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How do I alphabetize a title that starts with a number in my works-cited list?

When you alphabetize your works-cited list, treat numbers in titles as though they were spelled out.

Let’s say, for example, you need to alphabetize entries for George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, along with two entries for lyrics to songs by Radiohead thought to be inspired by Orwell’s novels, “2 + 2 = 5” and “Optimistic.” Treat 1984 as Nineteen Eighty-Four and “2 + 2 = 5” as “Two plus Two Equals Five,” and alphabetize the entries by their titles accordingly:

Orwell, George. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. 1946. Plume, 2003.
—. 1984. 1949. Introduction by Julian Symons, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
Radiohead. “Optimistic.” MetroLyrics, CBS Interactive, 2016,
—. “2 + 2 = 5.” MetroLyrics, CBS Interactive, 2016,

If there is no author and the entry begins with the title, you would follow the same principle.

Published 18 October 2016

When citing a work whose title ends in a question mark or exclamation point, should I also include a period?

The MLA template of core elements calls for a period after the title of a source, but if the title of a source ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do not include a period. Question marks or exclamation points, as stronger marks, always supersede a period:

Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Signet, 1983.

If, however, the title of the container ends in a question mark or exclamation point, do add a comma after the question mark. MLA style allows a comma after a question mark or exclamation point if the comma facilitates reading or if rewording is impossible. Since a works-cited-list entry cannot be reworded and since the MLA template calls for a comma after the title of a container, retain the comma:

Tomlinson, Hugh, and Graham Burchell. Translators’ introduction. What Is Philosophy?, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Columbia UP, 1994.

Published 11 October 2016

Following the guidance given in section 1.2 to avoid special typography when using the title of a source in my writing, should I replace the ampersand with “and” in a title?


Published 5 October 2016

Do I italicize Cyrillic book titles in the list of works cited?

In the past, titles and terms in the Cyrillic alphabet were not italicized, partly because it is based on the Greek alphabet, which traditionally is not italicized (on this point, see Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., sec. 11.131). Letterspacing instead of italics was traditionally used to emphasize a word or phrase.

Today, Cyrillic cursive (the term italics is usually not used in this context) for titles and for emphasis seems to be used often in publications, including scholarly publications, perhaps because of progress in digital typesetting or because of a global trend toward standardization.

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 a work is being prepared for publication, let the author pass that buck to the publisher.

Published 25 August 2016

How do I cite scriptural writings? And when do I use italics in referring to them?

Create a works-cited-list entry for scriptural writings as you would for any other source: follow the MLA style template. In general, begin with the title. The title should be italicized because you are referring to a published edition. (The published title might be, for example, The New Jerusalem Bible, or simply The Bible.) If the source indicates that there is an editor or translator, list this information as an “other” contributor (see pp. 37–38 of the MLA Handbook for a definition of this element). Then provide the publisher and the date of publication.

The New Jerusalem Bible. General editor, Henry Wansbrough, Doubleday, 1985.

If the source carries a notation indicating that it is a version of a work released in more than one form, identify the version in your entry.

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

In the body of your text, general references to scriptural works like the Bible, Talmud, and Koran should not be italicized unless you refer to a specific published edition.

The first part of the Christian Bible is known as the Old Testament.
The 1985 New Jerusalem Bible contains maps and a theological glossary.

Published 16 June 2016

The Italicization of Names like Facebook

By Eric Wirth

In our editorial policy, we treat the Web as a publication medium like others. We don’t give it special treatment unless something inherent in the medium calls for doing so.

Titles of free-standing works in print are italicized, and so are such works on the Web. This policy is clear-cut for online works with a single author like People of Color in European Art History. Other sites, like Wikipedia, have a collective authorship but are unified works all the same. Further out on the spectrum, a site like Facebook has no unifying authorial mission: it’s a template filled by independent authors. Yet all authorship there takes place under a heading, Facebook, and the constraints of the template give a character to the content, however minimal.

A good editorial policy should be simple and not demand hairsplitting by writers, editors, or readers. Typography offers few tools for conveying conceptual distinctions. We think that the least vexed approach is to use a single format for all three titles above (and the titles of all other Web sites). To argue that Facebook is fundamentally unlike the other two would require a definition establishing the difference—a definition that can clearly divide all other sites into one of the two categories. The definition would be endlessly debatable, given all the variations in online publication.

There are also practical benefits to italicizing Facebook, Google+, and so on. The italicization results in more readable prose in a tech-heavy discussion that includes many unitalicized capped terms (acronyms, trademarks, names of companies). Further, the style allows for typographic distinction between titles of sites and similar names of companies. Just as italics helpfully mark the difference between The New York Times (the newspaper) and the New York Times Company, so they allow a useful distinction in “a posting on Facebook” versus “the CEO of Facebook.”

Published 24 February 2016

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