The following is an excerpt from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, ed. Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1977), pp. 9–41.

10    Punctuation

a.  General remarks. The primary purpose of punctuation is to ensure the clarity and readability of your writing. Although there are many required uses, punctuation is, to some extent, a matter of personal preference. But, while certain practices are optional, consistency is mandatory. Writers must guard against adopting different styles in parallel situations. The remarks below stress the conventions that pertain especially to research papers. More comprehensive discussions of punctuation can be found in standard handbooks of composition ….

b.  Apostrophes indicate contractions (rarely acceptable in scholarly writing) and possessives. General practice is to form the possessive of monosyllabic proper names ending in a sibilant sound (s, z, sh, zh, ch, j) by adding an apostrophe and another s (Keats’s poems, Marx’s theories) except, by convention, for names in classical literature (Mars’ wrath). In words of more than one syllable ending in a sibilant, only the apostrophe is added (Hopkins’ poems, Cervantes’ novellas) except for names ending in a sibilant and a final e (Horace’s odes). Note that the possessive of a name ending with a silent s is formed by adding an apostrophe and another s (Camus’s novels).

c.  Colons are used to indicate that what follows will be an example, explanation, or elaboration of what has just been said. They are commonly used to introduce quotations (see §§ 14b, 14c, and 14f). For their use in documentation and bibliography, see §§ 31c, 31h, and 41c. Always skip one space after a colon.

d.  Commas are usually required between items in a series (blood, sweat, and tears), between coordinate adjectives (an absorbing, frightening account), before coordinating conjunctions joining independent clauses, around parenthetical elements, and after fairly long phrases or clauses preceding the main clause of a sentence. They are also conventional in dates (January 1, 1980), names (W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., and Walter J. Ong, S.J.), and addresses (Brooklyn, New York). A comma and a dash are never used together in modern English usage. If the context requires a comma (as it does here), the comma follows a closing parenthesis, but a comma never precedes an opening parenthesis. See §§ 31, 33, 35, and 41 for the usage of the comma in documentation and bibliography; see §14f for commas with quotation marks.

e.  [Em] dashes. An [em] dash is typed … with no space before or after. Some writers tend to overuse [em] dashes, substituting them loosely for other marks of punctuation. The [em] dash, however, has only a few legitimate uses: around parenthetical elements that require a number of internal commas, and before a summarizing appositive.

Carter’s sweep of the South—Virginia was the only Southern state to vote Republican—helped give him the election.

Many twentieth-century American writers—Faulkner, Capote, Styron, Williams, to name only a few—come from the South.

Stray dogs, abandoned cats, injured birds, orphaned baby rabbits—all found a home with us.

See §39 for use of the [em] dash in documentation.

f.  Exclamation marks should be used sparingly in scholarly writing.

g.  Hyphens are used to form some types of compound words, particularly compound adjectives that precede the word(s) they modify (a mind-boggling experience, a well-established policy, a first-rate study). Hyphens also join prefixes to capitalized words (post-Renaissance) and link pairs of coequal nouns (poet-priest, teacher-scholar). Many other compounds, however, are written as one word (wordplay, storytelling) or as two (social security tax, a happily married man). Consult a standard dictionary or writing manual for guidance in determining which compounds require hyphenation. [En dashes rather than hyphens should be] used to connect numbers indicating a range (pp. 1–20). For the use of hyphens in dates, see §11c; for hyphens in unavoidable word divisions at the end of a line, see §12b.

h.  Italics …. Avoid frequent use of italics … for emphasis. (On the [italicizing] of titles, see §13.) Phrases, words, or letters cited as linguistic examples and foreign words used in English text are [italicized]. The numerous exceptions to this last rule include quotations entirely in another language, titles of articles in another language (placed within quotation marks), proper names, and foreign words anglicized through frequent usage. Since [North] American English rapidly naturalizes words, use a dictionary and your own knowledge of current usage to determine which originally foreign expressions still require italics. Much, of course, depends on the audience. Foreign words, abbreviations, and phrases commonly not [italicized] include: etc., e.g., et al., laissez faire, raison d’être, tête-à-tête, and versus. In discussions of the arts, such words or expressions as the following are also not [italicized]: cliché, enjambment, genre, hubris, leitmotif, mimesis, and roman à clef. (On italicizing abbreviations, see §47.)

