UoPeople president wins "Nobel Prize of Education" Learn More
UoPeople president wins "Nobel Prize of Education" >>
Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students
Do You Italicize Book Titles? Essay Secrets Revealed
When you’re writing a scholarly article or writing in a professional setting, you want to make sure that your grammar and style is meeting the required expectations. There may be a chance you’re writing about a book you’ve read or citing sources in a research paper . If you’ve ever found yourself wondering things like, “Do you italicize book titles or underline them?” or “How do I cite shorter pieces of work properly?” then keep on reading!
We are going to give you all the details on when it’s correct to use italics, along with how to emphasize other types of reference material.
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Do you italicize book titles.
The general rule of thumb is to use italics for long works and quotations for short work.
But depending on the format you’re meant to adhere by, the rules may vary. For example, you may be instructed to write according to the APA style, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style. You should follow the rules dictated by the guidelines.
- Modern Language Association (MLA): Used in arts and humanities
- American Psychological Association (APA): Used in social sciences
- Associated Press Stylebook (AP): Used for magazines, newspapers, and internet
- Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago): Used from publishing to science, one of the most popular styles
For MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style, you should use italics for long works and quotations for short works.
For AP style, however, you never use italics for pieces of work — no matter the length. Additionally, the APA style neither uses quotation marks or italics for shorter works. Instead, it expects them to be written as normal text.
Sometimes, the choice of style may be up to you as a writer. If that’s the case, then it’s best to stay consistent throughout your work with your usage of italics, underlines and quotation marks.
Short Works: How to Emphasize Titles of Shorter Pieces of Work
When you are making reference to a title of an article or a chapter in a book, you shouldn’t put it in italics. Instead, you can use quotation marks to emphasize these smaller pieces of work. This is the same rule for titles of episodes of shows.
Do You Italicize Punctuation in Titles?
When a piece of work includes punctuation, like a question mark for example, that part of the title should be italicized, too. For example, you’d write, “I love the book Oh the Places, You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.”
However, when you are writing and using italics in a sentence for emphasis or within a parenthetical, then you do not italicize the punctuation.
Exceptions For Emphasizing Titles
Like with most aspects of English, there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is when you have a book that is a collection of various novel titles, like Lord of the Rings . In this case, you’d put the title of the specific books in quotation marks, but you’d keep the title of the collection in italics.
Additionally, when the word “the” is part of a title, you do not italicize it. For example, it’s correct to write the New York Times .
How To Capitalize Properly
Titles have special formatting and capitalization rules. For example, you only capitalize the first word and all main words in a title.
You do not capitalize articles, such as “a,” “an” or “the.” For example, you’d write: War and Peace instead of War And Peace .
When to Use Quotations Instead
There are very specific cases for when you should elect to use quotation marks for the titles of works as opposed to italics. Use quotations for:
- Articles in journals or magazines
- Short stories
- Book chapters
- Television episodes
Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash
Examples of correct usage of italics.
Here’s a list of examples to help for reference sake:
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (movie title, notice that articles are lower case)
- The Cat in the Hat (book title)
- “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (song title)
- “How Pandemics End” (article title)
- The New York Times (newspaper title)
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” (a short story)
Knowing when to italicize or use quotation marks is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It may depend on the writing format you’ve been instructed to write in.
However, a general rule of thumb to follow is that longer pieces of work, like books, require italics, whereas shorter pieces of work, like poems or articles, will be written with quotation marks.
Italics and Underlining: Titles of Works
There was a time when we didn’t have extensive formatting options for typed documents. Today, writers use underlining, italics, bold text, and quotation marks to emphasize certain words. The words that often get emphasized are names of ships or planes, words used as themselves, foreign words, and titles of books, movies, songs, and other titled works.
Are book titles italicized?
Yes, book titles are italicized. Longer works like books, movies, and music albums use italics in their titles, but shorter works like articles, poems, and songs use quotation marks. Different style guides have different standards for italics and quotation marks, so you’ll need to learn which to use.
Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is polished wherever you write.
Your writing, at its best Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly
Titles of full works like books or newspapers should be italicized.
Titles of short works like poems, articles, short stories, or chapters should be put in quotation marks.
Titles of books that form a larger body of work may be put in quotation marks if the name of the book series is italicized.
How to emphasize book titles
The way you format titles isn’t really governed by grammar rules. It’s a matter of style. If you want to, you can emphasize whatever you want, however you want—but that could make your writing nearly unreadable. Consistency is also very important for emphasis, which is why businesses, institutions, and publications look to style guides.
