MLA Style Guide, 7th Edition: About MLA
- About In-text Citations
- In-text Examples
- How to Paraphrase and Quote
- What to Include
- Editors, Translators, etc.
- Publication Date
- Place of Publication
- Date of Access (when needed)
- Book with Personal Author(s)
- Book with Editor(s)
- Book with Organization as Author
- Work with No Author
- Parts of Books or Anthologies
- Multi-Volume Works
- Journal Article
- Newspaper Article
- Magazine Article
- Government Publication
- Web Publications
- Other Common Sources
- Formatting Your Paper
- Formatting Your 'Works Cited' List
- Annotated Bibliography
About this Guide ...
Always refer to the MLA Manual for authorized examples of citations.
Some of the citations in this guide are taken from the MLA Manual; others are recommendations from IRSC librarians.
Always ask your instructor for specific directions pertaining to your assignment.
A copy of this manual is available in all IRSC campus libraries.
The standard citation style guide for the humanities, especially languages and literature, is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th edition, 2010. The American Modern Language Association (MLA) publishes the manual. It is commonly referred to it as the "MLA Manual".
The English departments at IRSC recommend MLA format for papers written in these fields.
Two types of citations are included in most research papers: citations within the text of the document and a list of reference citations at the end of the paper.
In-text citations appear in the body of your paper. They identify your use of an idea from one of your sources. The MLA Manual uses the author-page citation system for in-text citations.
Information about the sources you use in your work are included as a separate list at the end of the paper. The MLA Manual suggests using the title, Works Cited , for the list.
Any source information that you provide in an in-text citation must correspond to a source in your Works Cited page.
Note on Web Publications
MLA no longer requires URLs in MLA citations. However, your instructor may wish you to include the URL as part of the citation so that your source may be easily located. MLA suggests that the URL appear in angle brackets after the date of access.
Potter, Michelle. "Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Life." LiteraryTraveler.com n.d. Web. 22 Mar 2016. <http://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/zora-neale-hurston-a-literary-life/>
Ask A Librarian
- Next: In-text Citations >>
- Last Updated: Dec 11, 2020 4:39 PM
- URL: https://irsc.libguides.com/mla7
Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students
Do You Italicize Book Titles? Essay Secrets Revealed
When you’re writing a scholarly article or writing in a professional setting, you want to make sure that your grammar and style is meeting the required expectations. There may be a chance you’re writing about a book you’ve read or citing sources in a research paper . If you’ve ever found yourself wondering things like, “Do you italicize book titles or underline them?” or “How do I cite shorter pieces of work properly?” then keep on reading!
We are going to give you all the details on when it’s correct to use italics, along with how to emphasize other types of reference material.
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Do you italicize book titles.
The general rule of thumb is to use italics for long works and quotations for short work.
But depending on the format you’re meant to adhere by, the rules may vary. For example, you may be instructed to write according to the APA style, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style. You should follow the rules dictated by the guidelines.
- Modern Language Association (MLA): Used in arts and humanities
- American Psychological Association (APA): Used in social sciences
- Associated Press Stylebook (AP): Used for magazines, newspapers, and internet
- Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago): Used from publishing to science, one of the most popular styles
For MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style, you should use italics for long works and quotations for short works.
For AP style, however, you never use italics for pieces of work — no matter the length. Additionally, the APA style neither uses quotation marks or italics for shorter works. Instead, it expects them to be written as normal text.
Sometimes, the choice of style may be up to you as a writer. If that’s the case, then it’s best to stay consistent throughout your work with your usage of italics, underlines and quotation marks.
Short Works: How to Emphasize Titles of Shorter Pieces of Work
When you are making reference to a title of an article or a chapter in a book, you shouldn’t put it in italics. Instead, you can use quotation marks to emphasize these smaller pieces of work. This is the same rule for titles of episodes of shows.
Do You Italicize Punctuation in Titles?
When a piece of work includes punctuation, like a question mark for example, that part of the title should be italicized, too. For example, you’d write, “I love the book Oh the Places, You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.”
However, when you are writing and using italics in a sentence for emphasis or within a parenthetical, then you do not italicize the punctuation.
Exceptions For Emphasizing Titles
Like with most aspects of English, there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is when you have a book that is a collection of various novel titles, like Lord of the Rings . In this case, you’d put the title of the specific books in quotation marks, but you’d keep the title of the collection in italics.
