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How to Write Play Titles in a Paper

1. determine the length of the play, 2. use quotation marks, 3. italicize the title.

It is common in literature classes to write papers about plays, such as the works of famous playwrights like Shakespeare, Ibsen and Sophocles, to name just a few. When writing about plays, as well as all works of literature, it is important to know the guidelines of how to properly write the titles when referring to them in your paper and listing them in the works cited page. Knowing how to write a play is one thing, but knowing how to mention plays in a paper is another. Since papers about literature are typically written in MLA format, ​ you should know the MLA rules ​ for writing play titles.

​ Determine the length of the play. ​ The rules for titles of literature depend on the length of the work, and a plays can vary greatly in length. A play that consists of only one act is considered a short play, while a play that has more than one act is considered a long play.

​ Place the titles of one-act plays in quotation marks. ​ MLA calls for titles of short works, such as articles and short poems, to be put in quotation marks. One-act plays fall in this category.

​ Italicize the title of longer plays. ​ MLA calls for the title of longer works, such as books and films, to be italicized. Plays longer than one act are considered long works and should be italicized.

Don't underline the title of longer plays. Underlining used to be an acceptable form of writing titles for longer works, but MLA recently changed this and now allows on italicizing.

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David Boyles is a graduate student, teacher and professional writer. He has been teaching writing since 2005, while his own work has been featured in various publications and websites, including "Vegas Seven," "ArtsVegas," "AZ on the Scene Magazine" and the "Las Vegas Review of Books." Boyles holds a master's degree in English literature.

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How to Quote and Cite a Play in an Essay Using MLA Format

Last Updated: October 12, 2023

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been viewed 381,209 times.

MLA (Modern Language Association) format is a popular citation style for papers and essays. You may be unsure how to quote and cite play using MLA format in your essay for a class. Start by following the correct formatting for a quote from one speaker or from multiple speakers in the play. Then, use the correct citation style for a prose play or a verse play.

Template and Examples

how do you write a play title in an essay

Quoting Dialogue from One Speaker

Step 1 Include the author and title of the play.

  • For example, if you were quoting a character from the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you would write, In Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , the character Honey says...

Step 2 Name the speaker of the quote.

  • For example, if you are quoting the character George from the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, you would write, “George says,…” or “George states,…”.

Step 3 Put the quote in quotation marks.

  • For example, if you are quoting from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , you would write: Martha notes, "Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference."

Step 4 Put slashes between verse lines.

  • For example, if you were quoting from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure , you would write: Claudio states “the miserable have no other medicine / But only hope.”

Quoting Dialogue from Multiple Speakers

Step 1 Put a blank space between the body of your paper and the first line.

  • You do not need to use quotation marks when you are quoting dialogue by multiple speakers from a play. The blank space will act as a marker, rather than quotation marks.

Step 2 Indent the speaker names 1 inch (2.54 cm) from the left margin.

  • MARTHA. Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.
  • GEORGE. No, but we must carry on as though we did.
  • MARTHA. Amen.

Step 3 Indent the dialogue ¼ inch (0.63cm) from the left margin.

  • Verse dialogue is indented 1 ¼ inch (3.17cm) from the left margin.

Step 4 Include the stage directions.

  • RUTH. Eat your eggs, Walter.
  • WALTER. (Slams the table and jumps up) --DAMN MY EGGS--DAMN ALL THE EGGS THAT EVER WAS!
  • RUTH. Then go to work.
  • WALTER. (Looking up at her) See--I’m trying to talk to you ‘bout myself--(Shaking his head with the repetition)--and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work.

Citing a Quote from a Prose Play

Step 1 Put the citation in the text using parentheses.

  • If you are quoting dialogue from one speaker, place the citation at the end of the quoted dialogue, in the text.
  • If you are quoting dialogue from multiple speakers, place the citation at the end of the block quote.

Step 2 Cite the author’s name.

  • For example, you may write: “(Albee…)” or “(Hansberry…)”

Step 3 Note the title of the play.

  • For example, you may write, “(Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ...).”
  • If you have mentioned the title of the play once already in an earlier citation in your essay, you do not need to mention it again in the citations for the play moving forward.

Step 4 Include the page number and the act number.

  • For example, you may write, “(Albee 10; act 1).
  • If you are including the title of the play, you may write: “(Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 10; act 1).”

Citing a Quote from a Verse Play

Step 1 Place the citation in-text.

  • For example, if the quote appears in act 4, scene 4 of the play, you will write, “(4.4…)”.

Step 3 Include the line number or numbers.

  • For example, if the quote appears on lines 33 to 35, you will write, “(33-35).”
  • The completed citation would look like: “(4.4.33-35)”.

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To quote and cite a play in your essay using MLA format, start by referencing the author and title of the play in the main body of your essay. Then, name the speaker of the quote so it’s clear who’s talking. For example, write, “In Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the character Honey says…” After introducing the quote, frame the dialogue with quotation marks to make it clear that it’s a direct quote from a text. If your dialogue is written in verse, use forward slashes to indicate each line break. For more tips from our English co-author, including how to quote dialogue between multiple speakers in your essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Quotation Marks or Italics In Titles?

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| Candace Osmond

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

You’ve probably asked yourself while writing an essay: Should I italicize a play title or enclose it in quotation marks? What about a song title?

Don’t feel guilty for not knowing the rules for quotation marks or italics in titles . Even the most experienced writers have the same problem.

I’ll show you the basic rules for choosing between quotation marks and italics in titles. This guide features the guidelines of Chicago, MLA, and APA.

Using Italics or Quotation Marks in Titles

Using italics vs. quotation marks in titles depends on your style guide. But the general rule is to italicize long titles, such as titles of books, movie titles, or album titles.

Meanwhile, you must write titles in quotation marks for shorter pieces like musical titles, magazines, TV series, and articles. Note that the AP style does not put magazines, newspaper style, or journals in quotation marks.

Grammarist Article Graphic V2 2022 08 14T201339.353

  • “How You Feel About Gender Roles Will Tell Us How You’ll Vote” is an article worth the read.
  • My favorite song is “If I could Fly.”
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation is for readers who want to escape their stressful lives.

