MLA Tables, Figures, and Examples

Writers use several types of visual content:

  • Diagrams.
  • Scores.
  • Photos and illustrations.
  • Audio applications.
  • Video applications.

MLA style is used in the humanities, so you are unlikely to use hard scientific data in the text. However, if your instructor asks for tables, statistics, or examples, do so.

General guidelines for the design of tables, numbers and examples

  • Gather background information about graphic content that is needed for MLA documentation (eg internet, print material, podcast).
  • Determine what type of illustration is appropriate for your document. Think about what this or that illustration should tell the reader, where it should be located in the text, how to sign it, whether the reader can easily understand the illustration.
  • Find good quality illustrations. We don’t recommend using blurry images for both printed and electronic documents. The image can lose quality if the writer manipulates the original file size.
  • Provide information about the original source where the illustration was taken from.
  • Don’t use too many pictures.
  • Study the illustrations carefully and check how convincing and informative they are.
  • There is no need to use illustrations to increase the page length. Teachers often don’t consider the space that illustrations take up in a document. The texts explain and the illustrations improve.

Signatures and labels

Illustrations should be placed directly in the document. The only exception is manuscripts that are being prepared for publication.

Each illustration should have:

  • Label.
  • A number.
  • A caption.
  • Link to the original source.

The label or illustration number must be in 2 places: in the text of the document (for example, see Fig. 6) and as a caption to the illustration itself (Fig. 6). The caption must include the title and explanatory notes (eg “Mona Lisa”, Leonardo da Vinci”).

If all the original information about the illustration is indicated below it, you don’t need to additionally indicate this information on th Works Cited Page.

How to design tables, figures and examples

In MLA style, you can designate illustrations of documents in 3 ways: tables, figures and examples.

Let’s consider how the table is formatted. First write the word “table” (with a small letter), then write its number. In the text, it is possible to mention the table in parentheses (see Table 5).

The table should be located next to the text to which it refers. Alignment should be left-aligned.

On the next line, write the name of the table using the heading case.

The table should be positioned below the heading, flush to the left. Observe standard MLA style formatting (for example, one inch margins).

Provide information about the source under the heading. To do this, use the “Source” descriptor. Then put a colon and include the MLA bibliographic information for the source in a note form. Apply a ledge to the lines after the first. If you have provided background information along with illustrations, you don’t need to indicate this information on the Works Cited Page.

If you want to include explanatory notes, use lowercase letters. Format them in superscript, header information, or table information. Under the source information, insert the appropriate lowercase letter, note, or space.

Note that captions, notes, and labels are double-spaced.

Link in text:

In 2019, 59% of the audience on Facebook was between the ages of 30 and 65. Of these, 62% are women, 38% are men. Only 18% were people between the ages of 18 and 30, another 7% were people over 65, 16% were children and adolescents under 18. These statistics were compiled based on the results of monitoring 112,675 accounts of US residents (see Table 3).

Link to table:

Table 3

Percentage of Facebook users in different age categories: under 18, 18-30, 30-65, over 65. Data for 2019, sample: 112,675 respondents.

Source: US Facebook User Statistics 2019: Social Survey Results from J. Mayer. University of California, March 2020, Table 34A.

Please note that the example shown here is fictional and shows how to properly format a table in MLA style.


All figures that are not tables or musical score examples (maps, videos, charts, podcasts) are marked as Figure or Fig.

When referring to a figure in the text, first write “Fig.”, then the number (but not vice versa).

According to MLA requirements, you can embed pictures in the text at your discretion. There are no hard restrictions here. Remember that the margins must be one inch.

Under the picture you need to indicate the name of the label and the corresponding number (for example, Fig. 1).

On the same line as the figure number, write its title and information about the original source. If the original information is provided with its own illustration, it is not necessary to indicate this information on the Works Cited Page.

Figure Example

Link in text:

The sinking of the “Lusitania” liner by the U-21 submarine was a formal reason for the United States to enter the First World War. Poster “Irishmen! Avenge the “Lusitania” of the war years (see Fig. 6) called on the Irish to join the armed forces of the United Kingdom.

Figure caption (below the embedded podcast file for electronic document viewing):

Figure: 6. Wartime poster “Irishmen – avenge the Lusitania. Join an Irish regiment to-day / W.E.T .; John Shuley & Co., Dublin.”;

Musical illustrations / “Examples”

“Example” is a descriptor that only applies to musical illustrations (scores). It is abbreviated as “ex.”.

Referring to the example, indicate its number in Arabic numerals. You don’t need to write the word “example” or “ex.” with a capital letter.

Then upload your artwork with one inch margins.

Below the example must be a label (with a capital letter Example or Ex.), a number, a signature, or a title. In the title, include background information and an explanation (for example, which part of a piece of music is illustrated). Again, you don’t need to provide this information on the Works Cited Page.

Musical Illustration Example

In-text reference:

In Ambroise Thomas’s opera Hamlet, the title character’s iconic theme first appears in Act 1. As Hamlet enters the castle’s vacant grand hall following his mother’s coronation, the low strings begin playing the theme (ex 1).

Musical Illustration reference:

Source: Thomas, Ambroise. Hamlet. 1868.