Additionally, when the word “the” is part of a title, you do not italicize it. For example, it’s correct to write the New York Times .
How To Capitalize Properly
Titles have special formatting and capitalization rules. For example, you only capitalize the first word and all main words in a title.
You do not capitalize articles, such as “a,” “an” or “the.” For example, you’d write: War and Peace instead of War And Peace .
When to Use Quotations Instead
There are very specific cases for when you should elect to use quotation marks for the titles of works as opposed to italics. Use quotations for:
- Articles in journals or magazines
- Short stories
- Book chapters
- Television episodes
Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash
Examples of correct usage of italics.
Here’s a list of examples to help for reference sake:
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (movie title, notice that articles are lower case)
- The Cat in the Hat (book title)
- “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (song title)
- “How Pandemics End” (article title)
- The New York Times (newspaper title)
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” (a short story)
Knowing when to italicize or use quotation marks is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It may depend on the writing format you’ve been instructed to write in.
However, a general rule of thumb to follow is that longer pieces of work, like books, require italics, whereas shorter pieces of work, like poems or articles, will be written with quotation marks.
When writing a paper, do I use italics for all titles?
Simply put: no .
APA's Publication Manual (2020) indicates that, in the body of your paper , you should use italics for the titles of:
- "books, reports, webpages, and other stand-alone works" (p. 170)
- periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
Beyond APA's specific examples, know that certain types of titles are almost always written in italics.
A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work.
The table below isn't comprehensive, but it's a good starting point
On an APA-style reference page , the rules for titles are a little different. In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page. However, a title you'd place in quotation marks within the body of the paper (such as the title of an article within a journal) will be written without italics and quotation marks on the references page.
Here are some examples:
Smith's (2001) research is fully described in the Journal of Higher Education.
Smith's (2001) article "College Admissions See Increase" was published in the Journal of Higher Education after his pivotal study on the admissions process.
Visit the APA Style's " Use of Italics " page to learn more!
- Reading and Writing
- Last Updated Jun 12, 2022
- Views 2040460
- Answered By Kate Anderson, Librarian
- Share on Facebook
- Nice, quick, concise listing. Good format to save for quick reference by AlonzoQuixano on May 14, 2015
- Thank you so much for the information. It was so helpful and easily understandable. by mary woodard on Jun 29, 2015
- Is it the same for MLA writing? Thanks Sara, Librarian: Lesa, Rasmussen College doesn't teach or focus on MLA for students. But if you have specific MLA formatting questions, I recommend you take a look at the MLA FAQ website here: https://www.mla.org/MLA-Style/FAQ-about-MLA-Style by Lesa D.W on Dec 04, 2015
- What about the name of a community program, for example Friend's Read. Would you use quotations or italics? Sara, Librarian: Adriana, great question. for organization or program names in the text of a paper you don't need to use italics or quotation marks. Just capitalize the major words of the organization or program like you did above with Friend's Read. by Adriana on Apr 11, 2016
- Thank you for this posting. I am writing a paper on The Crucible and, surprisingly, I couldn't find on the wonderfully thorough Purdue Owl APA guide whether titles of plays are italicized or in quotes. by J.D. on Apr 18, 2016
- this was really helpful, thank you by natalie on Dec 11, 2016
- thank you so much, this is very helpful and easy to understand. by Mendryll on Jan 24, 2017
- Thank you! I am also wondering, do you capitalize only the first word of the title when using it in the text of your paper, like you are supposed to do in the references list? Or do you capitalize all the "important" words like usual? Sara, Librarian Reply: Ashley, within the text of your paper you should capitalize all the important words like you normally would. Thank you for your question! by Ashley on Dec 04, 2017
Use this form to ask Ramussen's library team a question. You can generally expect a response in 24 hours or less Monday through Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM Central Time (by the next business day on holidays). Need an answer faster? Use the search box at the top of our FAQs page.
When to Use Quotation Marks for Titles
Do you know when to use quotation marks for titles? Knowing whether to use italics or quotation marks for titles is one of the most common problems students have, especially when it comes to academic writing where you discuss your sources. Luckily, there are consistent themes that can help you pick the right format for each title, no matter what style guide you’re following.
Below, we explain exactly when to use quotation marks in titles (and when to use italics instead). We’ll cover the title rules for the three main style guides—APA, MLA, and Chicago—and give you some guidelines for figuring out which kinds of titles use which format.
