MLA Date Format – Best Think-Tank Writer’s Guide On How To Cite Dates

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Academics, authors, and other professionals know the MLA style format. The style guide provides a thorough idea and outlines the rules for writing the author’s name, referring to other publications or reference material, and so on. However, in addition to referencing other sources, it also provides guidelines for writing dates. This article will show you exactly how to construct a date in MLA format. 

How To Abbreviate Months

In the MLA style, all months with names of five or more letters are truncated. For example, when writing January, you must just use the first three letters – Jan. In other words, limit yourself to the first three letters, followed by a period. 


Note: Remember that months are only abbreviated in the Works Cited list, not in the main text or the header.

What Are The Details Added In MLA Dates?

Usually, the details to be added in MLA dates depend on the source types; therefore, it is suggested to add the details as per the source. For instance, usually, newspapers specify a particular date, while journals specify the season or publication month. However, as a basic rule of thumb, incorporate the information given by the source. 

DetailsType of the sourceExample 
Month and YearJournal articleJude, Jose Paul, and Harley Smith. “The Digital Novel.” Literature and History, vol. 25, no. 3, Jan 2019, pp. 85–95,
YearBookBook chapterMovieSong/albumTV episodeButler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 2nd ed., Routledge, 1999.
Specific time of dayComment on a web page/video/articleForum postCaulfield, Jack. Comment on “How to Cite a Book in MLA.” Scribbr, 22 Apr. 2021, 5:22 p.m.,
Day, month & yearWeb pageYouTube videoNewspaper articleMagazine articleLecture/performancePodcastSmith, Helena. “The Women Who Brought Down Greece’s Golden Dawn.” The Guardian, 22 Oct. 2020,­world/­2020/­oct/­22/­the-­women-­who-­brought-­down-­greeces-­golden-­dawn.
Season & yearJournal article (if that’s what is shown in the journal)Britton, Jeanne M. “Novelistic Sympathy in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Studies in Romanticism, vol. 48, no. 1, spring 2009, pp. 3–22,

When To Include An Access Date

MLA format states that access dates must be included for online sources. Here are a few instances of sources where you can add the access date: 

  • When the publication date is not listed
  • When a source is regularly updated
  • When a source got deleted since its usage

The access date can be written as follows – “Accessed” followed by the day, month, and year on which you accessed the source at the end of the Works Cited entry. 

Example for an online source: 

“Catalog On How To Cite A Website in MLA Format.” CheapestEssay, Accessed 13 Sep. 2023.

Please note that access dates are included only for online sources and not offline resources, such as a journal or published book.

Range Of Dates

When citing a whole source that was released over a longer period (such as a book (published in multiple volumes), a TV series, or a multi-day event), you must cite a range of dates rather than a single date. 

To specify the date ranges, you must use en dash (–) without the space. When including the range of dates, ensure that you do not repeat the same things on both dates. For instance, if you are citing dates within the same month, do not repeat the month. Furthermore, in a range of only years, you can omit the first two numbers of the second year if they are the same as the first.

Here are some examples of date ranges

2010–16. – Specifying only the years

15 Sep. 2020–22 Feb. 2022. – Complete date range

20–23 Feb. 2022. – Same month

25 Mar.–5 Sep. 2018. – Same year

When citing a date range that is incomplete or ongoing, just leave a space after en dash:

1990– .

Note: The date ranges are not required when citing a single episode in a series, a single volume of a book, or a single issue or article in a journal. They are only required when citing the entire larger publication.

Approximate Or Uncertain Dates

You may only know an approximate or questionable date for a source at times. This is occasionally the case with older works and artworks in museums where the actual year of creation is uncertain.

Approximate date 

The Latin word circa is used to denote an approximate date, and it is sometimes simply abbreviated as “c.”


Bruegel, Pieter, the Elder. The Tower of Babel. Circa 1563, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Goya, Francisco. Saturn Devouring His Son. Circa 1819–1823, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

However, when a time period such as “late fifteenth century” is given, you must write it as an ordinal number (such as fifteenth and not 15th, in this case). 


Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Early fifteenth century, U of Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Corpus Christi College MS 198.

Uncertain dates

Whenever the source does not give a specific date and adds a question mark or includes qualifiers like “possibly 1720” or “probably 1655,” you must add a question mark after the year. Moreover, you must remove the period after the date but include a comma after the question mark if it appears there.


Dickinson, Emily. “Distance – is not the Realm of the Fox.” 1870?, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City. Manuscript.

Adding The Original Publication Date

Usually, old classics and literature works get republished over the years, and one can find multiple editions of the same work. Thus, it is essential to mention the date of the edition that you have used. However, sometimes, mentioning the original publication date is also necessary. 

The original date can be given when discussing a particular work of a writer that was developed over a certain time. 

Note: Include the original publication date for each text in your Works Cited list. 

The original publication date should be put immediately after the title of the source to which it relates. In contrast, the publication date of the edition you used should appear afterward in the customary position of the date element.


Beckett, Samuel. “Catastrophe.” 1982. The Collected Shorter Plays, Grove Press, 2010, pp. 293–300.

Formatting Dates In The Main Text

The dates are written differently in the main text and in the works cited entry. To elaborate further, the month names in the main text must not be abbreviated. This is done to conserve space in the Works Cited list, but it is not suitable elsewhere.

Furthermore, dates in the main text do not have to be presented in a day-month-year sequence. 

You have two options: Month Day, Year, or Day Month Year. Choose one or the other and stick to it.

Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, and died on February 1, 1851.

Mary Shelley was born on 30 August 1797 and died on 1 February 1851.

Numbers should always be used to represent days and years. Decades can be referred to using numerals or by spelling them out. Use one of the styles regularly.

Blade Runner is one of the most influential films of the 1980s.

Blade Runner is one of the most influential films of the eighties.


MLA date format is required when you want to cite the published date of your sources, such as journals, literature works, magazines, album songs, online sources, and so on. By following this article, you can include the dates in MLA format without errors. 

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