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Citation Styles Playbook

The purpose of this playbook is to help you cite the sources used in your academic research.


This text is taken directly from the MLA Handbook, 7th ed. (Section 3.6.1).

Capitalization and Punctuation

Whenever you cite the title of a published work in your research paper, take the title from the title page, not, for example, from the cover or from a running head at the top of a page. Do not reproduce any unusual typographic characteristics, such as special capitalization or lowercasing of all letters. A title page may present a title designed like one of the following examples: 


examples of titles with different formatting


These titles should appear in a research paper as follows:

Modernism and Postmodernism

Reading Sites: Social Difference and Reader Response

Turner’s Early Sketchbooks

The rules for capitalizing titles are strict. In a title or a subtitle, capitalize the first word, the last word, and all principal words, including those that follow hyphens in compound terms. Therefore, capitalize the following parts of speech:

  • Nouns (e.g., flowers, as in The Flowers of Europe)
  • Pronouns (e.g., our, as in Save Our Children; that, as in The Mouse That Roared)
  • Verbs (e.g., watches, as in America Watches Television; is, as in What Is Literature?)
  • Adjectives (e.g., ugly, as in The Ugly Duckling; that, as in Who Said That Phrase?)
  • Adverbs (e.g., slightly, as in Only Slightly Corrupt; down, as in Go Down, Moses)
  • Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., after, although, as if, as soon as, because, before, if, that, unless, until, when, where, while, as in One If by Land and Anywhere That Chance Leads)

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

  • Articles (a, an, the, as in Under the Bamboo Tree)
  • Prepositions (e.g., against, as, between, in, of, to, as in The Merchant of Venice and “A Dialogue between the Soul and Body”)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, as in Romeo and Juliet)
  • The to in infinitives (as in How to Play Chess)

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. Include other punctuation only if it is part of the title or subtitle.

The following examples illustrate how to capitalize and punctuate a variety of titles.

The Teaching of Spanish in English-Speaking Countries

Storytelling and Mythmaking: Images from Film and Literature

The Artist as Critic

Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Language

“Italian Literature before Dante”

“What Americans Stand For”

“Why Fortinbras?”

“Marcel Proust: Archetypal Music—an Exercise in Transcendence”

When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text.

Dickinson’s poem “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—” contrasts the everyday and the momentous.