Writing author names in MLA

In MLA style, up to two authors are included in a citation. For sources with more than two authors, the citation is shortened with “et al.

In the Works Cited list, the first author’s name is inverted (surname followed by first name). In an in-text citation, only surnames are included.

Number of authors Works Cited example In-text citation example
1 author Wallace-Wells, David. (Wallace-Wells 11)
2 authors Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. (Oreskes and Conway 84)
3+ authors Armstrong, Anne K., et al. (Armstrong et al. 127–139)

The author element specifies the main creator of the source. For audiovisual sources, this may be the director, composer, or painter, for example. The author may also be an organization.

If no author at all is specified, start your citation with the source title instead.

Sources with multiple authors

For each source, list the authors in the order they appear in the source itself (not in alphabetical order).

Multiple authors in the Works Cited

The first author’s name is always inverted. The last name comes first, followed by a comma, then the first name (and any middle initials, if relevant).

When there are two authors, the second author’s name is not inverted:

2 authors in an MLA Works Cited entry
Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. The Collapse of Western Civilization. Columbia UP, 2014.

When there are three or more authors, only list the first author, followed by a comma and “et al.”:

3+ authors in an MLA Works Cited entry
Armstrong, Anne K., et al. Communicating Climate Change: A Guide for Educators. Cornell UP, 2018.

Multiple authors in in-text citations

In an MLA in-text citation, you may name the author either in parentheses or in the main text.

When there are two authors, simply cite both surnames, separated by “and”.

When there are three or more authors, cite the first author’s surname followed by “et al.” if the citation appears in parentheses. If you cite in the main text, instead of “et al.”, write “and colleagues” or “and others”.

Number of authors Author named in parentheses Author named in the text
2 authors (Oreskes and Conway 84) As Oreskes and Conway illustrate… (84).
3+ authors (Armstrong et al. 127) Armstrong and colleagues suggest that… (127).

Sources with corporate authors

Sometimes sources are created by corporate authors, such as institutions, government agencies, and other organizations, with no individual authors credited. In this case, simply cite the name of the organization in place of the author name.

When citing corporate authors, omit articles (the/a/an) at the start of organization names.

Works Cited entry with corporate author
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 citation with corporate author
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, do not list the organization as author. Instead, start the citation with the source title, and 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.

Note that in the in-text citation, you should abbreviate names longer than four words.

Works Cited entry with government agency as author
Great Britain, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Genetically Modified Organisms: List of Deliberate Release Sites. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 2019.
In-text citation with government agency as author
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).

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Sources with no author

If a source does not specify any author, begin the reference with the title of the work. In the in-text citation, if the title is longer than four words, abbreviate it to the first noun phrase, and ensure that the first word matches the first word of the Works Cited entry.

Works Cited entry with no author
“U.S. Election 2020: A Guide to the Final Presidential Debate.” BBC News, 21 Oct. 2020, www.bbc.com/­news/­election-­us-­2020-­54620868.
In-text citation with no author
In the final presidential debate, efforts were made to reduce the amount of interruptions (“U.S. Election 2020”).

Citing contributors other than authors

Some sources are created by many different people. If your discussion of the source focuses on the contribution of someone other than the main author (e.g. when analyzing an actor’s performance or comparing translations of a text), you may cite them in the author position with a label specifying their role (e.g. performer or translator). Don’t include this label in the in-text citation.

Works Cited entry with performer as author
Johansson, Scarlett, performerUnder the Skin. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, BFI / Film4, 2013.

Citing the editor of a collection

Usually, when citing an edited collection, you should cite the author of the specific chapter or work. However, if you want to cite an entire collection or anthology, cite the editor(s) in the author position, followed by a label specifying their role. Don’t include the label in the in-text citation.

Works Cited entry with editor as author
Wissenburg, Marcel and David Schlosberg, editors. Political Animals and Animal Politics. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014.

Double surnames, hyphens, titles, and suffixes

If an author has more than one surname, include all of them in the surname position. For example, Federico Garcia Lorca would be listed in the works cited as Garcia Lorca, Federico, and in an in-text citation as (Garcia Lorca).

If there is a hyphen in the author’s name, keep the hyphen exactly as it appears in the source.

Do not include titles, affiliations, and degrees in source citations. For example, Sir Walter Scott would be listed as Scott, Walter.

If an author has a name with an essential suffix (one that distinguishes them from identically named members of the same family, such as “Jr.” or a roman numeral), include this at the end of the name. For example, John D. Rockefeller IV would be listed as Rockefeller, John D., IV.

Pseudonyms and simplified names

When writing in MLA, it is acceptable to use pseudonyms and simplified names of famous authors. It’s usually best to list all of an author’s works under one consistent name, even if different names appear in the sources themselves.

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 that do not use 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

French

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
d’
  • Keep with surname
  • Do not capitalize
d’Arcy, Pierre
du
  • Keep with surname
  • Capitalize
Du Bos, Charles
des
  • Keep with surname
  • Capitalize
Des Periers, Bonaventures

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

German

For German names, von is usually considered part of the first name. However, in an English-language context, the von stays with the surname. For example, Von Trapp, Maria.

Italian

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

Spanish

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 with more than one surname. 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).

Frequently asked questions about authors in MLA

How do I cite a source with multiple authors in MLA?

In MLA Style, if a source has two authors, name both authors in your in-text citation and Works Cited entry. If there are three or more authors, name only the first author, followed by et al.

Number of authors In-text citation Works Cited entry
1 author (Moore 37) Moore, Jason W.
2 authors (Moore and Patel 37) Moore, Jason W., and Raj Patel.
3+ authors (Moore et al. 37) Moore, Jason W., et al.
How do I cite a source with no author or page numbers in MLA?

If a source has no author, start the MLA Works Cited entry with the source title. Use a shortened version of the title in your in-text citation.

If a source has no page numbers, you can use an alternative locator (e.g. a chapter number, or a timestamp for a video or audio source) to identify the relevant passage in your in-text citation. If the source has no numbered divisions, cite only the author’s name (or the title).

If you already named the author or title in your sentence, and there is no locator available, you don’t need a parenthetical citation:

  • Rajaram argues that representations of migration are shaped by “cultural, political, and ideological interests.”
  • The homepage of The Correspondent describes it as “a movement for radically different news.”
What information do I need to include in an MLA Works Cited entry?

A standard MLA Works Cited entry is structured as follows:

Author. “Title of the Source.” Title of the Container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

Only include information that is available for and relevant to your source.

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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!).

2 comments

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?

Reply

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."

Reply

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