How to properly quote a title with quotation marks
Quotation marks (“ ”) are mostly for showing speech or copying passages verbatim from other works, but sometimes they’re used for more than just punctuation . For certain types of works, they’re used to set apart titles.
The general rule is to use quotation marks for titles of short works such as articles, poems, songs, essays, or short stories. By contrast, use italics for larger works such as books, movies, and the names of periodicals. We provide a complete list below.
When to use italics or quotation marks for titles
Some types of work italicize titles , and some use quotation marks, but how do you know which is which? Here’s a quick list of what kinds of works use each.
Works that use quotation marks in titles
- journal articles
- newspaper and magazine articles
- blog and online news articles
- essay titles
- poems (except epic poems)
- short stories
- episode titles of TV shows, podcasts, and other serial works
- page titles for websites
- section or part titles within a larger work
- short-form videos, such as those on YouTube
Works that use italics in titles
- epic poems (not regular poems)
- periodical names (magazines, newspapers, and news websites)
- radio shows
- TV shows (not individual episodes)
- podcasts (not individual episodes)
- music albums
- video games
- operas and long musical compositions
- classic art like paintings and sculptures
- legal cases
- large vehicles such as ships, aircrafts, and spacecrafts
When to use quotation marks for titles for each style guide
While the basics are the same—italics for the titles of long works and quotation marks for the titles of short works—some minor details may vary. Here’s a quick rundown of when to use quotation marks in titles for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.
Quotations marks in titles for APA
The APA format follows the list above: It uses quotation marks for all types of work mentioned. The only particular rule they have about quotation marks in titles is that they are not used in the reference list for articles and chapters.
In APA, the reference list is the name of the bibliography, like a works cited page . When writing a full citation that mentions an article or book chapter, simply write the title with neither quotation marks nor italics. However, if the same title is written within the text (or in a copyright attribution), use quotation marks.
Quotations marks in titles for Chicago
In general, Chicago style follows the list above. It does, nevertheless, list a few extra types of works that the other style guides do not.
Quotation marks for titles:
- fairy tales and nursery rhymes
Italics for titles:
- serialized cartoons and comic strips
Quotations marks in titles for MLA
The use of quotation marks in titles for MLA format is very straightforward. Simply use the appropriate format for the type of work, as indicated in the large list above.
When to use single or double quotation marks for titles
There are two types of quotation marks: single quotation marks (‘ ’) and double quotation marks (“ ”).
In general, American English uses double quotation marks. The only time we use single quotation marks for titles is to replace quotation marks within another pair of quotation marks.
For example, if you were writing an article about Langston Hughes’s poems—highlighting “Harlem” in particular—the title of your article might be something like this:
“Reflections on ‘Harlem’ and Other Poems”
Notice how, when we talk about the poem “Harlem” on its own, we use the standard double quotation marks. However, when we mention it within another pair of quotation marks, we use single quotation marks instead.
This is done simply for the sake of clarity. It would be confusing to use double quotation marks within double quotation marks, so this makes reading a bit easier. Let’s look at another example:
EPISODE TITLE: “The Winds of Winter” (episode of Game of Thrones )
ESSAY TITLE: “Why ‘The Winds of Winter’ Is the Best Episode of Game of Thrones ”
Keep in mind that if a title in quotation marks is used within an italicized title, double quotation marks are used. For example, look at how we write the title of a full book that collects Roald Dahl’s short stories:
“The Landlady” and Other Short Stories
It’s also worth noting that this is only the convention in American English. In British English, single quotes and double quotes are switched! That means titles and speech quotes use single quotation marks most of the time and double quotation marks are used only within single quotes. Keep that in mind if you’re ever reading a British piece of writing .
Quotation marks for titles FAQs
Why use quotation marks for titles.
Quotation marks set apart the titles of short works like articles, poems, songs, essays, or short stories. Longer works like books or movies use italics instead.
When do you use quotation marks for titles?
Use quotation marks for the titles of articles, essays, poems, short stories, songs, chapters, lectures, pages for websites, episodes of serial works (such as TV shows or podcasts), names of sections or parts in larger works, and short-form videos such as those on YouTube.
When do you use italics?
Use italics for the titles of books, movies, plays, TV shows, podcasts, video games, apps, classic art (like paintings and sculptures), music albums, legal cases, dissertations, anthologies, reports, periodicals (like magazines or newspapers), operas and long musical compositions, and large vehicles (like ships or aircraft).
