In general, the MLA follows The Chicago Manual of Style for the capitalization of academic department names (“Academic Subjects”) and administrative bodies (“Administrative Bodies”).
We capitalize the official names of academic departments (e.g., Department of Comparative Literature), but we do not capitalize the adjective forms of such departments (e.g., the comparative literature department). In the adjective forms, we do capitalize the name of the academic subject if it is a proper noun (e.g., the English department).
We also capitalize the names of most administrative bodies (e.g., Department of State, the State Department).
When you are styling department names, we recommend that you strive for consistency and keep a style sheet that lists any exceptions.
“Academic Subjects.” The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., sec. 8.85, U of Chicago P, 2017, www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/book/ed17/part2/ch08/
“Administrative Bodies.” The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., sec. 8.63, U of Chicago P, 2017, www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/book/ed17/part2/ch08/
In the day-month-year style, do not use commas:
In the month-day-year style, use a comma to set off the day and—when more information follows—the year:
Test your knowledge of commas with dates, places, and names by taking our quiz.
A comma may generally be omitted from an introductory phrase of two or three words, but consider using a comma when you wish to emphasize the phrase. The following sentences contrast two dates, so setting each date phrase off with a comma calls the reader’s attention to the dates:
Read more about deciding when to use commas.
To cite the cover of a book, create a works-cited-list entry for the book and then key your in-text reference to the first element of the entry:
The cover of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak depicts a large horned creature sitting in a forest next to a body of water and a boat.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. HarperCollins Publishers, 25th anniversary ed., 1963.
If you discuss a cover image in detail and want to credit the artist, you could provide the artist’s full name at first mention in your prose or the artist’s last name in parentheses and list the entry under the artist’s name. Note that in this example, the illustration on the cover of the book is by the author of the book.
The cover of Where the Wild Things Are features an illustration of a large horned creature sitting in a forest next to a body of water and a boat (Sendak).
Sendak, Maurice. Cover image. Where the Wild Things Are, by Sendak, HarperCollins Publishers, 25th anniversary ed., 1963.
For citing magazine cover art, see this post.
You can find a brief discussion of the origin and history of MLA style on pages x–xi of the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. You can find a list of the years in which the various editions have been published on the copyright page. Read more about the style’s history in our time line.
To cite an oral history interview republished in a reader or textbook, treat the textbook as your source, since that is where you found the interview.
Say, for example, you wish to cite “Vina Deloria, Native American Author and Teacher,” an oral history interview that originally appeared in Studs Terkel’s American Dreams: Lost and Found, published by Pantheon Books in 1980 and then republished in The Studs Terkel Reader. To cite the republished version, list the name of the interviewee as the author, followed by the title of the interview. Then list the title of the reader or textbook as the title of the container and the textbook’s publication details:
Deloria, Vina. “Vina Deloria, Native American Author and Teacher.” The Studs Terkel Reader: My American Century, New Press, 1997, pp. 34-37.
Many citation tools generate entries that do not accord with MLA style, so writers are advised to use caution when using these tools and to correct deviations manually.
List album formats, if needed, in the optional-element slot at the end of your works-cited-list entry:
Sinatra, Frank. The Voice: Columbia Years, 1943-1952. Columbia Records, 1986. 6 LP, 33 rpm box set.
Snail Mail. “Thinning.” Habit, Sister Polygon Records, 2016. Vinyl EP.
When citing a phrase that appears more than once in a work, give the page number of the first instance in the parenthetical reference:
B. Venkat Mani’s latest work considers book circulation in terms of “bibliomigrancy” (145).
Mani, B. Venkat. “Rights, Permissions, Claims: World Literature and the Borders of Reading.” PMLA, vol. 134, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 144–49.
In some cases, you might add “e.g.” (“for example”) before the page number or page numbers to make it clear to readers that what follows is not a full list of instances:
Toward the end of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, rumors spread about plans to “disappear” members of the squadron (e.g., 366, 401).
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. Simon and Schuster, 1955.
If you are comparing two characters’ use of a phrase, you will want to list each instance separately:
We advise against using “ff.” (“and following”) because it is imprecise.