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MLA Style Guide - 8th edition

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On this page, we break down the citation element and element groups to help you identify and correctly format each one used in the Works Cited citation.


The author is one of the most important parts of a citation. Why? In order to properly connect ideas, inventions, and works, there has to be someone to credit with creating it! It is also a great way to help you evaluate the source of information for context and bias. The author or creator can be an individual, a group of people, or a corporate institution. You may also find additional information with the author's name, like his or her education/credentials and professional affiliations.

The basic format for citing the author is:

Last name, First name.

 NOTE: The yellow highlighting is used to draw your attention to the examples. Do NOT highlight your individual citations.


Lee, Harper. Go Set a WatchmanHarperCollins, 2015.

Turpin-Petrosino, Carolyn. Understanding Hate Crimes: Acts, Motives, Offenders, Victims, and Justice. Routledge, 2015.


Scroll through the subsequent tabs to find information about how to cite various kinds of authors.  

For more details see pages 21-25 and 102-105 in the MLA Handbook.

When there are two authors you will include BOTH names

  • Whoever is listed first in your source will be the first person on your citation. 
  • First author is written out starting with the last name.
  • Separate the two authors with comma and  (, and).
  • Second author is written out as we normally see it, first then last name.
  • Don't forget to end the Author "sentence" with a period (.)!
Last name, First name, and First name Last name.


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed., Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Cohen, Jeffrey W., and Robert A. Brooks. Confronting School Bullying: Kids, Culture, and the Making of a Social Problem. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2014.

Manjívar, Cecilia, and Sarah M. Lakhani. "Transformative Effects of Immigration Law: Immigrants' Personal and Social Metamorphoses through Regulation." American Journal of Sociology, vol. 121, no. 6, May 2016. U. of Chicago P. Journalsdoi:10.1086/685103.

For more details see pages 21 and 114 in the MLA Handbook.

When there are three or more authors, things can get very confusing and your citation becomes really long. To avoid confusion and unnecessary length, your author element will look similar to that with two authors.

  • Whoever is listed first in your source will be the first person on your citation. 
  • First author is written out starting with the last name.
  • Add a comma after the first name (,)
  • Use the Latin word et al for "and others" (et al)
  • Don't forget to end the Author "sentence" with a period (.)!
Last name, First name, et al.


Orchowski, Lindsay M., et al. "College Women's Perceived Risk to Experience Sexual Victimization: A Prospective Analysis." Perspectives on College Sexual Assault: Perpetrator, Victim, and Bystander, edited by Roland D. Maiuro, Singer Publishing, 2015, pp. 37-57. Originally published in Violence and Victims, vol. 27, no. 2, 2012.

Matsumoto, David, et al. "Reading People: Introduction to the World of Nonverbal Behavior." Nonverbal Communication: Science and Applications, edited by David Matsumoto et al., Sage, 2013, pp. 3-14.

For more details see page 22 in the MLA Handbook.

A corporation may be an institution, an association, a committee, a government agency or any other group whose individual members are not identified. The corporation may be an author and/or a publisher of a work.

  • When the source's author and publisher are separate organizations, give both names.
Corporate name. Title. Publisher, date.


United Nations. Consequence of Rapid Population Growth in Developing Countries. Taylor and Francis, 1991.

  • If the author is also the publisher, just put the corporate author in the publisher position and skip the corporate author.
"Article Title." Container title, Publisher, date, location.


"How Do Low Oil Prices Affect." Media Room, Waste Management, 10 May 2016,

  • If the author is a government agency:
    • Start with the name of the government, the country (United States),
    • Add a comma (,)
    • Followed by the name of the agency.
    • If the agency is part of a larger organizational unit, include it between the government and the agency
Government, Organization Unit, Agency. 


United States, Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Musicians and Singers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 ed., 17 Dec. 2015,

For more details see pages 104-105 in the MLA Handbook.

Film and TV

When using media works as a source, the individual that was the main focus of your research should be the leading name in the citation. 