i.  Parentheses are used to enclose parenthetical remarks and to enclose some items in documentation (see §§ 31h, 33f, 37, and 41c). On parenthetical documentation, see §39.

j.  Periods end sentences. They also come at the end of notes and after complete blocks of information in bibliographical citations (see §41). The period follows a parenthesis that falls at the end of a sentence. It is placed within the parenthesis when the parenthetical element is independent (see, not this sentence, but the next). (For the use of periods with ellipsis, see §14d; for periods within quotation marks, see §14f.)

k.  Quotation marks. Enclose in double quotation marks words to which attention is being directed (e.g., words purposely misused or used in a special sense, words referred to as words, and parenthetical English translations of words or phrases from another language). Note, however, that words used as examples in linguistic studies are [italicized] and not enclosed in double quotation marks (see §10h). Use single quotation marks for definitions or translations that appear without intervening punctuation (e.g., ainsi ‘thus’). For the use of quotation marks with titles, see §13; and, for use of single and double quotation marks in quoted material, see §14f.

l.  Semicolons are used to separate items in a series when some of the items require internal commas. They are used between independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, and they may be used before the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence if one of the independent clauses requires a number of internal commas. For the use of semicolons in documentation and bibliography, see §§ 31e, 32k, 36, 37, and 42k.

m.  Slashes (virgules) are used to separate lines of poetry (see §14b) and elements of dates (see §11c), to enclose phonemic transcription, and occasionally to separate alternative words (and/or).

n.  Square brackets [] are used for an unavoidable parenthesis within a parenthesis, to enclose interpolations in a quotation (see §14e) or in incomplete data (see sample notes 58 and 64 in §§ 32r and 32t), and to enclose phonetic transcription.

11    Numerals

a.  In general, numbers that cannot be spelled out in one or two words may be written as numerals (one, thirty-six, ninety-nine, one hundred, two thousand, three million; but 2½, 101, 137, and 1,275). Numbers compared or contrasted should be in the same style (5 out of 125, 2½ to 3 years old or two-and-a-half to three years old). In technical or statistical discussions involving their frequent use or in notes, where many space-saving devices are legitimate, all numbers may be written as numerals. Common practice is to put a comma between the third and fourth digits from the right, the sixth and seventh, and so on.

1,000      20,000      7,654,321

Exceptions to this practice include page and line numbers of four or more digits, addresses, and year numbers. The comma is added in year numbers if a fifth digit is used.

On page 3333 ….

At 4132 Broadway ….

In 1984 ….


In 20,000 B.C. ….

… Dates and page numbers are rarely spelled out: “12 April” or “April 12” and “page 45” are generally preferred to “the twelfth of April” and “the forty-fifth page.” Because numbers beginning sentences (including dates) are, by convention, spelled out, avoid beginning a sentence with a number.

b.  Percentage and amounts of money are treated as other numbers: if the numbers involved cannot be spelled out in one or two words, they may be written as numerals with the appropriate symbols (one percent, forty-five percent, one hundred percent, five dollars, thirty-five dollars, two thousand dollars, sixty-eight cents; but 2½%, 150%, $2.65, $303, ₤127. In business, scientific, and technical writing involving their frequent use, all percentages and amounts of money may be written as numerals with the appropriate symbols.

