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Quotations Or Underline Essay Title

Which Titles Are Italicized and Which Are Enclosed in Quotation Marks?

by Tina Blue

January 4, 2001

There are only a few simple rules to follow when deciding how to punctuate a title that occurs within a body of prose.

NOTE:The title of an article or essay is not enclosed in quotation marks, italicized or underlined at the top of the page. The reason for punctuating a title that occurs in a body of prose is to set it off and to identify it as a title. When the title of an article or an essay appears over the article, its position is sufficient to identify it as the title.

ITALICS

     ~Italics are used primarily to punctuate the titles of full-length works that are published separately.  There are also a couple of specialized uses for italics with titles.

1. The titles of book-length works that are published separately are italicized. This includes books, full-length plays, if published separately, and long poems, if published separately:
Novel:  One Hundred Years of Solitude
Play:  Death of a Salesman
Long Poem:  Paradise Lost

     2. The titles of works that include shorter works are italicized. This includes anthologies and collections of songs, poems, short stories, short plays, and essays.

    3. The titles of newspapers and magazines are italicized.

    4. Technically, the titles of movies and television shows should be italicized, because individual scenes and episodes may have their own titles, which would be enclosed in quotation marks. The influence of newspaper reviewers, however, has undermined this principle, so you are likely to find the titles of movies and television shows enclosed in quotation marks.

    5. The names of ships, trains, airplanes and spacecraft are italicized, but not H.M.S. or U.S.S.:

U.S.S. Nimitz
H.M.S. Pinafore 
Starship Enterprise
Orient Express

QUOTATION MARKS

  ~Quotation marks are used to punctuate titles of short works and parts of other works--i.e., titles of those works that are not published separately.
1. Chapter titles are enclosed in quotation marks (but not chapter numbers).
2. The titles of short stories are enclosed in quotation marks.
3. The titles of short poems are enclosed in quotation marks.
4. The titles of newspaper and magazine articles are enclosed in quotation marks.
5. The titles of essays are enclosed in quotation marks.
6. The title of a longer work that would be italicized if it were published separately (e.g., Paradise Lost or a play) would be enclosed in quotation marks if the work is included in a longer collection or anthology. For example, a collection of works by John Milton might be entitled The Complete Works of John Milton, and the title of the poem Paradise Lost or the drama Samson Agonistes, though they would usually be italicized, would be enclosed in quotation marks when reference was being made to the edition of which they were merely a part.

UNDERLINING

Long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, people had to type their work, or even write it out longhand. Unless you had your own printing press, you couldn't do italics. Therefore, when something needed to be italicized, that fact was represented by underlining. In other words, underlining something is equivalent to italicizing it, so it is not proper to both italicize and underline a title. (And, as with italics and quotation marks, titles are not underlined at the head of an essay or article.)

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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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