A Quick Guide to Dates and Times in MLA Style

A Quick Guide to Dates and Times in MLA Style

  • Feb 28, 2021
  • 4 min read

Among many other things, the MLA Handbook (8th edition) has advice on writing dates and times. But what do you need to know about dates and times to proofread academic writing?

In this post, we’ll explain the basics of dates and times in MLA style.

Dates in the Main Text

If an author uses a date in the main text of a document, MLA style suggests writing them out in full using either of the following formats:

  • Day-Month-Year (e.g., 12 April 2021)
  • Month-Day-Year (e.g., April 12, 2021)

The latter is most common in American English, while the former is used in other English-speaking countries. But MLA style offers a choice as long as one style is used consistently.

If your client does use the Month-Day-Year format mid-sentence, the MLA Handbook recommends using a comma after the year as well as before it:

July 18, 1848, is an important date in the history of cricket.

As a proofreader, then, you may need to keep an eye on how dates are punctuated.

Dates in an MLA Works Cited List

You client may also need to include dates for some sources in their works cited list (i.e., the reference list at the end of a document). The rules for dates here are a little different, though.

Most notably, dates in an MLA works cited list should be written in the Day-Month-Year format to minimize comma usage. This applies even if your client has used the Month-Day-Year format in the main text of their work. Nor does it matter which dialect your client is using.

MLA style also permits abbreviating months with more than four letters in the works cited list:































This can help keep entries in the works cited list clear and concise. From a proofreading perspective, you should also check that month abbreviations are used consistently.

Times in MLA Style

MLA style has less to say on times than dates, but it does have a few key principles:

  • Use either a twelve-hour or twenty-four-hour clock consistently.
  • When using a twelve-hour clock, include “a.m.” or “p.m.” for clarity. Make sure to leave a space between the time and “a.m.” or “p.m.” when these abbreviations are used.
  • Include time zone information when provided.

These rules apply both to times mentioned in the body of your client’s work and to times included in works cited list entries (e.g., the time of posting for a comment on a blog post).

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Join the Conversation

Daniel V Santi says:
June 16, 2021 at 7:24PM
what is proper abbrevs for day, week, hour minutes second in a science journal ?? wk, mo, day, hr, sec or W, M, d, h
    Proofreading Academy says:
    June 17, 2021 at 7:57AM
    MLA style doesn't typically abbreviate any of those terms, if you're asking about the style discussed in this blog post. Otherwise, it will depend on the style guide or in-house style used by the journal in question, so you may want to look up the author instructions for the relevant publication. If there are no instructions on abbreviating those terms, then your best bet is to either write them in full or pick a set of abbreviations, define them clearly, and use them consistently.
Steve says:
March 5, 2023 at 7:00PM
What about a date in the first page's heading? I.e., a student paper's heading includes their name, the professor's name, the class, and the date.

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