Guide to Understand Book Citations in MLA Style

Citing books in MLA is common in humanities, literature, and other related fields. It is very important for acknowledging sources, avoiding plagiarism, and giving credit to authors. Yet, so many students have problems with adhering to the rules of this citation style.

Well, if you are one of those students who have problems using MLA style for citing books, this concise style guide is for you. We have used examples throughout the blogs to help you master this skill quickly. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Everything You Want to Know About Book Citations in MLA Style

Basic Format

The general format of book citations in MLA style is as follows:

Author(s). Title of the Book. Publisher, Year of Publication.

Let’s elaborate on each of these elements with examples:


It is the name of author or authors (in case of more than one). You have to use the author’s last name, first name. Consider this example where the book author’s name is John Smith.

One Author: Smith, John.

Two Authors: Smith, John, and Mary Johnson.

Three or More Authors: Smith, John, et al.

Title of the Book

The MLA citation style requires you to Italicise the title of the book. Plus, you have to capitalise the first letter of the title, subtitles, and any other important words. Here’s how you do it.

The Great Gatsby

The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide


This citation style needs you to put the name of the publisher as well. The publisher will come after the title of the book in essay. Just like this:

Penguin Random House

Year of Publication

You are also required to mention the year the book was published. Just like this:


Full Examples for Better Understanding

When the book has only one author:

Smith, John. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2003.

When the book has Two Authors:

Smith, John, and Mary Johnson. Effective Communication Strategies. Wiley, 2017.

When a book has three or more Authors:

Smith, John, et al. Team Dynamics in the Workplace. Springer, 2019.

In-text Citations

For in-text citations in MLA style, you have to put the author’s last name and also mention the page number where information can be found. Here are some examples to help you understand this better.

  • When you are quoting someone directly: (Smith 45).
  • When you are rephrasing the actual quotations: (Smith).
  • When citing books with two authors: (Smith and Johnson 72).
  • When a book has more than three authors: (Smith et al. 28).

Reference Page

There’s also a reference page at the end which is titled as Works Cited. All the entries here must be alphabetically arranged by the author’s last name. Check out this example to have a better idea of how reference page will look like:

Works Cited

Smith, John. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2003.

Smith, John, and Mary Johnson. Effective Communication Strategies. Wiley, 2017.

Smith, John, et al. Team Dynamics in the Workplace. Springer, 2019.

Variations and Additional Information

Following the rules of MLA style gets difficult for students because they have some variations in special circumstances, particularly for unique sources. Here’s all you need to know in this regard.

When the Book has an Editor

In case a book you are citing has an editor info instead of an author, the format of citations will slightly vary. You have to list the editor’s name with Ed after the book name. Just like this:

Smith, John, Ed. The Anthology of Modern Poetry. Oxford UP, 2015.

When the Book Has Multiple Editions

If you’re citing a book that has multiple editions, you have to put the edition number after the title, which is followed by a comma. Just like this:

Smith, John. The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide, 2nd ed., Pearson, 2018.

When Citing a Chapter or Section of an Edited Book

In case you have to cite a section of the book or a particular part of the chapter, use this formula:

Author of that chapter, the title of the chapter in quotation marks, the book editor, title of the book in italics, the publisher, and the publication year. Just like this:

Johnson, Mary. “Effective Communication.” Effective Communication Strategies, edited by John Smith, Wiley, 2017, pp. 23-47.

Let’s Understand These Rules Better with a Table

Here’s a summary in tabular form to help you understand book citations in MLA style:

One AuthorLast name, First nameSmith, John.
Two AuthorsLast name, first name, and first name last name.Smith, John, and Mary Johnson.
Multiple AuthorsLast name, First name, et al.Smith, John, et al.
Title of the BookBook Title in ItalicsThe Great Gatsby.
Year of publicationYear.2003.

Take Away

Hopefully this concise yet very informative style guide was useful in helping you fully understand book citations in MLA style. Just don’t forget to consult the latest edition of the MLA Handbook. Plus, your instructor’s guidelines for any specific cases that may not fit the standard format.

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