Works That Require Italics

Use Italics for titles such as the following:

  • Pieces with sections, such as a collection or anthology.
  • Some scientific names.
  • Computers and video games.
  • Titles of newspapers and titles of articles from newspapers.
  • Play titles.
  • Works of art.
  • Court cases.
  • Television and radio shows.
  • Episode titles.
  • Book titles.
  • Magazine articles.
  • Album titles.
  • Names of Ships.
  • Operas, musical titles, and other musical works.

Here are some examples of italicized works:

how do you write a play title in an essay

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
  • Michelangelo’s David.
  • When Harry Met Sally.
  • Do you have a copy of Wag the Dog by award-winning author Larry Beinhart?
  • My favorite mystery book is In the Woods by the bestselling author Tana French .

The source’s title is usually italicized in a bibliography or reference list entries. But it can also depend on the source type. If you’re citing a journal article, every citation style italicizes the journal title instead of the article.

  • Asher, J. (2017). Thirteen reasons why . Penguin Books.
  • (2011). When Harry met Sally . Santa Monica, Calif: MGM Studio distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Works That Require Quotation Marks

Use double quotes for the following types of work.

  • Comic strips.
  • Article title.
  • Generic titles.
  • Short works like essays
  • Short story titles.
  • Song titles.

Remember that quotation marks come in pairs, so add both opening and closing quotation marks. Here are some examples where we use friendly quotation marks in titles:

  • “Cul de Sac” is a darkly humorous comic.
  • “Cinderella” is my favorite chapter title from the Big Blue Book .

Big Things vs. Little Things

“Big things” include a collection of novels or book series, movies, cartoon series, and other works that can stand independently. We can also consider them as complete bodies of work.

Meanwhile, the “little things” depend on other groups, so we put them in quotes.

Think of a “single” in an album title or a “book chapter” in a book title. Another good example includes “manuscripts” in collections.

Remember that this isn’t a perfect rule. But it helps writers determine whether they should quote or italicize the title of a work.

Italics vs. Quotation Marks in Style Guides

The grammar rules on italicizing or quoting titles are usually a matter of style. Take a look at the title formats’ differences among style guides.

In the Modern Language Association style guide, a quick rule is to italicize titles that are longer. Experienced writers state that these “longer works” include books, journals, court cases, etc. Ship names and other notable names are also in italics.

But for shorter works like articles and poems, MLA Style Guide recommends you format titles with double quotation marks.

Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style goes by the same basic rules as MLA. Titles of major works, such as books, and special names like a ship should be in italics. But place the item in quotation marks for subsections of larger bodies like journal articles, blogs, and book chapters.

According to the APA Style 7th edition , you should use italics for titles like journals, magazines, and newspapers. Books, artworks, webpages, and any other larger body of work also use italics.

However, writers who follow APA use the regular type of format for shorter works. These include essays or works in journal articles and lectures.

When to Not Use Italics or Quotation Marks

There’s a specific type of title that all major style guides have no recommendations for. The following do not use italics or quotation marks for titles:

  • Commercial products.
  • Political documents.
  • Legal documents.
  • Major religious books or scriptures.
  • Name of artifacts.
  • Names of buildings.
  • Constitutional documents.
  • Traditional game.

If you are formatting titles on a website, there’s no need to follow the rules on italics vs. quotation marks. You can go with any more visually appealing style since online web pages are less formal than print materials.

Prioritize the font type, size, and headings when formatting websites and web pages. Make decisions based on what will attract visitors.

When to Underline Instead of Quote or Italicize

If you write using pen and paper, italicizing works can be challenging. Many style manuals recommend underlining the source instead. It’s easier, more practical, and keeps your handwriting legible.

Final Word on Italics vs. Quotes in Titles

An easy way to remember is that most types of titles are almost always in italics. APA, MLA, and Chicago manuals of style recommend italics for longer works.

I hope this guide on using quotation marks and italics in titles helps you become a better writer. 

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Citing a Play from Textbook

Format:  Author.  Title of Play in Italics .  Title of Textbook,  edited by Editor Name, edition, vol. #, Publisher, Year, Page Numbers.

Example:  Hansberry, Lorraine.  A Raisin in the Sun. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature ,

edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Valerie Smith, 3rd ed. vol. 2, W.W. Norton and Company, 2014, pp. 470-532.

Citing a Play in a Book 

*Note: this citation should be used if you find your play in a book where the play is the entire book

Format:  Author.  Title of Play in Italics.  Edition, Publisher, Year. Database Name in Italics (if electronic), URL.

Example:  Sophocles.  Antigone.  Translated by David Mulroy,   University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.  ProQuest Ebook Central,

In-Text Citations

There are several ways to do in-text citations for plays. Depending on what information you have about your play will determine how you do your in-text citations.

Using Line Numbers

Example: (Hansberry, 4.5. lines 171-9)

*Note: If the text of your play includes line numbers on the side of the page, then replace the page number with the act, scene, and line numbers.

*Notes: Once you establish you are using line numbers for your in-text citations, you no longer need to use the word "line" in your parenthetical citation.

*Note:  If you have used the author's name or the play's title in the signal phrase before introducing a quote, you do not need to include it in your in-text citation.

Using Page Numbers

Example : (Wilson 200)

*Note:  If lines in your play are not numbered, you can use the page number in your citation.

Sample Drama Paper

  • Sample Drama Paper with Line Number Citations This sample drama paper will show examples of in-text citations using line numbers.
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Formatting Titles in Essays

  • 2-minute read
  • 8th May 2018

Handling your own headings is one thing, but how should you write the titles of other works? You need to mark them out somehow, and you have two standard options: italics or quote marks.

This is especially important in academic writing , as you’ll often have to discuss books and papers written by other people. Here, then, are some guidelines you should follow when formatting titles.

When to Use Italics

You can often spot a title from the capitalisation , but we still format titles to distinguish between different types of source. Titles of longer sources, for example, typically use italics:

how do you write a play title in an essay

Here, Kerrang! is italicised because it is the title of a magazine (i.e. a standalone work that is not one part of a larger whole). Other publications and productions that this applies to include:

  • Academic journals
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Websites and blogs
  • Films and TV shows
  • Radio programmes
  • Plays and other stage shows
  • Book-length poems
  • Paintings and other works of art
  • Music albums

The key here, then, is that italics are used for longer published works .

