How to Alphabetically Sort MLA Works Cited

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The 7th edition of the MLA Handbook is the basic reference for writers in the humanities, detailing specific formatting instructions for documenting sources. The Works Cited list includes all the references used in the research paper. It is important to alphabetize your entries on the Works Cited page, making it easy to locate the individual references.

Sources With At Least One Author

For sources with at least one author, put the last name first, and alphabetize the entry according to the last name. If there is more than one author, list them in the order they are listed in the original source, and alphabetize as usual by the surname of the first author listed.

Sources With No Listed Author

If a work has no author listed, then list the title first in the Works Cited. In this case, alphabetize the work by the title; do not write “no author,” “anonymous” or similar notations. If the title begins with an article, such as “a,” “an” or “the,” list the title as written, but do not consider the article when alphabetizing.

Alphabetizing Software

Most word-processing software will alphabetize a list for you through a function called “sort.” For instance, MS Word 2007 has the sort function on the “Paragraph” tab of the main toolbar. Simply highlight the references in your Works Cited list and click "sort" to recategorize them alphabetically. Be advised, however, that the word processor will not ignore initial articles in titles. So if your Works Cited list contains titles that begin with “a,” “an” or “the,” you will need to manually move them to their proper location, alphabetized by the next word in the titles.


About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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