged in, but on the actual purpose of source documentation which enables the reader to participate in the conversation between writers and their sources.

MLA eighth edition asks the writer to consider the core elements for the resource and to list them in a certain order within the citation.

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