- Access My STLCC Email
- Access Banner Self Service
- Access Canvas
- Access the Course Schedule
- Register for a Continuing Education Class
- View Our Campuses
Italics vs Quotation Marks in Titles
Generally and grammatically speaking, put titles of shorter works in quotation marks but italicize titles of longer works. For example, put a “song title” in quotation marks but italicize the title of the album it appears on.
Titles in Italics
( source type : example)
Books : On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous Magazines/Journals : Newsweek or Cave Canem Newspapers : St. Louis Post-Dispatch Pamphlets : How to Take Your Own Blood Pressure Movies/Plays/Musicals : The Producers or Two Trains Running or Hamilton Long Poems : The Odyssey or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Radio/TV Program : This American Life or Game of Thrones Ballet/Dance : Les Sylphides or Rodeo Operas/Musical Pieces : La Traviata or Rhapsody in Blue Paintings/Sculptures : Mona Lisa or The Burghers of Calais Ships/Planes/Trains : Titanic or Air Force One or the Mistral Musical Albums : A Hard Day’s Night Computer/Video Games : Minecraft , Fortnite Web Sites : Facebook , Wikipedia
Titles in Quotation Marks
Articles/Essays : “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Book Chapters : “Legal Issues and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” Short Stories : “Fly Already” Short Poem s: “At Black River” Songs : “Can’t Buy Me Love” Radio/TV Episodes : “Rookie” from Queen Sono
Works Needing Capitals But Not Italics or Quotation Marks
Music in Number or Key : Prelude and Fugue in E flat Major Sacred Writings : Bible or Koran or Bhagavadgita Editions or Societies : Kittredge’s Shakespeare or Anglo-Norman Text Society Diseases : Tay-Sachs disease (but not cancer, polio, leukemia, etc.) Acronyms : FBI, NAACP, GIF Conventional Titles : U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence Student’s Paper Title : Role of the Djinns in Islamic Belief
- Link to facebook
- Link to linkedin
- Link to twitter
- Link to youtube
- Writing Tips
- 23rd April 2018
If you need advice about formatting headings in your work, try this post . But if you want to know about formatting titles of other works in your writing (e.g., books or journal articles), you’re in the right place! Read on to find out when to use italics and quote marks for titles in your work .
First, let’s give an example of what we mean. Take the following sentence:
Here, “Game of Thrones” refers to a popular TV show. If we didn’t know this, we might guess from the capitalization , but most style guides also recommend using distinct formatting for titles. This usually means italicizing the title or placing it in quote marks. But when does each apply?
Longer Works (Italics)
Titles of longer works, such as books or TV shows, are usually italicized:
We use italics for Game of Thrones because it refers to an entire TV series. Works that require italics for titles in this manner include:
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
- Books and book-length poems
- Journals, newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals
- Entire websites and blogs
- Movies, radio programs, and TV shows
- Plays, musicals, and other stage shows
- Paintings, statues, and other works of art
- Music albums and other long recordings
Importantly, all of these are standalone works (i.e., published by themselves rather than as part of a larger whole). So, for example, you would italicize the name of a blog (e.g., Jenny’s Cooking Blog ), but not the name of a post taken from that blog (e.g., “How to Make Beef Stroganoff”).
Shorter Works (Quote Marks)
With shorter works that are part of a larger whole, titles should be given in quotation marks . An episode of Game of Thrones , for instance, would be written as follows:
Here, the formatting lets us instantly distinguish between an episode title and the show title. Quotation marks are also used when referring to titles of:
- Chapters from books or edited volumes
- Articles from newspapers, magazines, journals and other periodicals
- Particular pages from a website or posts from a blog
- Individual poems, short stories, and other short literary works
- Single episodes from a TV series
- Songs and other short recordings
- Unpublished writing (regardless of length)
With most of these, the key is that they’re published as part of a longer work or series. The only exception to this is unpublished writing (e.g., a PhD dissertation or an unpublished manuscript).
As with most rules in writing, there are exceptions to these guidelines about formatting titles. For example, APA has different rules depending on whether a title appears in the main text or the reference list. It is therefore always worth checking your style guide to see if it has specific requirements.
Share this article:
Post A New Comment
Need more help perfecting your writing proofed has the perfect editor.