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When to Use Quote Marks

We use quote marks for the title of anything that doesn’t fit in the list above. Usually, this will be something that is part of a more substantial publication, such as an article from a magazine:

how do you write a play title in an essay

In this case, we see both the magazine title and an article title. Using italics on the former and quote marks on the latter makes it immediately obvious which is which. Other cases where quote marks are required include:

  • Chapters from books
  • Academic papers and journal articles
  • Articles from newspapers and magazines
  • Single pages from a website or posts from a blog
  • Individual poems and short stories
  • Single episodes of a TV series
  • Single poems from a collection
  • Songs and other short recordings

In this case, the key is that quote marks are used for shorter works . However, quote marks are also used for unpublished works regardless of length (e.g. a draft manuscript or a PhD dissertation).

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How to Write Book Titles in Essays: APA, MLA, Chicago Styles

It’s your practical and up-to-point guide on how to write a book title in an essay. You’ll get the formatting rules and examples for citing book and author names in academic papers.

We’ve covered the top three citation styles: APA, Chicago, and MLA.

How to Write the Title of a Book in an Essay

First, remember the general rules of citing book names in academic works.

Here’s how to cite books in essays:

  • Use capitalization. Every word of a book’s name goes in the title case, except prepositions, articles, and coordinating conjunctions.
  • Use italics for longer and independent works. Use double quotations for shorter ones (poems, articles, book chapters, or play acts and scenes).
  • Use single quotations for a book’s title within another title. (When citing monographs about literary works, for example.) 

While capitalization rules depend on the citation style, some general tips have a place to be. Please, no capitalization for:

  • Articles: a, the (unless the book title begins with it)
  • Coordinating conjunctions and prepositions: of, and, or, but, for, to, nor, in, so (unless the book title begins or ends with it)

Subordinating conjunctions (although, unless, because, if) go in capital letters.

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: APA

APA (American Psychological Association) is the most popular style for citing academic works. It’s common for the social sciences like Education, Psychology, Sociology, and others. The current edition: 7th (2019).

Book titles in APA stand for:

  • Italics. (If a book name includes any punctuation, italicize it too.)
  • Capitalization. (Capitalize all words longer than four letters , regardless of the part of speech. Also, use capital letters for two-part words and those coming after a dash or a colon.)
  • Double quotations instead of italics. (When citing a short work like an article or a poem; when citing a book chapter or when the book is a part of an anthology.)

For example: 

The Lord of the Rings but “The Fellowship of the Ring” (The latter is part of the trilogy.)

Related: How to Cite a Movie in APA Format

How to Write the Name of a Book in an Essay: Chicago

The Chicago Manual of Style is a guide by the University of Chicago. It’s common for fields like History, Fine Arts, and Business. The current edition: 17th (2017).

How to format book titles in Chicago:

  • Italicize longer and independent works; put shorter ones in double quotations.
  • Use italics for punctuation within a title.
  • Capitalize all words except articles (a, the) and ALL prepositions or conjunctions (regardless of length).

For example:

In George Orwell’s 1984 , the author presents a dystopian society characterized by pervasive government surveillance and the suppression of individual freedom. The harrowing events in “Chapter 2,” where Winston Smith begins to rebel against the Party by starting a forbidden diary, mark a pivotal moment in the novel’s exploration of resistance against totalitarianism.

The style resembles the MLA format, but it’s flexible, allowing you to “break the rules if necessary.”

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: MLA

MLA format stands for the Modern Language Association. It’s common for humanities like Literature, Culture, Linguistics, etc. The current edition: 8th (2016). 

How to format books in MLA:

  • Italicize all words, including punctuation and those of two parts or going after colons and hyphens.
  • Capitalize all words except articles (a, the) , prepositions, and short conjunctions within a book title.
  • Use double quotations instead of italics when writing a book chapter or a part of a book series.

In Little Women , Beth March dies in Chapter 40, “The Valley of the Shadow.”

Formatting Book Author Names in Papers

Use the author’s full name (first and last) to format it in your essay for proper credit.

If a book has two authors, use both last names and initials. For works with three or more authors, use the last name of the first one and add “et all.”

No need to italicize author names in papers.

Why Properly Cite Book Titles in Essays

The short answer:

You won’t get a high grade for an essay. Formatting blunders count as mistakes.

The longer answer:

  • You prove writing skills and an understanding of the rules in academia.
  • Your papers maintain consistency. It’s critical to stick to criteria to prevent confusion. The consistent format for book headings also serves to better scannability and readability.
  • You learn to cite different types of references for your future projects.

Do you italicize book titles?

Yes, you put book titles in italics. Please italicize long and stand-alone works: books, movies, webpages, reports, or music albums. Shorter works’ titles (articles, essays, poems, songs, or book chapters) come in quotations. (1)

Do you underline book titles?

Underlining book titles is an outdated practice. Some still use it in handwritten essays, but it’s not a must-follow rule. Neither APA nor MLA (or Chicago) mentions underlining book names in academic papers.

How to use book title capitalization in texts?

Capitalize every word in a book’s title. Exceptions are articles (a, the), prepositions, and short (three or fewer letters) conjunctions in mid-titles.

Are books italicized in all formatting styles?

Yes, book titles come in italics in all styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago. When citing book chapters or a book as a part of a series, use quotation marks instead.

How to write a book author in an essay?

Use the author’s full name when citing their book in your papers. For works with several authors, mention their last names and initials. Unlike book titles, author names come in standard formatting with no italics.


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How to Format Song Titles in Writing: Expert Advice

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My name is Debbie, and I am passionate about developing a love for the written word and planting a seed that will grow into a powerful voice that can inspire many.