c.  Dates. As in other aspects of writing, be consistent in expressing dates: either “22 July 1981” or “July 22, 1981,” but not both (if the latter, be sure to put a comma both before and after the year unless another punctuation mark is required); either “August 1981” or “August, 1981,” but not both. Centuries are written out in lowercase letters (the twentieth century). A hyphen is added if the century is being used as an adjective (eighteenth-century thought; nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature). Decades are also usually written out without capitalization (the seventies), but it is … acceptable to express them in figures (the 1970s). “B.C.” follows the year, but “A.D.” precedes it (19 B.C.; A.D. 565). (Some writers use “B.C.E,” before the Common Era, and “C.E.,” Common Era.) European usage gives all dates in day-month-year order, separated by spaces, commas, hyphens, periods, or slash marks (2 March 1974, 2-3-74, 2/III/74). To indicate both Western and non-Western dates, put one set in parentheses: “3 November 1963 (K’ang hsi 32/10/6).” Both “in 1951–52” and “from 1951 to 1952” are clear and acceptable, as is “from 1951–52 to 1968–69,” but “from 1951–72” alone is not because, lacking the preposition “to” after “1951,” the phrase is inaccurate and confusing.

d.  Inclusive numbers. In connecting consecutive numbers, give the second number in full for numbers through ninety-nine. For larger numbers, give only the last two figures of the second if it is within the same hundred or thousand: pp. 2–3, 10–12, 21–28, 103–04, 395–401, 923–1003, 1003–05, 1608–774, 1999–2004, 12345–47, 12345–3300.

e.  Roman numerals. Use capital Roman numerals for … books and parts of a work, volumes, acts of a play, or individuals in a series.

Book I of Spenser’s Faerie Queene

Part II of Goethe’s Faust

Volume II of Encyclopedia Americana

Act III of Arms and the Man

Elizabeth II

Use lower case Roman numerals for chapters of a book (Chapter xii), scenes of a play (Act I, Scene ii), cantos of a poem (Book I, Canto iv), chapters of books of the Bible (Luke xiv), and the preliminary pages of a dissertation (e.g., preface, table of contents), On capitalization, see §15. On the use of Roman numerals in documentation, see §§ 31i and 31j.

12    Spelling

a.  General remarks. Spelling, including hyphenation, must be consistent, except in quotations: quoted material must be reproduced exactly as it appears in the original. See §9 on the selection and use of a dictionary.

b.  Word division. Avoid dividing words at the end of a line. Where divisions are unavoidable, practice in [North America] is to divide words according to pronunciation (“rep-re-sent”), whereas the British divide according to word derivation (“re-pre-sent”). Other languages have their own rules for dividing words: French, for instance, usually divides on a vowel (“ho-me-rique”; in English, “Ho-mer-ic”). If in doubt, consult a dictionary.

c.  Accents. In quoting, reproduce all accents exactly as they appear in the original. Bear in mind that in French, when capital letters are followed by lowercase letters, the capital letters are not always accented (always “école,” but “Ecole” is acceptable). Although it is never unacceptable to place an accent over a capital letter that would require one if it were lowercase, the practice of French printers varies when words appear entirely in capital letters: ÀÉÈÙ, and capital letters bearing a circumflex are often accented, but often not. When transcribing words that appear in all capitals and changing them to lowercase, insert the necessary accents. …

d.  Dieresis. In German words the dieresis, not e, should be used for the umlaut (ä, ö, ü rather than ae, oe, ue), even for initial capitals (“Über”). But common usage must be observed for names: Götz, but Goethe.

e.  Digraphs. A digraph is a combination of two letters that represents only one sound (e.g., thoa in “broad”). In many languages, some digraphs appear united in print (æ, œ, ß). They may be transcribed in typescript without any connection between them (ae, oe, ss). … In [North] American English, the digraph ae [has been almost completely] abandoned in favor of the e alone; “encyclopedia” and “archeology” (instead of  “encyclopaedia” and “archaeology”) and “esthetic” and “medieval” are now [the norm].

