MLA Author Names – Citing Authors Correctly

10.02.23 MLA citation & referencing Time to read: 7min

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MLA, or Modern Language Association, provides guidelines on how to write author names in various ways, making it essential to grasp these nuances for a successful academic journey. This guide offers valuable insights into formatting MLA author names while citing sources, accompanied by several illustrative examples.

MLA Author Names – In a Nutshell

An author is a person credited with the work you are sourcing. Sometimes, the ‘author’ element may also be a performer, translator, or editor. In this guide, we discuss the following:

  • How MLA author names appear
  • How to cite multiple MLA author names in one source
  • Writing MLA author names from sources with corporate authors, foreign language names, and other contributors

Definition: MLA author names

  • Using the MLA citation style, you write the page number and author’s last name in brackets.
  • If the source has two authors, write the names of the two writers.
  • However, if the authors are three or more, only write the first author’s name and the words “et al.”
  • The author is usually the original composer for visual or audio sources like songs and paintings.

Remember that MLA author names vary between the MLA Works Cited list and the MLA in-text citation.

For the Works Cited list, invert the first author’s name and then write the surname followed by the first name. In comparison, you will only write the authors’ surnames for the MLA in-text citation, as shown in the table below:

Number of MLA Authors MLA Works Cited Example MLA In-Text Citation Example
1 author Courtois, Charles A. (Courtois 76)
2 authors Martin, Columbus G., and Michael Christopher (Martin and Christopher 98)
3+ authors Smith, Doe J., et al. (Smith et al. 10-12)
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MLA author names: Sources with multiple authors

Writing MLA author names appear differently for the Works Cited list and In-text references. However, for each source, ensure you list the MLA author names in the way they appear and not in alphabetical order.

Works Cited

  • Here, invert the first MLA author. Write the last name, followed by a comma, then the first name, and end with any middle initials—if they are relevant. However, do not invert the second MLA author’s name when two authors exist.
  • When citing works done by three or more authors, write the first author’s full name inverted, comma, and then write “et al.,”


Courtois, Charles A.


Smith, Doe J., et al.

In-text references

You can name the author in the main text or brackets when using MLA in-text citations. If the source has two MLA authors, cite both last names and separate them using “and.”

If your source has three or more MLA authors, only write the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” when your citation appears in brackets. In comparison, write “and others” or “and colleagues” instead of “et al.” when you cite your sources in the main text, as shown in the table below:

Number of Authors The author referenced in brackets The author referenced in the main text
2 authors (Martin, Columbus G., and Michael Christopher 98) As Martin and Christopher illustrate… (98).
3+ authors (Smith et al. 115) As mentioned by Smith and colleagues… (115).

MLA author names: Sources with corporate authors

Corporate authors like government agencies, institutions, and other organisation s have some reference sources. Here, the credit does not go to an individual author but to the organisation , so credit the work to the organisation ’s name. Avoid articles like “the”, “an”, or “a” when referring to organisation or corporate MLA author names.


MLA Works Cited with corporate authors:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Data and Statistics.” 29 Mar. 2022.

In-text citation with corporate authors

Data is collected on the type of medications, provider, primary diagnoses, and the existence of stable conditions. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

In some situations, an organisation may write and publish a piece of work. While citing this source in MLA, do not list the organisation in place of the author. Instead, cite the “source title” and include the organisation as the “publisher.”

Government agencies

When citing sources from a government agency, start with the government’s name and follow it with the agency’s name. Ensure you arrange all entities from the largest to the smallest when writing MLA author names. Additionally, in-text citations require you to write names longer than four words.


Works Cited with the government as the author

U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State. “Climate Crisis – United States Department of State.” 2 Nov. 2022.

In-text citation with the government as the author

More than 190 countries gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022 for the 27th annual U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27). (U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

Double surnames, hyphens, suffixes, etc.