Capitalizing the Title Case: The Basics of Formatting Song Titles

Capitalizing the Title Case: The Basics of Formatting Song Titles

Italicizing or using quotation marks: determining the correct style, handling punctuation in song titles: a guide for writers, formatting song titles within sentences: maintaining consistency and clarity, special cases: remixes, covers, and featured artists in song titles, abbreviations and acronyms in song titles: to use or not to use, formatting song titles in different writing styles: mla, apa, and beyond, additional tips for perfectly formatting song titles in writing, frequently asked questions, future outlook.

One of the essential aspects of formatting song titles is capitalizing them in title case. This style not only enhances the overall appearance of the title but also follows conventional rules for capitalization in English language. Here are some key guidelines to keep in mind when formatting your song titles:

– Start with capitalizing the first and last words of the title. – Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions (e.g., “and” or “but”). – Articles (e.g., “a,” “an,” or “the”), coordinating conjunctions (e.g., “and,” “but,” or “or”), and prepositions (e.g., “in,” “on,” or “at”) should not be capitalized unless they are the first or last word of the title. – Indicate the title of a song by placing it in quotation marks, using the appropriate punctuation such as single quotes or double quotes.

To further illustrate these guidelines, let’s consider the title of an iconic song by The Beatles: “Hey Jude.” Following proper capitalization rules for title case, the correctly formatted version would be “Hey Jude.” Notice that both the first and last words are capitalized, while the article “a” is not capitalized. By adhering to these formatting basics, your song titles will appear polished and professional, adding to the overall aesthetic of your work.

When it comes to emphasizing words or phrases in your writing, it’s important to use the correct style to effectively convey your intended meaning. Two common options for highlighting text are italicizing and using quotation marks. While both can be used to add emphasis, each style has its own specific purpose.

Italicizing words or phrases is a great way to indicate emphasis in a subtle and visually appealing manner . Italicized text is often used for titles of books, movies, or TV shows, foreign words, scientific names, or to introduce a new term or concept. By slanting the text, you draw attention to specific words without interrupting the flow of your writing. For instance, in an academic paper about psychology, you might italicize the terms “cognitive dissonance” or “self-actualization” to make them stand out in the text.

On the other hand, quotation marks are commonly used to indicate direct quotes from a source or when referring to specific words or phrases. They can also be used to imply irony, sarcasm, or to denote an unusual meaning or definition for a word. For example, you might write, “The word ‘awesome’ has become so overused in today’s language that it has lost its true meaning.” By enclosing the word “awesome” in quotation marks, you convey a sense of skepticism or disbelief towards its contemporary usage. Remember that quotation marks should be used sparingly to avoid cluttering your writing or confusing your reader.

Handling Punctuation in Song Titles: A Guide for Writers

When it comes to song titles, punctuation can play a crucial role in conveying the intended message and style. Here are some tips to help you navigate the often-confusing world of punctuating song titles:

1. Apostrophes: If a word is contracted in the song title, such as “can’t” or “won’t,” use an apostrophe to indicate the omitted letters. For example, “Can’t Stop the Music” or “Won’t Back Down.”

2. Quotation Marks: Quotation marks are commonly used to enclose the title of a song within a larger work. For instance, in the song “Waterloo” by ABBA from the album “ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits,” both of these titles are enclosed in quotation marks.

3. Hyphens: Hyphens are useful when combining words in a song title. They can help clarify the meaning and prevent ambiguity. For instance, “Love-Struck” or “Dance-Off.”

4. Italicization: Consider using italics to showcase song titles when formatting a piece of written work. It not only helps differentiate the titles from the regular text but also adds a visual appeal. For example, “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Hotel California.”

Formatting Song Titles within Sentences: Maintaining Consistency and Clarity

When incorporating song titles within sentences, it is essential to maintain consistency and clarity to ensure a seamless reading experience. By following a few simple formatting guidelines, you can effectively punctuate and emphasize song titles, allowing them to stand out from the surrounding text.

One common convention is to use quotation marks when referring to song titles within sentences. For example, if you are discussing a specific song in your writing, enclose the title within double quotation marks. This visually sets it apart from the rest of the sentence and makes it clear that you are referring to a song title. Alternatively, if you are mentioning a song without any specific reference, you can simply capitalize the title without using quotation marks. Consistency is key here; choose one format and stick to it throughout your writing to avoid confusion.

Special Cases: Remixes, Covers, and Featured Artists in Song Titles

Remixes, Covers, and Featured Artists in Song Titles often add a touch of excitement and uniqueness to our favorite tunes. In the world of music, these special cases allow artists to collaborate, experiment, and bring a fresh perspective to well-loved melodies. Whether it’s a remixed version of a chart-topper, a cover that transforms a classic, or a featured artist lending their distinctive vocals to a track, these creative adaptations provide a delightful twist for our ears.

Remixes are a popular way to give a song a fresh new sound. With the help of electronic beats and additional production elements, remixes breathe life into existing melodies and offer listeners a chance to experience their favorite songs in a different light. They often feature extended dance breaks, altered vocal arrangements, or reimagined instrumentals, making them perfect for energizing parties or adding excitement to playlists. Some notable remixes have even gained more popularity than the original tracks themselves, igniting new trends and musical styles along the way. So next time you stumble upon a remix of your favorite song, don’t hesitate to hit play and let the infectious beats take you on a thrilling sonic journey.

Abbreviations and Acronyms in Song Titles: To Use or Not to Use?

Choosing the perfect title for a song is crucial, as it can catch the attention of listeners and convey the essence of the composition. One common dilemma that often arises during this creative process is whether to incorporate abbreviations or acronyms into the title. While these condensed forms can add a touch of intrigue and uniqueness, it’s essential to consider their potential impact on the overall message and understand their relevance to the theme or lyrics.

Using abbreviations and acronyms can be an effective way to create catchy and memorable song titles. They can inject a sense of modernity and excitement, instantly capturing the curiosity of an audience. Moreover, abbreviations and acronyms can help convey a specific meaning within a compact space, making the title clear while leaving enough room for interpretation. However, it is important to strike the right balance. Overuse or excessive reliance on abbreviations may confuse or alienate some listeners who may not be familiar with the referenced phrase.

