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Shorten the Title of this Source in the In-text Citation
When should long titles be shortened within in-text citations?
In-text citations usually supply the author(s)’ last name to reference their work, but when the source has no known author or more than one source by the same author is cited, the title of the source is inserted instead. When an in-text citation refers to a work with a long title, a shortened phrase from the title should be used.
Care should be taken to shorten the title in such a way that it does not compromise the reader’s ability to locate the source on the Works Cited list.
How should long titles be shortened within in-text citations?
Ideally, the shortened title should use the first two or three words of the original title, but in some cases, these first few words may not be descriptive enough. In this instance, the shortened title should utilize key words from the title that can help readers identify the correct source on the Works Cited list. When possible, eliminate articles and prepositions (e. g., a, the, of, on, in ) from the shortened title.
Let’s look at these examples:
When a work with a long title is cited:
- Original title: “Eyes off the Road: How Texting while Driving Affects Driver Response Time”
- Shortened title: (“Eyes off the Road” 4)
- Original title: The Effects of Homelessness on Adults and Children in Suburban Populations
- Shortened title: ( Effects of Homelessness 27)
When more than one source by the same author is cited:
In the following paragraph, the writer references two works by the same author and has appropriately shortened the titles in the in-text citations:
Theorist Bill Brown explains that our relationship to things cannot be explained simply by our cultural ties to capitalism because we use objects to make meaning in our culture and for ourselves outside of these objects’ production value or use ( Sense 5).  For “thing theorists,” our ability to find meaning in and through objects is possible because there are “ideas in things” (“Thing” 7).  While ideas are untouchable and enigmatic, objects and things are tangible; therefore, it’s easier for subjects to understand objects because we can physically interact with them. By giving physical form to ideas, they can be thought about and understood more completely.
Note: The author’s name in the signal phrase, keywords, and format of the shortened titles in the parenthetical citations make it easy to identify which source is referenced.
 Brown, Bill. A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature . Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 2003. Print.
 ———–. “Thing Theory.” Critical Inquiry 28.1 (2001): 1-22. JSTOR. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
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Generate accurate MLA citations for free
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- MLA titles: Formatting and capitalization rules
MLA Titles | How to Format & Capitalize Source Titles
Published on April 2, 2019 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on October 24, 2022.
In MLA style , source titles appear either in italics or in quotation marks:
- Italicize the title of a self-contained whole (e.g. a book, film, journal, or website).
- Use quotation marks around the title if it is part of a larger work (e.g. a chapter of a book, an article in a journal, or a page on a website).
All major words in a title are capitalized . The same format is used in the Works Cited list and in the text itself.
When you use the Scribbr MLA Citation Generator, the correct formatting and capitalization are automatically applied to titles.
Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr
Table of contents, capitalization in mla titles, punctuation in mla titles, titles within titles, exceptions to mla title formatting, sources with no title, abbreviating titles, titles in foreign languages, frequently asked questions about mla titles.
In all titles and subtitles, capitalize the first and last words, as well as any other principal words.
What to capitalize
What not to capitalize, prevent plagiarism. run a free check..
Use the same punctuation as appears in the source title. However, if there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space, even if different (or no) punctuation is used in the source.
Example of a work with a subtitle
The exception is when the title ends in a question mark, exclamation point or dash, in which case you keep the original punctuation:
Sometimes a title contains another title—for example, the title of an article about a novel might contain that novel’s title.
For titles within titles, in general, maintain the same formatting as you would if the title stood on its own.
Titles and names that fall into the following categories are not italicized or enclosed in quotation marks:
- Scripture (e.g. the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel)
- Laws, acts and related documents (e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution , the Paris Agreement)
- Musical compositions identified by form, number and key (e.g. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67)
- Conferences, seminars, workshops and courses (e.g. MLA Annual Convention)
Sections of a work
Words that indicate a particular section of a work are not italicized or placed within quotation marks. They are also not capitalized when mentioned in the text.
Examples of such sections include:
- list of works cited
Introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords
Descriptive terms such as “introduction”, “preface”, “foreword” and “afterword” are capitalized if mentioned in an MLA in-text citation or in the Works Cited list, but not when mentioned in the text itself.
Example of descriptive term capitalization
In-text citation: (Brontë, Preface )
In text: In her preface to the work, added in a later edition, Brontë debates the morality of creating characters such as those featured in Wuthering Heights .
If there is a unique title for the introduction, preface, foreword or afterword, include that title in quotation marks instead of the generic section name when referencing the source in the Works Cited list or an in-text citation.
