How to Format Lists in MLA

Lists can help you organize information and present it clearly. But to many lists can make your writing hard to follow. You can include lists in your writing or set them apart from the main text.


When incorporating lists into your prose, strive for cohesion and clarity. Rather than disrupting the flow with vertical formatting, integrate lists smoothly into your sentences. This approach ensures that readers can easily comprehend the information without interruptions. Utilize colons to introduce integrated lists, maintaining grammatical consistency within your writing.

  • Punctuate list items just like you would punctuate words in a sentence.
  • Numerals in lists should be enclosed in parentheses.
  • Use colons to introduce integrated lists, unless the list is the object of the verb that introduces it.


Stephen King has authored several bestselling novels, including: Carrie, The Shining, It, and The Stand.

Among Stephen King’s notable works are: Carrie, The Shining, and It.

Key steps in effective time management include: (1) setting priorities, (2) creating a schedule, (3) eliminating distractions, (4) delegating tasks, and (5) evaluating progress regularly.


In certain instances, particularly when dealing with extensive or complex information, vertical lists offer a practical solution. By setting apart content from the main prose, these lists enhance readability and facilitate comprehension.

  • Vertical lists prove beneficial for conveying lengthy or detailed information effectively.
  • Utilize features available in word processors such as Microsoft Word to generate vertical lists adhering to MLA style guidelines.
  • Tailor the appearance of lists to your preference, adjusting aspects like numbering and indentation.
  • Introduce lists with a complete sentence followed by a colon for clarity.
  • Lists can seamlessly continue sentences that introduce them, ensuring coherence and flow in your writing.

If the list items aren’t full sentences and the list isn’t bulleted, start each item with a lowercase letter. Punctuate the fragments like parts of a sentence, using semicolons between the items and “and” or “or” before the final item. End the list with a period.

A list can also begin with a sentence that continues into the list, as demonstrated below. Such lists should not have a colon before them. Usually, the items in these lists won’t be complete sentences, so each item can start with a lowercase letter.

In formal settings, you can punctuate the fragments in numbered and unnumbered lists like parts of a sentence. Use semicolons between the items and include “and” or “or” before the final item. End the list with a period.


If each item in the list is a complete sentence, capitalize the first letter of the first word and end the item with appropriate punctuation, such as a period or question mark.

Participants in the literature seminar were tasked with discussing one of the following prompts during their group presentations:

How does the protagonist’s journey reflect societal changes in the novel?

In what ways does the author employ symbolism to convey deeper themes throughout the story?

What role does the setting play in shaping the characters’ experiences and motivations?

How do the narrative’s structural choices enhance the reader’s understanding of the central conflict?


Items should start with a lowercase letter unless they are proper nouns. Additionally, do not add punctuation unless the item forms a complete sentence.

The Art History Society’s website, an invaluable resource for art enthusiasts, serves as the primary online hub for art history research and offers a variety of helpful resources, including:

  • access to expert-led forums for inquiries on art history topics.
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  • user-friendly tools for generating accurate citations and works cited lists.


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Tomas Elliott (Ph.D.)

Tomas Elliott is an assistant Professor of English at Northeastern University London. His research specialisms include the history of theatre and film, European modernism, world literature, film adaptation, transmedia studies and citation practices. He read English and French Literature at Trinity College, Oxford, before completing a PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania.

Learn how to cite in MLA