Formatting Song Titles in Different Writing Styles: MLA, APA, and Beyond

In the vast and diverse world of writing styles, even the titles of songs are subjected to specific formatting rules. Whether you are a student, a researcher, or simply a lover of music, it is essential to know how to correctly format song titles in different writing styles such as MLA, APA, and beyond. Here, we will guide you through the key elements and nuances of each style, ensuring that your song titles are formatted with finesse.

In the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, song titles are italicized within the body of your work. When referencing songs in your bibliography or works cited page , you should follow this format:

– Last Name, First Name. “Song Title.” Album Title, Record Label, Year.

For example: – Jackson, Michael. “Thriller.” Thriller, Epic Records, 1982.

In the American Psychological Association (APA) style, song titles are not italicized but rather presented in sentence case. This means that only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. When including song titles in your references list, follow this format:

– Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial., & Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year). Song Title. Album Title. Record Label.

For example: – Jackson, M., & Landis, J. (1982). Thriller. Thriller. Epic Records.

Additional Tips for Perfectly Formatting Song Titles in Writing

Formatting song titles correctly is essential for creating professional and visually appealing written content. By following a few additional tips, you can ensure that your song titles stand out and grab the reader’s attention. Here are some creative suggestions to help you achieve the perfect formatting:

1. Capitalize the main words: When writing song titles, it is common to capitalize the principal words in the title. This includes nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. For instance, consider the song title “Dancing in the Moonlight.” By capitalizing the main words, the title appears more polished and visually appealing.

2. Use italics or quotation marks: To add emphasis and differentiate the song title from regular text, it is advisable to use italics or quotation marks. For example, “Hotel California” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” can be placed in italics or within quotation marks to make them stand out. This not only makes the title more noticeable but also aids in enhancing the readability of your content.

3. Exclude articles and prepositions: To maintain a clean and concise format for song titles, it is recommended to exclude articles (such as “the” or “a/an”) and prepositions (like “in” or “of”) unless they are the first word in the title. Doing so ensures that the focus remains on the essential elements of the song’s title, making it more visually appealing and reader-friendly.

4. Be consistent: Consistency is key when formatting song titles. Whether you choose to italicize, enclose in quotation marks, or simply capitalize the key words, be sure to apply the same formatting style consistently throughout your content. This helps maintain a professional and cohesive look, making your writing more polished and aesthetically pleasing.

Remember, properly formatting song titles not only enhances the visual appeal of your content but also demonstrates your attention to detail. By following these additional tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating perfectly formatted song titles that captivate your readers.

Q: Why is it important to format song titles correctly in writing? A: Properly formatting song titles is essential for displaying professionalism and avoiding confusion in any written piece. It helps readers identify specific songs and also respects the original artist’s work.

Q: How do I format a song title when it is the title of an article, essay, or book? A: When using a song title as the title of an article, essay, or book, it should be enclosed in quotation marks, just like any other shorter work. For example, “Imagine” would be appropriately formatted as the title of an essay discussing John Lennon’s iconic song.

Q: What if I want to refer to a song title within the text of my writing? A: If you are mentioning a song title within the text of your writing, it should also be enclosed in quotation marks. For instance, you could write, “The lyrics of “Bohemian Rhapsody” have captivated audiences for decades.”

Q: How should I format a song title in a formal research paper or academic writing? A: In formal research papers or academic writing, it is generally recommended to use italics instead of quotation marks around song titles. This convention enhances clarity and readability in scholarly work.

Q: Are there any exceptions to using italics or quotation marks? A: Yes, when referring to classical music compositions or opera titles, these should be written in italics, while individual movements or songs within them should be enclosed in quotation marks. For instance, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 would be italicized, but its third movement, “Menuetto,” would be placed in quotation marks.

Q: How should I format song titles on social media or informal platforms? A: When writing song titles on social media or any other informal platform, it is common to use quotation marks. Italicizing may not be possible in all digital spaces, so quotation marks serve as a suitable alternative and still convey the intended meaning.

Q: What if the song title includes punctuation or special characters? A: Punctuation and special characters within song titles should be retained as they appear in the original. This includes exclamation marks, question marks, commas, and even unconventional symbols as intended by the artist. Remember to always prioritize accuracy and maintain the integrity of the original title.

Q: Can I capitalize all words in a song title? A: In general, only capitalize significant words in song titles. Articles, conjunctions, and short prepositions should be lowercase, unless they are the first or last word of the title. However, it is always a good idea to follow established style guides or the specific preferences of the artist, if known.

Q: Is it acceptable to abbreviate a song title when writing it? A: Abbreviating a song title should generally be avoided, unless the artist or publishing company officially presents it that way. Stick to the original title as closely as possible to convey proper meaning and avoid ambiguity.

Q: What additional resources can I consult for proper formatting of song titles when writing? A: The Chicago Manual of Style, the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook, and the American Psychological Association (APA) Style Guide each provide comprehensive guidelines for formatting song titles. Leveraging these resources can ensure accuracy and consistency in your writing.

In conclusion, correctly formatting song titles is essential for clear and consistent writing. Follow these tips to ensure accuracy and professionalism in your work.

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How To Write Book Titles The Proper Way: A Complete Guide For Writers

  • February 10, 2022

Book titles within essays or papers can be tricky. There are specific rules that are given for how to include a book title in a way that sets it apart from the content of your writing given by the Modern Language Association. However, as with many other things in life, there are exceptions to the rules. This article will guide you through the rules of the writing style guides so that you can include a book’s title in your paper or essay correctly.

How to write book titles:

Style guides and book titles.

When it comes to book titles within text, there are a few different style guides that have rules you can follow, depending on your writing type. The three types that you will encounter most often are; MLA style, Chicago manual of style, and APA. A writing instructor will usually tell you what style guide you are expected to use for a particular essay or paper.

MLA Style Guide

The MLA handbook states that you should always italicize book titles when styling book titles within your text. The exception to this rule are religious texts. You would not italicize the Holy Bible or the sacred books or titles of other religions. Note the following example.

Pam had stayed most of the summer indoors, re-reading her favorite book series. She was already up to  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , and she didn’t regret not being more active or going outside.

In the above example, the book title is italicized. Fiction titles and nonfiction titles alike must be in italics when within the text.