  • Is the actor's performance the important to you using it in your paper? --> use the actor's name in the author position
  • Are the ideas and themes created by the screenwriter important? --> use the screenwriter's name in the author position
  • Is the cinematography the highlighted feature? --> use the director's name in the author position

Include the person's name, add a comma after the name and a label of that person's role in the production.

Last name, First, editor.

Last name, First, performer.

Last name, First, creator.

Last name, First, screenwriter.


Dinklage, Peter, performer. Game of Thrones. HBO, 2011-2016.

Benioff, David, and D. B. Weiss, creators. Game of Thrones. HBO, 2011-2016.

Madden, Richard, and Michelle Fairley, performers. "The Rains of Castamere." Game of Thrones, directed by David Nutter, season 3 episode 9, HBO, 2013.

No specific focus? No worries! Begin the citation with the Title, include the names of the director and other participants in the other contributor element.


Game of Thrones. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, performance by Emilia Clarke, HBO, 2011-2016.

For more details see pages 24 and 40 in the MLA Handbook.

Pen Names

Sometimes authors write under another name. Use the pen name like you would write a regular author's name. 

Last name, First name.


Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Everyman's Library, 1992.

If the author is not well known or better known under a different name, and you do know both the pen name and the real name, list both. Include the author's real name in parentheses, using normal name format.

Last name, First name (First and Last names).


Bachman, Richard (Stephen King). Thinner. Signet, 2009.

​If the author is writing under a pseudonym, but his or her proper name is found on the page, use the pseudonym and add the real name in parentheses ().


The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). The Scorpion King. Directed by Chuck Russell, Universal Pictures, 2002.

Social Media

A modern take on pseudonyms are online usernames. We use these to identify ourselves in various social media platforms. This can be a way to offer people anonymity or simply as a function of participating in this form of communication. Blog and Twitter accounts use such names frequently.



  • If the author uses a pseudonym, use it. Include the real name in parentheses (), if available.


@gwenifill (Gwen Ifill). "The candidates said the day was too somber to talk politics. And then they did. @tamarakeithNPR & @amyewalter tackle tonight @NewsHour." Twitter, 13 June 2015, 4:37 p.m.,

 @careersherpa. "43 Best Job Search Websites 2016" Twitter, 19 Jan. 2016, 12:51 p.m.,

For more details see pages 24-25 and 102-103 in the MLA Handbook.

After you have scoured your source and still can't find an author, what do you do?

  1. Start the citation with the title; skip the author element and move on.
  2. Be sure to add as much detail into your citation as possible.

For example:

Asthma Sourcebook. 4th ed., Omnigraphics2016. Health Reference Series.

  • Do I include the author's title, like Lady, Father, Dr. or PhD?
    No, omit any titles. The only time would be if the title were essential to the person's name, add a comma between the given name and the title (MLA 103-104). For example:
    Tyson, Neil deGrasse. "The Cosmic Perspective." Natural History, vol. 116, no. 3, 2007, pp. 22-27. Academic Search Complete.
    • Notice there is no Dr. or PhD for the above
Geisel, Theodor (Dr. Seuss)Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel. New Press, 2001. 
  • Notice the Dr. is essential to the pseudonym


  • The author only has initials for the first name and middle name, can I use that?
    Yes, abbreviations are normal. When the name is abbreviated make sure that you have a period and a space between each initial, unless the name is entirely initials (MLA 95).

    Rowling, J. KHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsArthur A. Levine Books, 2009.

  • What if I have several sources with the same author? How do I include each source in my Works Cited?
    Make sure that you have alphabetized your list by author. When the same author is grouped together, you will want to alphabetize the author's works by title. Keep the author's name in the first citation. Replace the (same) author's name in all subsequent ones with three hyphens (---).

    Tolkien, J. R.. The Hobbit. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
    ---. The Fellowship of the Ring. Del Rey, 2012.
    ---. The Return of the King. Del Rey, 2012.
    ---. The Two Towers. Del Rey, 2012.

Title of Source.

The second most important element is the title of the source. Without a title it would be very hard, if not impossible, for someone to figure out what resource your are citing. Luckily, titles are usually easily found on the "authoritative location in the work" (MLA 67). Copy the full title and in exact same way it is written out on your source.

