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How should I style a Web address like google.com?

As the MLA Handbook (2.5.2) notes, “When giving a URL,” or Web address, “copy it in full from your Web browser.” Thus, a Web address should generally be set roman and styled lowercase:

The search engine can be found at google.com.

Note, however, that a Web site’s address should not be confused with its title. In MLA style, you should use the title of a Web site as it appears on the site and italicize it as you would any independent work. Do not use the Web address as the title unless the address and the title are identical.

Published 1 April 2019

How do I style genus and species names, such as Homo sapiens, in MLA style?

MLA style was developed to be used by writers in the humanities, so we defer to our colleagues at The Chicago Manual of Style regarding how to style genus and species names. The manual notes: “Whether in lists or in running text, the Latin names of species of plants and animals are italicized. Each binomial contains a genus name (or generic name), which is capitalized, and a species name (also called specific name or specific epithet), which is lowercased (even if it is a proper adjective)” (“Genus”). See the manual for guidance on abbreviating genus names (“Abbreviation”).  . . .

Published 6 March 2019

How do I cite the Homeric hymns?

The Homeric hymns refer to poems that were once attributed, mistakenly, to the ancient Greek poet Homer. They are Homeric only in the sense that they were written in the same meter as Homer’s poems. When citing the Homeric hymns, treat them as a coherent collection of anonymous works. According to the MLA Handbook, titles of works that are contained in a larger work are enclosed in quotation marks (68).
In an essay, you might write the following:

One of the Homeric hymns to Demeter gives the goddess the epithet “lady of the golden sword and glorious fruits” . . .

Published 30 January 2019

Should et al. be italicized in MLA style?

Only italicize et al., meaning “and others,” if it is referred to as a term, as the examples in this sentence and the question above show. In parenthetical citations and works-cited-list entries, the abbreviation should be set roman, as shown in the MLA Handbook (116, 22):

(Burdick et al. 42)
Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. MIT P, 2012.

Work Cited
MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Published 17 January 2019

Should individual tale titles in The Canterbury Tales be set in quotation marks?

Yes. Student writers should place the titles of individual tales in quotation marks. This follows from the MLA Handbook’s general guideline for the styling of titles: “A title is placed in quotation marks if the source is part of a larger work” (25):

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” appears in The Canterbury Tales.
The only tales from The Canterbury Tales included in the textbook Medieval Literature: A Textbook for Students are “The Knight’s Tale” and “The Clerk’s Tale.”  

Note, however, that by convention some scholarly publishers style tale titles in roman typeface without quotation marks:

The Pardoner’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale are among the most written about tales in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Published 2 January 2019

If a book title within an essay title is not italicized in the source, should I italicize it in my works-cited-list entry?

Yes. A title within a title should be styled according to the guidelines in section 1.2.4 of the MLA Handbook, regardless of how a title within a title is styled in the source.
For example, the title of an essay about Gone with the Wind is styled in EBSCOHost as follows:

Since Gone with the Wind is the title of a novel, if you were to include this essay in your works-cited list, you would set it in italics instead of enclosing it in quotation marks:

Adams, Amanda. “‘Painfully Southern’: Gone with the Wind, . . .

Published 3 October 2018

Should I italicize titles not written in the Latin alphabet?

No. Note that there are many languages in the world that do not have an italic font—Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Armenian, for example. Arabic sometimes uses a typeface that slants to the left instead of to the right.
Given the complexity and specificity of historical, cultural, linguistic, and printing practices throughout the world, a writer should not use italics when a book title is in a foreign language that is not written in the Latin alphabet. If you are preparing a work for publication, leave the decision about italicizing such a title to the publisher.
For more on italicizing titles not written in the Latin alphabet, . . .

Published 19 September 2018

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