How to Write an Essay Title in MLA Format

Updated November 21, 2016

MLA format is a style of writing and citing references developed by the Modern Language Association and published in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. It is the style standard adopted by many university professors and scholarly journals, especially in the humanities and social science divisions. Learning to write an essay title in MLA format is a necessary skill for any scholarly writer.

Creating Your Title

Write down four to six title ideas that give the reader an idea of what to expect in your essay.

Eliminate any ideas that use first-person nouns or pronouns unless the essay is about you. For example, eliminate "My Ideas on Improving Child Care in America," but keep "Summer in the Park: My Life as a Professional Nanny."

Eliminate any ideas that refer to your essay or research itself. For example, eliminate "Hamlet: A Research Paper."

Eliminate any ideas that contain words that could discriminate against a person's gender, race, religion, age or sexual orientation, including those that use the words "he, him or his" to indicate both genders.

Choose from the remaining ideas the title that would most likely catch the attention of your readers and make them want to read more.

Formatting Your Title

Type a left-aligned, double-spaced title block in the top left corner of the first page that lists your name, your instructor's name, your course title and number and the date. Type each of the four items on a separate line.

Type your working essay title in a plain 12-point font using centered alignment on the next double-spaced line. Do not italicize or bold your title. Do not add any quotation marks around the title and do not put a period after your title.

Italicize any other book titles used in your title, and use quotation marks around any other published articles or essays used in your title.

Capitalize the first and last words of your title, any word following a colon and all major words. Do not capitalize short prepositions or articles--of, as, with, and, but, the, an, for example--unless they are the first or last word of the title.

Begin writing your essay in left alignment on the next double-spaced line.

Citing Published Essays in Your Work

Begin the entry for an essay from a book or anthology with the essay author's last name. Follow the author's last name with the author's first name, the title of the essay in quotation marks, the title of the book or anthology in italics, the name of the editor, the place of publication, the publisher, the year it was published, the range of page numbers that include the essay and the medium of publication in which it appeared (usually "print" or "web").

Separate each piece of information with proper punctuation, as illustrated by the following example.

Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of book or anthology in italics. Edition editor's name. Place of publication: Publisher, year. Range of page numbers that include the essay. Medium of publication.

List the entry for an essay from a periodical using the information, formatting and punctuation contained in the following sample.

Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of periodical in italics. Date of publication: Range of page numbers that include the essay. Medium of publication.

List the entry for an essay from a website that does not have a printed duplicate with the information, formatting and punctuation contained in the following sample. Note that the entry ends with "n. pag" to indicate the lack of page numbers, "Web" as the medium of publication and the date you accessed the material online.

Essay author's last name, first name. "Title of Essay." Title of scholarly journal with edition number or periodical in italics (date of publication): n. pag. Web. 1 Jan 2001.

Arrange the essay entry in alphabetical order with the others by the essay author's last name on your works cited page (if you cited it in your work) or on your bibliography page (if it was part of your research, but was not cited).

Tip

Essays in MLA format are always double-spaced.

Warning

MLA style does not call for a title cover page. When following MLA format, use a title cover page only if it is specifically requested.

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