13    Titles in the Text

For capitalization of titles, see §15.

a.  [Italicized]. Titles of published books, plays (of any length), long poems (usually poems that have been published as books), pamphlets, periodicals (including newspapers and magazines), works of classical literature (but not sacred writings), films, radio and television programs, ballets, operas, instrumental music (but not if identified simply by form, number and key), paintings, sculpture, and names of ships and aircraft are all [italicized] in the text. …

David Copperfield  (published book)

As You Like It  (play)

The Waste Land  (long poem)

New Jersey Driver Manual  (pamphlet)

Washington Post  (newspaper)

Time  (magazine)

Horace’s Ars Poetica  (work of classical literature)

Sounder  (film)

All in the Family  (television program)

Giselle  (ballet)

Rigoletto  (opera)

Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique  (instrumental music identified by name)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A  (instrumental music identified by form, number, and key)

Chagall’s I and My Village  (painting)

Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa  (sculpture)

H.M.S. Vanguard  (ship)

Spirit of St. Louis  (aircraft)

b.  In quotation marks. Titles of articles, essays, short stories, short poems, songs, chapters of books, unpublished works (such as dissertations), lectures and speeches, courses, and individual episodes of radio and television programs are enclosed in quotation marks.

“Sharp Rise in Unemployment”  (article in a newspaper)

“Sources of Energy in the Twenty-First Century”  (article in a magazine)

“The Writer’s Audience is Always a Fiction”  (article in a scholarly journal)

“Etruscan”  (encyclopedia article)

“The Fiction of Langston Hughes”  (essay in a book)

“Young Goodman Brown”  (short story)

“Kubla Khan”  (poem)

“Summertime”  (song)

“Italian Literature before Dante”  (chapter in a book)

“Goethe’s Faust and the German Puppet-Play”  (unpublished dissertation)

“The Style and the Story: Shakespeare’s Appropriate and Varying Artistry”  (lecture)

“Introductory Mathematics”  (course)

“The Joy Ride”  (episode of the television program Upstairs, Downstairs)

c.  Titles within titles. If a title indicated by quotation marks appears within an [italicized] title, the quotation marks are retained. If a title indicated by [italicizing] appears within a title enclosed in quotation marks, the [italicizing] is retained.

“Young Goodman Brown” and Hawthorne’s Puritan Heritage  (book)

As You Like It as a Pastoral Poem”  (article)

When a title normally indicated by quotation marks appears within another title requiring quotation marks, the shorter title is given single quotation marks.

“An Interpretation of Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’”  (article)

When a normally [italicized] title appears within another [italicized] title, the shorter title appears neither [italicized] nor in quotation marks.

The Art of David Copperfield  (book)

d.  Exceptions. These conventions of [italicizing] titles or placing them within quotation marks do not apply to sacred writings (including all books and versions of the Bible), to series, editions, and societies, to descriptive words or phrases (or conventional titles) used instead of an actual title, and to parts of a book, none of which is underlined or put within quotation marks. (On capitalization, see §15.)

Sacred writings:


King James Version

Old Testament







Bollingen Series

University of North Carolina Studies in Comparative Literature

Masterpiece Theatre


New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare

Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne


American Medical Association

Renaissance Society of America

Descriptive words or phrases or conventional titles:

Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address

Mona Lisa  [for Leonardo da Vinci’s La Gioconda]

Parts of a book:





e.  Frequent use of a title. If a title is to be mentioned often in the text, after the first full reference in the text or in a note, use only a shortened (if possible, familiar or obvious) title or abbreviation (e.g., “Nightingale” for “Ode to a Nightingale”; Much Ado for Much Ado about Nothing; HEW for Department of Health, Education and Welfare). This practice is also followed in notes (see §37).

14    Quotations

a.  In general, all quotations—whether a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, or more—should correspond exactly to the original source in spelling, capitalization, and interior punctuation (on the use of ellipsis, see §14d). Exceptions, such as the [italicizing] of words for emphasis or the modernization of spelling, must be explicitly indicated or explained in a note or enclosed in parentheses at the end of the quotation or in square brackets within the quotation (on the uses of parentheses and square brackets, see §§ 10i and 10n):

Lincoln specifically advocated a government “for the people” (emphasis added).

