by Dr. Harold William Halbert

The conventions of properly marking a title in MLA style can seem confusing, but the basic issues deal with 1) capitalization and 2) marking the title.


The standard conventions for capitalizing a title in MLA style are straightforward:

Note that sometimes writers encounter titles that do not follow these conventions while conducting research. Databases often capitalize the entire title of an article or book, while other types of "styles" (like the AP style or the APA style) only capitalize the first word. You must change the capitalization of the title to MLA style if you reference the title of a work in your paper.

Marking the Title:

There are three possible ways to mark a title: the use of italics, quotation marks, or no mark at all. The following general rules of thumb may help writers conceptualize the difference between the three demarcations:

The following chart offers specific types of texts and their demarcations:

Underline/Italic Quotation Marks No Marks
Novels, books, anthologies Short stories, essays, and chapter titles. Religious texts
Magazines, newspapers, and journals Individual articles
Films, TV shows, radio programs Individual episodes of shows or programs
Web sites Individual web pages
Epic poems Regular poems
Pamphlets or sermons
Albums, named symphonies, ballets Individual songs Numbered musical compositions
Painting, sculptures
Names of specific ships, spacecraft, or aircraft Type of ship, spacecraft, or aircraft
Supreme Court Cases Legal documents, treaties, acts, and declarations

Note that underlining and italics signify the same type of mark when writing by hand. MLA style requires italics, though, when typing.

Your Own Title:

Your own title for papers and other writings should follow the MLA rules on capitalization. Do not use italics, underlining, or quotation marks on it. Instead, it should appear centered one single-spaced line below the identification information and one single-spaced line above the first line of the paper. Do not increase the font size.

Titles in Titles:

If a title contains another title within it, confusion can occur. Follow the following rules to avoid confusion:
Owned by Dr. Harold William Halbert
Based on MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th Edition)
Others are welcome to use this document provided credit is given to me.