Writing Book Titles in an Essay: MLA Style Guide

23 May 2023

When writing an essay, it is essential to properly format and punctuate book titles to adhere to the rules of academic writing. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is commonly used in humanities disciplines and provides guidelines for citing and formatting sources, including book titles. In this article, we will explore the key principles and techniques for writing book titles in an essay according to MLA guidelines. By mastering the art of correctly formatting book titles, you can enhance the professionalism and credibility of your academic writing.

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Understanding MLA Formatting

Before delving into the specifics of writing book titles, it is important to familiarize yourself with the general formatting rules in MLA style. MLA requires the use of in-text citations and a Works Cited page for referencing sources. Book titles, as well as other longer works such as journals, albums, or movies, should be italicized or placed in italics when typed. Additionally, shorter works such as articles, poems, or chapters, should be enclosed in quotation marks. Understanding these formatting conventions is crucial for accurately citing and referencing book titles in your essay.

Formatting Book Titles in the Body of Your Essay

When including a book title within the body of your essay, it is important to follow specific guidelines to ensure consistency and accuracy. In MLA style, book titles should be italicized or written in italics, as mentioned earlier. It is important to note that underlining book titles is not recommended in MLA style. Additionally, capitalize the first letter of the title and any subtitle, as well as any important words within the title. However, conjunctions, articles, and prepositions should be lowercase unless they are the first word of the title.

Formatting Book Titles in the Works Cited Page

In your Works Cited page, the entry for a book should provide all the necessary information to identify and locate the source. The general format for citing a book in MLA style includes the author’s name, the book title in italics, the publisher, the publication year, and the medium (e.g., print or e-book). Make sure to follow the specific MLA guidelines for each element of the citation, such as using proper punctuation, abbreviating the publisher’s name when necessary, and providing page numbers if applicable.

Additional Considerations

While MLA provides general guidelines for formatting book titles, it is important to consult the MLA Handbook or a reliable style guide for specific cases or exceptions. Keep in mind that different formatting rules may apply when citing translated works, anthologies, or edited books. It is also essential to maintain consistency throughout your essay, ensuring that you apply the same formatting rules to all book titles mentioned.


Mastering the art of writing book titles in an essay according to MLA guidelines is crucial for maintaining the integrity and professionalism of your academic writing. By understanding the general formatting principles, italicizing or using italics for book titles, and following the specific guidelines for in-text citations and the Works Cited page, you can accurately and effectively cite book titles in your essay. Remember to capitalize the first letter of the title and any important words, while lowercase conjunctions, articles, and prepositions unless they are the first word of the title. For additional guidance, consult the MLA Handbook or reliable style guides. By adhering to these guidelines, you can confidently and correctly incorporate book titles in your essays, ensuring that your academic work is accurate, properly formatted, and of the highest quality.