If you are writing a research article, you probably want to include a book title in the text. The Modern Language Association (MLA) manual provides specific guidelines on how to make a book title stand out from the rest of the text. Generally, book titles are distinguished from the rest of the text by following particular standards of formatting, capitalization, and punctuation.
Method 1 of 3: Format Titles
Step 1. Write in italics the titles of the books that you include in the text of your article
Designate the title of a book as a separate element from the rest of the text by writing it in full (in addition to the subtitle if it has one) in italics. On the contrary, the titles of shorter articles, essays or chapters within the book are written in quotation marks.
- Movie and music album titles are also italicized.
- In previous editions, the MLA style guide also allowed headings to be underlined. However, as of the 8th edition, it is confirmed that the underline is no longer appropriate.
Exception: Religious texts, such as the Bible or the Koran, are not written in italics.
Step 2. Use a regular font style to distinguish one title from another
Some book titles have another one within them. Avoid italicizing these or other words (e.g., Latin words or phrases) that would normally be spelled this way.
For example, you could write the following: "In The Great Gatsby in Class: In Search of the American Dream, David Dowling promotes the use of art and film to improve literacy."
Step 3. Italicize series titles that are independent or important
If a series is published as a single volume with a separate title, italicize the title as you would any other book. For series or trilogies published in separate volumes, italicize the series title only if it appears in the individual book titles.
For example, in the case of the Nancy Drew series, "Nancy Drew" would not be italicized because it does not appear in the titles of any of the individual books. On the contrary, Harry Potter would be written in italics because the name appears at the beginning of the title of each book
Step 4. Shorten the titles to make later mentions
Generally, you don't need to use the full title of a book more than once. The author's last name and a shortened version of the title will suffice to tell readers which book you are referring to.
- For example, if you were to write an article on The Great Gatsby, you would need to include the full title in the text at least once. If you've mentioned the novel more than once, you can use Gatsby as a shortened title.
- Generally, how you shorten the title is up to your own discretion. Use a word or words that easily conjure it up in your readers' minds, without creating ambiguity.
Method 2 of 3: Capitalize Titles
Step 1. Capitalize the first word of the title and subtitle
Regardless of the first word of the title or subtitle, it should always be capitalized according to the MLA style. This applies even if it would not be written that way elsewhere in the title.
- For example, you could write the following: "Comedian Steve Martin addresses the art world in his novel An Object of Beauty. Note that the word“Un”is capitalized because it appears first. Otherwise, it would be lowercase.
- If the book also has a subtitle, capitalize the first word of the subtitle just as you did in the title.
Step 2. Write articles and prepositions in lowercase
Unless an article or a preposition is the first word of a title or subtitle, it must be written in lowercase. The preposition para remains lowercase even if it is part of an infinitive verb phrase.
The articles include words such as "a", "one" and "the", as well as their feminine versions. They also contain prepositions like "against", "inside" and "for". Note that these words remain lowercase regardless of their length
Step 3. Distinguish coordinating conjunctions from subordinating conjunctions
Coordinating conjunctions link words or phrases, while subordinates introduce a dependent condition or phrase. Coordinating conjunctions in titles are written in lowercase, while subordinating conjunctions in uppercase.
- Coordinating conjunctions include words like "and", "but", "for" and "nor".
- Subordinate conjunctions include words like "after", "although", because "," unless "and" until ".
Step 4. Capitalize all other words in the title
In the MLA style; nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives are capitalized, both in the titles and in the subtitles. This applies regardless of the length of the word or the location of the title in which it appears.
Example: Narration and Creation of Myths: Images of Cinema and Literature
If you have any doubts about the grammar of the words in a title, you can check it using capitalization checkers that you can find on the Internet.
Step 5. Use a sentence style for titles in languages other than English
The MLA format follows other style guides regarding the use of the sentence style for titles in other languages. In general, only the first word and proper nouns in the title should be capitalized. The formatting rules remain the same, so the title must still be italicized.
Capitalize all the words that would be written in this way in the language in which the title is written. For example, since in German all nouns are capitalized, you must do the same with all nouns in a book whose title is in that language
Method 3 of 3: Punctuation marks in titles
Step 1. Include the punctuation that is part of the title or subtitle
Punctuation is generally only included in a title or subtitle if it was also used in the original document. This general rule of thumb applies even if the original punctuation seems wrong or confusing.
- For example, if a title ends in an exclamation point or question mark, you should include it at the end. This punctuation mark should be italicized so that readers can understand that it is part of the title and not your own punctuation.
- If the title of a book ends in a question mark or exclamation mark, it is generally not a good idea to write it at the end of a sentence, since that punctuation mark becomes the final punctuation of the sentence. In that case, modify the sentence so that the title of the book is not placed at the end.
Step 2. Separate a subtitle from a title using a colon and a space
If the book has a subtitle, you will generally have to put a colon at the end of the title, then a space, and finally write the subtitle. However, if the title ends with an exclamation point or question mark, do not put a colon.
There is an exception if the title of the book includes another that ends in a question mark or exclamation point. Since this punctuation mark belongs to the title of the book that is included, you must add a colon after it. For example: Moby Dick and Absalom, Absalom!: Two American Masterpieces. Note that the colon is in italics
Step 3. Place a period or a comma after a title that ends in a hyphen or an ellipsis
When a title ends with a hyphen or an ellipsis, it is necessary to place a period or a comma to distinguish it from the rest of the text. Since it is not possible to determine if a hyphen or an ellipsis is in italics with the naked eye, this punctuation mark will tell readers that the final punctuation belongs to the title and not to your text.
- For example, you might write the following: "In the 1980s sitcom When Harry Met Sally…, The characters evaluated whether heterosexual cisgender men and women could be friends without becoming romantically or sexually involved."
- Keep in mind that you should structure the sentence so that a comma or period is appropriate after the ellipsis or hyphen.
while it can be difficult for an average person to determine if a punctuation mark like a comma or period is italicized, technically any punctuation mark that is added no must be written in italics.
Step 4. Use a semicolon, and the conjunction or to separate alternative titles
Some books, especially those whose original language is not English, may include alternative titles. Include both alternatives at least in the first mention of the book when the full title is used. Write a semicolon after the first title, then leave a space and finally include the conjunction "or" followed by a comma. Leave a space and then write the full title.
- For example: England Monitor; or, The History of Separation. Note that the "o" and all punctuation marks are also italicized.
- Typically, you write the original or oldest title first, followed by the other.
Step 5. Include a serial comma if necessary for books published in the United States
While the general rule is not to add any punctuation marks in a title that is not included in the original document, the MLA style guide makes an exception when it comes to the erial comma. However, this exception only applies to books published in the United States. If the book was published elsewhere, follow the punctuation included in the original document.