For sources with no title, a brief description of the source acts as the title.
Example of a source reference with no title
Follow these rules for capitalization:
- Capitalize the first word
- Capitalize proper nouns
- Ignore other MLA rules for capitalization
There are some exceptions to this general format: descriptions including titles of other works, such as comments on articles or reviews of movies; untitled short messages, like tweets; email messages; and untitled poems.
Exceptions to general format for sources with no title
If you need to mention the name of a work in the text itself, state the full title, but omit the subtitle.
If you need to refer to the work multiple times, you may shorten the title to something familiar or obvious to the reader. For example, Huckleberry Finn for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . If in doubt, prefer the noun phrase.
If the standalone abbreviation may not be clear, you can introduce it in parentheses, following the standard guidelines for abbreviations. For example, The Merchant of Venice ( MV ) . For Shakespeare and the Bible , there are well-established abbreviations you can use.
When you abbreviate a title, make sure you keep the formatting consistent. Even if the abbreviation consists only of letters, as in the MV example, it must be italicized or placed within quotation marks in the same way as it would be when written in full.
Abbreviating very long titles in the Works Cited list
Titles should normally be given in full in the Works Cited list, but if any of your sources has a particularly long title (often the case with older works), you can use an ellipsis to shorten it here. This is only necessary with extremely long titles such as the example below.
In the Works Cited list, if you are listing a work with a title in a language other than English, you can add the translated title in square brackets.
Example of a reference with a translated title
If you are using the foreign-language title in the text itself, you can also include the translation in parenthesis. For example, O Alquimista ( The Alchemist ) .
You don’t need to include a translation in your reference list or in the text if you expect your readers to be familiar with the original language. For example, you wouldn’t translate the title of a French novel you were writing about in the context of a French degree.
Non-Latin script languages
For works in a language that does not use the Latin alphabet, such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, or Russian, be consistent with how you mention the source titles and also quotations from within them.
For example, if you choose to write a Russian title in the Cyrillic form, do that throughout the document. If you choose to use the Romanized form, stick with that. Do not alternate between the two.
Yes. MLA style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns , verbs, adjectives , adverbs , and some conjunctions ) are capitalized.
This applies to titles of sources as well as the title of, and subheadings in, your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization .
In MLA style , book titles appear in italics, with all major words capitalized. If there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space (even if no colon appears in the source). For example:
The format is the same in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. However, when you mention the book title in the text, you don’t have to include the subtitle.
The title of a part of a book—such as a chapter, or a short story or poem in a collection—is not italicized, but instead placed in quotation marks.
When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.
When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.
- In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
- In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
- In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.
The title of an article is not italicized in MLA style , but placed in quotation marks. This applies to articles from journals , newspapers , websites , or any other publication. Use italics for the title of the source where the article was published. For example:
Use the same formatting in the Works Cited entry and when referring to the article in the text itself.
The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.
This quick guide to MLA style explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.
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Gahan, C. (2022, October 24). MLA Titles | How to Format & Capitalize Source Titles. Scribbr. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/titles/
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How to abbreviate in an essay the title of a work that consists of a name and a surname?
I am writing an essay on the short story "Harrison Bergeron." How should I abbreviate the title if I don't want to write out the whole name? Would it simply be "Bergeron" or "Harrison?"
- 8 Welcome to the site! I would not abbreviate it at all: either Harrison Bergeron or the story where appropriate. – Cerberus - Reinstate Monica Sep 21, 2014 at 15:14
- 3 How would you feel about 'The Taming', 'The Old Man', 'Robinson', 'Pride' or 'Ben'? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 21, 2014 at 16:39
- 1 @EdwinAshworth: Stephen Potter recommended that those who wanted to win at Shakespearean criticism refer to Much Ado , or in a close battle, just Much . – Tim Lymington Sep 21, 2014 at 21:27
- 3 In technical writing , it would be appropriate to add an abbreviation after the first usage of a proper noun if it is long and used many times, e.g., "Harrison Bergeron (HB)." Then later HB can be used. This is probably frowned upon in non-technical writing, and I would agree with Cerberus here. – Tommy Sep 22, 2014 at 3:11
- 1 @TimLymington Henry raises problems. As might raise eyebrows. With books, Nineteen , The Book and The Black (Guardian's 100 Greatest Novels list) leave a lot to be desired. Not that I'd wish to appear to be a critic. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 22, 2014 at 6:51
3 Answers 3
Identifying a title by a single word from it is by no means a recent innovation, nor does it seem to be tied to the length of the original wording. Consider The Tragedy of King Lear , cited most often as King Lear , but frequently referred to simply as Lear , as in the opening paragraph of Charles Jennens, " The Tragedy of King Lear, as Lately Published, Vindicated " (1772):
As the new edition of Shakespeare's Lear was attacked in a very rude and scandalous manner, by the Critical Reviewers ; and the patron, the editor, and another person who had no concern therein (but Whom they judged to be the editor) were treated in very abusive and scurrilous terms, by this society of gentlemen , as in their title-page they are pleased to stile themselves ; it was thought proper, upon presenting another play to the public, to vindicate the said edition of Lear from the base aspersions and misrepresentations which these Drawcansirs [that is, broadswords, as opposed to rapiers] in criticism had cast upon it.
