References to Authors and Titles

Reference to the Author

Many students begin their essays with some reference to what Author X does in Text Y. The reference typically takes the form of one of the sentences below:

In The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, he presents a diverse group of people...

In Geoffrey Chaucer's poem The Canterbury Tales, he presents a diverse group of people...

These choices of phrasing are not particularly elegant. Try eliminating the pronoun:

In The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer presents a diverse group of people...

Much nicer, isn't it?

Reference to the Text

The titles of books, plays, and longer (especially narrative) poems should be placed in italics or underlined. The titles of short poems and scholarly or journalistic essays should be placed between quotation marks.

In published, printed texts titles are placed in italics. The MLA Style Guide advises the use of underlining as an equivalent to italics for the submission of texts prior to printing, grading, or editing. This is an acceptable alternative, especially if you are using an older medium (handwriting or typewriter) which cannot produce italics. However, with the advent of the word processor, this usage appears somewhat old-fashioned. It is preferable to use italics to give your essay the appearance of a finished, polished product.

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Last Update: 20 March, 2003