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
Longer written works include books, full-length plays, films, longer musical compositions, and periodicals.
Incorrect (speaking of the musical): I like Oklahoma.
Incorrect: I like "Oklahoma."
Correct: I like Oklahoma. OR
I like Oklahoma.
(The title of a longer work is italicized or underlined.)
Correct: I liked Macbeth, but not Macbeth.
(I liked the play Macbeth, but not the character of that name.)
Correct:Time magazine carried a review of Blade Runner, the film based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
(The periodical, film, and book title are all italicized or underlined. Note that the question mark is italicized also because it is part of the title.)
Titles of radio and television series as well as works of art are underlined or italicized.
Correct: Rodin's The Thinker Correct: We used to watch reruns of Gilligan's Island. Correct: My favorite Star Trek episode is "The Trouble with Tribbles."
(Note the last one--the series is italicized; the episode is in quotation marks.)
See also Underlining and Italicizing, Italicized Names, and Titles with Quotation Marks.
If an italicized or underlined name or title appears in the title of a work or some other writing which is otherwise italicized or underlined, the writer has a choice:
1.Normally the specific item reverts to standard type. This is always done in bibliographies and formal references.
Example:A Commentary on Piers Plowman2. Or you may italicize or underline the title or otherwise italicized or underlined writing without regard to the further italicized words. This may be necessary to avoid confusion.
(Book title contains name of another book)
Example:A Commentary on Piers Plowman helped me understand that medieval work.
(Using the style of #1 for this would be more likely to confuse the reader.)