You can also upload a document to get an instant quote
Drag & drop your file
or browse your computer
Browse from your device
Drop your file here!
Your file is being uploaded!
How to Write Blank Verse Poetry
Ever heard of blank verse? It’s poetry that doesn’t rhyme but follows a regular meter....
Grammar Tips: Prepositions
In the English language, prepositions can be tricky to master because they’re usually idiomatic. However,...
Grammar Tips: Proper Nouns
Is it a person, place, or thing? Oh my! In this article, we’re talking about...
Grammar Tips: Plural Nouns
If someone asked you what a noun is, you’d probably say it’s a person, place,...
A Simple Guide to Definite Articles
If you’re unsure what a definite article is, you’ve come to the right place! Knowing...
Study Tips: The Pomodoro Technique
Introduction Do you struggle to stay focused while studying? The Pomodoro (meaning tomato in Italian)...
Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.
Quotation Marks or Italics In Titles?
| Candace Osmond
Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.
You’ve probably asked yourself while writing an essay: Should I italicize a play title or enclose it in quotation marks? What about a song title?
Don’t feel guilty for not knowing the rules for quotation marks or italics in titles . Even the most experienced writers have the same problem.
I’ll show you the basic rules for choosing between quotation marks and italics in titles. This guide features the guidelines of Chicago, MLA, and APA.
Using Italics or Quotation Marks in Titles
Using italics vs. quotation marks in titles depends on your style guide. But the general rule is to italicize long titles, such as titles of books, movie titles, or album titles.
Meanwhile, you must write titles in quotation marks for shorter pieces like musical titles, magazines, TV series, and articles. Note that the AP style does not put magazines, newspaper style, or journals in quotation marks.
- “How You Feel About Gender Roles Will Tell Us How You’ll Vote” is an article worth the read.
- My favorite song is “If I could Fly.”
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation is for readers who want to escape their stressful lives.
Works That Require Italics
Use Italics for titles such as the following:
- Pieces with sections, such as a collection or anthology.
- Some scientific names.
- Computers and video games.
- Titles of newspapers and titles of articles from newspapers.
- Play titles.
- Works of art.
- Court cases.
- Television and radio shows.
- Episode titles.
- Book titles.
- Magazine articles.
- Album titles.
- Names of Ships.
- Operas, musical titles, and other musical works.
Here are some examples of italicized works:
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
- Michelangelo’s David.
- When Harry Met Sally.
- Do you have a copy of Wag the Dog by award-winning author Larry Beinhart?
- My favorite mystery book is In the Woods by the bestselling author Tana French .
The source’s title is usually italicized in a bibliography or reference list entries. But it can also depend on the source type. If you’re citing a journal article, every citation style italicizes the journal title instead of the article.
- Asher, J. (2017). Thirteen reasons why . Penguin Books.
- (2011). When Harry met Sally . Santa Monica, Calif: MGM Studio distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Works That Require Quotation Marks
Use double quotes for the following types of work.
- Comic strips.
- Article title.
- Generic titles.
- Short works like essays
- Short story titles.
- Song titles.
Remember that quotation marks come in pairs, so add both opening and closing quotation marks. Here are some examples where we use friendly quotation marks in titles:
- “Cul de Sac” is a darkly humorous comic.
- “Cinderella” is my favorite chapter title from the Big Blue Book .
Big Things vs. Little Things
“Big things” include a collection of novels or book series, movies, cartoon series, and other works that can stand independently. We can also consider them as complete bodies of work.
Meanwhile, the “little things” depend on other groups, so we put them in quotes.
Think of a “single” in an album title or a “book chapter” in a book title. Another good example includes “manuscripts” in collections.
Remember that this isn’t a perfect rule. But it helps writers determine whether they should quote or italicize the title of a work.
Italics vs. Quotation Marks in Style Guides
The grammar rules on italicizing or quoting titles are usually a matter of style. Take a look at the title formats’ differences among style guides.
In the Modern Language Association style guide, a quick rule is to italicize titles that are longer. Experienced writers state that these “longer works” include books, journals, court cases, etc. Ship names and other notable names are also in italics.
But for shorter works like articles and poems, MLA Style Guide recommends you format titles with double quotation marks.
The Chicago Manual of Style goes by the same basic rules as MLA. Titles of major works, such as books, and special names like a ship should be in italics. But place the item in quotation marks for subsections of larger bodies like journal articles, blogs, and book chapters.