Series Titles in MLA

In the above example, a book from a series was used. But what if the text had not specified which book from the series Pam was reading? Would it still need to be in italics? The answer is: in this case, yes. In other cases, sometimes.

It’s really not as confusing as it seems. When you are talking about a book series but don’t want or need to include the complete series titles for the purposes of your work, you only have to put words in italics that also appear in the book titles. So, because  Harry Potter  is part of the title of all of the books in the series, you would italicize his name every time you mention the book.

However, if you were talking about Katniss Everdeen, you would not have to do this, as the book series she is featured in doesn’t use her name in the titles of  The Hunger Games  series. The same would be true of books like the Nancy Drew books.

Quotation Marks

There are instances in which titles should be placed inside of quotation marks within a paper or essay. This is done when you cite the titles of poems , a chapter title, short stories, articles, or blogs.

How To Write Book Titles

So, for example, if you were to write a paper that featured a poem from a book, you would put the book title in italics and the poems cited in quotation marks.

An example of an enduring love poem is “Annabel Lee” from  The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. 

Chapter Title

Another time that quotation marks should be used is when using the title of a chapter. If you are citing a specific chapter of a book, you would enclose the title of the chapter in quotation marks, and the title of the book should be in italics.

The desperation and sadness of a man on death row can be seen in the “Wild Wind Blowing” chapter of Norman Mailer’s  The Executioner’s Song. 

Short Stories

Short stories are another case. Much like the title of a chapter or poem, in which the title is placed in quotation marks, while the title of the book or collection it is found in is italics. The same can be said for sections, stories, or chapters cited within a literary journal.

Stepping away from his norm of horror and gore, Stephen King writes of trust, love, and regret in his story “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” which can be found in his short story collection  Night Shift. 

Punctuation Marks

If you are citing a story or title that includes question marks, you need to make sure to italicize the question mark when citing. Keep all punctuation, such as a question mark, comma, ellipses, colon, or exclamation mark, as it is in the original individual books.

If you want a funny and irreverent read, you’ve got to try  Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.  Chelsea Handler has done a phenomenal job of being vulgar, relatable, and explaining life from her viewpoint in this hilarious and memorable book.

The Digital Age: Are Book Titles Underlined Anymore?

MLA style used to dictate that a book title should either be in italics or underlined. However, that is no longer the case. As computers started to take over as the major tool used in writing, it became unpopular to underline book titles. Therefore, this rule was dropped from the style guides.

However, it should be mentioned that when handwriting an essay or research paper, many instructors prefer that you underline book titles, as it’s relatively difficult to handwrite italics. If you are in a writing course or a class that is heavy on handwritten work, be sure to ask your instructor or teacher which method they prefer for citing a book title.

How To Write Book Titles

How to Come Up with Book Title Ideas

Now that quotation marks, italics, and style guides have been discussed, let’s move on to how you can come up with your own book title. If you’d like a title for your book that sounds interesting and will get a reader’s attention, you may find this article helpful.

Coming up with a good title for your book is a challenging yet essential marketing decision . The right title can make your target audience choose your new book off of the shelf instead of another writer’s work. Your book cover and your book title are quite possibly the most important marketing decisions you will make.

How to Choose a Good Book Title

Certain criteria should be met if you want to have a good book title , and there are specific steps involved in getting there. You may have assumed up until now that titles of books were just spur of the moment decisions made by authors or publishers, but a lot of work goes into writing good titles.

Grab the Reader’s Attention

As a general rule, you want your reader to remember your title and to sound interesting, even without the reader having seen the cover. There are several ways to do this. You can be a little dark with your title, be controversial, provoke the reader, or even be funny.

There are many examples of such works that use memorable and attention-seeking titles. The following are some different titles that are effective and would most likely provoke a reader to grab them from a shelf for closer inspection.

  • Burn After Writing (Sharon Jones)
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling)
  • Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (Chelsea Handler)
  • The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul (various authors)
  • God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (Kurt Vonnegut)

Shorter Titles

If your full title for your book is long, you may end up boring a reader or creating a situation where a reader tries to remember the title of your book, but it’s too long and ends up getting it confused with another book. Although you should always do your best to make sure that there aren’t books by other authors that share a title or have a title similar to your book (more on that in a minute), you don’t want a person to get confused and get the wrong book instead.

Research Your Title Ideas

It’s a good idea to take the titles you have considered for your book and make a list. Then, do your homework. You can use tools like Google Adwords to test out your title to see if there are others like it, or you can simply use any search engine and plug your title ideas into the search bar and see what similar or exact titles of the same words pop up.

Readers are generally busy people. They don’t have the time or the energy to ensure that writers get a title right. They’ll look for the book they are interested in, and if it proves to be too difficult, or if there are other books written that have the same title, they’ll move on to something else.

A writer really has to make sure that they have a title that isn’t going to be ignored, is interesting, isn’t too long, and isn’t too similar to other works.

The same goes for titles of short works within a larger body of work. Short works, like poems or stories, need to have unique titles as well when included in a larger body of work, such as a collection. If stories are similar in nature, be sure to title them differently so that readers will be able to tell them apart, as well.

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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Caulfield, J. (2023, August 14). How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from

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MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text using MLA style are covered throughout the  MLA Handbook  and in chapter 7 of the  MLA Style Manual . Both books provide extensive examples, so it's a good idea to consult them if you want to become even more familiar with MLA guidelines or if you have a particular reference question.

Basic in-text citation rules

In MLA Style, referring to the works of others in your text is done using parenthetical citations . This method involves providing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quotation or paraphrase. Usually, the simplest way to do this is to put all of the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence (i.e., just before the period). However, as the examples below will illustrate, there are situations where it makes sense to put the parenthetical elsewhere in the sentence, or even to leave information out.

General Guidelines

  • The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends (1) upon the source medium (e.g. print, web, DVD) and (2) upon the source’s entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Any source information that you provide in-text must correspond to the source information on the Works Cited page. More specifically, whatever signal word or phrase you provide to your readers in the text must be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page.

In-text citations: Author-page style

MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads . Oxford UP, 1967.

