How To Cite a Tweet in MLA Style

The MLA Works Cited page – a source of much frustration for many undergraduates.

Finding the correct format for each type of source can be a research project unto itself. While many students know how to cite a book, a work in an anthology, a web page or a magazine, new technology presents the need to find the proper format to cite sources like a Kindle book, or a Podcast.

A “Works Cited” page is a specially formatted alphabetical list of the sources used in a research paper. MLA Style is a set of formatting rules specified by the Modern Language Association, frequently required for written work within the liberal arts and humanities. As a result most college students will be required to use MLA Style for papers written in English classes.

Now, the Modern Language Association has added a new bibliographical specification: How to Cite A Tweet.

According to the MLA, the citation is created as follows:

  • Begin the citation with the author’s real name, followed by the author’s Twitter username in parentheses. (If the author’s real name is unknown, the user name is used alone.)
  • The next element is the text of the tweet: in quotation marks, in its entirety, without changing capitalization.  Insert a period after the tweet within the quotations.
  • The next element is the date and time of the message.
  • And the final element is the medium of publication: “Tweet.”

An example MLA Tweet citation

Here’s how it looks in real life…

…And here is how to cite it:

Gates, Bill (BillGates). “For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.” 5 October 2011, 5:38 p.m. Tweet.

One interesting aspect of citing Twitter is that, due to Twitter’s data localization, the time stamp is only an approximation of the time of authorship. The time on Twitter reflects the time the message was tweeted in the reader’s timezone (rather than the author’s). The time and date could therefore be “inaccurate” by up to a day.

Also the citation does not include a URL (web address). According to OWL — Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab and an excellent resource on MLA style — “MLA no longer requires the use of URLs in MLA citations. Because Web addresses are not static (i.e., they change often) and because documents sometimes appear in multiple places on the Web….”

It might be added that tweets which are embarrassing or controversial may disappear completely — at least from Twitter, although they may persist elsewhere on the Web.