Properly Punctuating Titles
Properly punctuating titles of literature, music, art, movies, and other works can be confusing, and the rules aren’t always consistent from resource to resource regarding this topic. Also, since mistakes are prevalent, we are so used to seeing the wrong punctuation that it actually looks right!
Here are some helpful hints on how to properly punctuate titles using capitalization, italics, underlining, and quotation marks.
Step 1, Capitalize Titles Correctly!
Although rules regarding correct title capitalization vary greatly, here are a few pointers to stand by: Capitalize the first and last word in a title and every word in the title except articles and prepositions. Some suggest capitalizing prepositions five letters or more in length, and I agree with this simply because it looks better (hence, my business name is All About Writing instead of All about Writing).
Capitalizing involves only the first letter of the word, of course.
When to Use Italics: Titles of Larger Works
Italics indicate the title of a major or larger work. Use italics for titles such as books, novels, magazines, journals, newspapers, and book-length poems, collections and anthologies; CDs, albums, ballets, operas, and longer, classical music compositions; television series, plays, movies, and films; video games; websites; and works of art and art exhibits.
Just remember, the title of any piece that stands alone as a single, unified work should be italicized.
What About Underlining?
In general, underlining and italics are used interchangeably, so the above rules for italics also apply for underlining.
However, when using the computer or typing, italics should always be used. Underlining should replace italics in handwritten projects only, as who has mastered the art of writing in italics so that it is legible and noticeable?
When to Use Quotation Marks: Titles of Smaller Works
Since quotation marks are tiny, you can remember that they are used for smaller works within the larger work or collection. Use quotation marks for titles of poems, short stories, book chapters, and articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers; and songs, single television episodes, and commercials.
It is important to be consistent throughout your writing with properly using italics versus quotation marks. Writing handbooks (Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, APA, and many others) vary in their rules for capitalizing and punctuating titles. Certain writing projects mandate using one writing handbook’s format over the others, so for academic work, please check with your professor as to the preferred handbook to use for your writing, citation, and punctuation guidelines.
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-by Christa Riddle
Formatting titles gives some writers a headache. Should the title of songs, stories, movies, books, screenplays, etc. be in italics or quotes? When you’re trying to remember if you’re supposed to use underlining or italics or quotation marks for titles, here are a few simple rules from Writer’s Relief.
Remember that people used to type their work or write it longhand. When titles needed to be italicized, italics were represented by underlining. These days, many people avoid underlining to minimize confusion between words that are underlined and hyperlinks.
1) Underlining and italics serve the same purpose. Never do both. Do NOT use quotation marks, underline, or italics together.
2) For any work that stands on its own, you should use italics or underline. (Stories or chapters from within a book are considered PARTS of the book.)
3) A work that is part of a larger work goes in quotation marks.
4) No quotation marks around titles of your own composition.
Books: Italics or Underline
CDs: Italics or Underline
Articles (Newspaper or Magazine): Quotation Marks
Chapter Titles (not chapter numbers): Quotation Marks
Magazines, Newspapers, Journals: Italics or Underline
Names of Ships, Trains, Airplanes, Spacecraft: Italics
Poems: Quotation Marks
Poems (Long): Underlined or Italics
Short Stories: Quotation Marks
Song Titles: Quotation Marks
Special Phrases (“let them eat cake”), Words, or Sentences: Quotation Marks
Television Shows and Movies: Italics
Television and Radio Episode Titles: Quotation Marks
Knowing when to use quotes, italics, or underlining can be difficult. Writer’s Relief proofreaders can help you proofread your creative writing submissions to be sure your titles are properly formatted.
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