Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.

To determine whether to style a work on a website in italics or quotation marks, you must consider the work’s length, genre, and context. Long works and works that are self-contained and independent are generally styled in italics. Short works and works that form part of a larger work are generally styled in quotation marks. 

Online Works Styled in Italics


A website is an independent work and is thus styled in italics: 

Eaves, Morris, et al., editors. The William Blake Archive. 1996-2014,


Book-length works like novels and nonfiction studies are normally independent, so even if the version you consult is contained within another independent work, such as a database, it is still styled in italics:

Gikandi, Simon. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Cambridge UP, 2000. ACLS Humanities E-book,

Radcliffe, Anne. The Novels of Mrs. Anne Radcliffe: Complete in One Volume. Hurst, Robinson, 1824. Google Books,


Plays are treated as independent works, even when they are contained within another independent work, such as a website:

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Jessica Slights, modern ed.,  Internet Shakespeare Editions, U of Victoria, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

Movies and Television Series

Movies and television series are normally independent, so they too are styled in italics, even when they are contained within a website:

Richardson, Tony, director. Sanctuary. Screenplay by James Poe, performances by Lee Remick and Yves Montand, Twentieth Century Fox, 1961. YouTube, uploaded by LostCinemaChannel, 17 July 2014,

Victoria. PBS, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2017, 

Videos on Online Sharing Sites

If an online video seems to be an independent work, style it in italics like a movie:

Slip Slip Knit (SSK). YouTube, uploaded by TheKnitWitch, 14 Feb. 2007,

Works of Art

The same is true of works of art: they are normally independent so are styled in italics even when they are contained within a museum’s website:

Bearden, Romare. The Train. 1975. MOMA, works/65232?locale=en.

Online Works Styled in Quotation Marks

Songs and Music Videos

Songs are normally styled in quotation marks because they are short and often originally contained in albums. If you know that a song was originally released on its own, however, you may style it in italics. A music video is the visual equivalent of a song so is styled in quotation marks. To make clear to your reader that you are citing a video, include “Video” in the optional-element slot at the end of the entry:

Beyoncé. “Pretty Hurts.” Beyoncé, Parkwood Entertainment, 2013,

Beyoncé. “Pretty Hurts.” Beyoncé, Video.

Television Episodes

Television episodes are short and originally part of a series, so they are styled in quotation marks: 

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Unaired Pilot 1996.” YouTube, uploaded by Brian Stowe, 28 Jan. 2012,

Essays, Articles, and Blog Posts

A short-form piece of writing that is part of a larger independent work is styled in quotation marks:

Danticat, Edwidge. “Edwidge Danticat: Dawn after the Tempests.” The New York Times, 6 Nov. 2017,       edwidge-danticat-hurricane-irma-maria-tourist-grenada.html.

Goldman, Anne. “Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante.” The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88. JSTOR,

Lang, James. “Will They Remember Writing It?” Chronicle Vitae,  Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 Nov. 2017,    1939-will-they-remember-writing-it.


A story is generally considered a short work and often published as part of a collection or in a magazine, so it too is styled in quotation marks:

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Masque of the Red Death.” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison, vol. 4, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902, pp. 250-58. HathiTrust Digital Library,;view=1up; seq=266.

Enright, Anne. “The Hotel.” The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2017,


Poems–except for epic poems such as Paradise Lost–are usually styled in quotation marks, even if they are published by themselves on a website rather than as part of a collection:

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “Matilda Gathering Flowers.” Poetry Foundation, 2017,


By convention, lectures are styled in quotation marks, so they are styled thus when contained in a website:

Allende, Isabel. “Tales of Passion.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, Jan. 2008, 


Photo of Jennifer Rappaport

Jennifer Rappaport

Jennifer Rappaport was managing editor of MLA style resources at the Modern Language Association. She received a BA in English and French from Vassar College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University, where she taught expository writing. Before coming to the MLA, she worked as an acquisitions editor at Oxford University Press and as a freelance copyeditor and translator for commercial and academic publishers.