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MLA 9 Resource Center: Style

Style Recommendations

Inclusive Language

Be respectful to others by using language that describes identity with sensitivity and avoid bias that could make some people feel excluded.  MLA 9 makes the following recommendations when writing about race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, and socio-economic status:

  • Consider whether the terms you are using are meaningful to the context.

  • Reword gender-specific terms so that they are gender-neutral. (For example, use humankind instead of mankind).

  • Refrain from making generalizations about group beliefs and traditions. (For example, use "A Christian belief is" rather than "Christians believe").

  • When referring to diverse populations do not use broad terms. Instead be specific and use the subject's preferred terms (For example: "Sunni Muslims in India").

  • Pay attention to "person-first" and "identity-first" language. While person-first is best, your choice should reflect the express preference of the individual or group you are discussing.

    • Person-first language: leads with the person, not the identity. For example, "a person with autism", "a person with diabetes"

    • Identity-first language: leads with the identity, not the person. For example, "an autistic person", a diabetic person"

  • Minimize pronouns that exclude. The singular "they" may be used in formal writing to help avoid making assumptions about gender.

  • Avoid negatively judging others' experiences. Using phrases like "suffers from" or "victim of" may evoke inaccurate emotions or imagery.

  • Be thoughtful and consistent about capitalization and punctuation. 

For more information and examples, see the Chapter 3, Inclusive Language of the MLA Handbook.

Capitalization and Abbreviations


MLA Style uses title-style capitalization, meaning the first word, last word, and all principle words are capitalized.

For example you should always capitalize:

  • Nouns
  • pronouns
  • verbs
  • adjectives
  • adverbs
  • subordinating conjunctions (e.g. after, because, if, that, until, where, etc) 

Do NOT capitalize: 

  • prepositions (eg. against, as, between, in, of according to)
  • coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or ,so, yet)
  • the to in infinitives (How to Play Chess)
  • articles (a, an, the)

For more information see the MLA Style Guide on Capitalization (2.90-2.98).



Abbreviations are used in works cited and in parenthetical citations but rarely in prose. When using abbreviations in prose only use accepted forms. 

For more information on common abbreviations and abbreviation punctuation see Appendix 1 in the MLA Style guide (pp. 293-301). 

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