Take care to ensure that the syntax of your sentence accords grammatically with that of the quotation.

b.  Poetry. Unless unusual emphasis is required, verse quotations of a single line or part of a line should be incorporated, within quotation marks, as part of the text. Quotations of two or three lines may also be placed in the text, within quotation marks, but with the lines separated by a slash ( / ), with a space on each side of the slash.

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Antony says of Brutus, “This was the noblest Roman of them all.”

In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

Verse quotations of more than three lines should be separated from the text by triple-spacing, introduced in most cases by a colon, indented [0.5 inches] from the left margin (…), and typed with double-spacing (…) but without quotation marks unless they appear in the original. The spatial arrangement of the of the original (including indentation and spacing within and between lines) should be reproduced as accurately as possible.

Crashaw begins his poem “The Weeper” with several metaphors describing the eyes of St. Mary Magdalene, withholding until the end of the first stanza the subject of his work:

Haile, Sister Springs,
Parents of Silver-footed rills!
Ever bubling things!
Thawing Crystall! Snowy hills!
Still spending, never spent; I meane
Thy faire eyes, sweet Magdalen.

If the quotation begins in the middle of the line of verse, it should be reproduced as such and not shifted to the left margin.

It is in Act II of As You Like It that Jaques is given the speech that many think contains a glimpse of Shakespeare’s conception of drama:

                                All the world’s a stage
And all the men and woman merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Jacques then proceeds to enumerate and analyze these ages.

c.  Prose. Prose quotations of not more than four lines in the typescript, unless special emphasis is required, should always be incorporated, within quotation marks, as part of the text.

For Dickens it was both “the best of times” and “the worst of times.”

“He was obeyed,” writes Conrad of the Company manager in Heart of Darkness, “yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect.”

Longer quotations (more than four lines in the typescript) are usually introduced by a colon or comma (see §14f), set off from the text by triple-spacing, indented [0.5 inches] from the left margin, and typed with double-spacing (…) but without quotation marks. If a single paragraph, or part of one, is quoted, do not indent the first line more than the body of the quotation; if two or more paragraphs are quoted consecutively (as in the following example), indent the first line of each an additional [0.2 inches]. If, however, the first sentence quoted is not the beginning of a paragraph in the source, do not indent it the additional [0.2 inches].

In Moll Flanders, Defoe maintains the pseudo-autobiographical narration typical of the picaresque tradition:

      My true name is so well known in the records or registers at Newgate, and in the records or registers at Newgate, and in the Old Bailey, and there are some things of such consequence still depending there, relating to my particular conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my name or the account of my family to this work. Perhaps, after my death, it may be better known; at present it would not be proper, no, not tho’ a general pardon should be issued, even without exceptions of persons or crimes.
It is enough to tell you, that … some of my worst comrades, who are out of the way of doing me harm, having gone out of the world by the steps and the string as I often expected to go, knew me by the name of Moll Flanders. …

d.  Ellipsis. When omitting a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph from a quoted passage, writers should be guided by two principles: (1) fairness to the author being quoted and (2) clarity and correct grammar in their own writing. If only a fragment of a sentence is quoted, it will be obvious that some of the original sentence has been left out: In his Inaugural Address, Kennedy spoke of a “new frontier.” But if, after material from the original has been omitted, the quotation appears to be a grammatical sentence or a series of grammatical sentences, the omission (or omissions) should be indicated by using [an] ellipsis …. For [an] ellipsis within a sentence, [leave] a space before and after …. A quotation that can stand as a complete sentence should end with a period even if something in the original has been omitted. When the ellipsis coincides with the end of your sentence, [it should precede a sentence period with a space before]. If parenthetical material follows the ellipsis at the end of your sentence, … place the sentence period after the final parenthesis.


