Are Book Titles Italicized Or Quoted In Mla

Are Book Titles Italicized or Quoted in MLA?

In the realm of academic writing, particularly in disciplines like English literature, mastering the intricacies of citation styles is crucial. Among the common questions that arise is how to properly format book titles. In the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, adherence to specific formatting rules is essential for clarity and consistency. Let’s delve into the nuances of MLA formatting for book titles to provide a comprehensive guide for writers.

Understanding MLA Style

Before delving into the specifics of book title formatting, it’s essential to grasp the fundamentals of MLA style. Developed by the Modern Language Association, MLA style is widely used in the humanities, particularly in disciplines such as literature, language studies, and cultural studies. Its guidelines encompass various aspects of academic writing, including formatting, citation, and referencing.

Formatting Book Titles in MLA: The Basics

MLA style provides clear guidelines for formatting book titles within the text of a paper or in a Works Cited page. When citing books, writers must follow these conventions:

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  • Italicization: In MLA style, book titles are italicized when referenced in the text of the paper. Italicization serves to distinguish the title from surrounding text and to indicate the work’s standalone nature. For example: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

  • Quotation Marks: While book titles are italicized in the body of the paper, they are enclosed in quotation marks when cited in the Works Cited page. This distinction helps maintain consistency and clarity within the citation format. For instance: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

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Exceptions and Special Cases

While the general rule in MLA style is to italicize book titles in the text and enclose them in quotation marks in the Works Cited page, certain exceptions and special cases may arise. It’s important for writers to be aware of these nuances:

  • Short Works: Shorter works, such as essays or chapters within a larger anthology, are formatted differently. Essay titles are enclosed in quotation marks, while the titles of the larger works (the anthology or book) are italicized.

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  • Foreign Language Titles: When citing titles in languages other than English, writers should follow the same formatting conventions—italicizing titles within the text and using quotation marks in the Works Cited page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are article titles treated the same way as book titles in MLA style?
A: No, article titles are enclosed in quotation marks both within the text and in the Works Cited page.

Q: What about titles of plays and poems?
A: Similar to book titles, plays and long poems are italicized, while shorter poems and titles of individual acts or scenes within plays are enclosed in quotation marks.

Q: Can subtitles be italicized in MLA style?
A: Yes, subtitles are italicized along with the main title of the work.

Q: Are there any differences in formatting e-book titles or online publications?
A: No, the same formatting rules apply regardless of the format or publication medium.


In adhering to MLA style guidelines, properly formatting book titles is essential for maintaining consistency and clarity in academic writing. By italicizing titles within the text and using quotation marks in the Works Cited page, writers ensure that their citations adhere to established conventions. Familiarity with these formatting rules enables scholars to navigate the complexities of citation styles with precision and confidence.

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