The basic formats for citing the title are:

  1. Italicize [ I ] the title if it is self-contained, like a book, a film, or a website.

    Title of Source. 

    Title of SourceSubtitle. 

    For example:
    Lozano, Luis-Martín. Frida Kahlo. ...

  2. Add quotation marks around the title of source if it is part of a larger product of information, like an article, a short story, or an episode of a TV show.
    Notice that the period is located WITHIN the quote. 

    "Title of Source."

    "Title of Source: Subtitle."

    For example:

    Danovaro, R., et al. "Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections." ...

NOTE: The yellow highlighting is used to draw your attention to the examples. Do NOT highlight your individual citations.

Scroll through the subsequent tabs to find information about how to properly format the title.  

For more details see pages 25-29 and 67-75 in the MLA Handbook.

According to the MLA Handbook, it is expected that you "capitalize the first word, the last word, and all principal words" (67). don't capitalize these words!

 Do NOT capitalize the following words, unless it is the first word of the title:

  • Articles (the, an, a)
  • Prepositions (between, of, in, as, to, ...)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, for, or, so, but, yet, nor)

For more details see pages 67-68 in the MLA Handbook.


Use a colon and space to separate the title from the subtitle.

Title of Source: Subtitle.

"Title of Source: Subtitle."

Other punctuation

Use the given punctuation where appropriate. For example:

Bohannon, John. "Who's Afraid of Peer Review? ...

Krager, Derek A., et al. "Where Have All the Good Men Gone? Gendered Interactions in Online Dating." ...

Warner, Joel. "Weed is Legal. Are We High?" ...

For more details see page 68 in the MLA Handbook.

Poems are traditionally the most common instance when the work may not have title. These days, depending on what your instructor allows you to use as a source, you may encounter instances where you are using a form of  social media communication, like twitter. In both cases, you will write out the first line, or the full tweet (it's only 140 characters after all!). 

Be sure to format the title as follows:

  • The punctuation will reflect the original text.
  • Use quotation marks around the title.
  • Make sure to include a period, or given punctuation before the end quotation mark.
"Make sure the title is in quotation marks."


Dickinson, Emily. "My life closed twice before its close." Selected Poems and Commentaries, ...


@WhiteHouse. "As Muslim Americans celebrate the holy month, I am reminded that we are one American family —@POTUS on Ramadan." Twitter, 5 June 2016, 6:30 p.m.,



For emails, use the subject line as the title. The container should name who received the email.


Bastian, Roycelyn. "FW: Health& Wellness Fair, Blood Drive, Jewelry & Used Book Sale, Raffle--Astros Tickets, Wednesday, 9-2, please come!" Received by Mikha Mitchell, 6 June 2016.

For more details see page 29 in the MLA Handbook.


What is a container?

A container is the bigger entity that your piece of information is published or displayed within. It can be many things, like a book, a website, a journal or newspaper, a TV series, a music album, etc. You have to think critically about how the information that you are using is a piece of a puzzle.  

What do I put in it?

The information we include in the container are standard pieces of information to guide anyone to the larger source. This will include:

  1. The Title of the Container,
  2.  Other Contributors,
  3. Version,
  4. Number,
  5. Publisher,
  6. Publication Date,
  7. Location.

Evolution by Bradley Davis (2008) CC-BY-ND

Container Title, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location.

 Pay attention to the punctuation!

Scroll through the subsequent tabs to find information about all the various elements you might include in the container.  

For more details see pages 31-53 in the MLA Handbook.

The specific rules for the container's title are:

  1. The title container will always be italicized [I].
  2. End the title with a comma (,).

See the Title box (above) for general details about how to format a title.

Title of Container, 

Title of ContainerSubtitle, 


Article published by a magazine or newspaper, and found in a library database.

Austen, Ian. "After the Flames, the Fallout." New York Times, 12 May 2016. Opposing Viewpoints,  ...

