Let's say I am citing a person called Emilia Di Martino. How would she go in my MLA reference list?

Possibilities I can think of:

Martino, Emilia di.
Martino, Emilia Di.
Di Martino, Emilia.

And how would I refer to her work inline?

2 Answers 2


One thing to keep in mind is that there is a substantial difference in several continental languages between uppercase and lowercase versions of a last name: it is wrong to write "de Martino" if the person's last name is normally written "De Martino." This is a historical artifact, where the use of the capital letter indicates nobility, while the lowercase letter denotes a more traditional relationship. Similar rules apply to "von" in German and "van" in Dutch, but not to "de" in French or Spanish.

Therefore, when capitalized, the particle should always be treated as part of the last name. If lowercase, you can treat it as a suffix that goes after the first name. The exception are names like "de Gaulle" where "de" is followed by a one-syllable name.

So, it's:

Beethoven, Ludwig van

Clausewitz, Carl von

de Gaulle, Charles

Di Martino, Emilia

Martino, Emilia di

Maupassant, Guy de

Van Allen, James

My source is the MLA Handbook.

  • 9
    Following this rule requires that you know the nationality of the author, or at least their last name. My Dutch colleague Mark de Berg is properly alphabetized under B, but my British colleague Vin de Silva is properly alphabetized under D. (Yes, his last name starts with a lower case letter.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 1:20
  • 1
    You'll have to take it up with the MLA, then. It's their rule, not mine.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 9:06
  • 3
    I am afraid that the upper/lower case rule for “de/di” in Italian surnames is expressed backwards here. To quote linguist Luca Serianni, «si oscilla con de, di che propriamente richiederebbero la d minuscola quando introducono un predicato nobiliare: duchi d'Alba, Antonio di Rudini; la D negli altri casi: Di Maria, De Amicis» («the use is irregular as regards de, di, which properly would require a lower d when prefixing a nobility title: dukes d'Alba, Antonio di Rudini; a D in all other cases: Di Maria, De Amicis»).
    – DaG
    Commented May 3, 2015 at 8:47
  • 5
    And anyway, giving a general answer encompassing arbitrary languages is doomed to be wrong: every language has its rules.
    – o0'.
    Commented May 3, 2015 at 13:32
  • 1
    I do not understand why "de" should be kept or dropped based on the number of syllables in the surname. Is there any reasonable explanation?
    – user21820
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 20:49

I searched her name in Google Scholar and the first paper "CLIL implementation in Italian schools..." includes a footnote on how to cite it:

Di Martino, E. & Di Sabato, B. ...

So, in short "Di Martino" is the surname and cite/use it as such.

  • How do you know that this is not another house style that's been used? Are you sure this is MLA? Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 18:44
  • 1
    In this case, it doesn't matter, because "Di" is an inseparable prefix (as opposed to "di"). But see my answer below for more information.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 19:13
  • @bram-vanroy's You are right to note that I did not check the MLA (read the question so quickly that I missed that part!) so my answer was not regarding the MLA style, but rather regarding how the author considers her surname should be written.
    – cabad
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 22:20
  • An answer by Dave that should have been a comment: "The "Google" result has nothing to do with the author's preferences necessarily!"
    – Tommi
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 9:16
  • 2
    @TommiBrander Dave should read better before critiquing other people's answers. I did not say "Google" suggests citing it that way. I said I Googled the author and downloaded one of her papers AND, the paper, written by her, clearly indicates how to cite the paper.
    – cabad
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 17:06

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