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MLA Style Online — Still Just As Clueless about Modernity

I love the MLA style. It’s my “home” citation style, the one I use if not required to use something else, the one I can produce without a manual the vast majority of the time.  But it’s always had its quirks. For one thing, it took it until just a couple of years ago to recognize that it needed some way to deal with digital things of any kind, or to acknowledge that people are no longer composing on typewriters and can therefore italicize things.

I’m sure everyone’s already familiar with the general flap about the 7th edition’s new online presence.* So I was braced for annoyance when our copies arrived and I had to decide what to do with our three access codes. What I hadn’t realized is that each book had its code hidden under silver scratch-off material (yes, like lottery tickets), and that once used to create a personal account, the code would be useless. I’m not sure why that surprised me, considering the rather draconian Terms of Service,** but it did.

So here’s the thing, people. When your shiny new copies of the 7th edition arrive, snag them before a random student does if you want access to that online version.

Oh, and never link to a page other than the home page. (Sheesh… you’d think nobody at the MLA had ever seen the Internet.)

* In short, there’s no institutional subscription available, which leaves libraries in a bit of a bind. Apparently this is because they think they’ll go under if they offer an institutional subscription option. I say, they should talk to the Chicago Manual of Style Online, which offers very handy subscription options.

** From the Terms:

The following uses are not permitted. This list includes examples and is not exhaustive. You should assume that any use not among the permitted uses is not permitted.

  • Dissemination of any part of the Site to others, selling a copy of any material, or using a copy for any kind of commercial venture.
  • Use in course packs (printed or online) without permission.
  • Linking to or framing any part of the Site other than the Site’s public home page,
  • Posting a user name and password for use by others. If you are an institutional owner of a copy of the MLA Handbook, such as a library, you are not authorized to make available a user name and password for general use, such as by library patrons. The user name and password are not intended to be used as a “site license.” Similarly, if you are someone (such as a teacher) who received a complimentary copy of the MLA Handbook, you are not authorized to provide the activation code from that copy to anyone else.

If an Authorized User engages in a use of the Site that is not permitted, the MLA reserves the right to bar that Authorized User’s access to the Site permanently. You agree to indemnify the MLA and its officers, directors, employees, and agents against all liabilities, losses, damages, and costs (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) that the MLA may incur because of your violation of these Terms.

Published inRandom Thoughts


  1. I said this on FriendFeed, but I’ll say it again here: I’m still not clear on whether and how it’s possible for a person or organization to forbid others from linking to specific web pages on that person’s site. Can anyone explain this (preferably in simple declarative sentences using words of no more than two syllables :-) )?

  2. Catherine:

    In the real world, it’s not. :)

  3. Iris Iris

    Yeah, and I’m confused about why they’d want to limit this.

    And snarky as it may sound, I wonder how they plan to find out about infringing activity, since tracking referrer logs and searching for deep linking seems like a higher-order activity for web denizens, and they’re still figuring out that there’s an Internet. Still, I don’t want them to turn off my account, so I’ll play along for now.

    I predict things will be better next year. This seems unsustainable.

  4. Also, you can’t transfer your access to the website to someone else, even if you sell (or, presumably, give) your copy of the handbook to someone else? Oh, for the love of pete…

    Memo to MLA: please to be joining the 21st century. NOW.

  5. Iris Iris

    Yeah, it’s all kinds of clueless. :|

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