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MLA Guide

This guide contains information to help you cite your sources in MLA format.

Formatting the Author

You can also review section 5.5 Author: How to Style It in the online MLA Handbook.

Authors Rule Examples
No Author If no author given, skip the author and start with the title of source.  
1 Author Last Name, First Name. Smith, John.
2 Authors Last Name, First Name, and First Name Last Name. Smith, John, and Mary Fields.
3+ Authors Last Name, First Name of First Author, et al. Smith, John, et al.
Association or Company Use the name of the association or company as the author. If a work is written and published by an organization, list the organization as publisher only. American Cancer Society.
Pseudonyms Use pseudonyms and online usernames like regular author names. @jsmith.
Editor or other role If the role of that person or group is something other than creating the work’s main content (as the author), follow the name with a label that describes the role. Only do this in the author field if it is important to highlight this person; otherwise use the Other Contributors field. Nunberg, Geoffrey, editor.

Formatting the Title

You can also review sections 5.25 Title of Source: How to Style It and 5.31–5.37: Title of Container Element in Works Cited in the online MLA Handbook.

Source Rule: Italics or "quotation marks" Example
Entire Book Italicize self-contained works The Awakening.
Collection of Essays Italicize self-contained works The Norton Introduction to Literature,
Essay, story, or poem Contained in a larger work (book, website, etc.); use "quotation marks" "The Cultural Consequences of Printing."
Play Italicize plays even if they are in a larger work. Romeo and Juliet.
Article from Journal, Magazine, or Newspaper Contained in a larger work (journal) use "quotation marks" "Literary History and Sociology."
Entire Journal, Magazine, or Newspaper Italicize self-contained works The Georgia Review.
Entire Website Italicize self-contained works WebMD.
Website Article Contained in a larger work (website) use "quotation marks" "Free Will."
Song Contained in a larger work (album) use "quotation marks"

"Pretty Hurts."

More Formatting Rules

Capitalizing Titles

You can also review section 2.90 Capitalizing Titles in English in the online MLA Handbook.

MLA requires writers use title-style capitalization: capitalize the first word, the last word, and all principal words.

Capitalize the following parts of speech in titles:

Part of Speech Part of Speech Examples Title Example
Nouns Person, Place, or Thing The Flowers of Europe
Pronouns Words used to replace a noun (I, she, he, you, it, we, our, or they) Save Our Children; Some Like It Hot
Verbs Words used to convey action America Watches Television; What Is Literature?
Adjectives Words used to describe a noun The Ugly Duckling
Adverbs Words used to describe a verb Only Slightly Corrupt
Subordinating Conjunctions Words used to connect dependent clauses to independent clauses (after, although, as, as if, as soon as, because, before, if, that, unless, until, when, where, while) Life As I Find It
First Word MLA requires writers to always capitalize the first word of the title The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Last Word MLA requires writers to always capitalize the last word of the title

Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Languages

Do not capitalize non-principal words. See below for examples.

Part of Speech Part of Speech Examples Title Example
prepositions words used before a noun or pronoun to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships The Artist as Critic
coordinating conjunctions words used to connect words, phrases, and clauses that coordinate (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) Romeo and Juliet
the to in infinitives when "to" is used to express purpose or necessity after a verb followed by a pronoun or a noun How to Play Chess
articles words used to identify specific or general nouns (a, an, the) Under the Bamboo Tree


Adapted from

Graphic depicting how to capitalize the title of the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, according to MLA. Capitalize the first word, the last word, and all principal words. Do not capitalize prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, the "to" infinitives, or articles when they fall in the middle of a title.