Book titles are usually put in the same category as other big, standalone, or complete bodies of work like newspapers, symphonies, or publications. Style guides that prescribe the use of italics, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the AMA Manual of Style , say that titles of such works should be put into italics when appearing in text.
Some writers still use underlining if italicizing is not an option, but generally it’s considered outdated. You should also note that these guidelines apply to titles that appear in a text and are surrounded by other words. Titles at the top of the page or on the front cover don’t require italics or underlining. Their separation from the rest of the text is already enough to get the reader’s attention. You don’t have to italicize the title of your thesis, for example, when it appears on the cover.
How to emphasize titles of smaller pieces of work
Let’s say you want to write the title of an article or book chapter. Should you italicize it? For shorter pieces of work or works that don’t stand alone but are part of a greater whole, you should use quotation marks for titles . See the examples below:
Punctuating titles can cause trouble for some writers, but the rule is actually quite simple: If the punctuation is part of the title, include it in the italics or quotation marks. If it’s not part of the title, make sure it’s outside the italics or quotation marks.
In the first sentence, the title itself is a question, so the question mark is italicized as part of the title. In the second sentence, however, the title is not a question; rather, the sentence as a whole is a question. Therefore, the question mark is not italicized.
Exceptions for emphasizing titles
The rules for emphasizing titles may seem straightforward, but there are exceptions. What happens if you have more than one title, for instance? If you have, say, a collection of novels in one book (let’s take, for example, all three Lord of the Rings books in one handy paperback), the title of the collection would be italicized or underlined, and the titles of the three books would then be put in quotation marks.
Note that if the title contains ending punctuation marks, those should be included within the quotation marks. If a punctuation mark is used in the sentence containing a title, periods and commas should go inside the ending quotation mark, while question marks and exclamation points should go outside the ending quotation mark.
If you have two titles in one sentence (for example, a book title and a chapter title), the title of the larger work should be italicized, and the smaller work should be in quotation marks. See the example below:
You would also do this with episodes from TV shows:
Up for some exercise? See if you can emphasize the titles in the following sentences:
I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over the summer.
Have you read Humble Origins to Classic Footwear, Espadrilles Endure on the Newsweek website?
Is Paradise Lost a poem?
The final part of Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, was my favorite.
You only get so much information about Harry from reading A Boy Who Lived.
A Boy Who Lived is the first chapter of the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
When writing a paper, do I use italics for all titles?
Simply put: no .
APA's Publication Manual (2020) indicates that, in the body of your paper , you should use italics for the titles of:
- "books, reports, webpages, and other stand-alone works" (p. 170)
- periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
Beyond APA's specific examples, know that certain types of titles are almost always written in italics.
A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work.
The table below isn't comprehensive, but it's a good starting point
On an APA-style reference page , the rules for titles are a little different. In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page. However, a title you'd place in quotation marks within the body of the paper (such as the title of an article within a journal) will be written without italics and quotation marks on the references page.
Here are some examples:
Smith's (2001) research is fully described in the Journal of Higher Education.
Smith's (2001) article "College Admissions See Increase" was published in the Journal of Higher Education after his pivotal study on the admissions process.
Visit the APA Style's " Use of Italics " page to learn more!
- Reading and Writing
- Last Updated Jun 12, 2022
- Views 2095338
- Answered By Kate Anderson, Librarian
- Share on Facebook
- Nice, quick, concise listing. Good format to save for quick reference by AlonzoQuixano on May 14, 2015
- Thank you so much for the information. It was so helpful and easily understandable. by mary woodard on Jun 29, 2015
- Is it the same for MLA writing? Thanks Sara, Librarian: Lesa, Rasmussen College doesn't teach or focus on MLA for students. But if you have specific MLA formatting questions, I recommend you take a look at the MLA FAQ website here: https://www.mla.org/MLA-Style/FAQ-about-MLA-Style by Lesa D.W on Dec 04, 2015
- What about the name of a community program, for example Friend's Read. Would you use quotations or italics? Sara, Librarian: Adriana, great question. for organization or program names in the text of a paper you don't need to use italics or quotation marks. Just capitalize the major words of the organization or program like you did above with Friend's Read. by Adriana on Apr 11, 2016
- Thank you for this posting. I am writing a paper on The Crucible and, surprisingly, I couldn't find on the wonderfully thorough Purdue Owl APA guide whether titles of plays are italicized or in quotes. by J.D. on Apr 18, 2016
- this was really helpful, thank you by natalie on Dec 11, 2016
- thank you so much, this is very helpful and easy to understand. by Mendryll on Jan 24, 2017
- Thank you! I am also wondering, do you capitalize only the first word of the title when using it in the text of your paper, like you are supposed to do in the references list? Or do you capitalize all the "important" words like usual? Sara, Librarian Reply: Ashley, within the text of your paper you should capitalize all the important words like you normally would. Thank you for your question! by Ashley on Dec 04, 2017
If a book title within an essay title is not italicized in the source, should I italicize it in my works-cited-list entry?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .
Yes. A title within a title should be styled according to the guidelines in section 1.2.4 of the MLA Handbook , regardless of how a title within a title is styled in the source.
For example, the title of an essay about Gone with the Wind is styled in EBSCOHost as follows:
“Painfully Southern”: “Gone with the Wind,” the Agrarians, and the Battle for the New South
Since Gone with the Wind is the title of a novel, if you were to include this essay in your works-cited list, you would set it in italics instead of enclosing it in quotation marks:
Adams, Amanda. “‘Painfully Southern’: Gone with the Wind , the Agrarians, and the Battle for the New South.” Southern Literary Journal , vol. 40, no. 1, Fall 2007, p. 58. EBSCOHost Connection , connection.ebscohost.com/c/literary-criticism/28439869/painfully-southern-gone-wind-agrarians-battle-new-south.
- Features for Creative Writers
- Features for Work
- Features for Higher Education
- Features for Teachers
- Features for Non-Native Speakers
- Learn Blog Grammar Guide Community Academy FAQ
- Grammar Guide
Do You Italicize Book Titles?
Back in the day, before the internet and blue underlined words meant links to other websites, students were taught to underline the titles of books, magazines, plays, songs, movies, and other titled works. Nowadays, people expect underlined words to be links that take them to even more informative content, so the rules have changed.
Now, in most instances, you italicize book titles, songs, and other full-length works like movies. However, you’ll still find some style guides that require writers to put them in quotation marks. It makes sense to always determine how you’re expected to designate titles of works.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of style and who you’re writing for should tell you the style guide they adhere to, like The Chicago Manual of Style or the AMA Manual of Style . There is no one singular source that governs how to handle titled works. It’s up to you to find out if your source uses the AP guidelines which dictate quotation marks around book titles or another style guide that italicizes.
What if your source doesn’t specify a style guide?
What if a source you’re citing doesn’t italicize published works, default ways to quote books, plays, articles, songs, etc., final thoughts.
Some publications don’t adhere to one style guide over others. If that’s the case, you can ask the editor what his or her preference is, or you can simply pick one way and stick to it across all articles and content. It’s more about consistency than following a style, so if you italicize a book title on page 12 of your article, you better italicize another book title on page 23 later on.
As a writer, your job is to be consistent so you turn in the most professional looking copy across all fronts. Editors will go through your content and make sure you’re consistently using italics or quotation marks for published works titles, but it makes their jobs easier if they’re only looking for the occasional divergence rather than having to implement the correct style from scratch.
Again, it comes down to consistency. If a source you’re citing doesn’t italicize published works, but you’ve chosen that style for your content, you need to stick with it.
For example, say you’ve researched online sources through your library and are referring to the classic book Gone With the Wind . You’re using italics to designate published works in your content, but the source you’re citing uses quotation marks. Stick with your style choice, not the source’s. In this case, regardless of how the source you’re citing sets published works apart, you’ve used italics, so that’s what you stick with.
Italicize longer published works. Use quotation marks for shorter works like chapters, articles, poems, etc. Here are a few examples.
We read A Raisin in the Sun in English class this year. (Title of a play.)
The Wall Street Journal article, "NASA Opens Space Station to Tourists and Businesses," is fascinating. (Title of a publication is italicized while an article in it is set off by quotation marks.)
If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame , you’re missing one of the best superhero movies out there. (The title of the movie is italicized.)
I thought the chapter, "Why Mornings Matter (more than you Think)," in The Miracle Morning for Writers was the most powerful. (Chapter titles are set off by quotation marks while book titles are italicized.)
Save underline in your digital content for links to other websites. Don’t confuse readers by underlining book titles as well.
Instead, italicize the titles of published works, and put shorter works in quotation marks. (Unless you’re following the AP Style Guide; they don’t use italics.)
To sum it up, follow the style guide your editor recommends. If he or she doesn’t have a style guide, choose one way and follow it consistently across all your work. Present your most professional work by sticking to a single style; only amateurs are all over the place.
Be confident about grammar
Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.
Kathy Edens is a blogger, a ghost writer, and content master who loves writing about anything and everything. Check out her books The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing and Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore... or Despise.