Staff, Lonnie Shekhtman. "Tortoise Injured in a Forest Fire Gets a 3D-Printed Shell." Christian Science Monitor, 23 May 2016. Academic Search Complete, ...

For more details see pages 30-36 in the MLA Handbook

Sometimes, a source of information has other people contribute to the creation of the larger content. Include the people that are "important to your research" (MLA 37), preceded by a descriptor of their role. These descriptors may include:

  • edited by
  • translated by
  • performed by
  • narrated by
  • illustrated by

edited by First name Last name,


Márquez, Gabriel García. Love in the Time of Cholera. Translated by Edith Grossman, ...

Rogan, Alcena Madeline Davis. "Utopian Studies." The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould, et al., ...

For more details see pages 37-38 in the MLA Handbook.

If there are multiple versions or editions where the information is published, you will want to indicate which edition you used. This is important because newer editions typically include updated information.

More often, you're going to encounter an edition of a book. Make sure to do the following:

  1. Use the numbers with the ordinal indicator (st, nd, rd, th)
  2. Abbreviate the word edition (ed.) when used with a number
  3. Make sure the abbreviations has a period after it (.)
  4. End the element with a comma (,)

Versions may be called the following:

  • book editions 
  • expanded editions 
  • updated edition 
  • director's cut [of a film]
  • unabridged version [of a composition]

For example:

Beers, Mark H., et al., editors. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 18th ed., Merck Research Laboratories, 2006.

O'Toole, Peter. Lawrence of Arabia. Remastered by Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten, Columbia Pictures, collector's edition, 2008.

For more details see pages 38-39 MLA Handbook

Information may be packaged within a container that is part of a series. This is important to list to make it easy for you and your reader to find that specific volume of a book; issue of a magazine, newspaper, or journal; or episode of a show. Possible numbers and the proper abbreviations are:

  • Volume >> vol.
  • Issue >> no.
  • General number >> no.
  • Media series >> season, episode

Sometimes you have to include a combination of numbers, like volume and issue for a magazine or journal article.

  1. Start with the larger entity, like the volume (vol.) --> With all abbreviations, add the appropriate punctuation: a period.
  2. Add the volume number.
  3. Separate the two Numbers with a comma (,).
  4. Repeat the above steps for the issue:
    1. Start with the label of the entity: (no.)
    2. Add the issue number.
    3. Finish the clause with a comma (,).

abbreviation number,

abbreviation number, abbreviation number,


Post, Stephen, editor. "Informed Consent." Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3rd ed., vol. 3, Thomson Gale, 1271-313.

Somerville, Kristine. "The Urban Canvas and Its Artists." The Missouri Review, vol. 34, no. 3, fall 2011, pp. 97-108. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mis.2011.0069.


Burns, Ken. "Our Language." Jazz, episode 3, PBS, 2000.

Michaels, Lorne. "Justin Timberlake." Saturday Night Live: The 2010s, season 38, episode 16, 2012. Netflix,​.

For more details see pages 39-40 MLA Handbook

The organization responsible for distributing the information publicly is the publisher (MLA 40). Include the publisher information for books, TV, movies, and websites.


  • Academic presses can be abbreviated if it has the words University and/or Press. Replace with the abbreviations: U and P. 
  • Common business words can be omitted from the Publisher's name, like Company (Co.), Corporation (Corp.), Limited (Ltd.), and Incorporated (Inc.) (MLA 97).
  • For websites, the publisher's name (organization) may appear at the bottom of the home page or on an About page.


Harold, Franklin M. In Search of Cell History: The Evolution of Life's Building Blocks. U of Chicago P, 2014.

Casablanca. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Warner Brothers, 1941.