In-text citations for print sources with known author

For print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles, and newspapers, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author’s last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.

These examples must correspond to an entry that begins with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of an entry on the Works Cited page:

Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method . University of California Press, 1966.

In-text citations for print sources by a corporate author

When a source has a corporate author, it is acceptable to use the name of the corporation followed by the page number for the in-text citation. You should also use abbreviations (e.g., nat'l for national) where appropriate, so as to avoid interrupting the flow of reading with overly long parenthetical citations.

In-text citations for sources with non-standard labeling systems

If a source uses a labeling or numbering system other than page numbers, such as a script or poetry, precede the citation with said label. When citing a poem, for instance, the parenthetical would begin with the word “line”, and then the line number or range. For example, the examination of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” would be cited as such:

The speaker makes an ardent call for the exploration of the connection between the violence of nature and the divinity of creation. “In what distant deeps or skies. / Burnt the fire of thine eyes," they ask in reference to the tiger as they attempt to reconcile their intimidation with their relationship to creationism (lines 5-6).

Longer labels, such as chapters (ch.) and scenes (sc.), should be abbreviated.

In-text citations for print sources with no known author

When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name, following these guidelines.

Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work (such as an article) or italicize it if it's a longer work (e.g. plays, books, television shows, entire Web sites) and provide a page number if it is available.

Titles longer than a standard noun phrase should be shortened into a noun phrase by excluding articles. For example, To the Lighthouse would be shortened to Lighthouse .

If the title cannot be easily shortened into a noun phrase, the title should be cut after the first clause, phrase, or punctuation:

In this example, since the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title appears in the parenthetical citation, and the full title of the article appears first at the left-hand margin of its respective entry on the Works Cited page. Thus, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as the signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:

"The Impact of Global Warming in North America." Global Warming: Early Signs . 1999. Accessed 23 Mar. 2009.

If the title of the work begins with a quotation mark, such as a title that refers to another work, that quote or quoted title can be used as the shortened title. The single quotation marks must be included in the parenthetical, rather than the double quotation.

Parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages, used in conjunction, allow readers to know which sources you consulted in writing your essay, so that they can either verify your interpretation of the sources or use them in their own scholarly work.

Author-page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers are always required, but additional citation information can help literary scholars, who may have a different edition of a classic work, like Marx and Engels's  The Communist Manifesto . In such cases, give the page number of your edition (making sure the edition is listed in your Works Cited page, of course) followed by a semicolon, and then the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (pt.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.). For example:

Author-page citation for works in an anthology, periodical, or collection

When you cite a work that appears inside a larger source (for instance, an article in a periodical or an essay in a collection), cite the author of the  internal source (i.e., the article or essay). For example, to cite Albert Einstein's article "A Brief Outline of the Theory of Relativity," which was published in  Nature  in 1921, you might write something like this:

See also our page on documenting periodicals in the Works Cited .

Citing authors with same last names

Sometimes more information is necessary to identify the source from which a quotation is taken. For instance, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even the authors' full name if different authors share initials) in your citation. For example:

Citing a work by multiple authors

For a source with two authors, list the authors’ last names in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

Corresponding Works Cited entry:

Best, David, and Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations , vol. 108, no. 1, Fall 2009, pp. 1-21. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rep.2009.108.1.1

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author’s last name, and replace the additional names with et al.

Franck, Caroline, et al. “Agricultural Subsidies and the American Obesity Epidemic.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine , vol. 45, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 327-333.

Citing multiple works by the same author

If you cite more than one work by an author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the others. Put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks.

Citing two articles by the same author :

Citing two books by the same author :

Additionally, if the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, and, when appropriate, the page number(s):

Citing multivolume works

If you cite from different volumes of a multivolume work, always include the volume number followed by a colon. Put a space after the colon, then provide the page number(s). (If you only cite from one volume, provide only the page number in parentheses.)

Citing the Bible

In your first parenthetical citation, you want to make clear which Bible you're using (and underline or italicize the title), as each version varies in its translation, followed by book (do not italicize or underline), chapter, and verse. For example:

If future references employ the same edition of the Bible you’re using, list only the book, chapter, and verse in the parenthetical citation:

John of Patmos echoes this passage when describing his vision (Rev. 4.6-8).

Citing indirect sources

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited within another source. For such indirect quotations, use "qtd. in" to indicate the source you actually consulted. For example:

Note that, in most cases, a responsible researcher will attempt to find the original source, rather than citing an indirect source.

Citing transcripts, plays, or screenplays

Sources that take the form of a dialogue involving two or more participants have special guidelines for their quotation and citation. Each line of dialogue should begin with the speaker's name written in all capitals and indented half an inch. A period follows the name (e.g., JAMES.) . After the period, write the dialogue. Each successive line after the first should receive an additional indentation. When another person begins speaking, start a new line with that person's name indented only half an inch. Repeat this pattern each time the speaker changes. You can include stage directions in the quote if they appear in the original source.

Conclude with a parenthetical that explains where to find the excerpt in the source. Usually, the author and title of the source can be given in a signal phrase before quoting the excerpt, so the concluding parenthetical will often just contain location information like page numbers or act/scene indicators.

Here is an example from O'Neill's  The Iceman Cometh.

WILLIE. (Pleadingly) Give me a drink, Rocky. Harry said it was all right. God, I need a drink.

ROCKY. Den grab it. It's right under your nose.

WILLIE. (Avidly) Thanks. (He takes the bottle with both twitching hands and tilts it to his lips and gulps down the whiskey in big swallows.) (1.1)

Citing non-print or sources from the Internet

With more and more scholarly work published on the Internet, you may have to cite sources you found in digital environments. While many sources on the Internet should not be used for scholarly work (reference the OWL's  Evaluating Sources of Information  resource), some Web sources are perfectly acceptable for research. When creating in-text citations for electronic, film, or Internet sources, remember that your citation must reference the source on your Works Cited page.

