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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Remember, All About Writing is here to help with writing, editing and proofreading. We can see you through your writing project, start to finish, and we never mind providing advice when writing questions arise. As always, all of our services offer a free, half-hour, in-person consultation in the Howell area to address any questions or concerns about your project.
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-by Christa Riddle
Titles of works
The titles of certain works are indicated with quotation marks, others with italics, and yet others with regular type.
The style presented here is consistent with The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.), and is appropriate for most academic and professional writing. Newspapers tend to favor quotation marks in place of italics for most titles.
Titles set in italicsTitles in quotation marksTitles set in regular typeBlogs Books Cartoons or comic strips Journals Legal cases Magazines Musical albums Musical compositions identified by name Newspapers Online databases (MLA: italicize; Chicago: regular type) Operas Paintings Plays Poems (long) Radio shows Sculptures Television shows Websites (MLA: all; Chicago: some) Articles in magazines, journals, newspapers, and encyclopedias Blog entries Chapters in books Episodes of television shows Essays Photographs Poems (short) Short stories Songs Unpublished manuscripts, speeches, dissertations, theses, and lectures Awards Musical compositions not identified by name Political documents Scriptural works (including the Bible) Sections, books, and prayers within scriptural works Works of antiquity