Guid Essay

Guid Essay

MLA Titles: Formatting Rules with Examples

 This helpful guide will show you how to format the titles of various types in your academic paper in MLA style. We shall focus on the types of MLA titles that require capitalization, cases when the title must be abbreviated, and exceptions. Learn with our MLA title examples and ensure that every formatting issue is addressed based on the latest Modern Language Association standards. 

General MLA format titles and rules 

According to the MLA 9th edition, titles are essential for all types of academic writing. The common rule is to add italics to your title or place it in quotation marks. The main rules state the following: 

  • When dealing with a complete source like a book, a film, an academic journal, or a website that can be accessed, it is necessary to use italics. 
  • When your title represents a source that belongs to a larger work, it is necessary to place your MLA title in quotation marks. It includes a book chapter in print, a journal article, or a website section,

The other important rule is capitalization for the major words. It means that certain short words like “a, the, or, and” should not be subject to capitalization. This rule applies to your Works Cited page and the in-text citations. 

We have the following categories based on the type of MLA titles: 

Quotation Marks Titles 

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Italicized Titles 

Book chapters, web pages, news articles, journal articles, TV episodes, magazine articles, songs, short stories, poetry, YouTube, or TEDx videos. 

Books, websites, news publications, journals, complete TV shows, magazines, music albums, anthologies, plays, and films. 

Capitalization in MLA titles 

The general MLA capitalization rule requires you to capitalize the first and last words in your title or a subtitle that you use. The rule also relates to the major or principal words. While it may sound a bit challenging, see the examples:

  • The Words you must capitalize:

The Type of words 

Title examples 


The Smoke and Mirrors 


She and He 


Break Your Fears 


The Diary of a Geek Kid 


Seriously on Procrastination 

Subordinating Conjunctions 

Because it Matters 

  • The Words you must not capitalize:

Here are the examples of words and types of speech that you should not capitalize: 

The Type of words

Title examples 

Articles (a, an, the)

Facing the Stream 

Prepositions (against, as, between, of, to) 

Out of Exile 

Coordinating Conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet)

Native Indians and the Social Challenges 

“To” When Used in Infinitives 

Destined to Win 

However, you must remember that when there is a title that starts with “The”, “Against” or any other word that is listed in the table above, it must start from the capital letter. 

Punctuation in MLA titles 

The use of punctuation also plays an essential role when working with MLA titles. Our Edubirdie experts recommend using the same punctuation style as in your source title. In certain cases, when citing YouTube video titles, you may even use an odd type of punctuation. Meanwhile, there are other cases when you are dealing with a subtitle. Separating your title with a colon and space is necessary in such a case. Even if things have been approached differently by the original author, it’s necessary to follow the MLA punctuation rule.

See the MLA title example below: 

Bringing Things to Completion: A Story of Domestic Abuse in California 

Finding Nemo: How the Animation and Modeling Works. 

The only exception you may face is when your MLA title ends up with a question mark, an exclamation, or a dash. In such a case, using the original punctuation style is recommended. 

For example: 

When Will You Achieve Business Success? The Challenges of Digital Marketing by John Smith, Oxford Press, London, 2012. 

Titles within titles 

When dealing with various MLA titles, there are cases when one has to implement a title within titles.

An example can be the title of an article that talks about a story with another title. When facing the titles placed within another title, it is necessary to use the same formatting suitable as if the title was presented alone. See the examples below to make it clearer: 

MLA Title Type


Practical Example

Longer works that are placed within some shorter works 

It’s necessary to place the inner work’s title in italics

The Star Wars → “The Star Wars and the Foreign Politics of the United States” 

Shorter works that are placed within shorter literary works 

The rule is to use single quotation marks for the inner title that you have 

“The Perry Mason” → “‘The Perry Mason’ in Retrospect: Why Must We Analyze the Time Period During the 80s to Understand The Legal Aspect” 

Shorter works placed within longer workers 

It’s necessary to enclose the inner title in quotation marks, and italicize the entire title 

“The Pride and Prejudice” →”The Pride and Prejudice” & Other Romantic Stories 

Longer works that are encountered within longer works 

You should remove the italicization from the inner title 

William Shakespeare and SocratesLegendary Dramatic Works: William Shakespeare to Socrates, the Similarities, and Differences 

Abbreviating titles 

When you need to abbreviate titles in your MLA assignment paper, mention the name of the work in your paper by using the full title, yet skip the subtitle part. For example, when you mention some source more than once, it is necessary to shorten the title. As you do it, make it clear to your target audience. Let’s assume we are dealing with the children’s book “The Adventures of Tommy the Thumb.” In such a case, you would have to use “Tommy the Thumb” instead when you mention the book again. If you are not sure what part of the title to use, it’s recommended to focus on the phrase that represents the noun. 

The MLA manual also recommends using parentheses when the abbreviation is unclear or creates confusion. If we have a book called “The Lonely Shepherd,” use (LS) for your abbreviation. When citing the Bible, mentioning “The Bible” as your MLA title is sufficient. Do not add detailed information since it should be mentioned in your text. 

Abbreviating a title, one must keep the formatting clear. For the abbreviation, even if placed in parenthesis, you must add italics or quotation marks, depending on the title type. 