  • When writing MLA author names for a writer with two surnames, use both of their surnames.
  • If the author’s name has a hyphen, write it the same way it appears in the source.
    Exclude affiliations, degrees, and titles when writing MLA author names.
  • Some authors have essential suffixes that set them apart from their family members, such as “Jr.” or roman numerals. In these cases, include the suffixes at the end of the name.


Works Cited: Garcia Lorca Federico

In-text citation: Garcia Lorca


Dr. Martin Luther à Luther, Martin.


John D. Rockefeller IV appears à Rockefeller, John D., IV.

Pseudonyms and shortened names

When an author chooses to publish their works under different names, these names are called pseudonyms. Use a consistent MLA author name to list all the author’s works if they have a pseudonym or a shortened version of their name.

Some commonly accepted pseudonyms and shortened MLA author names include:

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

MLA author names: Other contributors

If your source includes another contributor other than the author, cite their names in the author position and specify their role (translator or performer). However, do not write this role in the in-text citation when including MLA author names.


The Best American Essays 2014, edited by Robert Atwan, Houghton, 2014, pp. 150-61.

Editor of a collection

For MLA author names, cite the author of a specific work or chapter if the work is an edited collection. When citing the whole anthology or collection, include the editors in the author position and specify their roles. However, do not write this role in the in-text citation.


Edinburg, Marcel and James Schlosberg, editors. Politics and Animal Nature. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2017.

Foreign-language names

Some languages do not use the Latin alphabet, so they have names that vary in spelling. When citing MLA author names here, find an authoritative source like a government or academic publication and apply it throughout your in-text citations and Works Cited.
Here is how to format MLA author names in some of the common foreign languages:

Asian languages

Names in Asian languages, like Japanese and Korean, write their surname first, then the first name. Since these names are already inverted, exclude a comma when citing your source references.


Yaeong-Nam Kim à Kim Yaeong-Nam


French has various articles with different rules and may depend on the syllables present in a name. Their MLA author names may appear as follows:

Article Rule MLA Author Names Example
De – multiple syllables Keep with the first name and do not capitalize Theroux, Louis de
De – One syllable Keep with the last name and do not capitalize de Gaulle, Christopher
De- in English language context* Keep with the surname and capitalize De Laurel, Brian
d’ Keep with the surname and do not capitalize d'Arcy, Periers
du Keep with the surname and capitalize Du Bos, Clancy
des Keep with the surname and capitalize Des Pierre, Peters

*The author is writing in English but has a French name.


For German author names, “von” is considered part of their first name. However, “von” stays with the surname in the English language context and when writing MLA author names,


Elizabeth Von Trapp à Von Trapp, Elizabeth


Capitalize “da”, “de”, “del”, “della”, “d‘”, and “di” for Italian author names and write them as part of the surname.


Angelo Di Marco à Di Marco, Angelo.


In Spanish names, “de” is not part of the surname, e.g., Rosales, Lope de. However, capitalize and include “del” with the surname for MLA author names, e.g., Del Castro, Angel. Include all the surnames for Spanish authors with multiple surnames.


Federico Lopez Morales à Lopez Morales, Federico.

MLA author names: No author

Sources that do not specify the work’s author should start with the work’s title. In the in-text citation, abbreviate the title to the first noun phrase if it has more than four words. Additionally, ensure the first word of the phrase matches the first word of the Works Cited entry for all MLA author names.


Works Cited

“U.S. election 2020: A really simple guide.” BBC News, 28 Oct. 2020,

In-text citation

Everyone tried to reduce interruptions during the final presidential debate (“U.S. Election 2020”).

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The acceptable MLA entry may include the following elements where relevant:

  • Author
  • Title of the Container
  • Title of the Source
  • Other contributors
  • Number
  • Version
  • Publisher
  • Publication date
  • Location

Author names establish unique public profiles, are essential for attribution purposes, and enhance research. Though some authors have pseudonyms, their names must appear consistently in the same version throughout their research and academic careers.

The author’s name of the person who contributed most to a particular work should start. The overall contributions of the other authors determine the sequence you follow.