How to write a book title in MLA

All research papers on literature use the MLA format because it is the universal method of citation in the field of literature. In a situation where a secondary or primary source gets used, whether you are paraphrasing or quoting, there will be a need to make parenthetical citations in MLA format.

Are you working on a research paper? You may have to use a book title within your text. The Modern Language Association has certain rules governing how to state the title of a book from the beginning of the text. On a general note, book titles get separated from the other components of a text by adhering to certain punctuation, capitalization, and formatting rules.

How do I write the book title in MLA?

The system of writing book titles ought to get italicized except when dealing with a handwritten document in which case underlining it is allowed. To differentiate the title of a book as being separate from the remaining part of the text, ensure you place the complete text using italics. When dealing with shorter essays, articles, or chapters in a book, you can enclose them within a quotation mark.

Earlier versions of the MLA handbook allowed for titles to get underline. The 8th edition indicates that underlining is no longer allowed. Film titles and music album titles should get italicized as well. Religious books such as the Quran or Bible should not get italicized.

Also, ensure to use a regular font size to differentiate the title in a given text. Several book titles come with a different book title in them. Ensure you do not italicize such words as Latin phrases and words which should get italicized within your text.

What about foundational series titles?

In a scenario where a series gets published as a single volume using an independent title, you may italicize the title the same way you would a different book. In the case of trilogies or series which get published in separate volumes, you should italicize the series’ titles only when it pops up in the titles of each of the books.

Note that you are to abbreviate the title for later mentions. You will not need to use the whole title of the book more than a single time. The last name of the author and an abbreviated version of the title is enough to inform your audience which book you are talking about. The manner with which you shorten your title is dependent on your judgment. Hence, you should use words that trigger remembrance of the title with ease.

A perfect guide to catalyzing titles in MLA

To capitalize on titles, there are certain steps that you should factor in:

Capitalize the first word of the subtitle and title

Regardless of what the first word of the subtitle or title may be, it always gets capitalized using MLA style. This remains the case even when it will not get capitalized if it was in some other place in the title. In a case where a book comes with a subtitle, ensure you capitalize the initial word of the subtitle the same way you would with the first word in the title.

Indicate preposition and articles using lowercase

Except the preposition or article is the first word of a subtitle or title, ensure that it doesn’t get capitalized. For instance, the word “to” must remain in lowercase regardless of whether it is a component of the infinitive verb phrase.

Articles are inclusive of words like “a,” “the,” and “an.” Remember that these words ought to remain in lowercase irrespective of what their length may be.

Differentiate subordinating conjunctions from coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions assist to link phrases or words together. Subordinating conjunctions help to introduce a dependent phrase or a condition. The coordinating conjunctions within a title are always in lowercase while the subordinating conjunctions get capitalized. Coordinating conjunctions compose of words such as “but,” “and,” and “for.” Subordinating conjunctions have letters such as “although,” “after,” and “until.”

Ensure to capitalize the other words in the title

When dealing with MLA style, pronouns, nouns, adverbs, and verbs get capitalized in subtitles and titles. This is applicable irrespective of where the title appears or the word length.

Use sentence-style when dealing with titles in a different language

MLA follows the other style guides with regards to using sentence-style for articles in other languages. On a general note, ensure you only capitalize the first word added to any other proper noun in the title. The rules about formatting remain the same, hence the title ought to remain italicized.

You should capitalize on all the words that ought to get capitalized in the language in which the book title gets written. For instance, since all nouns are in capital formation in the German language, ensure you capitalize all the nouns when dealing with a German book title.

Punctuating titles in MLA

The rules governing punctuation titles using MLA are pretty straightforward. Here is a breakdown of what to know and do in this regard:

Add the punctuation that is a part of the subtitle or title

Usually, the punctuation gets added in a subtitle or title if it got used in the original work. This rule is applicable if the original punctuation appears confusing or incorrect. For instance, if a title terminates with a question mark, you ought to include the punctuation mark at the close of the title. The punctuation mark ought to get italicized to ensure that your readers comprehend that it’s a component of the title and not a part of the punctuation.

Differentiate title from subtitle using space and colon

In a situation where the book comes with a subtitle, you would put a colon at the end of the title after which you will place space and input the subtitle. But if the book title ends with an exclamation or question mark, do not continue with a colon.

Use a comma or period after the title ending in an ellipsis or a dish

When a title concludes in ellipses or a dash, you will need either a comma or period to differentiate the remaining part of the text from the title.


Writing using the MLA referencing format requires a careful and informed approach. Knowing the rules governing the use of MLA with book titles will save you the stress of unnecessary revisions and give you speed. You can generate a book title using with a click away!

0 Comment

Leave a comment