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Modern Language Association standardizes format for citing Tweets

Modern Language Association standardizes format for citing Tweets


The Modern Language Association has published a standardized format for citing Twitter posts, though other organizations have different ideas.

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While it's difficult to get the depth of an academic journal into 140 characters, there's no denying the increasing value of Twitter as a primary source of information. As such, those academic journals will likely need to cite tweets more and more in the future — except that no-one has quite agreed on the proper way to do so yet. As a response to this, the Modern Language Association recently posted its own standard format, and it looks like this:

Last Name, First Name (User Name). "Text of the tweet." Date, Time. Tweet.

So, this tweet from the Verge account:

would look like this, cited properly:

The Verge (@verge). "Sources: Apple's new iPad makes the leap to 1GB of RAM" 8 March 2012, 12.03 p.m. Tweet.

The "Tweet" at the end is simply to signal the medium being used. This is a pretty neat solution, but there are a few problems — the lack of a link to the original tweet itself is unhelpful, and listing the time has the potential for confusion considering the global reach of Twitter. Other organizations have their own standards, however, and Chelsea Lee of the American Psychological Association attempted to tackle the issue over two years ago by publishing her own approach. Using that would result in the above tweet looking like this:

verge. (2012, March 8). Sources: Apple's new iPad makes the leap to 1GB of RAM [Twitter post]. Retrieved from!/verge/status/177590364465668096

This approach gives a clearly sourced link and won't lead to timezone confusion, but doesn't account for possible discrepancies between the author's name and Twitter handle. It's probably too much to expect a single standard to emerge, as different countries and even institutions have their own rules for citing traditional sources — still, it's a sign of the times that Twitter is now a part of that conversation.