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MLA Book Citation

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How to cite a book in a bibliography using MLA

The most basic entry for a book consists of the author’s name, the book title, the publisher’s name, and the year of publication. This guide gives examples and guidance according to the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook.

Basic structure:

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher Name, Year Published.


Smith, John M. The Sample Book. BibMe Publishers, 2008.

Author formatting

  • Reverse the author’s name (Last name then first name), placing a comma after the last name and a period after the first name (or any middle name initial).
  • The name should not be abbreviated and should be written exactly as it appears on the title page.
  • Titles and affiliations (sir, mr., mrs., PhD., Dr., etc.) associated with the author should generally be omitted.
  • A suffix, such as a roman numeral or Jr./Sr. should appear after the author’s given name, preceded by a comma.


Smith, John, Jr. The Sample Book. BibMe Publishers, 2008.

Two authors

For a book written by two authors, both names are listed in the order they appear on the title page.

  • Reverse only the first author’s name and write the second name in normal order (first name last name).
  • Separate author names with a comma and place the word “and” between the names.


Smith, John, and Jane Doe. The Sample Book. BibMe Publishers, 2008.

Three authors or more

For books with three or more authors, include only the first author’s name in the citation, followed by a comma and the abbreviation “et al.”


Smith, John, et al. The Sample Book. BibMe Publishers, 2008.

Title formatting

  • Italicize the full title of the book, including any subtitles, and follow it with a period.
  • If the book has a subtitle, follow the main title with a colon (unless the main title ends with a question mark or exclamation point).
  • Use title case.


Smith, John M. The Sample Book: Let’s Learn to Cite. BibMe Publishers, 2008.

Publication information formatting

After the book title is the publisher’s name, a comma, then the year the book was published.

Where do you find this information? Generally, you will find the publication information on the title page of the book. If it is not available there, it may be on the copyright page.

Abbreviations for publisher names

Publisher names should be abbreviated where appropriate.

Omit articles (e.g., A, An) and business titles (e.g., Co., Corp., Inc., Ltd.). For example:

  • The BibMe Publishers –> BibMe Publishers
  • BibMe Publishers, Ltd. –> BibMe Publishers

If the publisher is an academic or university press, with the words “university” and “press” (in any language), abbreviate “U” for “university” and “P” for “press” in the publisher’s name. This will distinguish the publisher from the university, which may publish independently of the publisher in question. (e.g., Oxford UP).

  • University of BibMe Press –> U of BibMe P
  • BibMe University Press –> BibMe UP
  • BibMe Press –> BibMe Press


Smith, John. The Sample Book. Iowa State UP, 2008.

Citing an afterword, foreword, introduction, or preface

If you are citing a specific contribution to a book, such as an afterword, foreword, introduction, or preface, do the following:

  • After the author’s name, include either the generic label (e.g., Afterword) followed by a period OR include the unique section’s title in quotation marks (e.g., “Novel Moves”) followed by a period.
  • Include the page number or page range after the publication year. Separated the page and year with a comma, and follow the page(s) with a period.


Smith, John. Introduction. The Sample Book. BibMe, 2008, pp. 12-20.

Smith, John. “Unique Introduction Title.” The Sample Book. BibMe, 2008, pp. 12-20.

Citing editions or a revised book

When a book has no edition number or name, it is generally a first edition and no indication is needed. If the book you’re citing does show a later edition than its first, you should indicate the new edition in your citation. You will usually find edition details, including the date, on the title page or the copyright page.

  • Place the edition after the book title, and before the publisher. There is a period after the title, and a comma after the edition.
  • A numbered edition is abbreviated to “# ed.” (e.g., 9th ed.).
  • Abbreviate “Revised edition” as “Rev. ed.”
  • “Abridged edition” as “Abr. ed.”


Smith, John. The Sample Book. Rev. ed., BibMe, 2008.

Smith, John. The Sample Book. 2nd ed., BibMe, 2008.

Write ordinal numbers (e.g., 2nd) without a superscript.

You don’t need to include a source’s printing details, such as reprint details, in the source’s works-cited list entry. You may include an edition number as discussed above.


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“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
— Gustave Flaubert

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Which words can I abbreviate in a source title cited in MLA style?

As per the MLA Handbook, titles used in parenthetical citations may be shortened or abbreviated if they are longer than a few words.


Long titles can be shortened to the first noun phrase, first punctuation mark, or at the end of the first clause.

  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry –> My Grandmother
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe –> Fried Green Tomatoes


Abbreviating titles can be helpful and more concise when citing multiple works by a single author. Abbreviated titles should only be used in parenthetical citations. In prose, MLA suggests sticking to a shortened form of the title instead.

Common Abbreviations (Shakespeare, Chaucer, Bible)

Appendix 1 of the MLA Handbook provides a list of common academic abbreviations to be used in parenthetical citations. Some standard references include works by established classical authors like Shakespeare and Chaucer and books in the Bible.

  • The first act of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (Ant.)….
  • “Eternity was in our lips and in our eyes” (Ant. 1.3.28)

Single-Word Abbreviations

You can also come up with your own straightforward abbreviations if needed. For single-word titles, use the first syllable followed by a period.

  • In Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (Home.), she writes…(Home. 45).

Multiple-Word Abbreviations

For titles containing multiple words, you may abbreviate. Your abbreviation should consist of the first letter of each capitalized word. Be sure to use the full title on first reference and introduce the abbreviation in parentheses immediately afterward.

  • Amanda Gorman writes in Call Us What We Carry (CUWWC) that… (CUWWC 12).
When should I include the volume number of a book in an MLA formatted citation?

As per Section 6 of the MLA Handbook, 9th edition, if a book you are citing is part of a multivolume work, the volume number should be mentioned in the full reference in your works cited page. The placement of the volume number may change depending on if the books are individually titled and/or if you are citing one book or the entire collection.


Author’s Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Edition no., vol. no., Publisher, year of publication.


Pinksmith, Tom. The Secret Life of Koalas. 2nd ed., vol. 1, Oxford UP, 2003.

If you are referring to the the entire multivolume set, mention the number of volumes at the end of the citation instead.


Author’s Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Edition no., Publisher, year(s) of publication. # vols. in set.


Pinksmith, Tom. The Secret Life of Koalas. 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 2003-21. 7 vols.

How do I format a works cited entry for a foreword, afterword, or introduction of a book in MLA style?

As per Appendix 2 of the MLA Handbook, 9th edition, a foreword, afterword, or introduction should be cited as a book chapter. If the chapter doesn’t have a unique name, write the label in regular roman text (not italicized or in quotation marks) immediately following the name(s) of the author(s). If the introduction, foreword, or afterword does have a separate title, use its title within quotation marks instead of the label in your citation.

The citation should also include the title of the book in italics, the publisher, year of publication, and the page range details for the section being cited.


Author’s Last Name, First Name. Section Name or “Section Title.” Book Name, Publisher, year, pp. xx-xx.


Duncan, David. Preface. Introduction to Alchemy, Altruist Publications, 1967, pp. 23-46.

When should I italicize or underline the title of a book, journal article, or other source in MLA format?

In MLA style, works that stand alone are italicized. The book title, website, and report are examples of such references. However, works that are a part of a main work, such as a chapter in a book or an article in a journal, are not italicized. Instead, they are enclosed in double quotation marks. As author names are included in citations, these elements are not added in in-text citations unless the names of the authors are not available for a source.

In cases in which italicization is not possible (e.g., handwriting and typewriting), then standalone works like book titles, websites, and reports should be underlined instead.