Formatting titles in MLA

Formatting Titles in MLA (With Examples)

The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is one of the most common formatting styles you will encounter when writing academic papers. Professors in high school and university will pay close attention to your formatting, as it accrues many points for your final grade. It would be a shame if you wrote an excellent paper, only to be watered down by poor formatting. This article was written to prevent that from happening.

Process of formatting titles in MLA 8th edition style

There are a few guidelines you should follow when formatting your title

  • Do not underline the title
  • Do not capitalize all the words in your title
  • Avoid quotation marks or italics. Only use them when incorporating other works into your title. For instance, The Theme of Morality in To Kill a Mockingbird or Romanticism in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • The tile should be between the paper’s top details and the text, separated by double spaces.

Capitalization in MLA titles

Suppose you are writing an article that is a part of a larger collection. In other words, it is in a series, either online or print, capitalize the first letter of each word. If the series title has an acronym made up of several smaller words, then only capitalize the first letters of those individual words (unless they are proper nouns).

If you are writing a title article within a book, only capitalize the first letter of each word after the first word. For instance, “The Effects of Tuition.” You would not capitalize the A in tuition. If your main idea is a sentence or two long, then capitalize the first letter of each word.

If your title is a direct quotation, capitalize the first letter of each important word in the sentence. It’s common to only capitalize proper nouns if they are within quotation marks. For instance, “Thomas Jefferson once said that ‘all men are created equal. ” If you would like to include his name as well

Punctuation in MLA titles

If your title has a question mark or an exclamation point, place them outside the closing quotation marks. For instance, “Where is my mind?” and not Where is my mind?”

“And” or “Or” in titles

Professors have different opinions on whether it should be capitalized when amid a sentence. If the title is treated as a sentence, then capitalize it. Otherwise, if it’s just used in line with other words that are not capitalized, do not capitalize it (for example, “And” in “Romanticism and Realism”).

If your title has an ellipsis (a series of…), place a period at the end of the sentence, and then use three spaced periods. For instance, “How to Be a Leader: A Guide…”.

The punctuation at the end of a title should never be a question mark or an exclamation point.

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Titles within titles

MLA style has no specific guidelines on formatting subtitles or subheadings. However, the guidelines assert that the style you choose should be consistent throughout the paper.

Generally, there are two main styles for including subtitles in your work in MLA

First, there’s the numbered style, which involves dividing your paper into sections. All you need to do is write a roman numeral and a period before your subtitles, as shown below

  1. The Justice System

1.1 Divisions of the Justice System

1.2 Importance of the Justice system

2. Legislature

Note: When using this style, the heading levels should always be aligned to the left side of the paper.

Alternatively, you can opt for heading levels, as in the example below

Heading 1 (H1): Boldface, aligned to the left

Heading 2 (H2): italicized, aligned to the left

Heading 3 (H3): centered, boldface

Heading 4 (H4): centered, italicized

Heading 5 (H5): underlined, aligned to the left

Titles in foreign languages

If you are writing a paper that involves titles in foreign languages, then you should follow these rules

Always capitalize the first letter of each word after the first. For instance, in German, “der.” In Spanish, always capitalize articles: El or La. When using these examples, be sure to include them within quotation marks. Additionally, use the Spanish word for “the,” el or la, when writing subtitles with titles that include these foreign languages. Never translate the title into English, as this can confuse your paper. It is always best to present it within the language it was written in.

When using a subtitle, of course, be sure to italicize the foreign language and place it in parentheses.

Format for titles in an essay

In MLA style, the title of your essay should be a sentence or two in length. Place double quotation marks around the title and leave no space before or after it.

If you are writing your essay about a novel, use this format: (Last name), Title, City published: Publisher, Year published. Do not italicize the work within this sentence.

If you are writing your essay about a film, use the following format: (Last name), Title with Directed By, and Released Year. Please include the words in italics and set them apart from other text like a special footnote.

