If you’re using MLA style for a piece of academic writing, you’ll need to make sure you format source titles correctly. But how should you write titles in MLA referencing? In this post, we explain what you need to know.
Capitalization of Titles in MLA
MLA style uses a form of title case for source titles. This means capitalizing:
The first and last word of all titles and subtitles
The Secret of Success: How to Achieve Your Goals Quickly
After the Storm: Why the Weather Is Changing
Are Dogs People? Animal Psychology and Personhood
The one exception is untitled sources! For a poem with no title or a social media message, for instance, you would quote the first few words in place of a title. And, in this case, you would use the same capitalization as shown in the source you’re quoting. For example:
In Iqbal’s 2014 poem “The colours and the sound,” she examines…
For all other English-language sources, though, make sure to use title case.
Italics or Quote Marks?
Most source titles in MLA are either italicized or placed in quote marks:
Italics – Use italics for standalone publications (e.g., books) or for “container” publications (e.g., journals, websites, newspapers).
Quote marks – Use quote marks for titles of shorter works that appear in a container volume (e.g., articles in journals, poems in an anthology).
For example, we’d italicize Scientific American (i.e., the title of a magazine). But we’d put the title of an article from this magazine in quote marks:
Published in Scientific American in September 2020, the article “Water on Mars: Discovery of Three Buried Lakes Intrigues Scientists” (O’Callaghan 14) generated new interest in the question of whether life ever existed on Mars. In particular, it raised the question of…
For example, if you named a French-language book, you would write:
In Le conflit des interprétations: Essais d’herméneutique (The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics), we see Ricoeur’s…
Note, too, that the English translation follows the standard MLA capitalization style. It is only the non-English title that you should write in sentence case, so make sure to use title case for the English version.
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