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How to Capitalize and Punctuate Titles

Give the full title exactly it is listed in the source, except follow these capitalization and punctuation rules (p. 25).

“Take the title from an authoritative location in the work" (p. 67). For example, in a book, use the title page and not the cover or the heading at the top of a page.

“Titles should be stated in full in the works-cited list, including any subtitles” (p.105).

Capitalization (p. 67-68)

Citation Maker cannot correct errors in capitalization or spelling. Use these guidelines.

“Capitalize the first word, the last word, and all principal words, including those that follow hyphens in compound terms” (p. 67).

  • Nouns: Shade Trees for Gardens
  • Pronouns: Save Our Species
  • Verbs: Curious George Rides a Bike; What Is Literature?
  • Adjectives: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Adverbs: Only Slightly Corrupt
  • Subordinating conjunction (e.g., after, although, as if, as soon as, because, before, if , that, unless, until, when, where, while): Darkness Before Dawn

Do not capitalize the following parts of speech when they fall in the middle of a title:

  • Articles (a, an, the): Murder on the Orient Express
  • Prepositions (e.g., against, as, between, in, of, to): Murder on the Orient Express; The Distance between Us
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or so, yet): Romeo and Juliet
  • The to in infinitives: How to Draw

Capitalization of an Untitled Source (pp. 28-29)

In place of the title, provide a generic description of it. Do not italicize or put in quotes. Capitalize the first word of the description and any proper nouns in it. (Proper nouns name a specific person, place, or organization and are capitalized, like Glacier National Park.)

Ex: Necklace of silver with turquoise stones

Capitalization of an Untitled Poem Known by Its First Line (p. 68)

Reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the poem.

Capitalization of a Tweet or Other Untitled Short Message (p. 29)

In the works-cited list, enter the full text exactly as it appears in the tweet or message. For longer messages, only copy the first few lines.


Punctuation of a Title
(p. 68)

  • Subtitle: "use a colon and a space to separate a title from a subtitle unless the title ends in a question mark or an exclamation point."
      • Guide to Gems: Illustrated Guide to the Identification, Properties and Use of Gemstones
      • Spartan Fit! Thirty Days to a New You
    • Include other punctuation only if it is part of the title or subtitle.

    Italics and Quotation Marks (pp. 25-28, 68-69)

    Generally, titles should be italicized or enclosed in quotation marks. Citation Maker will take care of this part for you.

    ItalicsQuotation Marks
    Whole "Part of a Larger Whole"
    Book Essay, Poem, Play, Story
    Newspaper, Magazine Article
    Album Song
    Television Series Television Episode
    Film
    Website Article or Post

    There are a few exceptions; these titles are neither italicized or in quotation marks.

    • Scripture
    • Laws, acts, and similar political documents
    • Musical compositions identified by form, number, and key
    • Series
    • Conferences, seminars, workshops, and courses
    • Divisions of a work (e.g., preface, introduction, scene, chapter, bibliography)

    Other Languages

    Check p. 72 of the MLA Handbook for guidelines about titles in other language.

    Resources

    MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

    The MLA Style Center: Writing Resources from the Modern Language Association. Modern Language Association of America, 2016, style.mla.org.