How to Capitalize and Punctuate Titles

Give the full title, including any subtitle, exactly as it is listed in the source, except follow these capitalization and punctuation rules (p. 130).

“Take the title from an authoritative location in the work" (p. 53). For example, in a book, use the title page and not the cover or the heading at the top of a page.

Capitalization of a Title (pp. 54-55)

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. 54).

    • 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 (ex: after, although, as, as if, as soon as, because, before, if , that, unless, until, when, where, while): Darkness Before Dawn
    • Article at the beginning of a subtitle (a, an, the): The Social Ecology of Human Development: A Retrospective Conclusion

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

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

Punctuation of a Title 

  • Subtitle (p. 61)

Use a colon and a space to separate a title from a subtitle. If the first part of the title ends with a question mark or exclamation point, do not add a colon.

      Dennis Banks and Russell Means: Native American Activists
      Spartan Fit! Thirty Days to a New You

      • Long titles (p. 130)

      You may shorten very long titles or very long text used in place of a title (such as a tweet). Include enough of the title or text to identify it, and use an ellipsis to indicate it has been shortened. An ellipsis is three periods with a space before each and a space after the last ( . . . ). Citation Maker will add the period or comma that ends a Title field in a citation.

      “I'm NASA astronaut Scott Tingle. Ask me anything about adjusting to being back on Earth after . . . .”

      • Other punctuation (pp. 59-60, 132)

      Only include other punctuation if it is part of the title or subtitle, including the final comma in a series. Citation Maker will correctly add either a comma or a period at the end of the title.

      Guide to Gems: Illustrated Guide to the Identification, Properties and Use of Gemstones [Book title does not include a comma after Properties.]
      Red, White, and Whole 
      [Book title does include a comma after White.]

      Capitalization and Punctuation of an 
      Untitled Source 

      • Untitled Source (p. 132)

      When the source does not have a title, enter a description of that source in the text box called Title. 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, such as Glacier National Park.)

      Ex: Necklace of silver with turquoise stones

      • Untitled Poem Known by Its First Line (p. 55)

      Enter the first line exactly as it appears in the poem.

      • Untitled Social Media or Online Forum Post (p. 132)

      If a post does not have a title but does have text, enter the full text exactly as it appears in the social media post or online forum post. Enclose the text in quotation marks, which Citation Maker will do for you. For longer posts, only copy the first few lines. See Long Titles above.

      Italics and Quotation Marks
      (pp. 66-70)

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

      Whole in Italics "Usually Part of a Larger Whole" in Quotation Marks
      Book, Report, Pamphlet, or Gray Literature Encyclopedia Article, Chapter, Essay, Poem, Short Story
      Play Scene from a Play
      Newspaper, Magazine, or Journal Article
      Album Song
      Television or Streaming Series Television or Streaming Episode
      Film, Movie, or Documentary
      Other Online Video
      Website or Blog Article, Page, or Post
      App or Database
      Social Media Platform Post with Title or Text
      Podcast or Radio Program Podcast or Radio Program Episode
      Visual Art (Painting, Sculpture, etc.)
      Performance (Concert, Dance, Play, etc.)
      Presentation (Lecture, Speech, Webinar, etc.)

      Title Neither Italicized nor in Quotation Marks (pp. 71-73, 130)

      • 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 that have a generic label but no title (afterward, chapter, forward, introduction, preface, scene, etc.)
      • Columns and titled categories in periodicals and on websites
      • Untitled sources for which you provide a description, including for art, e-mails, text messages, interviews, and social media posts that have no text. 

      Title within a Title
       (pp. 73-76, 132)

      When a title appears within a title, you need to help your reader distinguish between the two titles. To do that, change the formatting for the title that appeared within the title of your source. Enter the title of your source into Citation Maker, and adjust your citation as necessary. Citation Maker cannot do this for you. See pages 73-76 in the MLA Handbook for specific guidance.

      These are a few common examples. The correct title formatting for the citation follows the colon in these examples:

      • Periodical article about the book, Huckleberry Finn, and the article title showed the book title in italics:
             “The Flawed Greatness of Huckleberry Finn
      • Periodical  article about the book, The Age of Innocence, but the article showed the book title in single quotation marks instead of in italics:
             “The Age of ‘The Age of Innocence’”
      • Periodical  article about a short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and the article showed the short story title in quotation marks:
             “A Study of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”
      • Book about the book, Huckleberry Finn, and the source title showed the book title in italics:
             How to Teach Huckleberry Finn
      • Book about a short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and the book title showed the short story title in quotation marks:
             “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Other Great American Stories 
      • Book about a movie, Star Wars, but the book title did not show the movie title in italics:
             George Lucas’ Star Wars: A Director’s Study

      Title in Another Language

      • Latin-based Language (pp. 56-58)

      For languages that use the Latin alphabet (Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc.), capitalize only the first word and all proper nouns of the title. In other words, capitalize it like a sentence.

      • Non-Latin Language (pp. 58-59)

      For non-Latin languages (Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, etc.), consistently use either the original writing system or a transliteration. A transliteration uses English-language characters to write out the title that was originally written in another language. (That is not the same as translating the title into English.) Capitalize only the first word and all proper nouns.

      • Include English Translation (p. 133)

      Unless you are writing for an audience familiar with the non-English language, add the English translation in square brackets after the title. If the title is in italics, Citation Maker will produce the square brackets in italics as well. However, the square brackets should not be in italics, so you will need to fix that in your citation.


      MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

      The MLA Style Center: Writing Resources from the Modern Language Association. Modern Language Association of America, 2021,