Ask the MLAworks-cited list
How do I cite song lyrics?
The way you cite song lyrics will vary depending on how you access them and how much information you include in the body of your essay.
If you cite song lyrics from a CD you listened to, you might simply refer to the song in your essay:
“You say you got a real solution,” the Beatles sing in “Revolution 1.”
You can then provide a works-cited-list entry for the album that contains the song. Follow the MLA template of core elements: list the name of the performer or band as the author, the name of the album as the title of the source, the publisher, and the date. In the optional-element slot at the end of the entry, list the format:
If you cite song lyrics from a booklet accompanying the CD, list a description in the “Title of source” slot and the name of the album as the title of the container:
The Beatles. Booklet. The Beatles, EMI Records, 1968.
If you cite lyrics from a Web site, provide a description in place of the title. Then provide the name of the Web site, publication information for the site, and the URL:
The Beatles. Lyrics to “Revolution 1.” Genius, 2017, genius.com/The-beatles-revolution-i-lyrics.
Published 11 October 2017
I love music. I’ve been teaching myself to play guitar, and I can stumble my way through four or five songs without wanting to poke holes in my eardrums, but my main appreciation for music is when other people play it. I’m an avid Spotify user, and I take a lot of pride in my ability to make kickass playlists. One of my girlfriends has even given me the green light to create her hypothetical wedding reception playlist.
So obviously, when I write about a song or album, I know when to use quotation marks and when to use italics. Let’s discuss.
Photo by Jo.Anne11
Here’s how it works:
Song Titles in “Quotes”
Song titles are always surrounded by quotation marks, like *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” or “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin.
Album Titles in Italics
Album titles, on the other hand, are always italicized. For example, while I will openly admit to loving Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully,” I think pretty much every song on their Greatest Hits album should be sung at karaoke nights across the country.
Other Italics Questions
Of course, lots more media have titles than just songs and albums. There are books, short stories, podcasts, TV shows, episodes . . . the list goes on and on. Want more italics advice? Check out our ultimate title-writing guide for answers to all your italics conundrums.
Sunday night was the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and I don’t know if you were paying attention, but the Spice Girls were there and dancing it up (well, except for Posh).
Take fifteen minutes and write about the hypothetical conversation the ladies of the group had in determining the songs they would play for the ceremony (or any other band in any other situation is fine too). Post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for other writers brave enough to publish as well.
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.