An Urgent PSA From The Folks at MLA: How to Cite a Tweet

This is an emergency.


The folks at the Modern Language Association have decided there is a proper way to cite a Tweet.

I’m sure there were extensive meetings about this.

Long meetings where people interrobanged and used interjections.

Brace yourselves:

Click here for the rest of the story.

This is, of course, extremely important because students use lots of tweets in their papers.

Or something.

Mostly, it’s important because the MLA realizes nothing new has happened lately in the world of grammar.

And booksellers like to sell updates to their many style manuals.

You know, to stay timely.

And students always need to have an up-to-date handbook to instruct them how to properly cite their research.

Now I suppose for certain types of papers, one might need to cite a tweet.

(Please, Lord, don’t let me get those kinds of papers.)

So this is good for me.

I have a heads up.

Now I can tell my students that tweets are not to be used in papers.

I can tell them they will need to go out into the world and actually interact with other human beings — even experts in their fields — and collect interviews.

And of course, I’m being snarky: I understand the MLA is acknowledging the fact that the Internet has changed the way everyone conducts research. Educators have to know how to cite everything from Facebook pages to PDF files to online video games. As teachers, we have to know how to cite all of these things properly because if we aren’t armed with the right tools, we open ourselves up to problems with plagiarism.

And that is the biggest pain in the butt.

So, um, like how do I cite a Facebook comment on someone’s Fan page?

Is there a rule for that yet?

Until I hear more on that, my work here is done.

You’re welcome.

What little nugget of information did you learn today? Does not have to be school related.

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

26 thoughts on “An Urgent PSA From The Folks at MLA: How to Cite a Tweet

  1. Oh how I always LOVED the lessons in which I had to explain why Wikipedia was not a reliable source for – let’s say – an analysis of symbolism in the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

    But I’m sure that T.S. Eliot is the subject of many a kick-ass tweet, so.


    1. Like you, I love these discussions. I explain this every year usually by adding ridiculous information about how hot I am to some page. Nevertheless, someone always tries to use Wikipedia. Always. And that person usually leaves the hyperlinks right in the body of the paper for me, which is, of course, very considerate. 😉

  2. Whew! And to think I almost graduated C without this information! I learned it’s always good to have an English teacher in my corner.

    Your posts are a public service, Renée! Thank you!

  3. LOL Oh, gosh, I’m having an allergic reaction to this news. Citing gives me hives to begin with, but citing Tweets? Oh. Boy.

    Erm…today I learned some frightening things about horses over on Byronic Man’s blog. Namely, that they should probably stay out of show biz.

  4. I love this. Seriously. MLA desperately trying to keep up with technology. I hope people do cite tweets…because then I might get some humour essays. Now, whether they’re humourous by intent or by accident is another matter…

  5. I don’t remember much about MLA format. I used APA format during the second half of my college years. I wonder if they have a format for citing tweets.

    Come to think of it, I don’t remember much about APA format either. College was a long time ago.

    Hmmm… I guess I’ve just learned (well, more like “just been reminded…again”) that I’m getting older.

    Cool beans.

    1. APA is always slower about their changes.

      They’re like: We’re all science-y. We don’t have to change.

      Ah, but what if someone wants to quote a really smarticle particle from twitter. (It could happen.)

      They will come along.

      And probably copy MLA’s format, changing it just enough so as to make it annoying.

  6. I saw this as well, and I’ve shared it with a few colleagues of mine. I had the same reaction as you, initially, but I’m actually trying to step back and be objective about it.
    The truth is, eventually one of my students is going to ask how to cite a tweet–I’m almost certain that one already might have done so–and now, I have a response.

    I do think there are situations where it might be appropriate for students to cite information from Twitter; the class i’m teaching this semester, for instance, deals with advanced argumentative writing, and one of the topics I’m covering with the class is the ways that new media–especially Facebook, Youtube, blogging, Twitter, etc–have enriched and in some ways problematized the way that we write as well as how it has made the interactions between readers and writers more dialogic. I’ve actually assigned them a paper about this, and I find the MLA’s release of this information well-timed, because I anticipate just such a question from one or more of my students.
    I’m still not sure how I feel about it in general and am inclined to treat citing Twitter in academic papers the way I treat Wikipedia–not allowed under any circumstances, but I’m actually planning to bring this up in class tomorrow and will be curious to see what kind of conversation it generates.

    The truth is, I’m leaning toward thinking that it’s better that the MLA is acknowledging (if not embracing) the fact that internet technology has drastically altered the way we conduct research and, in turn, how we cite it, than to ignore it, because we can’t mitigate problems with plagiarism if we aren’t armed with the tools to do so. I’m inclined to think that the MLA is offering us a way of addressing an issue that seems inevitable with the extent to which students rely on the internet for research.

    1. PP!

      This is the point I was trying to make. While my knee-jerk response was that this is about selling books, it really is MLA’s attempt to stay current with the way students use technology today.

      And boy do they use technology.

      IYKWIM. <— Google it. 😉

  7. Well, because of this post I had to run and see what the APA does (we use APA for work), because I can see myself having to cite a Tweet someday 🙂 Then I spent a half hour reading through all the funky ways of citing online stuff. Does that make me a nerd? Haha!


    On a more serious note, your comment handler is trying to insist that I sign in to WordPress.Com if I use my main email address. I don’t want to sign into WordPress.Com, because if I do it tries to show my supposed WordPress page rather than one of my real websites.

    I’ll have to check and see if it is doing this on other sites as well. It may be an “improvement” to the software.


  9. I’m happy to cite and have cited tweets, facebook comments, whatever – as long as they’re worth citing. Same as with any source – which is in itself a fairly high bar.

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