How do I style a title or short title enclosed in parentheses in my parenthetical citation?

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.

If a title or short title in parentheses must be given in a parenthetical citation, do not nest parentheses within parentheses. Instead, change the parentheses around the title or short title to square brackets: 

The chorus of one of R.E.M.’s songs begins: “Don’t go back to Rockville / And waste another year” (“[Don’t]”).

Works Cited

R.E.M. “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.” Reckoning, I.R.S., 1984.

---. “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry).” Reckoning, I.R.S., 1984.

Note, however, that in the unusual case where you need to cite an entity whose name starts or ends with parentheses, such as the band Sunn O))), maintain the integrity of the name: do not change the parentheses to square brackets. For readability, you might instead provide the name in your prose:

The band Sunn O))) opens its song “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” as follows: “Passing by rows and rows / In silence, I stand alone. . . .” 

Work Cited

Sunn O))). “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep).” Genius, Genius Media Group, 2019,

For a related case, see our post on punctuating a quotation within a quotation within a quotation.