MLA Titles — Formatting & Examples

24.01.23 MLA structure & sections Time to read: 6min

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MLA title formats are either italicized or enclosed in quotation marks, and the title of a standalone piece should be italicized (e.g. a journal, book, website, or film). If the title is a part of a larger work, you should place quotation marks around it (e.g., a book chapter, an article in a journal, or a page on a website). In addition, MLA titles are formatted consistently across a paper. There are no italicized titles. Italics and quotation marks are never used on the titles. With these tricks, you are well on your way to crafting the best MLA titles.

MLA Titles – In a Nutshell

MLA titles are among the most sensitive part of an essay or write-up, and many students begin losing vital points from this section very early in the paper. For the best results, always remember that:

  • Most titles should be in italics or quotation marks.
  • The titles of independent and self-contained sources, such as books, should often be italicized.
  • When citing sources that are part of longer works, like journal articles, use quotation marks around the titles of the sources.

Definition: MLA titles

The two main MLA titles used include:

  • Italicized MLA titles for self-contained pieces, such as a journal, book, film, or website.
  • Quotation marks are used around the MLA titles if it is part of a larger work, such as an article in a journal, book chapter, or a website page.
  • As a rule of thumb, an article’s key terms are always capitalized, and both the Works Cited list and the content follow the same format.
  • Also, the title block is double-spaced, much like the rest of the text in an MLA-style document.
  • The title is not boldfaced or expanded; it is simply in the same typeface as the rest of the paper. In addition, the title must be in the same font as the rest of the paper.
  • A truly informative title will mention both the broad subject and your specific viewpoint of the paper.
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What is capitalized in MLA titles?

While formatting MLA titles, articles, books, and other title terms should all be in upper case, but articles (the, an), prepositions, and conjunctions should not unless they are the first words in the title or subtitle.


MLA titles like “There is nothing left to lose”, “Gone with the Wind”, and “The Art of War”.

  • For titles of longer works (books, periodicals), use italics instead of underlining;
  • For titles of shorter works (articles and poems), use quotation marks.

How are MLA titles punctuated?

When a title ends in a question mark or exclamation point, the MLA 8th Edition does not recommend including a period. Instead, you are advised to insert a comma if doing so makes the sentence easier to read. For example, when the title is one of a series or is contained in a nonrestrictive clause:


A sentence like this:
The center hopes its 1992 theme, Explore New Worlds—Read!, will draw attention to geography.

Can be reworded like this:
The center hopes to draw attention to geography with its 1992 theme, Explore New Worlds—Read!

MLA titles within titles

According to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, unless the MLA titles end in a question mark or an exclamation point, a colon and a space should be used to separate it from the subtitle. Only use additional punctuation if it is necessary for the title or subtitle. 1


For instance, these MLA titles would be acceptable:

  1. Mythmaking and Storytelling: Images from Film and Literature
  2. Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Language

Furthermore, on the title page, we replace the period with a colon when there is a space between a title and a subtitle. We leave the original mark when MLA titles and subtitles on the title page are separated by a question mark, exclamation point, or dash.

Formatting exceptions for MLA titles

The following names and titles are not capitalized or contained within quotation marks in MLA titles: Scripture (e.g. the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel) laws, acts, and documents related to them (e.g. the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Paris Agreement)

Missing titles

When a source doesn’t have a title, you should substitute a plain-text description of the source in this section of your MLA reference (sentence-case capitalization with no italics or quotation marks).

  • Exceptions to the standard format for untitled sources
  • Observe the usual formatting guidelines for sources containing containers.
  • In the title section, include any illustrative material.
  • Capitalization should adhere to regular MLA titles guideline.


Mackintosh, Charles Rennie. Chair of stained oak. 1897–1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Abbreviating MLA titles

If the organization’s name or source title is more than four words, condense it to the first word or phrase in the in-text reference, excluding any vowels (a, an, and the). The alphabetized word for the source in the Works Cited should be the first word in the abbreviated title or organization name.

Abbreviating MLA titles in the Works Cited List

Use a semicolon after the abbreviation if it ends in a lowercase letter. You may shorten the following terms as you make your works cited list: P., pp. or vol.

MLA titles in other languages

In such an instance, provide both titles and insert a slash between them when referring to a work in a bilingual volume whose titles are printed in both languages. When the title has a space on either side, the slash also has a space. 1


Leopardi, Giacomo. “Storia del genere umano / History of the Human Race.”

Non-Latin alphabetical languages

In your Works Cited List entry, format the headword the same way you would a headword in the Latin alphabet: enclose the term in quotation marks along with an italic abbreviation that indicates the appropriate part of speech that was provided by the dictionary.2

Tips for the final format revision of your thesis

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Yes, you can. Make sure the subject is addressed, a decision is reached, and suggestions are offered.

Most MLA titles must be presented in italics or quotation marks. The titles of independent and self-contained sources, such as books, should often be italicized. When citing materials that are part of longer works, such as journal articles, use quotation marks around their titles.

While writing your title, some words, like articles (a, an, the), short words (often fewer than four letters), prepositions (by, at, to), and coordinating conjunctions (and, for, but) should not be capitalized.

No, you need to reference your sources in-text using the MLA titles style, in parentheses. You can use footnotes or endnotes to include information that doesn’t belong in the main text, but they are not required for citations. However, including these citations in a note can be a useful method to prevent clogging your text if you need to credit numerous sources all at once in the text.


1The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed., U of Chicago P, 2016.

2 MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.