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Properly Format Your Titles: Underlines, Italics, and Quotes | Writer’s Relief

Formatting titles gives some writers a headache. Should the title of songs, stories, movies, books, screenplays, etc. be in italics or quotes? When you’re trying to remember if you’re supposed to use underlining or italics or quotation marks for titles, here are a few simple rules from Writer’s Relief.

Remember that people used to type their work or write it longhand. When titles needed to be italicized, italics were represented by underlining. These days, many people avoid underlining to minimize confusion between words that are underlined and hyperlinks.

1) Underlining and italics serve the same purpose. Never do both. Do NOT use quotation marks, underline, or italics together.

2) For any work that stands on its own, you should use italics or underline. (Stories or chapters from within a book are considered PARTS of the book.)

3) A work that is part of a larger work goes in quotation marks.

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4) No quotation marks around titles of your own composition.

Books: Italics or Underline

CDs: Italics or Underline

Articles (Newspaper or Magazine): Quotation Marks

Chapter Titles (not chapter numbers): Quotation Marks

Magazines, Newspapers, Journals: Italics or Underline

Names of Ships, Trains, Airplanes, Spacecraft: Italics

Poems: Quotation Marks

Poems (Long): Underlined or Italics

Plays: Italics

Short Stories: Quotation Marks

Song Titles: Quotation Marks

Special Phrases (“let them eat cake”), Words, or Sentences: Quotation Marks

Television Shows and Movies: Italics

Television and Radio Episode Titles: Quotation Marks

Knowing when to use quotes, italics, or underlining can be difficult. Writer’s Relief proofreaders can help you proofread your creative writing submissions to be sure your titles are properly formatted.


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38 Responses to Properly Format Your Titles: Underlines, Italics, and Quotes | Writer’s Relief

  1. Hi Angel,

    We can’t really speak toward your particular case, since typically a magazine title would be in italics. Your company follows its own guidelines, so the guidelines we follow wouldn’t really apply. You could consider putting the magazine title in all caps, or using single quotations within the double quotations.

  2. I realize this isn’t really about quotation marks, but I get the distinct impression you know your stuff. Perhaps you can answer this question for me. I do transcription and we don’t use italics. Instead, we use quotation marks. Here is the sentence causing me grief:

    “Hi, I’m from “Fern”.”

    According to the guidelines I need to follow, Fern has to be in quotations because it’s a magazine title. However, this just doesn’t look right to me. It is correct? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  3. I’ve been looking but I can’t find any rules around referring to a blog in copy. Does anyone know the rule for this? The context is as follows>

    Joe also writes a blog: Good Grammar

  4. Hi Nehemiah,

    “Dubliners” is the title of a book, so it would be italicized. If the sentence is in quotation marks, it doesn’t need to be italicized.

  5. Okay so this sentence The author said “James Joyce’s Dubliners is a circular analysis of stagnation and entrapment leading to both individual and collective death in a dead city.” Am I suppose to italicize that or leave it as be? It was in an article.

  6. The name of a specific film is in italics. The name of the series itself doesn’t use italics or quotes. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi! How would you format a quote from a short story from a series? Would you put the series in italics, but the story title itself in quotes?

    Would this be appropriate?

    “‘Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me,’ I observed.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “The Red-Headed League”

  8. Hi, if i want to quote a sentence for text evidence and the author underlined a word in that sentence, then do I have to underline that word when I quote also? Thank You

  9. Hi Laura,

    The correct way to do it is to put both in quotation marks. If you gave a list of song titles in a sentence, each would be in quotation marks, so having multiple sets of items in quotation marks in one sentence is not uncommon.

  10. What if I’m typing the title of a song and quoting what someone said about that song in the same sentence? Is it okay to put quotation marks around both the song title and what the person said? I know it’s grammatically correct but it just doesn’t look right and seems confusing.

  11. Formatting needs to adjust for social media, italics aand underline doesn’t work across platforms…. we’re living in the internet age still ruled by the before Internet age period. As of yet unnamed. Please some one fix this and also think of a name. Thx

  12. Samuel is correct. You may underline, italicize, or put a quotation mark around the desired title of a book. Many people, (at first,) used to underline the titles of books. People now tend to italicize or put a quotation mark around a title of a book.

  13. this was a really nice resource for writing a paper that drew on multiple types of resources, thanks. only thing I didn’t find was formatting for movies!

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