Grammar Titles of Books, Plays, Articles, etc.: Underline? Italics? Quotation Marks? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

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.

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

18 responses to “Titles of Books, Plays, Articles, etc.: Underline? Italics? Quotation Marks?”

  1. Rita Lynn Seward says:

    How do I show that I’m referring to a book when posting on Facebook? I use my smart phone.

    I know the correct way is to underline or use italics but I can’t do this with my phone.

  2. Emily says:

    How do you deal with titles that end in a question mark? For example, how would you punctuate the following:

    In my dissertation, entitled “How should I punctuate this?”, I investigate the elusive title-question-combo punctuation issue.

    Are there any grammar guides that provide a definitive answer to this question?

    • This is a sticky one, especially in American English, where (as we state in Rule 4 of Quotation Marks) “Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks.” We know of no definitive answer, but we’ll venture some possibilities:

      Since a dissertation could qualify as a book-like work, one solution could be to use italics: In my dissertation, titled How should I punctuate this?, I investigate the elusive title-question-combo punctuation issue.
      If you had more than one dissertation, the title could be considered essential information: In my dissertation How should I punctuate this? I investigate the elusive title-question-combo punctuation issue.
      In my dissertation titled “How should I punctuate this?” I investigate the elusive title-question-combo punctuation issue.

      Although looking a bit awkward, an option that would satisfy both our Rule 6 of Commas, “If something … is sufficiently identified, the description that follows is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas,” as well as Rule 4 of Quotation Marks mentioned above: In my dissertation, titled “How should I punctuate this?,” I investigate the elusive title-question-combo punctuation issue.

  3. Jamie P. says:

    Should the title of a prophecy (e.g. The Prophecy of Applewood) be italicized or underlined?

  4. David Williams says:

    I am in the UK but I am working on material that will be published in American English. I came to this page looking for guidance on the use of single versus double quotation marks. In British English in the examples you have given, it would be common to use single quotation marks. Is the single quotation mark never used in American English, except to enclose quotes within a quotation? Is there a different pattern for content that will be published on the Internet, as I believe that single quotation marks are easier to read on a screen?

    Thank you in advance.

  5. Jean says:

    Which one is correct?

    TPC Semi-Annual Report (this one looks correct to me)

    TPC Semiannual Report (this one looks odd, but I think it’s the correct one)

    Help please!

  6. William V. Miller, M.D. says:

    For example: Required Fields of Delphi

    • You have not specified what sort of title this is. If it is a subheading within a document, it may not require underlining, italics, or quotation marks. Depending on the formatting used in the document,
      you might use bold or larger font.

  7. Ora says:

    Are quotation marks necessary around the title of an Oracle?
    As in: There is an ancient prophecy called, The Oracle of Blah Blah Blah.

    If so, are quotes necessary whenever the Oracle of Blah Blah Blah is mentioned in the document? Or, are first letter caps okay?
    Finally, Is it necessary to also capitalize the “T” in the Oracle of Blah Blah Blah?
    Thank you.

  8. Ptaps says:

    What is the AP style preference for mentioning an article in text? I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t seem to find a straight answer. I understand that publications are in initial caps but what about individual articles?

    For example: In his article titled, “The Cookie Monster’s Favorite Cookie,” he mentions that the Cookie Monster does not like peanut butter.

    Are the quotes around the article title in line with AP style?

  9. Gwen Schnell says:

    Let’s say in a writing, for example,
    “I am going to the store,” Sally said. “Ok, I will see you later.” Said Billy

    Should Billy’s comment be on the line with what Sally said or under what Sally said?
    And should it be Sally said or said Sally and the same with Said Billy?

    • When a new speaker speaks, you should start a new paragraph. The word said can come either before or after the name. In your second sentence there should be a comma after the word later and a period after the word Billy. The word said should not be capitalized.
      “I am going to the store,” Sally said.
      “OK, I will see you later,” said Billy.

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