The sense of isolation present in many of the poems of the his earlier collections grew into an obsessive loneliness, under the pressure of two alien cultures. (From Robert Pring-Mill, Pablo Neruda: A Basic Anthology [Oxford: Dolphin, 1975], p. xxi.)

Quoted with [an] ellipsis in the middle:

As Robert Pring-Mill notes of Neruda’s years in the East, “The sense of isolation … grew into an obsessive loneliness, under the pressure of two alien cultures.”

Quoted with [an] ellipsis at the end:

As Robert Pring-Mill notes of Neruda’s years in the East, “The sense of isolation present in many of the poems of his earlier collections grew into an obsessive loneliness ….”


As Robert Pring-Mill notes of Neruda’s years in the East, “The sense of isolation present in many of the poems of his earlier collections grew into an obsessive loneliness …” (p. xxi).

[An ellipsis] may also be used to indicate the omission of a whole sentence or more or of a paragraph or more. Remember, however, that grammatically complete sentences must both precede and follow the ellipsis. (…)


The most dissimilar people said similar if not identical things about this unique soul, this poet who gave so much delight. They spoke of his wonderfully balanced humanity, the expanse and gentleness of his spirit and his incredibly subtle art. All testify that he taught his contemporaries to see things, to recognise relationships, to love what is fine, to be aware of depths, and to discover the hidden ways of the human soul, and that he did this with a gentle but sure conviction. (From J. R. von Salis, Rainer Maria Rilke: The Years in Switzerland, trans. N. K. Cruickshank [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1966], p. 290.)


J. R. von Salis has written of Rilke, “The most dissimilar people said similar if not identical things about this unique soul …. All testify that he taught his contemporaries to see things, to recognise relationships, to love what is fine, to be aware of depths ….”

The accuracy of the quotation and the exact reproduction of the original are paramount in scholarly writing. Unless indicated in brackets, liberties must not be taken with the spelling or punctuation of the original. The writer must construct sentences that allow, on the one hand, for the exactness of the quotation and, on the other, for clarity and correct grammatical structure. In many cases, it is best simply to paraphrase grammatically incorporating fragments of the original into the text.


Moralists have unanimously agreed, that unless virtue be nursed by liberty, it will never attain due strength—and what they say of man I extend to mankind, insisting that in all cases morals must be fixed on immutable principles; and, that the being cannot be termed rational or virtuous, who obeys any authority, but that of reason. (From Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Carol H. Poston [New York: Norton, 1975], Ch. xiii, §6 [p. 191].)


“[U]nless virtue be nursed by liberty,” wrote Mary Wollstonecraft, “it will never attain due strength ….”

But writers who prefer not to use square brackets to indicate the changing of a lowercase letter into uppercase should recast the sentence:

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that “unless virtue be nursed by liberty, it will never attain due strength ….”

e.  Interpolations. The writer’s own comments or explanations within quotations are enclosed in square brackets (not parentheses) …. Use “sic” (“thus,” “so”) sparingly—in square brackets and without quotation marks or an exclamation point—to assure readers that the quotation is accurate although the spelling or logic might lead them to doubt it. Unless the writer states otherwise (e.g., by “emphasis added”; see §14a), the reader will assume that whatever is [italicized] in the quotation was italicized … in the original.

The term paper was [titled] “On Wordsworth’s ‘Imitations of Immorality’ [sic].”

Hamlet says of his mother:

      Why, she would hang on him [Hamlet’s father]
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on ….

f.  Punctuating quotations. Quotations set off from the text require no quotation marks; internal punctuation should be reproduced exactly as in the original. For quotations included as part of the text, first use double quotation marks, then, for quotations within quotations, single marks:

The professor in the novel confessed that he found it “impossible to teach the ‘To be or not to be’ speech” because he was himself terrified by its implications.