Another case is dealing with the lengthy titles that appear on your Works Cited page. While most titles should be provided in full, you can shorten the title by adding an ellipsis. For example: 

The Synthesis Traditions and Transwave Approaches to Dance Music: Written by the Rave Scene: The Details and Methods Based on Evidence and the Famous Tracks. → The Synthesis Traditions and Transwave Approaches to Dance Music…

Titles in foreign languages 

If you use MLA titles in a foreign language other than English in your Works Cited list, add the translated title using square brackets. 

Bjarnasón, Magnus. Týndi Fuglinn [A Lost Bird]. Penguin Books Iceland, 2021. 

As you can see by the MLA title format, if the foreign-language title is mentioned in your paper, it’s recommended to include the English translation in parentheses. 

As Magnus Bjarnssón has noted in Týndi Fuglinn [A Lost Bird], there are subtle differences in how a person perceives domestic abuse and loneliness… 

There is no need to include a translation in your Works Cited list or text if your target audience is familiar with the foreign language. If you are writing for a German university, there would be no need to translate the title. 

Now, if you are dealing with a non-Latin script, make sure that you use the title in the quotation. The most important is using the same script for such sources (Latin or Greek, Cyrillic, or anything else) throughout the paper without alterations.

Sources with no title 

When the MLA source has no title per se, a brief description of your source must be used instead. 

McFly, Martin. The Engineering mechanics fly board. 1994-1995, Vancouver Arts Museum, British Columbia, Canada. 

As you are formatting titles, remember to capitalize the first word and the proper nouns. The rest of the other MLA rules for capitalization must be ignored. The only exception is when you must include titles of other works or comments. When it’s an untitled short message on Twitter or poems that have been untitled, use the general MLA titles formatting. 

Source Type

MLA Title Rules


Using comments or review of some work 

Standard formatting must be used, depending on your citation type. 


Descriptive information must be added to your title. 


Standard MLA capitalization rules apply. 

Michael. Comment on “The Challenges of Racial Conflicts in Alabama.” The Tuscaloosa News, 29 Mar. 2020, 

Twitter post or other short untitled content 

Complete unchanged text must be used instead of a title. 


The text must be enclosed in quotation marks. 


The Twitter handle or author’s name must be used. 

@realDonaldTrump. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Twitter, 6 Aug. 2012, 8:23 p.m.,


The email’s subject serves the role of your MLA title, while the author of the message becomes the author. 


The “Re:” container must be included in your title. 


The title must be placed in quotation marks. 


MLA capitalization rules are left as standard. 

LaBrie, James. “Re: ProgPower Festival Analysis.” Received by Heather Findlay, 19 Apr. 2006. 

An untitled poem 

The poem’s first line must be used as the title and enclosed in quotation marks. The capitalization rules apply the way they are in the source. 

Sandberg, Jonas. “Behold! The pale horse is coming.” The Worship Works, edited by William Anderssen and John O’Kane, Church Press Oxford, 1995, pp. 34-36. 

Exceptions to MLA title formatting 

When the words in your title refer to a certain section of your work, they should not be placed in italics or within quotation marks. There is also no need to use MLA title capitalization when used in your text. The words that fit the case include “preface, introduction, list of works cited, appendix, scene, stanza, chapter, bibliography, act, index.”
When we are dealing with descriptive terms such as “introduction”, “preface”, “foreword,” or “afterword”, it’s necessary to use capitalization when mentioning these words for your in-text citation or the Works Cited list.

When it’s simply mentioned in your writing, do not use capitalization. 

In his preface to the original work, edited two years later, Gibbons states that stage fright has been perceived differently… 

If you face a special title in the introduction or a preface, it must be included in quotation marks both in the text and on your Works Cited page. 

Some other titles and names fall into the category that should not be placed in italics or quotation marks. These are: 

  • Sacred Scripture (e.g. the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel). 
  • Laws and legal acts (e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, Foreign Relations documents)
  • Musical compositions that can be identified by form, number, or the key they are in (e.g. Mozart – Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550)
  • Conferences, seminars, workshops, and various educational courses (e.g. NASA Conference on Mars Pathfinder). 


Are titles capitalized in MLA format? 

Yes, they must use a title case for the title writing. It relates to all the words with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and certain conjunctions. It applies to titles and subheadings as well. Even if the source uses a different styling, MLA capitalization must be added.

How to write book titles in MLA? 

MLA style manual requires adding italics and capitalizing all the major words. If you encounter a subtitle, you must use a colon with a space. 

Wishing to Win: A Story of Personal Digital Marketing Success 

The same formatting is used for in text citation and the Works Cited page. The book mentioned in your text does not require mentioning the subtitle. If it’s a book part or chapter, a poem in the collection, you must place it in quotation marks and avoid using italics. 

How to format movie titles in MLA? 

Titles of movies, books, periodicals, plays, websites, and databases must be placed in italics.

When should I cite a chapter instead of the whole book?

If different authors have penned the book’s chapters, cite only the specific chapter you refer to.

What titles must be used with italics in MLA? 

It applies to books, websites, news publications, journals, complete TV shows, magazines, music albums, anthologies, plays, and films. 

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