Likewise, we find The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club commonly reduced to The Pickwick Papers , and from there sometimes shortened further to Pickwick , as in Joseph Miller, Reading Narrative (1998), excerpted in The Novel: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory 1900–2000 (2009):
The latter two relations, that between author and narrator, that between text and critic, are articulated with special clarity in the passage from Pickwick Papers . In Pickwick , moreover, the way all three examples exploit properties more salient in written, not spoken, language is made explicit.
And some authors regularly refer to A Streetcar Named Desire as Streetcar , as in Philip Kolin, Tennessee Williams: A Guide to Research and Performance (1998):
Cohn usefully comments on the symbology of the names in Streetcar , while Kolin explicates the mythic and gaming allusions behind Jax Beer ("Why Stanley"). Kolin also explores the network of paper signifiers in and underneath the script in Streetcar , including poetry, legal documents, and artifacts, and concludes that for Williams paper is "both script and Scripture" [citation omitted].
Of course, these short forms are helped by the fact that the works they refer to are unlikely to be misidentified by their readers—but that is surely true, too, of the short form Bergeron once you have properly introduced the complete title Harrison Bergeron to your readers. I concur with Lore Sjöberg that Bergeron , being a more memorable identifier than Harrison , would be a better choice for the short-form title.
I would caution you, however, that some readers may react unfavorably to your use of a short form of the title, as Cerberus and Edwin Ashworth do in the comments beneath your question. Also, some titles resist reduction to one word more vigorously than others do; thus for example, having shortened Moby-Dick; or, The Whale to Moby-Dick , I would strongly advise against shortening it further to either Moby or Dick .
Ultimately, your safest bet is probably to follow Cerberus's advice and refer to the title by its full name or (for variety's sake) by a descriptive term such as "the story."
To answer your actual question, if I had to abbreviate it, I'd abbreviate it Bergeron for two reasons. First, because in formal writing and journalism it's more common to refer to someone by their last name, and secondly because "Bergeron" is more unusual, and thus more memorable, than "Harrison."
(That's not a strict rule, though. I'd definitely refer to Pippi Longstocking as Pippi , because calling it Longstocking just sounds pretentious for a silly children's book.)
If the last name more common than the first, as with Pincher Martin for example, I might consider using the first name. More likely, I'd probably just refer to it by the full name. If I was tired of typing it, well, that's what search-and-replace is for.
And really, in the end, I'm not sure I'd abbreviate a two-word title at all in a formal essay, unless the first word was an article.
- This seems a good rule. Although additional points would be (1) see how it's abbreviated by other authors and (2) see how the character is referred to in the book, if you can't get a good answer from either Bergeron seems best. – Stuart F Oct 19, 2022 at 16:25
I had the same problem when I was writing an essay about Ursula K. Le Guin- I mentioned her novel The Left Hand of Darkness , and I needed to mention it again when I was describing The Dispossessed . My suggestion is to take out as many words as you can without changing the meaning. In my case, I shortened it to Left Hand , in your case, I would say to do Bergeron .
- Welcome to the site! Please try to provide a reason why the choice you recommend is better than the other choice. – user72323 Apr 13, 2016 at 4:26
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In an in-text citation, how do I shorten a title that appears in quotation marks when it starts with a title in quotation marks?
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 you need to shorten a title within quotation marks that begins with a title in quotation marks, use the title within the title as the short form and retain the single quotation marks within double quotation marks:
Karen Ford argues that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is “replete with contradictions” (“‘Yellow Wallpaper’” 311). Works Cited Ford, Karen. Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade . UP of Mississippi, 1997. —. “‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Women’s Discourse.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature , vol. 4, no. 2, 1985, pp. 309-14.
In the example above, note that you still omit the introductory article, just as you would with any shortened title in an in-text citation.
A similar issue occurs when shortening titles that begin with quotations. See our post for examples.