How you can write a e book title in MLA formatting

You write a newspaper for school and suddenly stop in the middle of a sentence. You need to write a book title but don't know how to format it. How do you format a book title MLA style? Good news: you are at the typing station (sorry, I had to).

In this post, we're going to talk about MLA style and formatting, whether this is right for your project, and most importantly, how to write an MLA style book title.

What is MLA?

MLA stands for Modern Language Association, a society that is primarily based in the USA but has international reputation and has the mission to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature". Founded in the late 19th century by an American writer and professor, MLA publishes a range of resources for use by students and teachers, including the MLA Research Writer's Guide.

The MLA Handbook is one of the most important handbooks for students and scholars around the world, especially anyone studying literature, film or theater.

Should you format based on MLA style?

If you're writing a paper for a class in literature, theater, or film, be sure to use the MLA style. Other than that, it depends. Here are the most common style guides for different disciplines:

  • Literature, film, theater: MLA
  • Psychology: APA
  • science (Physics, Biology, Chemistry): CSE or APA
  • Journalism: AP
  • Mathematics: AMA
  • Publication: Chicago

A full list of international style guides can be found here.

Now that you know if you should be using MLA style, how do you use it to format a book title?

To format an MLA style book title: Example

In MLA style, book titles are italicized like this:

Henry Thorough argues in Walden that the best life is lived in conscious simplicity in order to find out what life is really about.

In fact, most style guides, including MLA and Chicago style, require that the book titles be italic rather than underlined.

If the book title has a subtitle, the subtitle should also be italicized and separated by a colon so that it is formatted correctly for MLA style, as in:

Natural History of the Intellect: The Final Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Should you underline MLA style book titles?

When using MLA style, avoid underlining book titles. Instead, write the title in italics.

However, the AP style, the guide used by journalists, suggests placing titles in quotation marks rather than italics.

Even so, I wouldn't recommend underlining the title of a book. In fact, I couldn't find a single style guide that required underlining book titles. However, if you know one who does, let me know in the comments!

Which style guide do you use most often? MLA? Chicago? APA? AP? Or do you just write according to your own rules ?! Let me know in the comments.


Let's solidify this formatting lesson in our minds by using it right away with the writing exercise below.

What are your all time favorite books? For 15 minutes, write what you love about them and why they are your favorites. Make sure you use the correct formatting for each title!

When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. As you post, please read some practices from other writers and share your feedback with them.

Have fun writing!

Joe Bunting

Joe BuntingJoe Bunting is a writer and leader of The Write Practice Community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real adventure story in France. It was a # 1 new release on Amazon. You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).