According to the APA Style 7th edition , you should use italics for titles like journals, magazines, and newspapers. Books, artworks, webpages, and any other larger body of work also use italics.
However, writers who follow APA use the regular type of format for shorter works. These include essays or works in journal articles and lectures.
When to Not Use Italics or Quotation Marks
There’s a specific type of title that all major style guides have no recommendations for. The following do not use italics or quotation marks for titles:
- Commercial products.
- Political documents.
- Legal documents.
- Major religious books or scriptures.
- Name of artifacts.
- Names of buildings.
- Constitutional documents.
- Traditional game.
If you are formatting titles on a website, there’s no need to follow the rules on italics vs. quotation marks. You can go with any more visually appealing style since online web pages are less formal than print materials.
Prioritize the font type, size, and headings when formatting websites and web pages. Make decisions based on what will attract visitors.
When to Underline Instead of Quote or Italicize
If you write using pen and paper, italicizing works can be challenging. Many style manuals recommend underlining the source instead. It’s easier, more practical, and keeps your handwriting legible.
Final Word on Italics vs. Quotes in Titles
An easy way to remember is that most types of titles are almost always in italics. APA, MLA, and Chicago manuals of style recommend italics for longer works.
I hope this guide on using quotation marks and italics in titles helps you become a better writer.
Help Us Improve!
- Did we make a mistake? - Do you have feedback or suggestions on how we can improve?
Subscribe to our newsletter
Get grammar tips straight to your inbox
Grammarist is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
2023 © Grammarist, a Found First Marketing company. All rights reserved.
- Words with Friends Cheat
- Wordle Solver
- Word Unscrambler
- Scrabble Dictionary
- Anagram Solver
- Wordscapes Answers
Make Our Dictionary Yours
Sign up for our weekly newsletters and get:
- Grammar and writing tips
- Fun language articles
- #WordOfTheDay and quizzes
We'll see you in your inbox soon.
Using Italics or Quotation Marks in Titles
- DESCRIPTION using italics or quotation marks
- SOURCE Copyright YourDictionary / Owned by YourDictionary
It can be confusing to know when you should be using italics and quotation marks when citing the title of another work. It depends on the type of work you’re referencing and the style guide you’re using. Keep reading to learn the basic rules for choosing either italics or quotation marks, and to see examples of each citation style.
Rule for Using Italics or Quotation Marks in Titles
Italics and quotation marks are generally used to set a composition title apart from the text surrounding it. For example, if you were writing the sentence, "I read The Cat in the Hat," it wouldn't necessarily be clear what the book title was, or even that there was a book title at all.
Breaking down whether you should use italics vs. quotation marks in titles is simpler than you think. In general, the rule is:
- Italics – longer works and collections of works (e.g. novels, albums, movies, newspapers)
- Quotation marks – shorter works and pieces of longer works (e.g. short stories, songs, poems, articles)
When in doubt, consider whether a piece can be broken into smaller pieces. If it can, such as a novel into chapters or an album into songs), use italics. If it can’t, use quotation marks. Various style guides may vary a bit, but this rule is typically true in most publications.
Italics and Quotation Marks in Titles: Style Guides
Each of the style guides have their own rules when it comes to formatting titles, although many overlap. AP is one of the simpler styles to remember, as it doesn't use italics in composition titles at all.
The major style guides are:
- Modern Language Association (MLA) - generally used in arts and humanities papers
- American Psychological Association (APA) - generally used for social sciences
- Associated Press Stylebook (AP) - commonly used in magazines, newspapers, and the internet
- Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) - one of the most well-known formats, followed in a wide variety of disciplines from publishing to science
If you primarily use one of these style guides, it’s best to understand that guide’s particular standards. However, if you switch back and forth between them, it’s good to know how they differ.
Works That Require Italics
If you use MLA , APA , or Chicago manuals of style, you should italicize longer works. However, AP style guide mandates that you do not italicize any works, but place them in quotation marks instead.