"Energy Initiatives." Lorain County Community College, 2015,


For more details see pages 40-42, 97, 107-109 in the  MLA Handbook

The publication date is the date that this information was made available. This can be a little confusing depending on the amount of information available and/or how you are using the information. To keep it as simple as possible here are some points to think about:

  • Books have copyright () dates, use the most recent year.
  • Articles have publication dates, use all the given information. 
    • If the article is a reprint, the original publication information will be collected in the first container. The reprinted information makes up the second container.
  • "In the list of works cited, use the day-month-year style (12 Jan. 2014) to minimize the number of commas (MLA, 94)."
    • Abbreviate months to the first three or four letters. Like: January = Jan. or September = Sept.
  • Web pages, social media, and other sources may have a time, include it after the date.
  • Movies, TV, and music, use their release date in the context that you are using it.
    • Did you see it in theaters, in the classroom, or at home?
    • Was it live show or a recording?
Publication date,

For example:

Hartman, Gary. "The Roots Run Deep: An Overview of Texas Music History." The Roots of Texas Music, edited by Lawrence Clayton and Joe W. Specht, Texas A&M University Press, 2003.

Bechears, Laura. "Honorable Style in Dishonorable Times: American Gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s." The Journal of American Culture, vol. 33, no. 3, Sept. 2010, pp. 197-206. History Study Center,

For more details see pages 42-46 and 94-95 in the MLA Handbook.

Depending on the medium in which the information is created, location could mean:

Printed Information

  • Page number, use p.
  • Page range (if there are multiple pages), use pp.
  • Non-consecutive pages, use pp. the first page and +.

​Online Information (like articles and websites) follow this priority:

  1. DOI (digital object identifier, think of it like a scholarly article's ISBN number).
  2. Permalink or stable URL (typically found in the share tools).
  3. other URL from the top of the browser.
    • Remove the http:// or https:// from the URL.
    • Note that URLs should be hyperlinked for the reader to easily click and access the source.
    • Avoid using tiny URLs as the companies that create them may disappear or they may change their services.
      Note: Online articles do not require page numbers in the Works Cited. Make sure that you hyperlink the DOI or URL for easy access to your source. 


Kindsvatter, Aaron, and Anne Geroski. "The Impact of Early Life Stress on the Neurodevelopment of the Stress Response System." Journal of Counseling and Development, vol. 92, no. 4, Oct. 2014. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00173.x.

Davies, Alex. "Tesla's Autopilot has had its First Deadly Crash." Wired, 30 June 2016, 6:04 p.m.,

For more details see pages 46-50 and 110 in the MLA Handbook.

Second Container

Why does a citation have to have two containers?

Depending on how we get information, it may be housed in a larger information house. Typically, you'll use two containers if you are using a source from the Library's databases, this includes articles from newspapers and magazines, streaming videos, and eBooks. Include all elements that will be valuable to locating the source.

Container Title, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location.

Scroll through the subsequent tabs for common examples of a use of a second container.  

For more details see pages 31-53, MLA Handbook

Think of a database like a big, virtual library. This is a larger container in which the information is housed and accessed. Typically, the elements to be listed in this type of container will include:

  • Title of container, = the database
  • location. = either the article's DOI or the permanent link found in the database's toolbox.
Title of Container, location.

Since the following citations have two containers (the article and the database) there are two locations included, a page range (as part of the first container) and a web site address (as part of the second container):

For example:

Kristof, Nicholas. "Confronting Our Own Extremist." New York Times, 16 June 2016, A23. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, 

Renteln, Alison Dundes. "A Psychohistorical Analusis of the Japanese American Internment." Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 4, 1995, pp. 618-48.


When a source has been reprinted or republished in other locations, you should include the provided information for the original publication. Place all the elements in the same order as the first container.

Reprinted in Container Title, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location.

Article reprinted in a book.

Center for Responsible Lending. "Payday Lending Traps Borrowers in a Cycle of Dept." Alternative Lending,  edited by Amanda Hiber, Greenhaven P., 2010, pp. 54-58. Reprinted in CRL Issue Brief, Feb. 2009.

Shellis, R. Peter, et al. "Understanding the Chemistry of Dental Erosion." Monographs in Oral Science, vol. 5, 2014, DOI:10.1159/000359943. Originally published in Erosive Tooth Wear: From Diagnosis to Therapy, edited by Adrian  Lussi and Carolina Ganss, 2nd ed., vol. 20, Karger, 2014, pp. 163-79.

For more details see page 53 in the MLA Handbook.

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