Sometimes writers are confused with how to craft parenthetical citations for electronic sources because of the absence of page numbers. However, these sorts of entries often do not require a page number in the parenthetical citation. For electronic and Internet sources, follow the following guidelines:

  • Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
  • Do not provide paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your Web browser’s print preview function.
  • Unless you must list the Web site name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, do not include URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs such as when the name of the site includes, for example, a domain name, like  or,  as opposed to writing out or

Miscellaneous non-print sources

Two types of non-print sources you may encounter are films and lectures/presentations:

In the two examples above “Herzog” (a film’s director) and “Yates” (a presentor) lead the reader to the first item in each citation’s respective entry on the Works Cited page:

Herzog, Werner, dir. Fitzcarraldo . Perf. Klaus Kinski. Filmverlag der Autoren, 1982.

Yates, Jane. "Invention in Rhetoric and Composition." Gaps Addressed: Future Work in Rhetoric and Composition, CCCC, Palmer House Hilton, 2002. Address.

Electronic sources

Electronic sources may include web pages and online news or magazine articles:

In the first example (an online magazine article), the writer has chosen not to include the author name in-text; however, two entries from the same author appear in the Works Cited. Thus, the writer includes both the author’s last name and the article title in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader to the appropriate entry on the Works Cited page (see below).

In the second example (a web page), a parenthetical citation is not necessary because the page does not list an author, and the title of the article, “MLA Formatting and Style Guide,” is used as a signal phrase within the sentence. If the title of the article was not named in the sentence, an abbreviated version would appear in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Both corresponding Works Cited entries are as follows:

Taylor, Rumsey. "Fitzcarraldo." Slant , 13 Jun. 2003, Accessed 29 Sep. 2009. 

"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL , 2 Aug. 2016, Accessed 2 April 2018.

Multiple citations

To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon:

Time-based media sources

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

When a citation is not needed

Common sense and ethics should determine your need for documenting sources. You do not need to give sources for familiar proverbs, well-known quotations, or common knowledge (For example, it is expected that U.S. citizens know that George Washington was the first President.). Remember that citing sources is a rhetorical task, and, as such, can vary based on your audience. If you’re writing for an expert audience of a scholarly journal, for example, you may need to deal with expectations of what constitutes “common knowledge” that differ from common norms.

Other Sources

The MLA Handbook describes how to cite many different kinds of authors and content creators. However, you may occasionally encounter a source or author category that the handbook does not describe, making the best way to proceed can be unclear.

In these cases, it's typically acceptable to apply the general principles of MLA citation to the new kind of source in a way that's consistent and sensible. A good way to do this is to simply use the standard MLA directions for a type of source that resembles the source you want to cite.

You may also want to investigate whether a third-party organization has provided directions for how to cite this kind of source. For example, Norquest College provides guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers⁠ —an author category that does not appear in the MLA Handbook . In cases like this, however, it's a good idea to ask your instructor or supervisor whether using third-party citation guidelines might present problems.

movie title in an essay APA

How to Write a Movie Title in an Essay APA?

how do you write a play title in an essay

Ever struggled with adding a movie title to your APA style essay? No worries – it's simpler than you think! The American Psychological Association has a straightforward approach, and we're here to break it down for you. 

In this guide, our APA paper writing service will not only walk you through the process but also ensure that your references are presented uniformly across various papers and disciplines. By following APA guidelines, you not only adhere to academic standards but also facilitate clear communication in your writing. So, let's dive into the basics and make your APA formatting a breeze.

how do you write a play title in an essay

How to Write Movie Titles in APA: Consider the Following

When it comes to incorporating a film name into your APA style essay, precision is the name of the game. Here are some helpful steps for the process:

  • Italicization : You may have been wondering whether or not should movie titles be italicized in APA. The answer is - always. This rule applies whether you are mentioning the heading in the text or including it in your references page. Example : In the film The Shawshank Redemption,...
  • Capitalization: Capitalize all major terms in the heading, but avoid capitalizing articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but), and prepositions (in, on, under). Example: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Punctuation: Place commas and periods inside the quotation marks. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Casablanca, a timeless classic.
  • Reference Page Entry: When listing the movie on your references page, follow this format: Last Name, First Initial. (Director), Title [italicized], Production Company. Example : Spielberg, S. (Director), Jurassic Park [italicized], Universal Pictures.
  • In-Text Citations: For in-text citations include the last name of the director and the year of release in parentheses. Example: ( Spielberg, 1993)
  • Multiple Directors: If a film has multiple directors, list them with an ampersand (&) between their names. Example: ( Coen & Coen, 1998)
  • No Author: If there's no individual author or director, use the production company as the author in your reference. Example : Pixar. (2003). Finding Nemo [italicized].

How to Write Movie Titles in APA

Writing Movie Titles in APA-Style Essays in Upper Case 

When it comes to writing a movie title in essays, choosing the right style is crucial, and uppercase is a common choice that brings a touch of formality to your writing. APA style, a prevalent choice in scholarly articles and academia, particularly in the behavioral and social sciences, provides specific guidelines for this.

  • Capitalize Major Words: Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns—all fall under the category of major words and should be capitalized. Additionally, any term of four letters or longer should be capital letters.
  • Minor Words in Lowercase: Conjunctions and prepositions of three letters or shorter, as well as articles, are in lowercase.
  • Proper Names: Always capitalize proper names, regardless of their length.
  • First Word in Title and Subtitle: Capitalize the first word in both the heading and subheading, even if it is an article like 'A' or 'The.'
  • After Colon and Em Dash: The first term after a colon or em dash is capitalized.
  • Words with Hyphens: If a major word is hyphenated, both parts are capitalized.
  • Movie Titles in Quotes or Italics APA : When referencing a heading in the body of your paper, use either quotation marks or italics.

Final Thoughts

Formatting movie headings is a small but important part of your essay. Whether you go with APA style or any other, just be consistent. Keep it simple; keep it steady. Consistency is your best friend here. So, whether it's italics or capital letters, stick with it throughout. It's the little things that add that pro touch to your essay.

So, as you wrap up your writing, think of it as rolling the credits on your cinematic masterpiece. The consistency in formatting, like a great ending scene, leaves a lasting impression. It's these little things that turn your paper into a pro-level production!

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  1. How to Write Play Titles in a Paper

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