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Titles of Books, Plays, Articles, etc.: Underline? Italics? Quotation Marks?


Prior to computers, people were taught to underline titles of books and plays and to surround chapters, articles, songs, and other shorter works in quotation marks. However, here is what The Chicago Manual of Style says: When quoted in text or listed in a bibliography, titles of books, journals, plays, and other freestanding works are italicized; titles of articles, chapters, and other shorter works are set in roman and enclosed in quotation marks.

Below are some examples to help you:

Example:
We read A Separate Peace in class. (title of a book)

Example: That Time magazine article, “Your Brain on Drugs,” was fascinating.
Note that the word “magazine” was not italicized because that is not part of the actual name of the publication.

Example: His article, “Death by Dessert,” appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

Note that the and magazine are both capitalized and set off because the name of the publication is The New York Times Magazine.

Newspapers, which follow The Associated Press Stylebook, have their own sets of rules because italics cannot be sent through AP computers.

Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, at 2:33 am

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246 Comments on Titles of Books, Plays, Articles, etc.: Underline? Italics? Quotation Marks?
How to Write Book and Movie Titles

When I teach grammar seminars, a subject that almost always comes up is: How do you write book and movie titles? Do you put them in quotation marks? Do you italicize them? Do you underline or even capitalize them?

And, whenever I hear this question, I’m always struck by the facial expressions of the people in the room. The students are really, really interested. It’s clear that the issue has troubled them for a long time. They can hardly wait to hear the answer.

So I tell them what I consider good news: There’s no right or wrong way. It’s just a matter of style. Then I pause to watch their faces light up with joy and relief. But that’s not what happens. The inquisitive expressions don’t fade because they didn't want to hear “Don’t sweat it.” They wanted more specific instruction. So here’s what I tell them.

News style harkens back to the days when printing presses were like dinosaurs: huge, clunky, and destined for extinction. Most couldn’t make italics. So newspapers put book and movie titles into quotation marks.

<<The actors in “Star Wars” went on to have varying degrees of success.>>
<<Johnny read “War and Peace” in school.>>

Magazine titles they just capitalize, skipping the quote marks.

<<Jane writes for the Time and Newsweek.>>

Book publishers, which have a greater need to print things like tables and charts and excerpts, have had a greater need for flexible printing options, including italics. So, because they can, they skip the quotation marks and just italicize those titles instead.

<<We read The Road.>>

Book publishers also italicize magazine titles, but put article titles and chapter titles in quotation marks.

If, like the people in those grammar seminars, you need a thorough how-to, just consult a style guide. Or you could just pick one way, saying using quotation marks, and stick with it. Either way, there’s no need to worry you're doing it wrong.

Tags: PUNCTUATION, STYLE

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