Here is the basic format for citing books in your Works Cited:
In other words, there are only four elements that are essential. Beyond these four, you can add other information where relevant. For example, you can add a translator or editor, an edition, an original publication date, and so forth.
Here is how the same information is organized in our container chart:
Note that the final comma becomes a period in our actual citation.
Now that we know the basic format, let’s move on to some variations.
For two authors, keep the same order as they are listed in the source. Invert the first only:
Smith, John, and Bob Jones. Living with Mediocrity: The Challenges of Being Average. Quixotica Press, 2016.
For three or more authors, use the Latin abbreviation et al. (meaning and others):
Fudge, Phoebe, et al. The Theology of Chocolate. Epicurean Publications, 2013.
If there is no author for a work, simply start with the title.
If the book has an editor instead of an author, cite it as follows:
Yawn, Esther, editor. The Causes of Boredom: A Collection of Essays. Etcetera Press, 2017.
If a book has an author and editor, cite it as follows:
McDermott, Louisa. The Reproductive Cycle of Meerkats. Edited by Henry Hammer, Reproduction Press, 2015.
First cite the individual essay, chapter, poem, or other contribution. Then add the collection title as the container:
Noseworthy, Edward. “Indie Music and American Identity.” Contemporary Indie Music, edited by Alex Sharp, McCord Press, 2017, pp. 87-103.
Puidgemont, Juan. “Revolutionary Catalonian Soccer Commentators.” Collected Essays from the 20th Conference of Catalonian Soccer Historians, edited by Hendrik Cruyff, Ole Press, 2015, pp. 33-44.
Witty, Lisa. “A Poem for Lazy Perfectionists.” Anthology of Wisconsin Comic Poetry, Frank Uptight, general editor, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Risible Press, 2019, pp. 9-10.
If the selection is of significant length or weight (e.g., a play in a drama anthology), you can italicize the title.
Here is how you cite an introduction, preface, foreword, afterword, or any other similarly titled section:
Jackson, Deirdre. Introduction. The Priapic Value of Prefaces, by Jacques Derriere. Phallocentric Press, 1973, pp. vi-xxvi.
Pick whatever descriptive term is appropriate. If there is a unique title, then cite that instead:
Cement, Louis. “Biscuits and Graves: Watson’s Southern Aesthetic.” The Collected Poems of Earl T. Watson. Northwesterly UP, 2010, pp. vii-li.
If the text includes both a title and a label, cite both, but treat the label as supplemental information:
Piemaker, Cindy. “Egging On.” Preface. A Memoir of Baking Pies for Politicians, by Liberty Jones, Protest Press, 2021, pp. vi-viii.
If the author of the introduction or afterword is the same as the author of the work, then omit the first name later in the entry:
Whopper, Ernest. Epilogue. The True History of Lying, by Whopper, Truthiness Press, 2015.
Comic books—or graphic novels, as hipsters call them—are often part of a series. This makes them a bit like articles in a journal. Cite the title of the comic first and then add the series title and the issue number:
Splash, Paige. A Trail of Slime. Slugman, no. 8, Gutter Press, 2016.
If the issue and the series share the same title, then you need only cite it once:
Lascaux, Yves. Caveman. No. 1, Old Time Comics, 2002.
Should the comic book become part of a collection, you would add another container:
Splash, Paige. A Trail of Slime. 2016. The Complete Slugman, edited by Michael Omnibus, vol. 4, Gutter Press, 2017.
There are of course many other elements you could include. In particular, you might add other contributors (artists, letterers) as well as the original publication details (if the publisher of the collection has changed). Here is one example:
Lascaux, Yves. Caveman. Illustrated by Bertha Bush, lettering by Jean Old, no. 1, Old Time Comics, 2002. Neolithic Comics, edited by Frank Fly, vol. 1, Renaissance Reprints, 2011-15.
You can cite a reference work as a whole, or you can cite an individual entry. In the latter case, use quotation marks for the title of the selection you have used:
Ham, Sam. “Wildlife.” The Encyclopedia of Veganism. 2nd ed., Vinaigrette Publications, 2011, pp. 21-22.
Information about what edition you have used can be included in the container:
Shackleton, Kitty. Fifty Great Hikes in or near Antarctica. 22nd ed., Edgeworth Press, 1999.
Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace. Edited by Ivan Hadinov, abridged version, Pocket Book Press, 2009.
For more information, about editions, see the section on versions.
A work may be published in multiple volumes. Typically you would cite just the single volume you have consulted.
If this is the first information you have for the container, start with a capital:
Devereux, Bob, editor. The Secret Correspondence of Elizabeth I. Vol. 5, Essex Press, 1991.
Fielding, Annabel, editor. Famous Defamation Suits from Britain and France. Revised ed., vol. 7, Subpoena Press, 2001.
For more information about citing volumes, see the section on number.
In some cases you may want to provide the original publication date. This supplemental information comes right after the title and before the first container:
Lively, William. The Spanish Comedy. 1598. Edited by Karen Sondheim, Oxbridge UP, 2014.
For books published prior to 1900, you are allowed to provide the city of publication rather than the publisher:
Murdoch, William. Four Constabulary Cases Selected for the Edification of the General Public. Toronto, 1897.
This is especially useful when you cannot find the publisher’s name.
There is no need to cite an author for the Bible. Be sure to cite the version you have used:
The Bible. New Emphatic Diaglot Version, Wilson Press, 2015.
If you accessed the Bible online, you can indicate that:
The Bible. New Emphatic Diaglot Version, Wilson Press, 2015. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.
Common Bible translations include the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the English Standard Version.
A dissertation is cited just like a regular book, except that it typically lacks a publisher. You can add the university and a brief description as supplemental information at the end:
Alford, M. L. Citation Guidelines and Rates of Depression at Welsh Universities. 2013. Post Hoc Institute, PhD dissertation.
If the institution includes the word university, shorten it to U.
For more information about citing books, see the MLA Handbook (9th ed.), especially the examples at the back.