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MLA Writing Style

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Names of Persons in Prose

Generally, peoples' names should be capitalized the first time they are stated in your work. After that, surnames alone may be used. Famous people that are well-known (such as famous authors: Shakespeare, Cervantes), can be referred to with surnames, even within the first reference. When you use someone's name fully, write or type it exactly as it appears in your source. 

     Ex.: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

     Ex.: Ramón del Valle-Inclán


Last names (surnames) should retain their particles* (sometimes capitalized, sometimes not, follow how it is written in your source). When composed of more than one element, they are usually shortened to the last element. For hyphenated names, use the full last name. 

Examples of Surnames:

Full Name 

Surname (Last name used alone)

James Fenimore Cooper Cooper
Don DeLillo  DeLillo
W.E.B. Du Bois Du Bois
Harriet Beecher Stowe Stowe
Cormac McCarthy McCarthy
Walter de la Mare de la Mare

*a particle is part of a name that that can either denote nobility (present: 'Du' or historically: 'du'), or place. Ex.: Marie de France ("Marie of France")


In French, de, when following a given name or title-- Mme, or duc --is not part of the surname. 

Full Name Last Name (surname)
Guy de Maupassant Maupassant
Etienne de la Boetie Boetie

When the last name is one syllable however, the de is retained.

Full Name Last Name
Charles de Gaulle de Gaulle

When d' appears next to a vowel, it remains as a part of the last name.

Full Name Last Name (surname) 
Pierre d'Arcy d'Arcy

Also, the words du and des are always used with the last name, and are capitalized.

Full Name Last Name (surname) 
Charles Du Bois Du Bois



In German, the word von typically is not used as part of the surname.

Full Name Last Name (Surname)
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff Droste-Hülshoff
Heinrich von Kleist Kleist

In an English-language context, von is used as part of the surname. 

Full Name Last Name (Surname)
Wernher Von Braun Von Braun
Maria Von Trapp Von Trapp



The Italian words da, de, del, della, di, and d' are capitalized and treated as part of the surname.

Full Name Surname alone
Gabriele D'Annunzio D'Annunzio
Lorenzo Da Ponte Da Ponte
Oreste Del Buono Del Buono

The names of members of historic families are usually referred to in abbreviated form with last name only, minus the participle.

Full Name Surnames Alone
Lorenzo de' Medici Medici



The Spanish de is not usually treated as part of the last name.

Full Names Surname Alone
Salvador de Madariaga Madariaga
Lope de Rueda Rueda

The Spanish del is capitalized and treated as part of the surname.

Full Name Surname Alone
Angel Del Rio Del Rio

A Spanish surname may include the paternal and maternal last names. The surname of a married women includes her paternal and husband's last name, connected by de. Consult a biographical dictionary for guidance. 

Full Name Surname Alone
Juan Carreño de Miranda Carreño de Miranda
Gabriel García Márquez García Márquez
Pero López de Ayala López de Ayala

Authors known by the maternal portion of their last name should be referred by their full surname.

Full Name Surname Alone
Federico García Lorca García Lorca



Use the forms of Roman names that are most common in English. 

Full Name Common Name
Marcus Tillis Cicero Cicero
Titus Livius Livy
Publius Ovidius Naso Ovid


Asian Languages

In Asian languages, the last name comes before the given name.

Name in Source Last Name Used Alone
Gao Xingjian Gao
Ariyoshi Sawako Aryoshi
Yi Mun-yol Yi

However, some names follow a Western name order. Consult a reference work--author or publisher website, or another knowledgeable scholarly source. 


Full Name                               L

Haruki Murakami                    Murakami

Premodern Names

People who lived during the Middle Ages and Renaissance are referred to generally by their first names, since often, last names came from a place-name. After giving their full name when first referencing them, then they may be referred to by first name only. 

Full Name First Name Used Alone
Christine de Pizan Christine
Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey
Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo

But people whose surnames are family names, and not place-names, get referred to by their last name after the initial, full-name reference in your paper. 

Full Name Last Name
Giovanni Boccaccio Boccaccio
Geoffrey Chaucer Chaucer

Consult a reference work on how to spell out certain premodern names.

Titles with Personal Names

Do not use titles (Dr., Captain, Mr. Mrs., Ms.) with personal names, even when the title is mentioned in the source being cited. The exception is nobility; consult a reference work, or follow the source example for inclusion or exclusion of title. 


Suffixes with Personal Names

Use suffixes that denote essential parts of the name--such as generational indicators--as part of the full name. Only use a comma before suffixes like Jr. or Sr.. Do not use a comma before numbered suffixes. 

     Ex.: John D Rockefeller IV

            Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In prose, use a comma after jr. and/or sr. suffixes if words follow them. 

     Ex.: On 20 January 2021 Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., became the the forty-sixth president of the United States. 

Given Names and Personal Initials

Capitalize given names of people, as well as their initials, if used. Use a period and space after each initial unless the name is entirely initials. 

     Ex.: Octavia E. Butler

            George R.R. Martin

             V. S.  Naipaul


When a first name is hyphenated, keep the hyphen when using initials by themselves.

     Ex.: Jean-Paul Sartre

            J.-P. Sartre

Names of Fictional Characters

Fictional characters are spelled the same way as they are in the text.

     Ex.: Dr. Jekyll

            Frodo Baggins (or Frodo)

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