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
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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