Commas and periods are placed inside closing quotation marks unless a parenthetical or bracketed reference intervenes. (If a quotation ends with both a single and a double quotation mark, the comma or period is placed within both: “Read ‘Kubla Khan,’” he told me.) All other punctuation goes outside quotation marks, except when it is part of the matter quoted.


I believe taxation without representation is tyranny!


He attacked “taxation without representation.”

He attacked “taxation without representation” (p. 32).

Did he attack “taxation without representation”?

He did not even attack “taxation without representation”!


He declared that “taxation without representation is tyranny!”

When a quotation is formally introduced, it is preceded by a colon. Quotations of verse are also usually preceded by a colon.

Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner concludes: “A sadder and a wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn.”


“Poets,” according to Shelley, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

15    Capitalization

a.  English. In all English titles, not only of entire works (such as novels, lectures, or essays) but also of divisions of works (such as parts or chapters), capitalize the first letter of the first word, the last word, and all the principal words—including nouns and adjective in hyphenated compounds but excluding articles, prepositions (except when they function as adverbs), conjunctions, and the “to” in infinitives.

Death of a Salesman

Antony and Cleopatra

The Hero in Nineteenth-Century Novels: A Survey

The Teaching of Spanish in English-Speaking Countries

“Ode to a Nightingale”

“Italian Literature before Dante”

“The Life Beyond”

“What Americans Stand For”

In references to magazines or newspapers (the Washington Post), the initial definite article is usually not treated as part of the title. The words “series” and “edition” are capitalized only when they are considered part of an exact title (the Norton Critical Edition, the Twayne World Authors Series, but Penguin edition, the Studies in English Literature series). Titles like Preface, Introduction, and Appendix are often capitalized, particularly when they refer to a well-known work, such as Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads. They are also capitalized when formally cited in notes and bibliographies (see §31b). In many other contexts, however, these terms need not be treated as titles (the author claims in an introduction). Capitalize and, in documentation, abbreviate a noun followed by a numeral indicating place in a sequence: Vol. II of 3 vols., Pl. 4, No. 20, Act V, Ch. iii, Version A. Do not capitalize col., fol., l., n., p., or sig. (see §48 for the meanings of these and other abbreviations). Never capitalize entire words (i.e., every letter) in titles cited in text or notes.

b.  French. In prose or verse, French usage differs from English in that the following are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence or (in some cases) a line of verse: (1) the subject pronoun je ‘I’; (2) months or days of the week; (3) names of languages and adjectives derived from proper nouns; (4) titles of people or places.

Un Français m’a parlé en anglais dans la place de la Concorde.

Hier j’ai vu le docteur Maurois qui conduisait une voiture Ford.

Le capitaine Boutillier m’a dit qu’il partait pour Rouen le premier jeudi d’avril avec quelques amis normands.

In titles of books, stories, poems, chapters, and the like, capitalize the first word and all proper nouns. If the first word is an article, capitalize also the first noun and any preceding adjectives.

Du côté de chez Swann

Le Grand Meaulnes

La Guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu

In titles of series and periodicals, capitalize all major words.

Novell Revue des Deux Mondes

L’Ami du Peuple

16    Names of Persons

a.  General remarks. Since there are exceptions to almost any rule, good judgment based on knowledge of common usage is essential in dealing with persons’ names.

b.  Titles. Formal titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., Dr., Professor, etc.) are usually omitted in references to persons, living or dead. By convention, titles are associated with, or used for, certain names—for instance, the poet Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, is referred to as Surrey, not Howard. By custom, however, some titled persons are not referred to by their titles: Benjamin Disraeli, first earl of Beaconsfield, is commonly called Disraeli. A few women are traditionally known by their married names (Mme de Staël). Otherwise, women’s names are treated the same as men’s (Dickinson, Stein, Plath, not Miss Dickinson, Miss Stein, Miss Plath).

c.  Authors’ names. It is common and acceptable to use simplified names of famous authors (Vergil for Publius Vergilius Maro, Dante for Dante Alighieri). Many authors are referred to by pseudonyms, which should be treated as ordinary names.

Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin)
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet)
George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucie Dupin)
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)
Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg)

In a few cases, however, surnames and pen names are virtually inseparable from initials (O. Henry, not Henry).

d.  Dutch and German names. Dutch vanvan dervan den, and German von, with some exceptions (especially in English contexts), are not used with the last name alone.

Droste-Hülshoff (Annette von Droste-Hülshoff)
Kleist (Heinrich von Kleist)
Vondel (Joost van den Vondel)


Van Gogh, Vincent
Von Braun, Wernher

German names with an umlaut (ä, ö, ü) are often alphabetized in [North America] as though spelled out (ae, oe, ue). In this case, “Götz” (alphabetized as “Goetz”) would precede “Gogol” in an alphabetical listing. In Germany they are most often alphabetized without regard to the umlaut.

e.  French names. French de alone following a given name, with some exceptions, is not used with the last name alone.

Maupassant (Guy de Maupassant)
Ronsard (Pierre de Ronsard)
Scudéry (Madeleine de Scudéry)


De Gaulle, Charles

When the preposition de and the definite article are combined into a single word (desdu), this word is used with the last name.

Des Périers, Bonaventure
Du Bartas, Guillaume de Salluste

Otherwise, omit de with the last name.

La Boétie, Etienne de
La Bruyère, Jean de

A hyphen is normally used between French given names (M.-J. Chénier is Marie-Joseph Chénier, but M. R. Char is Monsieur René Char; P. J. Reynard is Père ‘Father’ J. Reynard).

f.  Greek names. See §17g.

g.  Italian names. Many Italian names of persons living before or during the Renaissance are alphabetized by the first name.

Bonvesin da la Riva
Cino da Pistoia
Dante Alighieri
Iacopone da Todi
Michelangelo Buonarroti


Boccaccio, Giovanni
Cellini, Benvenuto
Stampa, Gaspara

Members of historical families, however, are usually alphabetized by their last names.

Este, Beatrice d’
Medici, Lorenzo de’

In modern times, the Italian dadedeldella, and di are used with the last name.

D’Annunzio, Gabriele
De Sanctis, Francesco
Del Buono, Oreste
Della Casa, Giovanni
Di Costanzo, Angelo

h.  Spanish names. Spanish de is not used with the last name alone.

Madariaga (Salvador de Madariaga)
Rueda (Lope de Rueda)
Timoneda (Juan de Timoneda)

When the preposition de and the definite article el are combined into a single word (del), this word must be used with the last name: Del Río, Angel. Otherwise, omit de with the last name: Las Casas, Bartolomé de.

Spanish surnames often include both the paternal name and the maternal name, with or without the conjunction y. The surname of a married woman usually includes her paternal surname and the paternal surname of the husband, connected by de. The proper indexing of Spanish names requires the ability to distinguish between given names and surnames. Alphabetize by paternal name.

Álvarez, Miguel de los Sántos
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de
Díaz de Castillo, Bernal
Figuera Aymerich, Ángela
Larra y Sánchez de Castro, Mariano José
López de Ayala, Pero
Matute, Ana María
Ortega y Gasset, José
Quevedo y Villegas, Francisco Gómez de
Sinués de Marco, María del Pilar
Zayas y Sotomayor, María de

Even persons who are commonly known by the maternal portion of their surnames—Galdós, Lorca—are properly indexed under their full surnames: Benito Pérez Galdós, Federico García Lorca.

i.  Oriental names. In Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, surnames precede given names (Hu Shih, Wang Kuowei, Kim Jong Gil, Anesaki Masajaru), but Western authors should follow the known preferences of Oriental persons, even if they differ from normal practice or standard romanization (Y. R. Chao, Syngman Rhee).