MLA Format for titles in Books

Place the title of your book in italics. Please do not place a period after the title, but use a colon to separate it from the subtitle for non-fiction books. For instance: The Great Gatsby: A Fantastic Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Pride and Prejudice, An unforgettable Classic novel by Jane Austen. In fiction books, forgo the colon. For instance: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

If your book has other titles within it, such as chapters or stories, then italicize them. It is important to note that you should always use “short” forms of these titles when formatting MLA style. If you are using a collection, for instance, and one of the stories is called “The Umbrella Man,” you should use this as your title instead of just The Umbrella Man. For further clarification, see the examples below

Example 1- Non-fiction

They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases from Around the World by Anne H. Soukhanov

Example 2- Fiction

The Umbrella Man and Other Stories from Fifty Contemporary Authors edited by Edward M. Burns, Robert J. Seidman, and Shirley Kuykendall

The Works Cited List

The Works Cited list is another tricky area for students and writers alike. This is because so much goes into format and punctuation. The slightest of mistakes here can lead to point deduction. To avoid that, let’s look at different entries in the Works Cited List and how to format their titles in MLA 8th edition

Format for journal titles in MLA 8th Edition

The first thing to remember is to include the volume number if it exists for a journal-title. For instance, “Journal Titles in MLA Style.” Commonly, journals are abbreviated using uppercase letters. However, there are several exceptions:

If the title of your source has more than nine words and no subtitle, use italics to indicate the journal name. For instance, “Reading Articles in The American Journal of Pediatric Medicine.”

If a source has ten or more words in its title, then capitalized only the first letter of every word except for prepositions and conjunctions.

For citing multiple articles from the same journal issue, you don’t need to use a short title. Instead, list the year and page numbers on which the article was printed. For instance, “John Smith’s 2007 Article in Journal of American Science”.

Format for magazine titles in MLA 8th edition

Most magazines are italicized when citing them using MLA style. However, there are exceptions:

If the title of your source has more than nine words and no subtitle, use italics to indicate the magazine name. For instance, “Reading Articles in Newsweek Magazine.”

If a source has ten or more words in its title, then capitalized only the first letter of every word except for prepositions and conjunctions.

If the title of your source has a subtitle, then place it in parentheses after the full title. For instance, “Reading Accurate Information on Real Estate Investments in Your Local Newspaper.”

For citing multiple articles from the same magazine issue, you don’t need to use a short title. Instead, list the year and page numbers on which the article was printed. For instance, “John Smith’s 2007 Article in Forbes Magazine”.

Format for titles of web articles in MLA 8th Edition

Titles of web articles are generally in italics. However, it is important to include the URL or website address with this title. It is advisable to follow this format:

For instance, “Reading Accurate Information on Real Estate Investments in Your Local Newspaper.”

“The Chicago Tribune.” Web. 15 Oct 2012.

“Forbes.” Web. 15 Oct 2012.

Abbreviating very long titles in the Works Cited list

This is a common practice. If so, capitalize the first letter of every word except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. For instance, “Reading an Article on Global Warming in The New York Times.”

Example of a source reference with no title

Sometimes, your source of information has no title, yet it contains vital information for your paper. To cite it in MLA style, use the name of the author or creator instead and give page numbers whenever possible. For instance, “John Smith’s Household Budget in 2007”.

As for how to format titles in MLA 8th Edition: the best way is to look at examples. Many online pages provide MLA citation guides with real-world scenarios as well as sample papers.

The key here is to read the examples carefully. Look for specific formats and changes in formatting, then apply them to your paper.

Resources for MLA Title Formatting

If you would like more information on MLA style formatting in titles, please refer to the following links

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 8th Edition, published by the Modern Language Association of America.

Final Remarks on Titles

Titles can be difficult to format. If you are still having problems, then consult your style manual for additional information and examples. As always, practice makes perfect, so look at as many sources in MLA style that you can get your hands on!

If you need help with your titles, especially in MLA 8th edition, we are here for you. We offer custom paper writing services of the highest quality at affordable prices.

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