Get started with ProWritingAid
Drop us a line or let's stay in touch via :
MLA Style Guide, 7th Edition: Titles
- About In-text Citations
- In-text Examples
- How to Paraphrase and Quote
- What to Include
- Editors, Translators, etc.
- Publication Date
- Place of Publication
- Date of Access (when needed)
- Book with Personal Author(s)
- Book with Editor(s)
- Book with Organization as Author
- Work with No Author
- Parts of Books or Anthologies
- Multi-Volume Works
- Journal Article
- Newspaper Article
- Magazine Article
- Government Publication
- Web Publications
- Other Common Sources
- Formatting Your Paper
- Formatting Your 'Works Cited' List
- Annotated Bibliography
General Rules for Titles in Works Cited List (in progress)
In general, the title of a work is taken from the title page of the publication. Refer to section 3.6.4 of the MLA Manual for more about titles and quotations within titles. Section 3.6.5 discusses exceptions to the rules.
- Rules for capitalizing are strict. Capitalize all principal words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.). Do not capitalize articles, prepostions, or conjunctions when they fall in the middle of a title.
- Separate a subtitle with a colon and a space.
- Italicize titles of larger works like books, periodicals, databases, and Web sites.
- Use quotation marks for titles published in larger works like articles, essays, chapters, poems, Web pages, songs, and speeches.
Book titles are italicized.
- Writing Matters: A Handbook for Writing and Research (book)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God
- All the Pretty Horses
Chapter title in a book or anthology
The book title is italicized ; the title of the article or essay is enclosed in quotations.
Henderson, Carol E. "Refiguring the Flesh: The Word, the Body, and the Rituals of Being Loved in Beloved and Go Tell It on the Mountain ." Critical Insights: Toni Morrison . Ed. Solomon O. Iyasere and Marla W. Iyasere. Pasadena: Salem P, 2010. Print.
Beloved and Go Tell It on the Mountain (book titles) remain italicized in the article title.
Journals and Magazines
The title of the periodical (journal, magazine, or newspaper) is italicized. The title of the article or work is enclosed in quotations.
Danport, Sandra. " A Study of Malawian Households." Journal of Developing Areas ...
Gardiner, Andy. "Stanford Could Lose QB, Coach." USA Today ...
The title of the periodical (journal, magazine, or newspaper) is italicized. The title of the article or work is enclosed in quotations. Omit any introductory article in the newspaper title for English-language newspapers ( Palm Beach Post, not The Palm Beach Post ). Retain the article in non-English language newspapers ( Le monde ).
The title of the work is italicized if the work is independent. The title of the work is enclosed in quotation marks if it is part of a larger work. The title of the overall Web site is italicized if distinct from the the title of the work.
Park, Madison. "How Does a Baby Get To Be Obese." CNN.com ....
Salda, Michael N., ed. The Cinderella Project ...
- << Previous: Publication Date
- Next: Editions >>
- Last Updated: Dec 11, 2020 4:39 PM
- URL: https://irsc.libguides.com/mla7
Do You Italicize Book Titles? And Other Title Conundrums
by Alice Sudlow | 41 comments
Italics, quotation marks, underlines, plain old capital letters—when it comes to writing titles, the rules can feel like a confusing mess. Do you italicize book titles? What about movie titles?
And for goodness' sake, what should you do with pesky things like TV shows, short stories, or YouTube videos?
With so many different kinds of media, it's easy to get lost in all the rules. Plus, the rules can vary depending on which style guide you use. The Modern Language Association (MLA) follows a certain set of grammar rules, APA style another, and the Chicago Manual of Style outlines yet another. It's important to determine which style guide you'll use, then follow the rules for that specific style.
The good news is, when it comes to the use of italics, MLA, APA, and Chicago style share many commonalities. Let’s demystify these italics, shall we?
One Rule of Writing Titles
There are two ways we typically indicate titles: by italicizing them, or by putting them in “quotation marks.” We’ll get into the nuances of each in a moment. But let’s start off with one core principle:
Italicize the titles of works that are larger, like the titles of books, albums, and movies. For shorter works, like a journal article title, song title, or a poem title, use quotation marks.
For example, you would italicize the name of the book, like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , but you wouldn't italicize the book chapter titles, like “The Worst Birthday” and “Mudbloods and Murmurs.” Chapter titles go in quotation marks.
For some kinds of media, like book titles, the rules are clear. For others, like YouTube videos, they’re a little fuzzier.
