The MLA author element

According to MLA citation style (eighth edition), the author or creator of a source appears first in the reference in the Works Cited list, and usually also in the in-text citation.

  • David, Miriam E. Reclaiming Feminism: Challenging Everyday Misogyny. 1st ed., Bristol University Press, 2016.
  • In a recent study …(Miriam 8)

The author element is formatted differently when a source has multiple authors, an organization as author or no author at all.

MLA multiple authors

For each source, order the authors as they appear in the source itself. For the example of two authors below, Naomi Oreskes’ name is listed first, ahead of Erik M. Conway’s, even though this is not alphabetical order. These rules apply to all types of source, including journal articles, websites and books.

Number of authors MLA Works Cited example MLA in-text citation example
1 author Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. Tim Duggan Books, 2019. (Wallace-Wells 11)
2 authors Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway. The Collapse of Western Civilization. Columbia University Press, 2014. (Oreskes and Conway 84)
3 or more authors Armstrong, Anne K., et al. Communicating Climate Change: A Guide for Educators. Cornell University Press, 2018. (Armstrong et al. 127–139)

Note: for the above examples we have applied the basic format for MLA references and in-text citations. For more information on other elements of the MLA citation style and more complex examples, see our MLA Citation Quick Guide.

Author order and punctuation

One author: Place the last name first followed by a comma then the first name.

Two authors: Follow the same convention for the first author before reversing the order for the second author (i.e. first name first, surname second). The second author has no comma in between their first and last names.

Three or more authors: List only the first author, as per the same convention as for sources with one author, followed by “, et al.

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MLA citation no author

If you are citing a source with no author, begin the reference with the title of the work and then follow the same format as usual. You also use the title to alphabetize the Works Cited list.

Works Cited list:
Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2012.

In text:
Bitcoin is defined as: “A type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank” (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

Citing collections by editors

When citing an entire collection or anthology, focus on the editor(s) rather than the authors, but follow the same format as usual. The only difference is you must add “editor(s)” after the name(s) in the Works Cited reference. Do not include “editor(s)” in the in-text citation.

Works Cited list:
Wissenburg, Marcel and David Schlosberg, editors. Political Animals and Animal Politics. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014.

In text:
In recent years, the debate surrounding animal ethics and the relationship with politics has increased in prominence (Wissenburg and Schlosberg 18).

Note, however, that it is more common to cite a specific chapter or work in a collection instead of the whole book.

Citing introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords

If you wish to focus your citation on an introduction, preface, foreword or afterword in a source, list the author of this section first, followed by the name of the section you are citing. The author of the work goes between the source title and the publisher name.

Works Cited list:
Lima, Daniel. Preface. 101 Tips for Developers in Technology Startups, by Heudon Reinaldo, Scribbr, 2019.

In text:
There are specific challenges for technology startups to overcome (Lima. Preface).

MLA citation corporate authors

You may encounter sources created by corporate authors, such as institutions, government agencies and other kinds of organizations. In this case, follow the same convention as for one author but use the name of the organization in place of the author name.

When citing corporate authors, do not include “The” before the name of any organization.

Works Cited list:
U.S. Global Change Research Program. The Climate Report: National Climate Assessment — Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States. Melville House, 2019.

In text:
Just under 40% of the United States population, a total of 123 million people, resides in a coastal county (U.S. Global Change Research Program ch. 9).

In this example, the publisher is separate from the organization. Sometimes, an organization is both the author and the publisher. In this situation:

  • Skip the author element
  • Start the citation with the source title
  • List the organization as the publisher only

Publications from government agencies

If you are citing a publication from a government agency, start with the name of the government and follow with the name of the agency. Always arrange the entities from largest to smallest.

Works Cited list:
Great Britain, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Genetically Modified Organisms: List of Deliberate Release Sites. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 2019.In text:
More than 30 sites have been approved for the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for research and development purposes (Great Britain, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).

Titles, hyphenation and suffixes

In MLA, omit titles, affiliations and degrees that follow or precede the names of source authors. For example, Sir Walter Scott would be listed as Scott, Walter.

If a source author has a name with an essential suffix, such as Jr. or a roman numeral, include this at the end of the name. For example, Rockefeller, John D., IV.

If a source author has a hyphen in their name, keep the hyphen exactly as it appears in the authoritative section of the work.

Pseudonyms and simplified names

When writing in MLA, it is acceptable to use pseudonyms and simplified names of famous authors. Commonly accepted pseudonyms and simplified names include:

  • Dante Alighieri → Dante
  • Mary Ann Evans → George Eliot
  • Samuel Clemens → Mark Twain

Foreign-language names

Names from languages outside the Latin alphabet, such as Chinese or Russian, may vary in spelling. If this is the case, find the most authoritative variant (i.e. the variant favored by an authoritative source, such as an academic or government publication) and apply that throughout your Works Cited list and in-text citations.

Asian languages

In Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, the author name will often appear with the surname first, followed by the first name. In this case, do not include a comma between the surname and first name when creating the source reference, as the name is already inverted.

Example format in source Example format in source reference
Surname first Gao Xingjian Gao Xingjian
Surname second Kenzaburo Oe Oe, Kenzaburo


The various articles in French have different rules, which can even depend on the number of syllables in the name.

Article Rule Example
de — names with multiple syllables
  • Keep with first name
  • Do not capitalize
Maupassant, Guy de
de — names with one syllable
  • Keep with last name
  • Do not capitalize
de Gaulle, Charles
de — in English-language contexts*
  • Keep with surname
  • Capitalize
De Quincey, Thomas
  • Keep with surname
  • Do not capitalize
d’Arcy, Pierre
  • Keep with surname
  • Capitalize
Du Bos, Charles
  • Keep with surname
  • Capitalize
Des Periers, Bonaventures

*English-language context means when the author writes in English but happens to have a French name.


For German names, von is usually considered part of the first name. For example, Kleist, Heinrich von.

However, in an English-language context, the von stays with the surname. For example, Von Trapp, Maria.


For Italian names, da, de, del, della, di and d’ are capitalized and treated as part of the surname. For example, Di Costanzo, Angelo.


For Spanish names, de is not treated as part of the surname. For example, Rueda, Lope de. However, del stays with the surname and is always capitalized. For example, Del Rio, Angel.

You may come across some Spanish authors whose surnames include more than one word. Often these authors are commonly known by one part of their surname, but you must include the entire last name — and alphabetize according to that — in your Works Cited list. For example, Garcia Lorca, Federico (commonly known as Lorca).

Latin and Roman

For Roman names, use the most common English version. For example, Julius Caesar (Gaius Julius Caesar). In the Works Cited list, you can include the full name in parenthesis.

Is this article helpful?
Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).


Joseph Housey III
March 12, 2021 at 5:48 AM

What if you have an author with two last names, but isn't Spanish and isn't hyphenated? Example, Jane Hunter married Elaine Bailey. She goes by Jane Hunter Bailey. Should it be cited Bailey, Jane Hunter?


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 2:54 PM

Hi Joseph,

In cases of double-barreled surnames like that, the two names should both be treated as part of the surname, whether or not they're hyphenated, as long as you're sure that both are surnames. So in your case it would be "Hunter Bailey, Jane."


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