Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Alphabetizing Your  MLA Works Cited List


You finally have your research paper finished and your sources created into entries and now you can start putting it all together. You’re almost done. Alphabetizing your MLA Works Cited list is easy as it follows the letter by letter method. Read on to understand how this method works when you’re dealing with multiple authors, no author or other cases.

Student Alphabetizing MLA Works Cited List

List Items Alphabetically 

The first step is to list each item alphabetically by the author’s last name. Use the letters that appear before the commas that separate the last and first names of the author (s). If two or more last names are the same, then move forward to the first names.

Ignore spaces and other punctuation marks. Here is an example of basic letter by letter alphabetization of last names.

Descartes, Rene
De Stefa, Alonzo
MacDonald, Ronald
McCullers, Alvin
Morris, Thomas
Morris, Zachary
Morrison, Jim
Saint-Exupery, Antoine de
St. Anton, Beth

Ignore diacritical marks such as accents and special characters such as the @ preceding a username (@angelface). For example, the accented letter ś is the same as s and the letter n with a tilde ñ are considered the same.

Unknown Author

Alphabetize the entry by the title if the author’s name is unknown. Also, use the title if it’s published by an organization or if the work is a television show, film or other work. If the work focuses on a particular person, use that person’s name, otherwise, use the title.

Multiple Works and Multiple Authors

Single Author, Multiple Works

List the entries alphabetically by title.

Place three hyphens (—) in place of the author’s name in the second and subsequent entries, followed by a period.

Use the title to alphabetize works by the same author. Ignore his/her respective role in the production of the work. For example, if a person’s role is the writer on one work and the editor on another, disregard the role.

Do not substitute three hyphens for a single author who is also listed in another work with multiple authors. Type the author’s name out in full.

The three hyphens are usually followed by a period and then by the source’s title. If the person named performed a role other than creating the work’s main content, place a comma after the three hyphens and enter a term describing the role (editor, translator, director, etc).

Multiple works by coauthors

If two or more entries citing coauthors begin with the same name, alphabetize by the last names of the second authors listed.

Scott, Robert, and Robert Kinney
Scott, Robert, and Eric E. Rakim

To document two or more works by the same coauthors whose names appear in consistent order in the works, give the names in the first entry only. Then in place of both names, type three hyphens, followed by a period and the title.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar, editors. The Female Imagination and the Modernist Aesthetic. Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1986.

—.”Sexual Linguisitics: Gender, Language, Sexuality.” New Literary History, vol. 16, no. 3, Spring 1985, pp. 515-43. /STOR, www.jstor.org/stable/468838.


If the co- authors do not appear in the same order, record the names as found in the works and alphabetize the entries accordingly.

Alphabetizing by Title

When no author is named at the start of the entry, the title determines the placement on the works-cited list.

Alphabetize letter by letter, ignoring articles A, An, The, in any language. An Encyclopedia of the Latin American Novel would be alphabetized by E not A.  And alphabetize Le theatre en France under t rather than L.

If the title begins with a numeral, alphabetize as though it was written out. 1984 should be alphabetized as nineteen eighty-four.

If you start feeling confused, just remember to follow the letter by letter alphabetizing method. Go back and re-read these rules and you’ll do just fine.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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