Whatever kind of media you're working with, examine it through this principle: italics for large works; quotation marks for small or shorter works.
This principle will help you navigate those areas of uncertainty like a pro.
When Do You Italicize a Title?
Always italicize the titles of larger works such as books, movies, anthologies, newspapers and magazines. Additionally, newer media, such as vlogs and podcasts, may be italicized.
What are other examples of large works? I’m glad you asked.
A large work might be:
- A book , like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
- A movie , like The Dark Knight
- An anthology , like The Norton Anthology of English Literature
- A television show , like Friends
- A magazine , like The New Yorker
- A newspaper , like The New York Times
- An album , like Abbey Road
This principle holds true for newer forms of media, too, like:
- A vlog , like Vlogbrothers
- A podcast , like This American Life
The short answer: Do you italicize book titles? Yes.
When Do You Use Quotation Marks?
What do anthologies, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, vlogs, and podcasts all have in common? They’re all comprised of many smaller parts.
When you’re writing the title of a smaller work, put it in quotation marks. A small work might be:
- A short story , like “The Lottery”
- A poem , like “The Road Not Taken”
- An episode of a TV show , like “The One With the Monkey”
- An article in a magazine or newspaper , like “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years”
- A song , like “Here Comes the Sun”
- An episode of a vlog , like “Men Running on Tanks and the Truth About Book Editors”
- An episode of a podcast , like “Just What I Wanted”
- A webpage , like “Do You Italicize Book Titles? And Other Title Conundrums”
What About a Series of Books?
It's straightforward enough to capitalize the title of a standalone book, like Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice . But what if you're referencing a book series?
In this case, each individual book title is italicized: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone , Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , etc.
The title of the series, though, is not italicized: the Harry Potter series.
What About Punctuation?
Do you italicize commas? Question marks? Exclamation points?
If the punctuation is part of the title, then yes, it too is italicized. For instance, every comma in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is italicized.
If the punctuation is not part of the title, though, be sure to turn off italics before you type it! Here's an example:
“What do you think of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ?” “I love it! Also, Oklahoma! is one of my favorite musicals.”
Note that in the first example, the question mark is not italicized. In the second, the exclamation point is italicized because it's part of the title of the musical.
Do You Underline Titles? And Other Ways to Indicate Titles
We haven’t always used italics to indicate titles. Before word processing developed italics that were easy to type and easy to read, the titles of larger works were underlined. Since handwriting italics is difficult, underlining the titles of larger works is still an acceptable notation in handwritten documents.
As our communication evolves, so has our ways of indicating titles. If you’re writing a post on Facebook, for instance, there’s no option to italicize or underline. In situations where neither is an option, many people use ALL CAPS to indicate titles of larger works.
Be Clear and Consistent
Here’s the secret: in the end, all these rules are arbitrary anyway, and different style guides have developed their own nuances for what should and shouldn’t be italicized or put in quotation marks. If you're writing something formal, remember to double-check your style guide to make sure you're following their guidelines.
Remember, though, that ultimately, the only purpose for these rules is to help the reader understand what the writer is trying to communicate. Do you italicize book titles? Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a dissertation or a tweet, be clear and consistent in the way you indicate titles.
If you hold to that rule, no one will be confused.
Are there any kinds of titles you’re not sure how to write? Let us know in the comments .
Need more grammar help? My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid . Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20
Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »
Your prompt: two friends are discussing their favorite media—books, podcasts, TV shows, etc. Write their conversation using as many titles as you can (and indicating them correctly!).
Pro tip: to italicize a title in the comments, surround the text with the HTML tags <em></em>.
Write for fifteen minutes . When you’re done, share your practice in the Pro Workshop here , and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
Not a member? Join us here .
Alice Sudlow is the Editor-in-Chief of The Write Practice and a Story Grid certified developmental editor. Her specialty is in crafting transformative character arcs in young adult novels. She also has a keen eye for comma splices, misplaced hyphens, and well-turned sentences, and is known for her eagle-eyed copywriter skills. Get her free guide to how to edit your novel at alicesudlow.com .
Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts :
Book Writing Tips & Guides Creativity & Inspiration Tips Writing Prompts Grammar & Vocab Resources Best Book Writing Software ProWritingAid Review Writing Teacher Resources Publisher Rocket Review Scrivener Review Gifts for Writers
You've got it! Just us where to send your guide.
Enter your email to get our free 10-step guide to becoming a writer.
You've got it! Just us where to send your book.
Enter your first name and email to get our free book, 14 Prompts.
Want to Get Published?
Enter your email to get our free interactive checklist to writing and publishing a book.