MLA, APA, and Chicago recommend the following titles should be in italics:
- Aircraft and spacecraft ( Challenger space shuttle )
- Albums (Madonna’s Like a Prayer)
- Ballets ( Swan Lake )
- Books ( Moby Dick )
- Cartoons ( Looney Toons )
- Comic strips ( The Far Side )
- Exhibits at a museum ( Ultimate Dinosaurs )
- Films ( Casablanca )
- Journals ( The New England Journal of Medicine )
- Magazines (TIME Magazine )
- Newspapers ( The Washington Post )
- Operas ( La Boheme )
- Paintings ( The Starry Night )
- Plays ( Romeo and Juliet )
- Podcasts ( This American Life )
- Sculptures ( Venus de Milo )
- Ships (HMS Titanic )
- Symphonies ( Symphonie Fantastique )
- Television shows ( I Love Lucy )
- Video games ( Call of Duty )
Works That Require Quotation Marks
After you’ve used italics in longer titles, you can indicate the smaller pieces of those titles in quotation marks. AP style is the exception again: all titles, including longer works, should be in quotation marks. However, AP style does not put titles of newspapers, magazines, or journals in quotation marks either (plain text only).
If you’re using MLA, APA, or Chicago style, put these works in quotation marks:
- Album tracks or singles (“Blackbird” from The White Album )
- Book chapters (“The Boy Who Lived” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone )
- Podcast episodes (“The Alibi” from Serial )
- Poems (“The Road Not Taken”)
- Short stories (“The Tell-Tale Heart”)
- Speeches (“I Have a Dream”)
- Television show episodes (“The Long Way Around” from ER )
- Unpublished writing such as manuscripts or lectures
APA differs from other formats in that it doesn't use quotation marks or italics for titles of shorter works, such as essays that are in collections, lectures, or journal articles. These shorter works are simply formatted in regular type.
MLA and Chicago agree on most citation styles, but do diverge on some points:
- In MLA, the titles of online databases should be italicized; Chicago style says to set those in regular type.
- In MLA, all websites should be italicized while Chicago style says they should be in regular type.
When Not to Use Italics or Quotation Marks
There are certain titles of things that all style guides agree should not be in italics or quotation marks. These titles should always be set in regular type:
- Awards (Best Director)
- Commercial products (Cocoa Puffs)
- Constitutional documents (Bill of Rights)
- Legal documents (Divorce Petition)
- Names of artifacts (The Baghdad Battery)
- Names of buildings (Sears Tower)
- Political documents (Declaration of Independence)
- Scriptures of major religions (the Bible)
- Software (Google Chrome)
- Traditional games (poker)
When to Underline Instead of Italicize
Italicizing is easy to do on the computer, but not practical when you are hand writing something. In such cases, underlining is still used and is considered the same as writing a title in italics.
When formatting titles for the web, be aware that it is acceptable to go with whatever style is most visually appealing. Online formats tend to be less formal in style compared to print materials. Styling for the web is about attracting visitors to the site, so make a title stand out without looking clunky in order to get more attention.
Consistency Is Key
By practicing the above rules for using italics and quotation marks in titles, you'll find it becomes easier with practice. If you're uncertain about what to use, ask yourself if the title of the work appears inside a larger body of work or if it can stand alone. If the title belongs inside a larger body of work, use quotation marks. If the title is for a body of work that stands alone, it should be in italics.
Above all else, consistency is key. Be sure to follow whichever style is most appropriate and stick to it. As you're writing out titles, learn more about the rules for capitalization in titles . You'll be well on your way to citation mastery!
Use quotation marks for titles published in larger works like articles, essays, chapters, poems, Web pages, songs, and speeches. Book titles.
When you are making reference to a title of an article or a chapter in a book, you shouldn't put it in italics. Instead, you can use quotation marks to
In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page. However, a title you'd place in quotation
When do you use quotation marks for titles? ... Use quotation marks for the titles of articles, essays, poems, short stories, songs, chapters
Generally and grammatically speaking, put titles of shorter works in quotation marks but italicize titles of longer works. For example, put a “song title” in
With shorter works that are part of a larger whole, titles should be given in quotation marks. An episode of Game of Thrones, for instance
stories. Let's look at these rules in detail, so you'll know how to do this in the future when writing. Titles Using Italics and Quotation Marks.
It is not necessary to italicize an essay title, however, you do want to place the essay title in quotations. This is also common with short stories and epic
Using italics vs. quotation marks in titles depends on your style guide. But the general rule is to italicize long titles, such as titles of books, movie titles
If you're uncertain about what to use, ask yourself if the title of the work appears inside a larger body of work or if it can stand alone. If the title belongs