Can You Use Numbered Lists in an Essay With an MLA Format

During college years, students have to submit an enormous amount of academic papers. Each type of paper has its own peculiarities and you will be well aware of those before you graduate. One of the tricks to underline certain information in a text is to include lists. They make reading and understanding easier.

How to list things in an essay

There are different variants of lists. They also have their own formats and styles. However, there are no special requirements on how to choose between them. But there are several things you should know.

  • Numbered lists are used for units that go in a certain order or for units which should be identified in accordance to their number.
  • Bulleted lists are meant for units which do not require a special sequence.
  • In-sentence lists may include letters and numbers. If you make a numbered list and need another list within it, use lowercase letters. Although, there are no special guidelines, simply be coherent.
  • Vertical lists help to underline certain points. In comparison to in-sentence lists, vertical lists are much more attractive.
  • Be consistent when using different variants of lists. Similar situations should have the same lists.

If you want to learn how to write a list in a paper, find out which mistakes you should avoid when using lists. The most common are:

  • Mixing-up lists with numbers and bullets
  • Different caps styles in the lists
  • Wrong or unnecessary punctuation
  • Inconsistency when using different types of lists in the same paper
  • Long lists of many units which can be united
  • Failure to provide a good introductory sentence

Peculiarities of the MLA lists

According to MLA recommendations, you should not use lists containing numbers in your text. However, you may include them if you know how. Talk to your supervisor to find out whether he wants to see numbered lists in MLA format paper.

One way to include an MLA numbered list is to include it in a sentence. Don’t forget to put a colon to present it. You may also use a list in MLA style within one sentence. For instance:
Top 10 Best Politicians Ever Lived are: Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Franklin Roosevelt.

If you have many units to itemize or the units are long, you can stick to the block quote format. If you are not sure how to list things in an essay, consider the following sample:
Many great books were written by representatives of many countries and different times:

  1. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
  2. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust
  3. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  4. The Odyssey, by Homer
  5. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Put a colon to start the list. Move the units 10 spaces from the left margin to make it more visible among other paragraphs. A period and space should follow the number. Also, a period after the units should be used if they are a complete sentence.

This is an answer to your question “How do you list things in an essay?”.

Another important thing which you must learn is how to cite a list in MLA format properly. Here are several recommendations.

  1. Find out whether your teacher allows using MLA bullet points despite the fact that the style guide doesn’t recommend to use bulleted lists. If yes, don’t overuse them – one list is more than enough. Also, it should help you to interpret your research and not quote someone else.
  2. Summarize the list. For instance, if you are writing about the countries which are currently the part of EU, don’t name them all and rather write: “Germany, Poland, Austria, France, Estonia and other 23 countries are the EU member states”.
  3. Use a block quote if the list is longer than four lines.
  4. Use numbers instead of bullets.

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