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Should italics or quotation marks be used for a character’s internal thoughts?

Styling a character’s internal thoughts in italics or with quotation marks depends on whether you are quoting from a source that shows a character’s thoughts, writing a character’s thoughts, or editing a text that shows a character’s thoughts.
When you’re quoting a source, use quotation marks to indicate a character’s thoughts, and make it clear in your prose that you are quoting thoughts, not speech:

Walking home alone one night, Julie seems less concerned about the possibility of real danger and more concerned with the likelihood that her mother will be angry, thinking to herself, “Mother will be furious if she finds out I walked home instead of calling for a ride.” . . .

Published 28 June 2019

How should I style my parenthetical citation the first time I quote lines from a poem if I have not mentioned the author’s name in my prose?

The MLA Handbook explains that if you are citing line numbers instead of page numbers in your parenthetical citation, you should “in your first citation, use the word line or lines” before the line numbers, “and then, having established that the numbers designate lines, give the numbers alone” (121):

According to the narrator of Felicia Hemans’s poem, the emerging prisoners “had learn’d, in cells of secret gloom, / How sunshine is forgotten!” (lines 131-32).

If you do not mention the author’s name in your prose, include it in the parenthetical citation and separate the name from the word line or lines with a comma:

According to the narrator of the poem, . . .

Published 12 June 2019

Why are both a comma and and used to separate the names of coauthors in a works-cited-list entry?

The MLA Handbook notes that “[w]hen a source has two authors,” you should “[r]everse the first of the names” and “follow it with a comma and and” before providing “the second name in normal order” (21):

Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

A comma is needed in addition to and so that the reader can easily distinguish the two names. In the example above, omitting the comma after “Michael” might cause the reader to momentarily misread the first name listed as “Michael and Louise Erdrich Dorris.” . . .

Published 13 May 2019

Where do I place the colon that separates the title from a subtitle if the title ends with a quotation mark?

If the title ends with a quotation mark, insert the colon between the quotation mark and the subtitle. In the first example below, the title consists of a quotation from Shakespeare. In the second example, the title contains the title of a short story:

“To Be or Not to Be”: A Study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”: Northern Progress Meets Southern Tradition

Read more on punctuating titles.
  . . .

Published 3 May 2019

If my works-cited-list entry has a title styled in quotation marks that ends in a question mark, should I insert a period after the question mark?

No. Omit the period, as shown in the example below:

“How Do I Cite a Map?” The MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association of America, 6 Apr. 2018, style.mla.org/citing-images-viewed-firsthand-or-online/.

Read more on titles ending in question marks or exclamation points.  . . .

Published 2 May 2019

How do you punctuate a question that quotes a question?

Do not use two question marks. Use only the question mark contained in the quotation:

Which Shakespeare character asked, “Is this a dagger which I see before me,  / The handle toward my hand?” 

But if the sentence includes a parenthetical citation, place the question mark after the citation:

How would you respond to the writer’s question, “How important is punctuation” (5)?

 
 
  . . .

Published 30 April 2019

How does the MLA handle orphaned words and widowed lines?

In our publications, we prefer to avoid an orphan—a word alone on a line or at the end of a paragraph—if the word, including any punctuation, is fewer than five characters (e.g., too.). We also prefer to avoid part of a word on a line by itself (e.g., sighted, if the full word is farsighted). An exception is made if Merriam-Webster includes the hyphen in the word (e.g., far-fetched).
Most publishers avoid widows, usually defined as a short line at the top of a page, but the MLA goes further: we don’t allow a line by itself —even a full line—at the top or bottom of a page.  . . .

Published 22 March 2019

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