Cathy Aranda
Cathy Aranda

Formatting MLA Source Titles

6 min read

Published on: May 3, 2024

Last updated on: May 11, 2024

MLA Titles

If you are writing a research paper or an essay in MLA style, you might be wondering how to format the titles of your sources. 

MLA style is a widely used citation system that follows rules and conventions for documenting sources. 

In this blog post, we will explain the principles of MLA title formatting and provide some examples to help you understand it better.

MLA Title Formatting: The Basics

When writing MLA academic papers, look into the MLA handbook on how to format the titles of your sources. 

Here are some of the main aspects you should consider:

Title Inclusion

You should always include the full title of your source, along with any subtitles, if applicable. You should separate the main title and the subtitle with a colon and a space.

Here is an example of correct and incorrect title:

Incorrect: Pride and Prejudice, A Novel of Manners

Correct: Pride and Prejudice: A Novel of Manners

Capitalization Style

You should use a title case for both the main title and the subtitle of your source. This means that you should capitalize all the words in the title. 

This excludes conjunctions, prepositions, and articles unless they are the first or last word of the title.

Consider this example of correct and incorrect to understand better:

Incorrect: The Catcher in the Rye: a classic coming-of-age novel

Correct: The Catcher in the Rye: A Classic Coming-of-Age Novel

Formatting Different Sources in MLA Format

You should use different formatting styles for different types of sources, depending on whether they are self-contained or part of a larger work. 

Quotation Marks in Titles

MLA 9th edition suggests placing titles in quotation marks (" ") to indicate short works, such as poems, songs, essays, articles, chapters, and episodes. 

Here is an example:

Incorrect: I listened to Imagine by John Lennon on Spotify.

Correct: I listened to “Imagine” by John Lennon on Spotify.

MLA 9th edition uses single quotation marks (’ ') to enclose a title within a title, following the same formatting as the original title. It is usually used within the text. 

Here is an example:

Incorrect: I just read the chapter Understanding ‘Climate Change’ in the 21st Century.

Correct: I just read the chapter “Understanding ‘Climate Change’ in the 21st Century”.

Italics in Titles

MLA 9th edition uses italics to indicate the titles of long works, such as books, plays, films, albums, and TV shows. 

Here is an example:

Incorrect: I enjoyed reading “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

Correct: I enjoyed reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

MLA Title Formatting: Special Cases

Sometimes, you might encounter some special cases when formatting MLA titles. Here are some of the most common ones and how to deal with them:

Titles within Titles

If a title contains another title, you should maintain the same formatting as you would if the title stood on its own. 

Here is an example to help you understand better:

Incorrect: “The Role of ‘The Tempest’ in Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.”

Correct: “The Role of ‘The Tempest’ in Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.”

Sources With no Title

If a source has no title, you should provide a brief description of it in your text and your Works Cited list, using normal sentence capitalization and no quotation marks or italics.

Here is an example of an incorrect and correct way to add a title with no source:

Incorrect: “How to Make a Paper Airplane.” YouTube, uploaded by John Smith, 12 Jan. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch=123456789.

Correct: [Paper airplane tutorial]. YouTube, uploaded by John Smith, 12 Jan. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch=123456789.

Abbreviating Titles

If a title is too long to cite in full, you can abbreviate it by omitting any words that are not essential to the meaning or identification of the source. 

You should include the first word and the last word of the title, as well as any other words that are capitalized or important. Use an ellipsis (…) to indicate the omission.

Here is an example:

Incorrect: The Catcher in the Rye.

Correct: The Catcher…

Titles in Foreign Languages

If a title is in a foreign language, you should follow the capitalization and punctuation rules of that language. 

You can also provide an English translation of the title in square brackets, following the same formatting as the original title. 

Here is an example:

Incorrect: Le Petit Prince.

Correct: Le Petit Prince [The Little Prince].

Common MLA Title Mistakes to Avoid

MLA titles are not as simple as they seem. There are many rules and conventions to follow and mistakes to avoid. 

Some of the most common MLA title errors are:

  • Capitalizing every word or only the first word of the title.
  • Uppercasing words that should not be capitalized, such as is, be, it, and other short words.
  • Disregarding the part of speech of the words in the title.
  • Being inconsistent with the formatting and capitalization of titles within titles or longer works.
  • Using title case when it is not appropriate, such as for sources with no title.

By following these tips, you will be able to write MLA titles correctly and confidently.

Cite Your Sources With Ease

Citing your sources can be a tedious and time-consuming task, especially if you have to follow a specific citation style, such as MLA. That’s why you need our MLA Citation Machine which can help you generate accurate and consistent citations with just a few clicks. 

Our Citation Machine is capable of generating citations from multiple sources: books, journals, websites, etc. 

Cathy Aranda

WRITTEN BY

Cathy Aranda (Mass communication)

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

On This Page On This Page

Keep Reading