Which comes first in a works-cited list? An entry for an encyclopedia article titled “Christie, Agatha” or an entry for a work listed under the name Christie, Agatha?

It depends on what, if anything, follows the author’s name in the title of the encyclopedia entry.

If the title of the encyclopedia entry is simply “Christie, Agatha,” the order of the entries is up to the writer.  Either of the following would be acceptable: 

Works Cited

“Christie, Agatha.” Encyclopedia.com, 7 July 2020, www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christie-agatha-1890-1979.

Christie, Agatha. And Then There Were None. William Morrow, 2011.

---The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Vintage Books, 2019.

Works Cited

Christie, Agatha. And Then There Were None. William Morrow, 2011.

---The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Vintage Books, 2019.

“Christie, Agatha.” Encyclopedia.com, 7 July 2020, www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christie-agatha-1890-1979.

But additional information after “Christie, Agatha” in the title affects the order. The MLA follows the letter-by-letter system of alphabetization, detailed in The Chicago Manual of Style (“Letter-by Letter System”). In this system, if parenthetical information follows “Christie, Agatha” in the title, you would list the entries as follows:

Works Cited

Christie, Agatha. And Then There Were None. William Morrow, 2011.

---The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Vintage Books, 2019.

“Christie, Agatha (1890-1979).” Encyclopedia.com, 7 July 2020, www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christie-agatha-1890-1979.

Similarly, in a list containing works listed by author and works listed by title that begin with the same word, punctuation determines the order. The word alone comes first, then the word followed by a parenthesis, then a word followed by a comma. What follows the comma determines alphabetization of entries containing the comma. Next come entries with the word, a space or any punctuation mark other than a comma or parenthesis, and a subsequent word. In the last entry below, the colon is treated as though it were not there.

Works Cited

“London.”

LONDON (Ladies of North Dakota or Nebraska). 

London, Jack.

“London, Place of Mind.”

London, Stewart.

“London Forever.”

“London: New Troy.”

Work Cited

“The Letter-by-Letter System.” The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., sec. 16.59, U of Chicago P, 2017, www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/book/ed17/
part3/ch16/psec059.html.